Portillos - JUST LIKE HOME?
Had a combo (Italian Beef and Italian Sausage on a roll) on Saturday from the Portillos in Buena Park. Someone picked it up and brought it back to the LBC where I happened to be enjoying cocktails and doobies.
Long story short, the combo was by far the best I've had in this city and can even compete with some local Chicago beef stands (johnnies, Al's). Of course, I got it with sweet peppers and hot giardiniera (sweet & hot) and by the time I got into it, it was perfectly oily and juicy. The beef was very tender w.out any dryness and the sauzeeg was tasty as hell and perfectly charred. Add in those thick sweet peppers and oily heat from the giardiniera and my ass was lovin life.
I've found that time is kind to the beef and its best to let it rest before diving in to it. It only took me 28 years to discover that.
SUMMARY: In Chicago you'd have to put a gun to my head to make me go to a Portillo's, but out here in the sticks where formerly great burrito stands brag about not using lard, it's a nice contribution to the culture.
DETAILS: The meat in Portillo's Italian beef can be very good. Properly thin (but not over-thin), moist, salty, and spicy, it's undoubtedly better than anything I've had away from Chicago. But it doesn't reach the Olympian heights of the top Chicago-area places like Al's and Johnnie's. And the bread, though certainly better than the Safeway-style French bread that you get at most non-Chicago beef stands, is far from the glorious loaves of Gonnella and other Windy City bakers. It's chewy, as it should be -- slightly too chewy; the real problem, however, is the faint inappropriate aftertaste.
Sandwich preparation by Portillo's friendly but semi-goofy SoCal kitchen and counter staff is so inconsistent that I invariably order my beef not only dipped, with hot peppers, but also with extra containers of both gravy and hot giardiniera on the side. As any Chicagoan knows, once you have that fragrant sandwich unwrapped in front of you, it’s time to eat! Delaying gratification to fight your way back to the busy counter because someone who thinks Chicago is in Elanoyz forgot to dip the sandwich or only threw on a few peppers is like going to a double-feature where “The English Patient” plays first and “The Blue Brothers” second.
I am also not a fan of Portillo's bland fries, and to say that cheese improves them does not increase world knowledge. There must be some law in California that restaurants can use only dry and chalky Idahos in the deep fryer. Compared to the variegated spears of lusciously greasy potato at Al's on Taylor Street, Portillo's fries are cardboard leavings. On occasion I've driven my Italian beef a couple of blocks to the nearby Fatburger for edible fries.
Finally, you should realize that the Chocolate Cake Milkshake is exactly what it sounds like, and it makes one fabulous dessert. Don’t order the large unless you have strong tires on your car.
I think Portillo's is one of the chain places that really does do amost everything right. I'd compare it to Ruby's here in SoCal, another chain which I admire and have no problem frequenting.
In the past I have written on the Chicago board that when I take my family back to IL to visit my parents and relatives, Portillo's is usually a stop for all of us...12 of us total from 2 years old to 75, carnivores to vegetarians. Everyone gets a good meal and we feed 12 of us well for under $100.
The Buena Park Portillo's matches the "home" locations in terms of food quality, but prices are 15-20% higher. It'll be interesting to see when, where and how many Portillo's eventually find their way into SoCal the next 5-10 years.
Fries were really nice...get them with CHEESE..comes with a 2oz cup of cheese for dipping....dipping the fries in cheese and ketchup = awesomeness.
I should have had them dip the italian beef a bit more ("Extra gravy"...it was a tad dry and it needed some salt....i used the cheese on it....the hot peppers made up for some of the lack of flavor.....
prices weren't too bad.....Italian beef was $4.75, cheese fries were $2.16 and hot peppers were 40 cents....
I went today...Italian Beef w/ hot peppers and an order of cheese fries. GREAT stuff....italian beef was good for LA...proabably not as good as some of the real stuff I had in Chicago when i visited, but the place is very cool....i'm definitely going back....
Garbage Salad, Hot Dogs, and the burgers looked interesting.....I'd still probably get the italian beef though.....