The Very First Portillo's Was Just A Humble Shack

Portillo's first location
Portillo's first location -

If you love a good fast food hot dog or are curious about what it tastes like when you blend an entire slice of chocolate cake into a shake, you've probably heard of Portillo's. The Illinois-based chain has become a staple spot for many that offer Chicago-style street food. Whether you're looking for tourist trap restaurants that are actually really good or you're a local who has been visiting as long as you can remember, Portillo's promises to deliver the taste and service of a modest local spot. In fact, that is exactly how the eatery began.

In 1963 in Villa Park, Illinois, owner Dick Portillo began running the first ever Portillo's out of a trailer with practically no money and even less space. Originally called "The Dog House," this shack on wheels had no bathroom or running water. According to the company website, Portillo had to "borrow" water from another building close by with a 250-foot garden hose.

Regardless of its humble exterior, this shack known for slinging hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches gained massive popularity amongst the locals, and the tiny operation had earned enough revenue to expand to a much larger storefront in 1967. After expanding to multiple locations across Illinois and establishing a drive-thru in 1983, Portillo's has long since outgrown the tiny trailer it once knew and officially earned the title of a fast-casual food chain.

Read more: The Ultimate Ranking Of American Fast Food Restaurants

After Humble Beginnings, Portillo's Now Has Locations In Multiple States

Portillo's hot dog and drink
Portillo's hot dog and drink -

For decades, Portillo's was native to certain parts of Illinois. In fact, the company was so particular with its expansion, that it wasn't until 1994 when Portillo's finally brought a location in the windy city of Chicago. But with the success of nationwide shipping offering foodies from across America a taste of Chicago-style street food in 2000, it only made sense to expand to other states. The first non-Illinois location was established in Buena Park, California in 2005. In the years that followed, Portillo's continued to grow and found homes in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, and Wisconsin.

What was once a tiny shack siphoning water from a neighboring building has grown into a massively popular chain. With over 50 locations now spanning across 10 U.S. states and nationwide shipping, Portillo's has definitely outgrown its humble beginnings. The cheesesteak and hot dog retailer even dabbled in offering a beef deep dish pizza as a collab with Lou Malnati's, an extremely popular Chicago-based pizza restaurant. Showing its high standing, USA Today also named Portillo's fourth on the list of best fast casual restaurants in America, but not everyone might agree.

Some Customers Claim That Portillo's Isn't Nearly As Fast Or Good As It Used To Be

Portillo's inside
Portillo's inside - LukeandKarla.Travel/Shutterstock

When Portillo's was first established, the fast casual restaurant took pride in its speedy service. Fans praised the eatery for how quick and easy it was to have a hot dipped sandwich immediately in hand. However, in recent years, customers have noticed that the quality of food and speed of service has dwindled — Portillo's even came in second to last on our ranking of fast food hot dogs.

Portillo's customers took to Reddit to share their grievances and claimed that the chain has become overrated and that it takes forever to get even a simple milkshake. One user wrote, "The drive thru used to be a work of art, now it's a crap show." Many attribute the change in quality to Dick Portillo's selling of the company in 2014 to a private-equity firm called Berkshire Partners. Like many chains that derive from a modest start, some customers feel that Portillo's lost its mom-and-pop-shop charm and quality when the chain was sold.

While there is debate amongst fans about when exactly the food quality and swift service slowed down, customers can agree that Portillo's is still a great place to grab an Italian beef, dipped with cheese whiz — it may just take a little while longer to get to your table.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal.