It’s just shy of a month since Portillo’s opened at the Grandscape in the Colony and the lines are still out the door and around the block. During the first weekend in February, it took an hour to get from the end of the patio to the service counter — and that was well before noon — plus another 20 minutes waiting for the actual order to be ready. The drive-thru line (actually, there were two of them) wasn’t moving much faster.
It begs an obvious question: is it worth it to spend this much time waiting for a hot dog? Or to make the drive all the way out to the ‘burbs if you live in Dallas?
To best measure the experience, and get the most bang for my buck without looking a little kooky ordering a huge amount of food or talking to myself in line, I brought a friend along. We got the two hot dog deal, which includes two of Portillo’s Chicago-style dogs with yellow mustard, relish, celery salt, chopped onions, sliced tomatoes, a kosher pickle, and peppers — and we asked for cheese on the side. That includes crinkle fries and a drink. We also got a chili cheese dog, a char-grilled Maxwell Street Polish sausage, and a cheeseburger.
The good: The Chicago-style dog is pretty enjoyable. There’s nothing extra special about it, but it’s a nice hot dog with fresh toppings and some snap to the casing. The tomato gets that bun a little soggy and the whole experience is rather like eating a hamburger inside a hot dog, but it’s fun as a novel thing.
The cheeseburger also merits the label of “good.” It’s in the vein of In-N-Out, but one can get that all over the Metroplex now so it’s good but not worth the wait.
The great: That kielbasa in the Maxwell Street char-grilled dog is wonderful — fragrant and spicy. Topped with all the aromatic grilled onions, it’s a real delight. It comes with yellow mustard, no other options — and it might be nice if one could get a brown, seedy option instead. Would we stand in line for an hour just for that? No, but when the lines eventually die down, and they will, it’s a must-order.
The not-so-good: The chili dog was already cold and topped with thin, watery chili. Don’t bother, hit up Haystack Burgers and Barley for a much better chili dog. Hell, hit up Sonic — it’ll do you better.
The fries were also a miss, mostly because they were coated with too much salt, although the crinkles were the right kind of crispy. And because we regretted not getting the onion rings, which looked amazing.
The verdict: It is not worth a 30-, 45-, or hour-long drive to stand in line for an hour for this food, which the editor of Eater Chicago warned us, is “essentially the Target of hot dogs.” At the end of the day, it’s still just fast food.