I’m not behind the curtain of this investigation so I can’t comment officially just yet. Definitely not trying to get sued by the big swinging dicks that bought out the ultimate big swinging dick – Dick Portillo.
Portillo’s was founded in 1963 by Dick Portillo. After returning from serving in the Marines, Portillo gathered money from his savings and from an investment from his brother Frank to open a hotdog stand. They bought a 12-foot trailer that had no restroom and no running water. They named it “The Dog House”
You know the story from here. The Dog House evolved into a national brand, Dick slung world class Italian beef, sold to private equity and now cruises the world in a Yacht called Top Dog. Can’t make this stuff up:
Anyways, Portillo’s is now owned/controlled/whatever by Berkshire Partners, a company in Boston that is much better at raising/investing other people’s money than making Italian beef sammies. I think we can all agree on that. The beef’s changed, the chopped salad’s upside down, portions are smaller, recipes are different… it’s just not the same experience. I’m sure it’s been a profitable experience but at the end of the day you can’t fool Chicago when it comes to beef.
Keep in mind we’re not even talking about cockroaches. We can circle back on that after I digest WGN’s full-bodied investigation. For now we’re talking beef and sticking to the facts and those facts are the beef has changed. Maybe to you that’s for the better, maybe it’s for the worse, but it’s different no doubt.
As such you may be wondering if you need a new beef spot in the rotation. Something to take the pressure off Portillo’s like when the Cubs signed Yu Darvish to shoulder the load with Lester. If that’s the case, then use the following criteria to judge your next beef:
Bread – Rule #1 is you need to keep the beef together throughout the experience. You can’t have uncontrollable slop and that’s where good bread hits the mark. It’s crunchy but fresh. Sturdy and soft. Molds with the gravy as you go but doesn’t let the Au Jus control everything. Solid bread is like a solid girlfriend. When you have a good one you just know.
Giardianera – some want it hot, some want it mild, but at the end of the day everyone wants it homemade. Like bread you need a good crunch. Critical differentiator is the olive oil quality. Some try to pass vegetable oil as a substitute and that doesn’t fucking fly. Vegetable oil is like the hot dog of oils. Get that shit out of here.
Beef Flavor – Sometimes too bland and sometimes they try too hard. People love to set themselves apart on the beef flavor but if you do Bread and Giarianera well, you don’t need to worry too much about beef flavor. Basically you need enough seasoning to qualify for the Italian designation without scarring all the babes away. Don’t get goofy on the flavor.
Portion - The size and price of your beef should work in parallel. Johnnies in Elmwood Park is $4.75 for a beef but it’s a smaller beef. Mr. Beef is more expensive but you get a bigger beef. Buona and AL’s give you a range of sizes to pick from. At the end of the day though it really comes down to beef-to-bread ratio. You don’t want to be overwhelmed with beef but you also don’t want to eat a bread sandwich. It’s called a beef for a reason.
These aren’t the Beef Commandments but it’s a pretty good start. Too bad Portillo’s is about to get dragged tonight on the Super Station but at the same time maybe don’t change your beef.