BRANDON, Fla. (WFLA) – If you look online, you’ll see video after video of people talking about Portillo’s. When one opens, lines are typically wrapped around the corner. Soon that may be the case in Brandon as the first Florida location of Portillo’s is set to open Tuesday.
The first Portillo’s hot dog stand known as “The Dog House” opened in 1963 on North Avenue in Villa Park, near Chicago. 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.
“Actually two days ago was my 53rd anniversary … on April 5, 1953. I was 23 years old,” said Dick Portillo, owner and founder of Portillo’s.
The owner was in Brandon during a media event on Thursday.
He and his wife started with hot dogs 53 years ago, but now, hot dogs aren’t the only draw.
There is a wide range of items on the menu, including the very popular Italian beef sandwich that keeps people coming back time and again.
News Channel 8 asked why Brandon was picked as the first Tampa Bay area location.
Portillo said it was simple.
“We shipped a lot of food here. We have … shipment areas we send our food from, and we ship a lot of it to this area. And I also read an article that the majority of the people who leave the Chicagoland area move to this area,” he said.
Portillo said the success of his restaurant and it’s cult-like following still amazes him.
“Not in my wildest dreams. To take an $1,100 investment and build into the most successful at that time, family-owned restaurant in the United States, it’s the American dream,” he said.
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