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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chicago Part II -- Escape to Portillos

Portillo's was not the planned dinner destination.  And while it didn't take a prison escape to get there, some stealth was indeed involved.

But Spicy Food Guy gets ahead of himself.

SFG and 12 fun and favorite colleagues of Spicy Food Guy (FFCSFG) were in Chicago to debate if Anakin Skywalker should enter jedi training and ultimately bring balance to the universe.

Not really.

Hosting SFG and FFCSFG were trendy Chicago based colleagues of Spicy Food Guy (TCBCSFG) and they announced the morning of the meeting that dinner that evening would be "A wine bar and pizza/pasta place".

Multiple alarm buzzers went off in SFG's head. 

By law, any pizza consumed in Chicago must be deep dish.  It has to have meat.  It has to weigh 35 pounds.  One time several years ago, SFG was in Chicago for an informal meeting that was in walking distance from SFG's hotel.  SFG stopped at Giordano's world famous deep dish pizza place and picked up a big old pizza for his lunch (SFG intended to share).  When SFG got to the building where the meeting was, the lobby guard assumed SFG was a pizza delivery guy.  True story.

But Spicy Food Guy sooooo digresses.

SFG quickly ascertained that any pizza associated with a wine bar was unlikely to be deep dish.  In fact, this wine bar pizza place sounded like it was going to be one of those downtown trendy froo froo restaurant places.


Now, in all fairness, TCBCSFG were tickled with their decision, and TCBCSFG are smart, nice, passionate people and SFG really likes them.  SFG was determined to make the best of it.  But when SFG walked in, he immediately noted the following:

1) The servers were dressed all in black.
2) The tables were packed tightly together.
3) The wineglasses were oversized.

Indeed this was a trendy froo froo downtown place.  SFG enjoyed the wine, the company, the roasted artichokes, and the pizza (not all of it; the young woman seated next to SFG had a pizza with a topping that can only be described as a baby greens salad).  So it was fine as trendy downtown spots go, but SFG yearned for more.

That's about when the plotting began.

As it turned out, the FFCSFG seated next to SFG had grown up in Chicago, and swore he could not leave town until he had eaten an Italian Beef Sandwich from Portillo's, a famous hot dog and sandwich place that is a big favorite of Chicago natives.

And there was a Portillo's location not just two blocks away.

"We're going there after this dinner", SFG whispered to FFCSFG, "alert the others".

So very quietly the word spread, and a total of four FFCSFGs agreed to the plan.  They all happened to be male.

So as dessert was wrapping up, SFG and the four FFCSFGs stood up to quietly slip out.  A particularly astute TCBCSFG saw the exchange of glances and very wrongly assumed SFG and pals were headed to a strip club.  A strip club?  When there are chili cheese dogs to be had?  Surely TCBCSFG jested, but still, some clarification was required and SFG had to come clean on the evening's plot.  So good-bye's were said, and SFG and the four FFCSFGs stepped outside.


Really, really cold.  Brutal cold.  Chicago lake wind cold.  We made it a block before SFG announced "We can't stay out here, we must take refuge in this Irish pub we are standing next to."

So refuge was taken.  For 40 minutes or so.  And when SFG and FFCSFGs had each had a couple of pints of refuge, it was time to soldier on the last half block or so to Portillo's.

And what can SFG say about Portillo's?  Only that it's hot Italian sausage is fabulous beyond measure, that SFG wolfed down the chili cheese dog inside about three minutes, that the Maxwell Street style polish sausage has terrific flavor.  Is SFG saying he had one of each?  SFG takes the fifth, and seconds and thirds.  At least while he is dining at Portillos.

The Chicago native FFCSFG had his Italian beef sandwich fix, and he insisted we all taste the tamales.  While the tamales weren't bad, the hot itailian sausage was voted best in class by SFG and a couple of non-native FFCSFGs.

So that's the tale of two restaurants.  And Portillo's is now a must stop eatery when SFG hits Chicago.  Go there.

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