Wish You Were Here: Portillo’s Tampa, FL

by Heather Lindsay Sell, ShoutOUT®, November 13, 2016

Disclosure: Portillo’s invited ShoutOUT® to participate in their bloggers Bite of the Brand tasting event and sample their house specialties. They provided all of the samplings in order to provide my honest opinion on the experience. The opinions expressed here, however, are entirely my own and based completely on my own thoughts and experiences. 

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ShoutOUT® was recently invited to partake in Portillo’s Tampa “Bite of the Brand” tasting event and was treated to several of their house specialties. Between the food and the themed décor, this was truly an unforgettable adventure.

Inside Portillo's TampaLet me tell you why. Each Portillo’s is era-themed with the Tampa location decorated in 1920s motif. Reminders of the time period blanket the walls with memorabilia from the 1920s. Everything from Prohibition to ratification of the 19th Amendment’s women’s right to vote, automobiles, speakeasies and Al Capone are featured. In fact, a bonafide 1928 AA Ford truck is suspended overhead in Portillo’s main dining room. Fully functional, I was told. Jazz music, with its syncopated rhythms and upbeat tempo, pulsates in the background while diners converge on their fare.

images of Crinkle-cut Fries, Italian Beef Sandwich, Chicago-style hot dogNow the food. The main reason for the visit. Our sampling menu included chopped salad, a Chicago-style hot dog, Italian Beef Sandwich, Crinkle-cut fries, and chocolate cake. Three items really resonated with me.

Our first course was Portillo’s Chopped Salad, a bit of a twist on the ordinary salad with the addition of ditalini pasta. The salad consisted of chopped romaine, iceberg lettuce, and red cabbage, with diced chicken breast, tiny tube-shaped ditalini pasta, cut-up pieces of bacon, diced fresh tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese, and green onion, teemed with their house dressing. Bite-sized pieces, Italian Seasoning skillfully paired with fresh ingredients and the addition of ditalini pasta was indeed a delightful, flavorful treat. One I’d definitely order again.

Next, their Chicago-style hot dog. Nothing short of lip-smacking (in case you missed the Chopped Saladintro). It’s an all-beef hot dog imported from Vienna especially for Portillo’s, dressed with all the official “trimmings” – yellow mustard, dash of celery salt, Vienna® sweet relish (yum), freshly chopped onions, sliced juicy red ripe tomatoes, kosher pickle spear, and spicy sport peppers, piled onto a perfectly steamed poppy seed bun. SENSATIONAL! Such a diverse interplay of intricate flavors and I experienced every ingredient as I sank my teeth into it, including the nice snap of the Vienna casing once I hit the hot dog. FAIR WARNING: Adding ketchup to this Chicago-style icon is considered “sacrilegious”. The belief being that ketchup doesn’t play nicely with the other flavors and tends to overpower. Trust me, the ketchup was not missed.

Served with our hotdogs was Portillo’s signature crinkle-cut fries. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Just like I like it. Ketchup allowed.

photo of Chicago-style hot dogA couple of other memorable mentions. While there, our hosts explained that founder, Dick Portillo, always carves the heartwarming message “Dick loves Sharon” into the sidewalk cement at each new store to honor his high school sweetheart and wife, Sharon. There’s also another of these messages hidden somewhere in the restaurant for diners to discover (and yes, we did find both). AWWW! Isn’t that the sweetest?

We couldn’t leave without trying one more thing. So before we left, we snagged a vanilla shake to share. Was not disappointed. Rich, thick, creamy vanilla perfection. Not too sweet either. Will definitely be ordering another one when I return.

Next menu items I’d like to try: Baby back ribs, Kale & Cranberry seasonal salad, and the Strawberry Shortcake. And maybe a Chicago-style hot dog (or 2) to go. What are YOU planning on trying when you visit? Leave a comment below and let me know.

Ready to visit? Portillo’s Tampa is located 2102 E Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33612 with a sister location in Brandon. Be sure to check out their Website: http://www.portillos.com for more information, menus, catering, and ordering.

Many thanks to Portillo’s for hosting us. We’ll definitely be visiting with friends!

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If you know of a place, or would are interested in being considered in the “Wish You Were Here” series, email Heather at contact@shoutoutinc.com

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About ShoutOUT

In 2009, I started sharing my experiences, food, travels, and events, along with all of the incredible people and businesses I was meeting and discovering. What began as a fun hobby had such an overwhelming response, ShoutOUT was born! I continue to stretch the boundaries locally, regionally, and nationally, discovering, sharing and connecting as I go.
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