The Dog House

From Modest Beginnings To The Midwest's Largest Privately Owned Restaurant Group.

Hi, I'm Dick Portillo and I welcome you to The Portillo Restaurant Group and its five different concepts (Portillo's Hot Dogs, Barnelli's Pasta Bowl, Honey-Jam Cafe, Luigi's House and Julian's Piano Bar). I hope you will find the time to visit each of the concepts and enjoy them as much as I have enjoyed developing them. Following is the history of how this all came about.

Dick Portillo was born at 1330 West Van Buren in Chicago, Illinois. His family then moved to government-subsidized row houses on Mohawk Street, called the Mother Frances Cabrini Housing Project. After his father started earning enough money, they were prompted to leave and moved to 1617 South Central Park. His family later moved to the southwest suburbs. He was a 1957 graduate of Argo Community High School at 63rd and Harlem. After high school, he served a tour with the Marine Corps.

The first Portillo's hot dog stand known as "The Dog House" opened in 1963 on North Avenue in Villa Park. Owner and founder Dick Portillo invested $1,100 into a 6' x 12' trailer without a bathroom or running water. To get the water he needed, he ran 250 feet of garden hose from a nearby building into the trailer.

By 1966, "The Dog House" was a success and was ready for a new look. After it was remodeled, it was renamed "Portillo's" and over the years has grown into a successful multi-state operation. Portillo's expanded to Southern California in 2005 and to Indiana in 2006.

The Barnelli's Pasta Bowl concept was introduced in 1993, and features a variety of pastas with homemade sauces, gourmet salads, and hand-tossed pizza. Barnelli's first opened in Schaumburg and has additional locations in Naperville, Vernon Hills, Glendale Heights, Niles, Summit, Crystal Lake, Chicago and Willowbrook, IL.

In September 2000, Mr. Portillo launched a full service concept, Luigi's House, located on Route 59 in the Aurora/Naperville area. Luigi's House was inspired by Dick's trips to Italy and the Mediterranean. Luigi's House and garden area have been meticulously designed to create the feeling of dining in a private Italian home, serving authentic traditional Italian cuisine in a cozy Italian/Mediterranean atmosphere.

Mr. Portillo launched his latest concept, Honey-Jam Cafe in May of 2010. There are currently three locations: one in Downers Grove, one in Batavia and a third in Bolingbrook. Honey-Jam Cafe serves breakfast and lunch in a unique and upscale atmosphere you would not expect to find in a breakfast and lunch restaurant. Several of the items on the menu were discovered by Dick in different restaurants he visited during his travels throughout the United States and world. Each location has a unique open area where you can see homemade waffles being made, a separate carry-out area featuring brewed and specialty coffees "to go" as well as breakfast and lunch carry-out items. Most of the décor, including the large double-sided fireplaces, was inspired by Dick's travels to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and various locations throughout the United States.

Julian's Plaza, a shopping center created by Mr. Portillo, opened in Bolingbrook, IL in April 2011. Julian's Plaza has over 42,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space and is positioned at the busiest corner in Will County.

Portillo's Home Kitchen is the restaurant group's fast-growing catering and shipping division, serving award winning family recipes, products of renowned quality and providing unparalleled service. Portillo's Home Kitchen offers a wide range of products, including our famous Italian beef, fresh pasta trays, gourmet salads and award-winning bar-b-q ribs. Boxes of Italian beef, hot dogs, bar-b-q ribs and tamales are available for shipping to all 50 states.

The Portillo Restaurant Group is the largest privately-owned restaurant company in the Midwest. Combined, the concepts have over 4000 employees and nearly 50 businesses in four states, plus a catering and shipping division and shopping center. This was all accomplished without franchising or investors. Dick Portillo attributes much of his success to his hard-working employees and to you, the satisfied customer. He thanks you for your support.

Portillo's has so many Silver Platter awards (the "Oscars" of the food industry) that the company was retired from competition for 5 years to give others a chance.

  • 1987 Chicago Food Service Marketing Club Hall of Fame Award
  • 1991 Chicago Executive of the Year Award from the Chicago Alumni Club of Southern Illinois University
  • 1994 Entrepreneur of the Year Award - sponsored by Inc. magazine
  • 1995 Top 3 Restaurateur of the Year
  • 1996 Food Industry News' Restaurateur of the Year Award
  • 2002 Manufacturer Agents for Food Service Industry Restaurateur of the Year Award
  • 2004 Employer of the Year award from The National Able Network and NBC 5 Chicago.
  • 2002 Nation's Restaurant News - Regional Powerhouse Chains "Portillo's Hot Dogs - Out of the Dog House and living the American Dream, frankfurter chain operator grows his business independently"
  • 2005 Nation's Restaurant News - Fast, Casual Players - Portillo's Hot Dogs "Barking up the right tree, theme eatery's familiar food, keeps customers begging for more"
  • 2006 Chicago Area Entrepreneurship "Hall of Fame" award
  • 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 Portillo's is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as one of Chicago's Largest Privately Held Companies.
  • 2012 Portillo's is listed 144 out of 500 in Technomic’s Top 500 U.S. Chain Restaurant Report for 2011. Technomic is a leading fact-based consulting and research firm serving the food industry.