Dan and I went to Chicago for a friend's wedding (groom is the blond pictured above) and the first thing we did after landing was head to Portillo's for a traditional "Chicago-Style" dog.
I have been hearing about these hot dogs for years...years I tell you...so I was mighty curious if they would live up to their hype or if it would be another "grandma's lasagna" situation (there are foods that you have as a child that you attach a fond memory with, but in all honesty, from a culinary perspective, it isn't that great now that you are older and your taste buds have changed.)
The place is quirky--rustic cool decor--extensive menu. I kept it simple and ordered a beef hot dog all the way. Above is a shot of our hot dog "artist" with our dogs on the hot dog skateboard (or that's what it looked like to me as they rolled down the line!)
Dan ordered his two all the way and then proceeded to pick all the good stuff off; he had something going there...the sport peppers are good, but left on, they become overpowering; order it all the way and pick the peppers off, because the juice gives it just enough heat without the unpleasant bite from the actual pepper.
My dog is above and below--pre sport pepper removal. First, the dog: it is a Vienna Beef, but it isn't like what you'll find in the grocery story--these have a thinner casing and is likely simmered first and then thrown on the flat top because it has a snap to it.
Second, the bun--it is made from a soft Italian bread, fresh, steamed, with a sprinkling of poppy seed.
I have to disagree with my Chicagoan relatives in that I do not feel that the poppy seeds really make a flavor difference, the New York Times says: "sprinkling them around is mere child's play" when we're talking about flavor--to bring out their full potential they need to be toasted (like nuts) and you have to have a large quantity; however, they do make it look nice.
Lastly, the toppings: I really enjoyed the combination; a "traditional" dog all the way from my family's perspective has mustard, relish, onion, tomato, pickle, sport peppers (Serrano) and celery salt...some Chicago joints will add fresh cucumber too, but from what I can find--this is not the usual.
Also, most of the time you'll see electric green relish, which was introduced in the 1970's by Fluky's. Portillo's doesn't use this relish but they don't need to--their sweet relish is tasty without having a disturbingly bright color!
Of note, it is a cardinal sin to add ketchup to your dog unless you are under the age of 17--for someone who loves ketchup in general and especially on a hot dog, I was a bit skeptical, but it honestly doesn't need it--the fresh tomato covers it.
In all, these were the best hot dogs I have ever had, so I will be on that bandwagon 100% with my husband and in-laws the next time we're in the Chicago area.