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Aug 18, 2012 08:23 PM

Need a quick pick up place for lunch en route

We will be arriving from Detroit area at 12:30/1pm en route to Oak Park. We want to pick up something great but quick (Italian beef/hot dog's/something iconic Chicago). We'll have a car. Any suggestions? We don't mind eating in, but wanted to stay away from a full service resaurant.

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  1. Portillo's, where you can get great Italian beef as well as great Chicago-style hot dogs. You wait in line to place your order and pay, then pick up your food further down the line, then go sit down and eat it (or take it with you to go). There's one in Forest Park, which is right next to Oak Park.

    Note - I haven't been to that particular Portillo's, but many of the Portillo's do a HUGE lunch business... as in, traffic lined up getting in and out of their parking lot, with police directing traffic during the lunch hours. Don't get discouraged. They do a great job of managing the crowds, and it won't take long to get through the line.

    Portillo's also has a location on US-30 in Merrillville, Indiana, but you're probably better off driving straight to Forest Park than detouring to Merrillville, since it's not exactly on your way.

    Another popular place for that sort of thing is Gene & Jude's in River Grove, but it's a bit further out of your way than the Portillo's in Forest Park, and they only have hot dogs, not Italian beef.

    1. Portillo's does an amazing job of serving food quickly, no matter how many people are in line. Portillo's Italian beefs are the best but they have great burgers, fries, onion rings and fish. My partner is vegetarian and loves their veggie sandwich which is roasted peppers, onions and such and loves their salads (sans meat). Portillo's locations varies, some come with ribs, some with more Italian fare. It's a great place to go for a great quick meal!

      1. Great! That was on our "to do" list. Have it down that hot dogs are great there too. Is Hot Doug's out that area too?

        9 Replies
        1. re: itryalot

          No. Hot Dougs is in the city in a neighborhood called Avondale on the near northwest side. If you are driving through the city to get to Oak Park, it could be not far out of your way. It would just take some planing. If this helps, the address is 3324 N. California on the corner of California and Roscoe.

          1. re: chicgail

            Thanks for that info. I am mapping out places now so I can orient myself.

          2. re: itryalot

            Chicago's best Italian beef can be found at Johnnie's in Elmwood Park, halfway between O'Hare and Oak Park.

            1. re: camusman

              Well now, I'll be coming in from Michigan City. I may have to look at that too.

              1. re: itryalot

                Are you DRIVING in from Michian City? If so, what will your route be? This might be the key to your quest. There are spots all over to get a beef and dog. Perhaps one of the better spots might be along your route.

                Depending on which xpways you plan to take, the options will differ. My guess is that you'll be taking 290 W, in which The Forest Park Portillo's OR Johnnies could fit your bill, depending on where you are going to wind up in Oak Park.

                I might seriously suggest you take a slight detour for Al's on Taylor street and an Italian Ice from Mario's across the street.

                1. re: gordeaux

                  That might be an option. I think Taylor St is on our "tour" one day so we will save it for then for sure. I am thinking we will take 290W. Portillos and Johnnies are both on our list. I have added them to the map; they look fairly close to where we'll be ending up. Thanks

                  1. re: itryalot

                    The quickest way to Oak Park from Michigan City (or Detroit), any time of day, is to take I-94 west to Exit 16, then from that interchange take I-90 west (it's the Indiana Toll Road, then becomes the Chicago Skyway, then merges with I-94 west as the Dan Ryan Expressway headed towards downtown Chicago. (That route involves paying two tolls in Indiana and one in Illinois; you can stay on I-94 the entire way but it's significantly longer in both distance and time.)

                    When you get to downtown Chicago (you can't miss the skyline) look for signs for I-290 west, which is the Eisenhower Expressway. That will take you to Oak Park.

                    The expressways are typically clogged with traffic roughly 6:30-9:00 weekday mornings and 3:00-6:30 weekday evenings, so you'll want to avoid them at those hours. Of course, there can be backups at other times too, but they're not typical.

                    1. re: itryalot

                      Ok, so for my full opinion, knowing what I know, here's what I'd suggest you do:

                      1. From 90/94, take the Taylor st exit, and go to Al's. Get a beef, dipped, with hot or sweet peppers depending on your tolerance for heat. Also, get a hot dog, and ask for the fries well done. Eat there. It'll be very quick. Then, walk across the street for an Italian Ice at Mario's. Pick a street that connects up to 290W, and head to Oak Park while nibbling on your ice.
                      2. Go all the way to Oak Park, and head to Johnnie's. Get a COMBO with hot or sweet (again, depending on your heat tolerance.)

                      3. Portillo's in Forest Park. Beef or combo will both be serviceable. Fries are not worth buying. get onion rings instead. They will also make you a proper dog.

                      The Al's detour is worth it, IMO. It's not that far out of the way at all considering the other two options are a little bit of a detour as well.

                      That's how I rate em. Good luck!

                      1. re: gordeaux

                        Whether you get to Taylor Street during your drive in or later in the week, the Al's + Mario combination is a great slice of Chicago. Consider getting a combo at Al's (beef with an Italian sausage link added). At this time of year, Mario's has a peach ice that is especially great.

            2. Are you coming in at O'Hare???

              You can EASILY go to both Gene & Jude's AND Johnnies. And I mean EASILY. Take River Road south. You'll pass Gene & Jude's. Pop in for a dog, but ask for the fries "well done." Then keep going south on River road. When it turns into 1st avenue, turn south, then turn East on North Avenue. Johnnies is about a mile or so down the road on the North side of the street. Get a combo at Johnnies with hot or sweet peppers dending on your tolerance for heat level. Not sure where you're going in Oak Park, but it's essentially across the street and a few more blocks east to the town border. River Road is the easy route to / from O'hare for a lot of people who live in the Oak Park area. Map your route - Ohare to Gene & Jude's to Johnnie's. Easy as pie.

              2 Replies
              1. re: gordeaux

                Will look at Gene and Jude's; they weren't even on my food radar. We will be driving in from Michigan City (Michigan area originally).

                1. Thanks for the recs. I will report back for sure.