A Chicago favorite is making its way to Metro Detroit! Local Foodies can get ready for a doggone good time as Portillo’s is set to open in Sterling Heights.
First opened in 1963 by a 23-year-old budding entrepreneur with a $1,100 dollar investment, this family restaurant serves up Chicago-style hotdogs with a Portillo’s flair. The 7,900-square-foot restaurant can accommodate up to 180 guests and is located on the Lakeside Mall shopping center grounds.
The Sterling Heights location features a retro feel with a nod to Detroit and the iconic Motown Sound. Walls adorned with vintage photos of The Supremes, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Wonder; the decor also pays homage to a town that put the “motor” in “Motor City.” Inside the restaurant, guests will find a fully restored 1931 Ford Wrecker, a true nod to automotive giant Henry Ford.
“I think it really pays tribute to the city of Sterling Heights and really metro Detroit and the state of Michigan,” says Michael Taylor, Mayor of Sterling Heights. “It sort of looks like you’re in an automotive factory.”
The first in Michigan, the restaurant settled in Sterling Heights after eyeing the location for some time. Fans of the restaurant have made requests for the Chicago staple to make its way to Michigan. Now, with a taste of the windy city right in Detroit’s backyard, hot dog lovers will no longer have to take a road trip to enjoy the crowd favorite.
“We always look forward to opening Portillo’s in new markets,” said CEO Michael Osanloo. “Fans in Michigan have been asking for a Portillo’s for years, so we’re very excited to bring our unrivaled Chicago street food and the signature Portillo’s experience to the community of Sterling Heights.”
At a time when the pandemic is causing restaurants to operate at a smaller capacity, the hot dog hub is introducing new jobs to the community to help combat the financial stronghold from COVID-19.
“We’re looking to hire about 120 to almost 150 people here,” says Jeff Deppe, Director of New Restaurant Operations for Portillo’s. “That’s one of the big sellers that’s coming to the city. We’re going to provide a whole bunch of jobs to the community.”
Promising to have something for everyone, the menu not only features hot dogs but an array of salad, beef, and sandwich options. Known for their cheese sauce, it is often ordered to compliment the fries. One menu item got its start from a sweet rival to win the affections of a high school sweetheart. Selling two million slices a year and baked fresh in-house each day, Portillo’s famous chocolate cake will also be on hand for Michiganders to enjoy.
“It was actually started by my wife, Gina. I started dating my wife in high school and I had an ex-girlfriend who knew that my girlfriend, now wife, was in my house. She brought over a chocolate cake. The moral of that story was my wife was on a mission from that point to make a phenomenal chocolate cake, which I think she absolutely did, and we added it to the menu,” says Vice President of Restaurant Support Michael Portillo.
Although the restaurant is not yet open to the public, Portillo’s wants Michiganders to have the opportunity to sample the goods before the official launch. Customers can stop by the Portillo’s Beef Bus, located in the parking lot of the restaurant, and order up a signature Chicago-style hot dog, fries, drinks, and Italian beef dishes leading up to the opening.
The grand opening is slated for March 16, 2021. Diners will be able to enjoy in-person dining, pending COVID-19 guidelines, or use the dual-lane drive-in for convenience. The restaurant will also feature an outdoor patio space for those warm Michigan days.
“I think that this is going to be a product that our residents here in Sterling Heights and in Metro Detroit are going to come to love,” says Taylor.