To those in the know (or from Chicago), the city has more food claims to fame than just deep dish pizza. After all, the second city was pretty much the meat capital of the country for the better part of its existence. Out of this rose a place called Portillo’s, serving up Italian beef and hot dogs to match up with the city’s non-meat inhabitants. To be honest, I didn’t know much about Portillo’s growing up and spending time in Chicago, but a year or so ago I had a boss originally from Chicago that loved the place and alerted me about a location of theirs in Buena Park, just outside of Anaheim.
It took a while to get there, but when I did I made sure to chat with my then ex-boss to ensure I ordered right. His decree was to order the Italian Beef sandwich with sweet peppers, dipped, plus a Maxwell Street Style Polish hot dog. Knowing little of what these things meant, the menu helped me out a bit. Asking for the sandwich dipped meant it would be dipped in gravy, which was somewhat reminiscent of a French-dipped sandwich. And although my better judgment usually tells me to go with cheese over sweet peppers, I gave my old boss the benefit of the doubt and ordered as he said. As for the hot dog, the Polish came with mustard and grilled onions, but I ordered without because I ain’t got no need for that shit. Sorry, I’m just a ketchup guy.
It turned out that he nailed it with the sandwich, which appeared to have taken a hell of a dunk in the gravy, because it was soaked through. Usually a soggy sandwich is a bad thing, but somehow it just worked for this Italian beef. Even the sweet peppers worked, which had been reduced to a mostly soggy mess aside from a little bit of a snap left over from their skin. Yet, as good as the sandwich was, I still couldn’t shake the feeling that replacing those peppers with cheese would have been a good move despite the prospect of wet cheese.
The Maxwell Street Style Polish hot dog was a damn good tube of meat. It came in a nicely-steamed poppy seed bun that fit it perfectly, but I made a major fail in not ordering some ketchup for the thing. Some might contend that ketchup covers up flavor, but in this case I would have liked it as a bit of a lubricant for the Polish, seeing as it had been char-grilled.
Alas, after all of this meat there was no room inside of me for one of Portillo’s famous Cake Shakes. But even if I had space, I would have rather taken another one of those Italian Beef sandwiches over a Cake Shake any day.