If you’re driving down I-94 toward Wisconsin today and notice an especially long backup at the Radio Dr. exit in Woodbury, chalk it up to eager eaters who have hotly anticipated the Tuesday opening of Portillo’s, purveyors of the Chicago-style hot dog as well as an authentic Italian beef sandwiches.
The Woodbury outpost is the 50th restaurant in the Portillo’s chain, and the first in Minnesota. (After a protracted fight with their city council, victorious Maple Grove residents will soon have a Portillo's of their own as well.) It’s a big enough deal that company founder Dick Portillo was in town last week for the soft opening. Portillo opened his first hot dog stand in a rickety trailer in Villa Park, just outside Chicago, in 1963.
Current day Portillo’s offers quite a contrast to that cramped beginning; the Woodbury restaurant seats 200 people, and the menu offerings are just as expansive. In addition to the hot dogs and Italian beef, you can get burgers, chicken sandwiches, pasta, even ribs.There are also a number of salads, including the popular chopped salad that includes the quirky addition of ditalini pasta. And regulars at the restaurant will tell you not to miss the chocolate cake. It’s so popular, they even make a chocolate cake shake.
The décor can best be described as nostalgic neon kitsch that may put you in mind of a cross between TGI Friday’s and Cracker Barrel. Prices seem nicely retro too: A fully loaded hot dog is just $2.99 and the iconic Italian beef is a reasonable $5.75; a side of large fries will set you back $2.29. The ribs, the most expensive item on the menu, will set you back $17.50 for a full slab.
8450 Hudson Rd., Woodbury