Portillo's is a ubiquitous chain of restaurants in the Chicago area, specializing in Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches, and other Chicago favorites. Portillo's offers many other kinds of food as well, somewhat leaning toward the Italian-American side of things, but also bountiful in hamburgers, Polish sausages, french fries, and onion rings. The place is functionally a glorified fast food restaurant, having a drive-thru and very low wait times to receive your food, but it is also a notch above most fast food restaurants in that the place has an impressive atmosphere, the food is very tasty, the salads are actually good, and you can order chocolate cake by the slice, which is always a nice thing.
The restaurants are rather large, generally, and have sort of a retro-50's atmosphere, with checkered floors and tiles, although the walls are bedecked with Americana from other eras as well, sometimes depicting the roots of the franchise. It also has those diner-style chromed seats you can sit and spin on, which is fun. In some places, the restaurants have turned into teenage hang-outs, and if you go to high school in the Chicago area and have a Portillo's nearby, you may very well recognize some fellow students hanging around, or even working behind the counter.
Portillo's wasn't always the Chicago institution that it is now, being founded in 1963 in Villa Park, IL as The Dog House, a hot-dog stand operating out of a trailer with no bathroom and running water supplied by a long hose attached to the nearest building. This was the brainchild of Dick Portillo, who had once lived in the infamous Cabrini Green housing projects in his childhood, and invested $1,100 to buy the trailer that housed the place. In 1967, the The Dog House changed its name to Portillo's and remodeled, and Dick Portillo has been a success story ever since, expanding Portillo's to different locations, and opening other restaurants such as Barney's, Barnelli's Pasta Bowl, the Key Wester Fish and Pasta House, and Hemingway's Bar.
Portillo's continues to expand, with several new locations being planned at the time of this write-up.