Portillo’s unveils its first vegan hot dog Tuesday. Here’s how it tastes. – Chicago Tribune

Restaurant News

Portillo’s, the Chicago-style restaurant chain, which began as a small hot dog stand in the suburb of Villa Park, unleashes its vegan Garden Dog at all locations across the country Tuesday.

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“The feedback we’ve gotten is we have a lot of flexitarians who love our traditional hot dogs, but sometimes don’t want to eat them,” said Portillo’s spokeswoman Sara Wirth. “We want to mimic that experience for them.”

The brand’s first plant-based hot dog was made in partnership with Field Roast, a plant-based meat and cheese company headquartered in Seattle. It’s a bigger, custom version of Field Roast’s signature stadium dog, so it’s different from what you would find in the grocery store.

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“It’s the same size as our classic all beef Chicago-style hot dog,” said Vallory McCormack, Portillo’s director of marketing. Portillo’s traditional hot dogs are steamed Vienna beef natural casing frankfurters.

The seasoned vegan dogs are smoked, then chargrilled and topped to order, Wirth said.

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The new Portillo’s plant-based Garden Dog gets dressed with mustard, relish, chopped onions, tomatoes, celery salt, pickle spear and sport peppers on a poppy seed bun, on May 16, 2022, in Chicago. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

The new Garden Dog replaces the menu’s portobello mushroom sandwich, she added, which was vegetarian with cheese, and vegan without.

Presumably you can also still get the Portillo’s veggie dog, which has been the subject of online humor.

“The previous veggie dog had all of the Chicago-style toppings on the bun, no meat,” McCormack said, laughing. “We’re excited that we finally found a partner to fill that bun with a vegan option for our vegan-friendly fans.”

The Garden Dog is seasoned with black pepper, paprika and garlic, and it’s chargrilled on a dedicated part of the grill at each restaurant, McCormack said.

“We tried all the different ways to cook it,” Wirth said. “And this is the way that it tastes the best, so that’s what we went with.”

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The chargrill dog is one of the styles of Chicago hot dog that’s lesser known, perhaps best known at The Wieners Circle.

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The new Portillo’s plant-based hot dog is chargrilled on May 16, 2022, in Chicago. (Stacey Wescott / Chicago Tribune)

“We’ve tested it in our Normal and Champaign locations for the past few months,” McCormack said. “And prior to that, we’ve run it through our Portillo’s taste team, which is our panel of really excited fans who will come in and taste new menu items.”

How do you get to be part of Portillo’s taste test team?

“Our team reaches out to people who have ordered online very frequently,” she said. “Or express their love for Portillo’s on social media.”

Their culinary team tasted dozens of plant-based hot dogs, Wirth said, and considered every one that could be made at Portillo’s scale.

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(By the way — the crinkle-cut fries are not vegan, because they’re cooked in beef tallow.)

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The Portillo’s Garden Dog is priced 30 cents more than its traditional Chicago-style hot dog.

But how does it taste?

It’s fantastic. Their toppings remain textbook, with the perfect construction of yellow mustard, neon-green relish, white onion, red tomato, celery salt, dill pickle and sport peppers on a warm poppy seed bun. The chargrill enhances the texture, if not so much the taste of the hot dog itself. The snappy casing remains the most coveted and sometimes elusive aspect of a great Chicago-style hot dog.

Wolfed down in a mouthful, with a bite of crisp dill pickle and hot sport pepper, the new Portillo’s plant-based Garden Dog holds up as a top dog over a lot of the scrawny hot dogs around town.

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Source: Thanks https://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/ct-food-hot-dog-portillos-plant-based-vegan-chicago-20220516-zlch4betczastlz56dzawr7gkq-story.html