When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out and let you know our initial impressions. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
For as long as I can remember, whenever one of my family members goes back to visit my homeland, Chicago, I ask for one thing: Go to Portillo's and bring me back some cheese fries. So calling this a "First Taste" is a bit of a misnomer, as I teethed on Portillo's as a tot.
Restaurant: Portillo's Location: 10574 North 90th Street in Scottsdale Open: One day Eats: Chicago-style dogs, sandwiches, burgers and more Price: $10 per person
Before today, it had been over a decade since I'd eaten there, as all of my requests to fly it back for me went unheeded. I figured, there's no way it's still as good as I remember -- I've eaten almost everything on the menu at FnB and have had Chris Bianco's pizza -- because my tastes surely must have matured.
Waiting for about 45 minutes for a hot dog or an Italian beef might seem completely bonkers, but the wait was standard all day. It's not that the line didn't move quickly or that there weren't about 100 employees all doing their darndest to keep the flow going -- there were just that many people there.
After quite possibly the most eagerly awaited food line of my life, I ordered my hot dog. It's simply called a hot dog, as the Chicago-area classic joint assumes that it should have mustard (not ketchup!), pickles, onions, sliced tomato, sport peppers, and celery salt. They assume right. Each bite of the $2.59 dog was a taste of the Windy City-- plus you can make it jumbo for only $0.50 more. Truthfully, I wasn't there for the hot dogs, and I'll have to go back for a generously dipped Italian beef ($5.05) dripping with au jus. I needed those cheese fries and I felt justified when I heard a lady shriek "CHEESE FRIES" as she pulled out of the drive thru. The thick and crispy crinkle-cut fries are everything you'd want from a French fry. The cheese dipping sauce is incredible; it's nothing like that junk they put on "nachos" at ballparks out here. For once, something is as good as I remember it -- that's satisfaction.
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With the number one food craving of my life satiated after over 10 years, I sat back, relaxed, and sipped my sweet, housemade chocolate malt that was delightfully heavy on the cocoa flavor. I contemplated getting back in line, like a kid at Splash Mountain, but realized I can now go back anytime I want. Portillo's is in Arizona, folks, and it's a very good thing.