Chicago-native Badgers are getting a taste of home, thanks to the new Portillo’s location in Madison, Wisconsin. The restaurant is officially open for business across from East Towne Mall, serving everything from Italian beef and Maxwell Street Polish sausage to burgers, salads, crinkle-cut fries, and their famous chocolate cake. But most importantly, they’re giving the cheeseheads a taste of how hot dogs are done–Chicago Style. 

Lauren Ross

On February 19th, a  group of guests were invited to the new location to preview select menu items. Not even the thought of braving the cold was stopping the blend of eager fans and excited newcomers from getting their first bite. This was no surprise, as Portillo's has some seriously loyal customers. Last year alone, the chain served 2.3 million slices of chocolate cake and 16 million hot dogs: enough to stretch from the original Villa Park, Illinois location all the way to their Brandon, Florida location.  


Stepping inside the new location, it is clear that it is a nod to a 50's era diner. Founder Dick Portillo's fascination with Chicago history inspired this theme of decades; the 1920's, 30's, 50's and 60's are well-represented through neon lights, vintage signs, and nostalgic memorabilia across the restaurants' 59 locations. Portillo's loves to find local art and décor to each of its locations–the Madison restaurant showcases a Red Soap Box Derby Car discovered in a Madison flea market.  Near the kitchen area, old-time photos of UW-Madison line the walls.  Outside the restaurant, there is a small, vintage-looking food cart that reads "The Dog House," paying homage to the humble beginnings of the restaurant.

The Menu

Lauren Ross

Portillo's is bringing all the classics to Madison, with a special addition: The Badger Brat. The Wisconsin-only menu item features a Usinger brat topped with German mustard and sauerkraut.  Among the other favorites are the Italian beef–known as "French Dip" to those from the coasts–as well as char-broiled burgers, fries, onion rings, chili, pasta dishes, cakes, and shakes. Their speciality dessert is the Chocolate Cake Shake, which perfectly blends a whole slice cake in an otherwise creamy shake and is served in an on-brand red and white striped cup.

Portillo's is officially open for business, so you can get a taste of Chicago without ever leaving the badger state. Just one taste will make it easy to see why their slogan is "Get Obsessed!"