Chicago area favorite Portillo’s coming to Normal

Following the April 13 groundbreaking ceremony for Portillo’s 202 Landmark Drive location in Normal, media, local leaders and patrons enjoyed authentic Portillo’s Italian sausage and beef, along with pasta and salad. (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller/ for Chronicle Media)

Hot dog! Portillo’s is coming to the Twin Cities.

The Chicago-style hot dog chain broke ground April 13 at 202 Landmark Drive in Normal with promises from Mayor Chris Koos that whatever financial projections the company may have for the coming location, “they’re low.”

“Normal, and Bloomington, is more than ready for a Portillo’s here,” Koos said, before manning a shiny new shovel to hoist fresh dirt alongside Portillo’s CEO Keith Kinsey. “Portillo’s is iconic, and now it’s in our community.”

In 1963, Dick Portillo opened The Dog House in a small Villa Park hut, later moving to a larger building and renaming the restaurant Portillo’s.

Since then, the chain has grown to nearly 50 theme-based locations in six states, and is popular for its Chicago-style hotdogs, Italian beef sandwiches and sausages, and cake shakes.

Portillo sold the company to the private equity firm, Boston-based Berkshire Partners in 2014, though he remained involved. In July 2015, Kinsey was named CEO, succeeding Portillo.

He was previously the president and CEO of Noodles & Co. and is 1976 graduate of the University of Illlinois at Urbana-Champaign.

McLean County Chamber of Commerce Membership Manager Wendy Olson eyes a bucket of Portillo’s swag on April 13 at the restaurant’s groundbreaking ceremony in Normal. Portillo’s field marketing coordinator, Baker Sebert, handed out buckets of promotional items. (Photo by Holly Eitenmiller/ for Chronicle Media)

He gets a kick out of stopping in at various Portillo’s locations and taking in the décor, he said. Themes vary; some are 30s-40s, some 50s-60s, each showcasing original collectibles and memorabilia unique to those eras.

Normal’s Portillo’s will have a speakeasy look, and Kinsey’s looking forward to this summer when workers will suspend a 1940 Ford pickup truck from the restaurant’s ceiling, just before the building is finished.

A mural of Prohibition rum runners unloading barrels from a truck is planned for the 9,000 sq. ft. building’s exterior. An architectural rendition also shows barrel-lined walkways, and an old-fashioned rooftop water reservoir. Portillo’s has paired with Bloomington Landmark Development Inc., and Chicago developer, Tartan Realty Group on the project.

In March, workers leveled a Motel 6 at the Landmark Drive location to make way for the new restaurant, and the location is situated just off of Veteran’s Parkway in a burgeoning dining and shopping district.

“In Normal, we’re able to connect a lot of things,” Kinsey said at the groundbreaking. “A world class university and all of the businesses here. It’s a winning combination.”

When it opens in August, the Normal diner will hire 200 people, he said, along with a host of management staff. There will be room inside for around 200 diners, as well as 50 additional seats outside.

This month, the company will open its Champaign location, along with a second Wisconsin restaurant. The company is eyeing other cities in Central Illinois, such as Springfield and Peoria.




— Chicago area favorite Portillo’s coming to Normal —