There was a major hubbub last April when Portillo’s opened up here in Peoria. Here’s just some of the fanfare that was generated by the opening of this Chicago-based restaurant: PJ Star, Nick in the AM and CI Proud.
I have to admit, I didn’t get what all this hoo-hah was about. I tend to be cynical anyway, but what’s the big deal about a place that sells hot dogs and Italian Beef sandwiches opening up here? I mean we’ve already got The Spotted Cow and they claim to have the best hot dogs and Italian Beef in Peoria, check it out below.
So if they’re the best, what’s the big deal with Portillo’s? Well I’ve decided there’s only one thing that can come from all of this: The MBIP Spotted Cow Vs. Portillo’s Sandwich Duel!
I thought they’d we’d cover all aspects of these two restaurants and so we’ll start with their websites. Here’s a link to the Spotted Cow restaurant. I like it, but there’s one disturbing thing going on here, they link to some song on YouTube that they’re mentioned in, there’s a link to a PJ Star article and another one in iBi magazine. Hey Spotted Cow, would it kill you to link to MBIP? Sheesh!
I like the display of the food and the design on Portillo’s website and you can check the whole thing out here. The only thing that’s making me nervous is they claim they’re delivering to my door and I haven’t even ordered yet!
The Spotted Cow has been in a variety of buildings in Peoria. The first one was on Main Street, then they moved to Prospect and they’ve been here on Glen since 2006. I like their logo.
Portillo’s just opened up here on Sterling last April. The building they’re in is huge, I couldn’t fit it into one single picture. This is kind of nitpicking, but that font they use with the word “BEEF” bothers me. One word: Arial Bold. Okay, that’s two words but who’s counting besides me?
The Spotted Cow is nice and very clean inside, it makes me think of Paul’s grandfather. The decor consists mainly of cow related pictures and knick-knacks and there’s quite a few framed articles from the PJ Star through the years. It’s all the moos that’s fit to print. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself! Let’s just moooove along here.
Portillo’s has a lot of cool stuff inside of it and it’s kind of like a kitschy pop culture museum in here! Lots of fun things to look at in the massive dining room and they get points for finding local Peoria signs. But they lose some points for having a framed picture of Guy Fieri, who gets on my last nerve!
In addition to a large selection of burgers, sandwiches, soups and salads, The Spotted Cow is known for it’s homemade ice cream.
Lot’s of choices on Portillo’s menu and they get big points for having beer on the menu! Sadly I have to go to work, so I’ll have to come back to sample the brew in here!
One very important thing to consider about a restaurant is how you’re treated by the people working there. The people at The Spotted Cow are always very friendly and hospitable and this visit was no exception to that rule! This is Jenna and Jeremy and I told them about the duel and they were very confident that The Spotted Cow would win! After you order you sit down and they bring it to your table or booth.
I have to admit, I went into Potillo’s with a little bit of pre-judgement. I’ve had bad experiences in chain restaurants about taking pictures in them in the past. I went up to the counter and Kamaya was really nice and friendly, but wasn’t sure about pictures, so she called a manager and I thought, “Oh here we go!”
Well, he wasn’t sure either so he called over Sarah, the GM and she told me that it’s kind of frowned on unless you have permission. But then she said with a chuckle, “But having said that, as far as I’m concerned you can do whatever you want in here!” That was so cool! She not only let me take photos, but we had a nice conversation and everyone in here is super-friendly and nice. Best chain restaurant experience I’ve ever had! They get major points for the hospitality! You have to wait for your food at the end of the counter.
Okay, time to get to the real meat of this duel, literally! I thought I’d get a chili cheese dog and an Italian Beef at both places and here’s the chili cheese dog from The Spotted Cow. I’ve had their chili cheese dog before and I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever had. The bun is steamed and bakery-fresh and I really like their homemade chili sauce. It’s got a great savory taste with a little bit of zing to it and they use fresh shredded cheese. This is a top-notch chili cheese dog.
Portillo’s looks delicious and I like the caraway seed bun. I bit in and the hot dog was tasty but something was wrong with this chili cheese dog. At first I wasn’t sure what it was, but something was upsetting me and then I discovered something...
BEAN ALERT! They put beans in their chili sauce! This is a major mistake and I just about ended the duel upon this frightening discovery. If they would’ve been rude to me I think I would’ve, but they were so nice and welcoming I’m going to keep moving along here, but this cost them some big points!
For the millionth time people, beans do not belong in chili and they really don’t belong on a chili cheese dog! Okay, let’s keep moving on before I heave all over the table!
I’ve never had the Italian Beef at The Spotted Cow so I was anxious to try it after reading their boast about being the best in Peoria. I got it with peppers and cheese and it comes with a cup of juice. I poured the juice over it and took a bite of this massive and beefy sandwich and it was delicious! The roast beef has a flavorful seasoning to it and it’s tender and juicy. The cheese and peppers add to the flavor and the bun is very fluffy and fresh. A very tasty and satisfying sandwich.
From research on Italian Beef, Poritllo’s serves up a more traditional Italian Beef and my friend Chef Todd from Jim’s Steak House advised me on how to order it, because there’s several ways to order the Italian Beef here. He instructed me to get it dipped with sweet peppers and grilled onions, so that’s what I got. The sandwich is dipped into their gravy and it’s an impressive looking sandwich. It’s really tasty and so juicy. I love the consistency of it being dipped brings to the sandwich and the roast beef is delicious with the onions and sweet peppers adding a nice flavor to the mix.
I really liked both of these styles of Italian Beef and the decor and hospitality at both were outstanding, so this is a tough duel to judge, but here I go! Ringo, I think you know what to do here!
Thanks, Ringo, okay, here we go...
The beans dragged Portillo’s down and the winner of this MBIP Sandwich Duel is The Spotted Cow!
But in reality they both are winners and I had a great meal at both places and since they both have chicken sandwiches, we’ll return to both of them for the 13 month chicken tour! Thanks to both The Spotted Cow and Portillo’s for playing along! And Portillo’s, please ditch the beans for the love of sweet peppers!
718 W. Glen Avenue
4412 N. Rockwood Road