Annapurna Ayurvedic Cuisine – Los Ranchos de Albuquerque, New Mexico

Annapurna on 4th Street in the North Valley

Annapurna on 4th Street in the North Valley

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistent irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, and an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food.”

Anthony Bourdain’s dour diatribe on the “evils” of vegeterians and vegans is hardly unwonted.  The internet is rife with mean-spirited assailments against people who choose a plant-based diet that includes fruits, cereal grains, seeds, nuts and vegetables and may or may not exclude dairy products and eggs.  Reciprocation in kind is also well represented on the Internet by vegetarians and vegans who lambast the carnivorous cravings of meat-eaters.

Annapurna and its sprawling space

Annapurna and its sprawling space

This lack of civility and parochial discourse is usually reserved for politics and ideologues (on both sides of the aisle) who can’t concede any merit whatsoever about the opposing viewpoint.  It’s not enough to disagree with someone else’s opinion or choice, dissenters on both sides seem to have a base need to resort to derisive pejoratives.

So, just how do you resolve differences of opinion without resorting to name-calling?  The answer may lie in an article published in the Society page of the New York Times Sunday edition on May 5, 1918 which posited that “soap-boxers emitting hatred and trust” may be having trouble with their stomachs which sometimes direct human action more than the mind does.   The writer observed that where there are points of disagreement, a good dinner usually settles them.

Thaali Plate: A cup of each of our Vegetables  of the day, a cup of Dal, a cup of Sambhar, Basmati rice or brown rice,  Chapati (flatbread), and your choice of a chutney, yogurt or raita.

Thaali Plate: A cup of each of our Vegetables of the day, a cup of Dal, a cup of Sambhar, Basmati rice or brown rice, Chapati (flatbread), and your choice of a chutney, yogurt or raita.

The question then becomes just where to have that dinner.  Obviously in the case of vegetarians and meatatarians, it would be a challenge worthy of a sagacious Solomon.  For me, it’s enough of a challenge to get some of my friends and colleagues to try something new and different, something outside their comfort zone–somewhere like Annapurna Ayurvedic Cuisine, a world vegetarian cafe which touts itself as “the place for healing cuisine.”

Most of my colleagues equate “healing cuisine” with medicine and believe vegetarianism should be practiced exclusively by rabbits.  Their idea of world cuisine is pizza, tacos and egg rolls.  Fortunately my friend and fellow Air Force retiree Randy Lake (who risked merciless taunting from our crew in ordering a veggie burger at the Stone Face Tavern) and his beauteous better half Bonnie, like me, welcome a periodic respite from the mundanity of the “usual suspects.”  They were more than eager to visit Annapurna with me.

South Indian Sampler Plate: One Miniature Masala Dosa, a piece of Vadai, a bowl of Sambhar with two Idlis and a side of coconut chutney

South Indian Sampler Plate: One Miniature Masala Dosa, a piece of Vadai, a bowl of Sambhar with two Idlis and a side of coconut chutney

Annapurna is a Sanskrit (the ancient language of the Hindus) word that literally means “complete food.”  As the goddess of food and abundance, Annapurna is also responsible for the nourishment of the family.  This isn’t nourishment in the American sense of caloric overachievement, but in the Hindu traditional sense and medical treatise for healing and prolonging life called Ayurveda.

Ayurveda is a 5,000 year-old system of healing and well-being.  “Ayur” means “life” and “veda” means “knowledge,” hence the knowledge of longevity.  Ayurveda offers healing, rejuvenation and self realization through balanced foods, herbs, yoga, massage, aroma and meditation.  Ayurveda teaches how to pay attention to how and what is eaten and to take responsibility for our health.

North Indian Sampler Plate: One cup of Saag with two paneer, one cup of  Mataar with two paneer, one cup of our Bean of the Day, and your choice of  Basmati or brown rice, one Chapati, one mini Dosa, or three Puri

North Indian Sampler Plate: One cup of Saag with two paneer, one cup of Mataar with two paneer, one cup of our Bean of the Day, and your choice of Basmati or brown rice, one Chapati, one mini Dosa, or three Puri

Ayurveda prescribes purity of food (Sattvic) for healing and maintaining good health.  Sattvic food incorporates the six tastes in every meal: sweet, bitter, sour, astringent, salty and pungent.

Interestingly, in the west, it’s generally accepted that the human tongue can discern only four different tastes and that all tastes in the dining experience are combinations of those four: sweet, bitter, sour, and salty. By contrast, the Chinese have long believed that the human tongue possesses a fifth taste sensation–one that can detect pungent foods.  The Sattvic recognition that there are six discernible tastes should be a siren’s call to all adventurous foodies.

ABC (Avocado, tempeh Bacon, Cheddar cheese, spinach, tomatoes, and chipotle dressing)

ABC (Avocado, tempeh Bacon, Cheddar cheese, spinach, tomatoes, and chipotle dressing)

As Randy, Bonnie and I found out during our inaugural visit to Annapurna, the depth of flavors in virtually every bite will certainly invigorate and stimulate seemingly every one of your ten-thousand taste buds.  Even if you don’t consciously attempt to discern each of the taste sensations, you’ll swear you’re tasting them in every mouthful.  Of course adventurous, exotic and taste awakening sensations don’t mean as much if the cuisine doesn’t measure up in deliciousness.

At Annapurna, deliciousness is part and parcel of every dining experience.  It’s Indian cuisine to the nth degree and an order of magnitude better than most vegetarian cuisine.  It’s cuisine that provides pleasure in every forkful, a sensual delight in every meal.  The Alibi described every platter at Annapurna as a “delicacy.”

Masala Dosa (Dosa filled with a spicy vegetable mixture. Served with Sambhar and coconut chutney)

Masala Dosa (Dosa filled with a spicy vegetable mixture. Served with Sambhar and coconut chutney)

First-time visitors need not despair about what to order, especially if you’re already somewhat familiar with Indian cuisine.  The menu is extremely user friendly with vivid color pictures of many entrees as well as inviting descriptions of the entrees.  To the greatest extent possible, the food is locally grown and is always freshly prepared every day.  That is an amazing feat considering the breadth of the menu, a multi-page compendium of Ayurvedic deliciousness.

An Annapurna dining experience is not only meat-free, you won’t find white flour, white salt, white sugar, sodas or alcohol and with the exception of homemade paneer (a traditional, unaged, non-melting farmer’s cheese made by curdling heated milk with lemon juice or other food acid) and a traditional milk-based chai (a tea brewed with a mixture of aromatic Indian spices and herbs), you won’t find much dairy either.

Annapurna’s Gourmet Pizza adorned with green chile, Kalamata olives and tempeh bacon

The menu changes seasonally–another Ayurvedic principle based on the seasons knowing what you need during each quadrant of the year.  In addition to the mostly traditional Indian cuisine, the menu also includes some “western” or rather “westernized” entrees such as pizza, sandwiches, veggie burgers, lasagna, wraps and even a brunch burrito.

One of the very best ways to acquaint yourself with the menu is by ordering one of the sampler plates.  Fortunately the first three items on the menu feature three grand sampler plates with an impressive array of delicious dishes.  The Thaali Plate, for example, includes a cup of each of the restaurant’s vegetables of the day, a cup of Dal (a yellow split mung bean soup with vegetables), a cup of Sambhar (a spicy, brothy yellow split mung bean soup with vegetables), Basmati or brown rice, Chapati (flatbread) and your choice of chutney, yogurt or raita.  This is a stellar plate with a lot going on.  It will put a smile on your lips and bring warmth to your heart.

Shepherd’s Pie: Lentils, carrots, celery, and greens smothered in a sweet potato topping and baked until golden. Served with a side salad

The South Indian Sampler Plate is referred to on the menu as a “combination for the curious.”  It features one miniature masala dosa (an Indian crepe filled with a spicy vegetable mixture), a piece of Vadai (a deep-fried cake akin to an Indian hushpuppy), a bowl of Sambhar with two Idlis (soft, fluffy white, round discs made of rice and lentil batter which might remind you of dumplings) and a side of coconut chutney.  Every bite of every item is absolutely delicious, a joy to eat.

The menu refers to the North Indian Sampler Plate as “a combination for the hungry.”  It features a cup of Saag (a spinach and mustard leaf based curry dish) with two paneer, a cup of Mataar (a creamy, spiced tomato and pea soup) served with three paneer, a cup of the bean of the day and your choice of Basmati or brown rice as well as one Chapati, one mini dosa or three Puri (a puffed, savory fried bread.  Mataar Paneer is my very favorite Indian dish and Annapurna’s rendition is among the very best I’ve ever had, so flavorful, so soul-warming that days later it still pervaded my mind.  If the menu didn’t offer so many other intriguing options, this sampler platter could become a habitual favorite.

Two stack gluten- free pancakes made from scratch with a batter containing freshly ground cardamom and a variety of seasonal fruit. Served with organic maple syrup

“As easy as ABC,” an idiom which describes something that’s very easy is an apt name for one of the least complex items on the menu.  “ABC” in this case stands for Avocado, tempeh bacon and Cheddar cheese which along with spinach, tomatoes and chipotle dressing form a wrap which might have you thinking “BLT.”  That’s in large part due to the tempeh bacon (sometimes referred to as fake-on) which has the flavor and consistency of bacon with far fewer calories and fat.  Served with salad and your choice of masala fries or a cup of the soup of the day, it’s Annapurna’s version of an American classic–sandwich and fries.

A far more exotic culinary adventure can be had with a Masala Dosa, a South Indian crepe/pancake made with rice and urad dal (a whitish lentil), rolled and filled with a spicy vegetable mixture that includes carrots, potatoes, onions and more (perhaps lentils).  Indian spiciness is not nearly the same as the spiciness found in New Mexican food.  While this entree has some piquancy, it’s spice-based and not chile-based and doesn’t have the “burn” of New Mexico’s official vegetable.  The spicy vegetable mix is intensely spiced and strongly flavored in the most pleasant sense.  The Dosa is whisper thin and crisp.  At about ten inches in length, it may at first glance appear daunting in size, but it’s light and substantial at the same time so finishing one shouldn’t be a problem for even smaller eaters.

Lasagna: Thick pasta, house-made marinara, butternut squash, zucchini, and eggplant, baked golden. Served either vegan or with Mozzarella

Annapurna’s menu is eye-catching for its surprises.  It’s a rare vegan restaurant and even more rare Indian restaurant in which you’ll find Shepherd’s Pie, Lasagna, Pizza, Pancakes and even Burritos.  A line-up with such diverse items seems more appropriate for one of those all-you-can-eat restaurants which server every conceivable item under the sun, but none of them well.  The difference is that Annapurna’s rendition of the aforementioned items is very well executed…and that’s no longer a surprise to anyone who frequents this outstanding restaurant.

Take, for example, the gourmet pizza. Its canvas is a wheat-free and yeast-free herb crust.   (As an aside, Nations Restaurant News, a respected trade magazine, reports that the most popular pizza toppings in India are pickled ginger, minced mutton and paneer.)   Standard toppings are a house-made classic marinara, organic mozzarella, zucchini, eggplant and onion.  Optional toppings include portabello mushroom, tomatoes, Feta cheese, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, green chile, roasted bell peppers and tempeh bacon.  With perhaps the exception of tempeh bacon, doesn’t that sound like a pie you might find at a pizzeria?

Greek Wrap: Babaganoush (eggplant), spinach, feta, and tomatoes. Served with a side salad (red pepper vinaigrette) and a creamy lentil soup

You don’t even have to close your eyes to imagine it’s a pie from one of Albuquerque’s fine pizzerias.  Your eyes and nostrils won’t deceive you; it looks and smells like a very good pizza.  Better still, it tastes like a very good pizza.  My inaugural offering included three optional toppings: green chile, tempeh bacon and Kalamata olives.  The combination of a tangy sauce generously applied on the pie and a nicely roasted green chile made for a lively flavor tease.   The tempeh bacon, while not bringing to mind a fennel-kissed sausage or Canadian bacon, imparts a porcine smokiness to the pie. The crust doesn’t have the chewiness or char you might find on a pizza, but it holds up well against the weight of all the toppings.

The lasagna, a favorite of my friend Señor Plata, is very much reminiscent of lasagna you might find at an Italian restaurant.  It’s constructed from thick pasta, a house-made marinara, butternut squash, zucchini and eggplant baked golden.  Señor Plata orders it with mozzarella, but vegans can opt to have it sans cheese.  Served in a casserole dish, it arrives at your table some twenty to thirty minutes after you order it and it remains steaming hot throughout your meal.  Several Duke City restaurants offer a vegetarian lasagna, but Annapurna’s is the best.

Pasta special of the day: pasta, beans, tomatoes, cheese, red peppers and parsley with a dinner salad.

Lovers of breakfast at anytime, even low-carb diners, will be thrilled to find Annapurna serves pancakes–a short (but definitely not small in circumference) stack of gluten-free pancakes made from scratch with a batter containing freshly ground cardamom served with organic maple syrup.  The pancakes are delicious with or without the syrup but purists might miss spreading butter on these tasty orbs.  Nearly the circumference of the plate in which they are served, they’re easily big enough to share, but you might not want to because they’re quite good.

My Cotswolds friends in England might accuse the colonists of heresy if they saw the ingredient list on Annapurna’s Shepherd’s Pie.  Traditionally made with a mashed potato crust and lamb mince, Shepherd’s Pie is as English as the Queen’s jewels.  Taking liberties with this popular English standard, Annapurna’s rendition is made with lentils, carrots, celery and greens smothered in a sweet potato topping baked until golden.  With all due respect to my English home of more than three years, Annapurna’s Shepherd’s Pie is better than any I had in England.

Annapurna is owned by Yashoda Naidoo, a former accountant who pursued her passion for healing food and launched the first instantiation of her restaurant in 2002 near the University of New Mexico.  Today there are three Annapurna restaurants in the Land of Enchantment, including one in Santa Fe.  The most recent to launch is on North Fourth Street in Los Ranchos de Albuquerque.

Annapurna Chai House
5939 4th St NW
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 254-2424
LATEST VISIT:  7 June 2011

1st VISIT:  25 August 2009
COST: $$
BEST BET:  Thaali Plate, South Indian Sampler Plate, North Indian Sampler Plate, Mango Lassi, Masala Dosa, ABC, Gourmet Pizza, Shepherd’s Pie, Lasagna, Cardamom Pancakes, Greek Wrap

Annapurna's World Vegetarian Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maid Rite – Osceola, Iowa

Maid Rite, an Iowa staple

Several years ago my friend and colleague Bill “Roastmaster” Resnik and I had the opportunity to do what most employees only dream of.  We got to insult a corporate vice president for half an hour in the presence of even higher ranking corporate officials.  The occasion was the vice president’s retirement and we got to roast him– figuratively, but from the blush on his cheeks you might have thought it was literally.  It was one of the easiest from among the twenty or so roasts we’ve done because we had so much fodder with which to work.  The vice president was retiring to Iowa, a move which provided a wealth of material with which we could insult him.

The roast was laced with references to farm animals, outhouses, Green Acres, American Gothic and the bridges of Madison County.  We even devised an Iowa “Slim Slow” diet that featured corn flakes and corn fritters for breakfast; corned beef hash, corn on the cob, corn chips, corn muffins and corn ice cream for lunch; homemade corn whiskey for an afternoon snack; and cornmeal encrusted Cornish game hens, creamed corn and candy Korn for dinner followed by a leisurely smoke on a corn cob pipe.  If you’ve ever driven through Iowa, you’ll understand; the “scenery” is comprised of miles and miles of corn.

Large Maid Rite with cheese, mustard and pickles

Even though the opportunities for double-entendre would have been priceless, we didn’t include a single reference to Iowa’s famous “loose-meat” sandwiches because, frankly, we didn’t think anyone would know what they are.  That is perhaps no one but fans of the situation comedy Roseanne.  In the show’s later seasons, Roseanne co-owned (with a character played by real-life husband Tom Arnold) a restaurant situated in Lanford, Illinois called the Lunchbox which specialized in loose-meat sandwiches.

PBS viewers may remember that the loose-meat sandwich was also one of 22 sandwiches showcased in Sandwiches That You Will Like, a scintillating 2002 PBS documentary by the brilliant Rick Sebak of WQED in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  A companion book version written by my friend Becky Mercuri is a must-have for all sandwich aficionados.  Becky, a self-admitted “inveterate student of culinary history” traces the origin of America’s most celebrated regional sandwich creations, including the aforementioned loose-meat sandwich.

Maid Rite sandwich with A1 Steak Sauce, pickles, mustard and grilled onions

Becky explains that the loose-meat sandwich came about because its nutritional and economical properties made ground beef popular in America in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  The evolution of both the sloppy Joe and the loose-meat sandwich was a natural.  The actual origin of the loose meat sandwich is in dispute with two claimants to its first creation.  The latter claimant was a Muscatine, Iowa resident named Floyd Angell who developed a special grind of meat and cooked it loosely instead of forming it into a hamburger patty.  He then placed it on a roll.  Voila, a loose-meat sandwich.

According to local lore, Angell handed a sandwich to a deliveryman who exclaimed that the sandwich was “made right.”  That was the inspiration for Angell establishing the Maid-Rite restaurant chain in 1926.  Today, Maid-Rite is a franchise boasting more than 80 outlets in Iowa and other Midwest states.  As we found out, a Maid-Rite sandwich is to Iowans what the green chile cheeseburger is to New Mexicans.  During our inaugural visit, we ran into  and broke bread with the Schmidts, Iowa natives now residing in Roswell, New Mexico.  During their two-week stay in Iowa, they planned multiple visits to Maid Rite.

A simple, but outstanding sandwich menu and more at Maid Rite

We can now understand why.  A Maid-Rite sandwich is surprisingly delicious, so good we drove past hundreds of boring miles of corn on our return trip from Illinois to New Mexico to have another, so good we risked filling up even though a visit to  the world’s best barbecue at Arthur Bryant’s was but two hours away, so good any skepticism we may have had about ground beef sandwiches was quickly and irrevocably erased.  We’re sold!

In 2009, James Beard Award-winning food journalists Jane and Michael Stern published a terrific tome entitled 500 Things to Eat Before It’s Too Late, a celebration of the best dishes that are unique to America.  Iowa’s loose-meat sandwiches were a no-brainer inclusion.  Their description: “a Siouxland sloppy Joe but without the slop, ground beef that is cooked loose — unpattied — and seasoned and drained but sauceless” is better than anything I can contrive, an apt characterization of one of America’s culinary treasures.

After you're done with your sandwich, you still have loose meat left

The menu features three sizes of Maid-Rite sandwiches–the standard-size, the mega-sized (a must have) and the junior (for smaller appetites).  It also offers other sandwich options (such as a fish sandwich and a tenderloin sandwich), but they don’t spell I-O-W-A as the Maid-Rite sandwich does.  Ingredient options include mustard, ketchup, onions and pickles. An inventive Maid-Rite employee even has a sandwich named for him–the Tyler Maid-Rite  which includes A1 Steak Sauce and grilled onions.  Other Maid-Rite options include a Cheese Rite, Chili Rite and a Bacon Rite (or you can have any combination of the three).

All ingredients–mustard, cheese, pickles and bacon, for example–are strategically positioned beneath the loose meat which somehow stays together (well, mostly) sandwiched between two soft, sweet buns.  Any remnant pieces of loose meat are like a savory dessert you’ll scoop up afterwards.  The meat is perfectly seasoned and amazingly greaseless yet wonderfully moist, not at all like the dust-dry ground beef you might imagine.  The buns are piping hot, almost as if steamed, and as good as any hamburger bun you can imagine.

On second thought, a loose-meat sandwich wouldn’t have made good roast material.  I’m not sure I could have gotten through the roast without salivating at the very thought of this delicious sandwich.

Maid Rite
2010 West Clay Street
Osceola, Iowa
(641) 342-7205
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 15 October 2010
1st VISIT: 7 October 2010
BEST BET: Mega Cheese Rite, Mega Cheese-Bacon Rite, Mega Tyler-Rite, Sweet Potato Fries

Maid-Rite on Urbanspoon

Portillo’s Hot Dogs – Bolingbrook, Illinois

Portillo's Hot Dogs in Vernon Hills, Illinois

Portillo’s story is the story of the American dream, a rags to riches saga that began with a single hot dog stand opening in 1963. That single investment has blossomed into a multi-million per year chain with six different concepts and more than 40 restaurants in the Chicago area. The Portillo’s Restaurant Group has become, in fact, the largest privately-owned restaurant company in the Midwest. Among Chicagoland expatriates with whom I’ve worked (and one whom I married) Portillos is consistently named as one of the things they miss most about living in the Windy City.

Expatriates like my Kim know there isn’t anything like Portillo’s anywhere else in America.  Other than frequent trips to the Chicago area, their only recourse has been ordering hot dogs online through Tastes of Chicago which offers nationwide delivery of all your Windy City favorites.  In October, 2005, Portillo’s launched its first location outside of Illinois, the lucky city being Buena Park, California.  Since then, a second Portillo’s was opened in Southern California and a third in Merrillville, Indiana.  That little bit of expansion has heightened hopes that Portillos will spread across the fruited plain.

Hungry hordes line up to place their orders

There’s no way you could ever mistake Portillo’s for a simple hot dog stand today.  Most Portillo’s restaurants are veritable theme parks–culinary shrines celebrating terrific food and the heritage of the Windy City in the 20th century.  Typically this means no discrimination between both sides of the law; more than perhaps any city in America, Chicago celebrates (and sometimes it elects) its criminals.  The Portillo’s in Vernon Hills where these photos were taken is rich with photographs of the city’s nefarious and notorious characters as well as sundry antiques.  There’s something to see everywhere you turn.

Portillo’s doesn’t offer table service.  When you walk in, you’ll immediately proceed to a long, fast-food chain-like queue that seems a mile long.  You’ll be amazed at how quickly the line moves and how efficient Portillo’s is at taking and processing orders.  Within minutes after placing your order, your number will be called and you’ll pick up your order.  Tables are adorned with checkerboard tablecloths, the red and white ones reminiscent of Italian restaurant table settings.  Tables are spaced fairly close to one another despite the cavernous confines of this sprawling restaurant.

Italian Beef Sandwich with Hot Giardinara

True to its name, Portillo’s features the quintessential Chicago all beef hot dog in all its cornucopia of ingredients glory–mustard, relish, chopped onions, cucumber, sliced red tomato, kosher pickle and sport peppers piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun.  Most appropriately, it’s often said of the Chicago style hot dot that it’s been “dragged through the garden.” The first time you have one, the Chicago style hot dog seems like an odd collection of toppings–some hot and some cold–that work surprisingly well together. The textures range from crispy to chewy and the flavors from tangy and acidic to pleasantly piquant.

The melange of ingredients is by no means a cover-up for an inferior wiener; in fact, dog wiener is the highlight of this hot dog.  Bite into it and your teeth will puncture an all-natural skin with a discernible snap, unleashing a salty, juicy meat impressed with a faint smokiness.  Th poppy seed bun is warm and pillowy soft yet substantial enough to hold in all the ingredients nestled in its crevice. These hot dogs aren’t for everyone, but aficionados swear by them. Some proprietors will swear AT you if you ask for ketchup.

Chicago Style Hot Dog

Portillo’s also serves one of the best Italian beef sandwiches in the City of Big Shoulders, a mighty feat in itself. Better yet, try the combination beef and char-grilled sausage sandwich, imbued with the most tender, thin sliced beef and the most succulent sausage. If you don’t ask for your sandwich “wet” (dipped in the “gravy” in which it is prepared), you’ll notice that Portillo’s uses a fairly hard-crusted bun, one that crunches when you bite into it. The giardinara is also crispy, an assemblage of pickled and spiced vegetables you can have in either the hot or the regular variety.

In October, 2010, a writer for Serious Eats, one of my favorite food blogs, endeavored with three friends to determine the very best Italian beef sandwich in the Chicago area.  Their quest took them to eleven purveyors of pulchritudinous beef where, in six hours, eating about three inches of each sandwich, they decided the very best Italian beef sandwich was Portillo’s.  Every sandwich sampled was topped with giardiniera and served wet. Portillo’s rendition was described as “having no flaws,” despite all the components being pre-cooked at a corporate location.  My favorite Italian beef from Johnnie’s finished third in their balloting.

Portillo's chocolate cake

Portillo’s chocolate cake is a rich and moist piece of heaven, an absolutely delicious hunk of chocolate perfection. It’s diet-devastating deliciousness in a slab-sized piece big enough for three. The chocolate cake is perhaps the best from a triumvirate of desserts. Strawberry shortcake and caramel pecan cake are the other two. You can also sate your sweet tooth with bone-chilling cold shakes and malts. Vanilla, chocolate and strawberry are available in thirst-slaking sizes of small, medium and large.

Most thematic restaurants eventually become caricatures of themselves and begin to pay more attention to their atmosphere and less to their food.  Thankfully this hasn’t happened with Portillo’s which after nearly five decades in operation still serves one of the Windy City area’s best Chicago style hot dogs and so much more.

Portillo’s Hot Dogs
148 W. Broughton Road
Bolingbrook, IL
(630) 759-3735

LATEST VISIT: 14 October 2010
COST: $$
BEST BET: Hot Dogs, Italian Beef Sandwich, Chocolate Cake

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