S and I, along with one of our friends, recently went to Chicago for the first time! We did all the touristy things, hung out with his sister V (who is attending culinary school!), and had a wonderful time. I really loved Chicago and definitely hope to go back for future visits. We ate a lot of yummy food on the trip – I carefully planned out the “food itinerary” – and just writing these recaps is going to make me drool onto the keyboard.
Our first stop after arriving in Chicago was Portillo’s, which V recommended to us. There are many locations, and luckily one of them was just a short walk from the hotel.
We found out that it’s not really a restaurant, but instead a food court of some sort, and you order at the counter of your choice. We were there, of course, for the hot dogs.
Here they are, being assembled! I like that the little holders look sort of like the taco holders that we see so often here in San Diego, haha.
This hot dog was amazing. The flavor was spot-on. I really loved all the accompaniments, especially the relish and peppers, and I even enjoyed the pickle a lot! (S and I normally don’t eat pickles because they’re either too salty or too sour.) I was actually kind of sad that I had to share this with two other people… and if it weren’t for the fact that we were about to have a real dinner in about an hour, I would have insisted that we get another hot dog.
We also ordered a chili cheese dog to try. The onions were pretty sweet and gave it a nice crunch, but I think there was a tad too much onion. Otherwise, the chili and cheese were both quite good and went well with the hot dog, but I still just liked the original hot dog more.
Throughout the trip, we kept thinking that we’d come back for another hot dog, but alas, this was the ONLY hot dog we had the entire six days we were in Chicago. I was pretty disappointed that we never got a chance to come back, but I did discover later that there’s a Portillo’s in Buena Park, which is in Orange County. So now I am trying to convince S that we need to go, asap. Also, we originally really wanted to go to the famous Hot Doug’s (which features foie gras as a topping, duck sausages, etc.) – but since the shop is planning to close permanently in October, the lines now are ridiculously long all times of the day, and we just couldn’t see ourselves spending three hours in line when there were so many other things to do in Chicago. So, oh well – no foie gras hot dogs this trip. But I was happy with a delicious regular old hot dog.
Portillo’s Hot Dogs
100 W. Ontario, Chicago IL 60654
Another Chicago food that I was excited about was deep dish pizza…
There are tons of famous places for deep dish, but we chose Giordano’s based on recommendations from friends and strangers on the Internet. Their claim to fame is the cheese-stuffed crust, which is quite different from other places.
Apparently, you can ship a pizza to wherever you’d like (presumably within the continental U.S.), should you live in a place not graced with deep dish.
We chose our own toppings and decided on sausage, mushroom, and peppers (since I’m not a huge fan of pepperoni). A small seemed sufficient for the three of us to share.
The verdict? Yeah, it was pretty glorious. I LOVE pizza pretty much any style, but deep dish is the kind that I have least experience with. I suppose in San Diego, the only place I’ve had it is Regents Pizzeria, which has a pretty good version. This pizza was really, really good. The crust was buttery and held up to the cheese and sauce, and I loved the flavors of the sauce and toppings. My one complaint is that the ratio of toppings was a bit off – there were way more peppers, which made them overpower pretty much everything else. Sadly, S and our friend A didn’t think that this pizza was anything spectacular, and in fact commented that it tasted a lot like Regents… sigh. Thus ended our quest for deep dish, too. (Well, S doesn’t like pizza in the first place, so it already took a lot of convincing to get him to go to just one shop.)
We also decided to share an Italian beef sandwich, which is sort of like a French dip, but with peppers and onions, and also dipped in jus. Giordano’s serves a special version, which uses its deep dish pizza crust as the bread.
Not the most flattering picture, but you get the idea. The sandwich was stuffed with sliced roast beef, peppers, and onions. Unfortunately, this wasn’t my favorite sandwich, as I found the deep dish crust to be too thick. Also, the beef was quite dry… I get that you’re supposed to “dip” into the jus for the moisture, but I really wish that the beef was juicier on its own.
223 W Jackson Blvd, Chicago IL 60606
So, there you go, my experience with three famous Chicagoan foods: hot dogs, deep dish pizza, and the Italian beef. While the sandwich wasn’t as good as I had hoped, I really loved the hot dog and pizza, and really wish that I had time to try out more shops. Alas, there were just too many things on my food itinerary – so stay tuned for the next update!