Portillo's Restaurants

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Portillo's Restaurants
Founded1963 in Villa Park, Illinois[1]
HeadquartersOak Brook, Illinois, USA
Key peopleDick Portillo, Founder, Owner, President
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Portillo's Restaurants
Founded1963 in Villa Park, Illinois[1]
HeadquartersOak Brook, Illinois, USA
Key peopleDick Portillo, Founder, Owner, President

Portillo's, which is the main entity within The Portillo Restaurant Group, is a chain of restaurants that specialize in serving Chicago-style food such as Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches. Portillo's is located primarily throughout the Chicago metropolitan area, and also has two locations in southern California plus two in the Phoenix metropolitan area.


Dick Portillo was born at 1330 West Van Buren in Chicago, Illinois. His family then moved to government-subsidized row houses on Mohawk Street, called the Mother Frances Cabrini Housing Project. After his father started earning enough money, they were prompted to leave and moved to 1617 South Central Park. His family later moved to the southwest suburbs. He was a 1957 graduate of Argo Community High School at 63rd and Harlem. After high school, he served a tour with the Marine Corps.

The first Portillo’s hot dog stand known as “The Dog House”[2][3] opened in 1963 on North Avenue in Villa Park. Portillo invested $1,100 into a 6 by 12 feet (1.8 by 3.7 m) trailer without a bathroom or running water. To get the water he needed, he ran 250 feet (76 m) of garden hose from a nearby building into the trailer.

Dick Portillo with a loyal customer at the new Scottsdale, AZ location
Dick Portillo with a loyal customer at the Scottsdale, AZ location.

By 1967, “The Dog House” was a success and was ready for a new look. After it was remodeled, it was renamed “Portillo’s” and over the years has grown into a successful multi-state operation. Portillo’s expanded to Southern California in 2005, Indiana in 2006, and Arizona in 2013.

The Barnelli’s Pasta Bowl concept was introduced in 1993, and features pastas, salads, and pizza. Barnelli’s first opened in Schaumburg and has additional locations in Naperville, Vernon Hills, Glendale Heights, Niles, Summit, Crystal Lake, Chicago,Bolingbrook and Willowbrook.

In September 2000, Portillo launched a full-service concept, Luigi’s House, located on Route 59 in the Aurora/Naperville area.[4] Luigi’s House was inspired by Dick’s trips to Italy and the Mediterranean. Luigi’s House and its garden area have been designed to create the feeling of dining in a private Italian home, serving traditional Italian cuisine in an Italian/Mediterranean atmosphere.

Portillo launched his latest concept, Honey-Jam Cafe in May 2010.[5] There are currently three Illinois locations: one in Downers Grove, one in Batavia, and a third in Bolingbrook. Several of the items on the menu were discovered by Dick in different restaurants he visited during his travels throughout the United States and the world. Most of the décor, including the large double-sided fireplaces, was inspired by Dick’s travels to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and various locations throughout the United States.

Julian’s Plaza, a shopping center created by Portillo, opened in Bolingbrook in April 2011. Julian’s Plaza has over 42,000 square feet (3,900 m2) of restaurant and retail space and is positioned at the busiest corner of Will County. Richport Plaza, the second shopping plaza developed by Portillo, opened in spring 2013 in Elgin. The plaza has 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) of retail space.

Portillo’s Home Kitchen is the restaurant group’s fast-growing catering and shipping division. Portillo’s Home Kitchen offers products including Italian beef, pasta trays, salads, and barbecue ribs. Boxes are available for shipping to all 50 states.

The Portillo Restaurant Group is the recipient of numerous awards[6] and is the largest privately owned restaurant group in the Midwest. This was all accomplished without franchising or investors. Combined, the concepts have over 4,000 employees and a total of 50 restaurants, plus a catering and shipping division and two shopping plazas.


Portillo's specialty item; The Beef n' Cheddar Croissant

The Portillo's menu includes Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef, hamburgers, sandwiches, ribs, and salads, as well as beer and wine.

They also offer dessert items such as chocolate cake (notable for the rumor that mayonnaise is an ingredient) and milkshakes, and a mix of the two, the Chocolate Cake Shake, which is basically a piece of the chocolate cake blended in with a chocolate shake.

The chain's main competition are mostly local, privately owned stores, most of which also specialize in Italian beef and Chicago-style hot dogs.

Outside Illinois[edit]

Portillo's in Elk Grove Village, Illinois

Portillo's has been operating in Southern California since October 11, 2005, at the Buena Park Downtown shopping center in Buena Park, near Knott's Berry Farm[7][8][9] and also opened a location in Moreno Valley, California in 2008.[10] A location also exists in Merrillville, Indiana, though this is still well within the firm's home market.

Portillo's had licensed restaurants using its recipes and themes in Tokyo, Japan, in the late 1980s and early '90s under the name "Chicago Dog".[11] However, the Japanese restaurants did not fully follow the same tradition as the Chicago area stores, and all eventually closed.[12] Portillo's also delivers part of its menu, as described above, to all fifty states in the U.S. in a united venture alongside Eli's Cheesecake and Lou Malnati's pizzeria.[13][14]

Portillo's planned an initial launch of three restaurants in Arizona, citing a dense population of transient Midwesterners in the Arizona market and the previous success of other Chicago-style eateries in that area, such as Rosati's Pizza. Portillo's opened its first Arizona location on February 26, 2013, at the southwest corner of N. 90th St. and E. Shea Blvd in Scottsdale which will be followed by a location in Tempe. Both locations are near the spring training home of the Chicago Cubs.[15]

Honey Jam Cafe[edit]

Honey Jam Cafe, a pancake house which specializes in unique breakfast items, opened 2010 with 5 locations.

In 2010 Portillo Restaurant Group launched the Honey Jam concept.[5] Unlike the other three concepts which focus on fast casual food, Honey Jam is essentially a pancake house similar to Walker Brothers Pancake House in both ambiance and menu. They feature pancake and waffle combinations and specialty items such as a baked apple pancakes, German pancakes, strawberry cheesecake French toast, and white chocolate raspberry Belgian waffles. Honey Jam offers patrons who order coffee a cup "to go" after receiving their check. The concept's name, according to the menu, is derived from the owner's pet-name for his wife, "Honey", and the first letter of his three children's first names comprising the acronym "JAM." The concept is positioned as a breakfast and lunch cafe and thus closes at 3 p.m.[16]


  1. ^ "History of the Portillo's Restaurant Group". 
  2. ^ "Top Dog: Meet Dick Portillo, The King Of The Jungle That Is Golf Road". Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1988.
  3. ^ "High School Hot Dog Makes Good: Dick Portillo Feeds His And Customers' Hunger". Chicago Tribune, June 26, 1994.
  4. ^ "Italian Eatery New Link In Hot Dog King's Chain: Restaurateur Portillo Opens Aurora Outlet". Chicago Tribune, October 19, 2000.
  5. ^ a b "What's the big idea? Breakfast". Chicago Tribune, September 2, 2010.
  6. ^ http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=3&GA=93&DocTypeId=HR&DocNum=183&GAID=3&LegID=6517&SpecSess=&Session=
  7. ^ "Transplanting a classic: Local fans of Chicago's famed Portillo's hot dog have their day as the chain opens a continent away from Wrigley Field". Orange County Register, September 26, 2005.
  8. ^ "Portillo's Hot Dogs California bound". Crain's Chicago Business, October 3, 2005.
  9. ^ "Chicago style to the West Coast: Richard Portillo is betting that his hot dog restaurant can make a dent in Southern California, and he is ready to put big money behind it--but he's willing to take his time to make it work". Chicago Tribune, July 22, 2004.
  10. ^ "Portillo's Hot Dogs: Next grand opening: Moreno Valley". Orange County Register, February 18, 2008.
  11. ^ "Hot Dogs Take A Stand In Tokyo: Hot Dogs Take A Stand In Tokyo". Chicago Tribune, December 26, 1990.
  12. ^ Portillo's Hot Dogs: Out of the dog house and living the American dream, frankfurter chain operator grows his business independently | Nation's Restaurant News | Find Articles...[dead link]
  13. ^ Portillo's Beef Kit & Pizza Combo
  14. ^ "Lou Malnati's Tastes of Chicago Delivers Chicago Food Favorites". WLS-TV, December 17, 2007.
  15. ^ "Portillo's Hot Dogs will open eateries in Tempe, Scottsdale". Arizona Republic, July 9, 2012.
  16. ^ Honey Jam Cafe menu introduction

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