Food Worth the Drive: Portillo’s in Tampa

It’s no secret how I feel about the Windy City. Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, some of my earliest and fondest memories as a child involve walking around downtown, going to Chicago Cubs games, and seeing shows in elegant theaters.

Being from Chicago makes me picky about my food, specifically, my pizza and my hot dogs. I have gotten into numerous verbal altercations with people who say ketchup is the only thing that belongs on a dog, INCLUDING children.

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One of my most memorable shout-fests about the joys of Chicago Style Hot Dogs was with a man I met while out with some friends in Orlando. This man had the audacity to tell me he’s never been to Chicago but has had a real Chicago-Style Hot Dog. I called BS. But he insisted, no matter how much I yelled at him that he was a dirty liar. Suddenly and without warning, he dropped the words “Vienna Beef” into a conversation and I knew he was telling the truth.

And what did I do next? I married him. True story. That is how Justin asked me out on our first real date.

Lesson: Marry a man who believes the perfect compliment to an all-beef hotdog is celery salt and neon relish. 

When I took Justin to Chicago for the first time, we stopped into the mecca for hot-dog fans: Portillo’s. I watched his eyes glaze over as he took a bite out that perfect dog, sip his chocolate cake shakes, and dip his fries into the liquid gold of their cheese fries. Portillo’s is a religious experience for me. It involves a lot of slow chews and savory swirls of french fries around styrofoam containers of hot cheese.

Those familiar tastes take me back to my childhood, at a Cubs game with my dad. It’s as comforting as it is delicious.

When we moved to Orlando, my access to hot dogs was limited. The one place in town Justin took me to on our first date, was a good hour outside of the city, and a fully-loaded hot dog would set you back about $7.00. ($7.00 for a hot dog is INSANE.)

Which is why when we learned Portillo’s was building up in Tampa, we knew we had to test it out to see if it lived up to the original.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here, it did. It lived up to everything.

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Like our local hot dog place, Portillo’s is a good hour away from our house. But this trip was infinitely more worth it on price alone. And the access to Italian Beef.

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Our littlest food critics loved it too.

If you’re local to Central Florida, or a snow bird that visits in the winter, it’s 100% worth the drive to Portillo’s for a taste of a Chicago classic. Excellent food at friendly prices to make you feel right at home!

Missing a Chicago classic but not near a Portillo’s? You can have a whole lot of delicious goodness delivered to your door. Visit the Portillo’s shop here.

Need a little more persuasion? Follow Portillo’s on Instagram. (And While you’re at it, follow me at @AllyJeanPippin too)

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