Where: 555 E 81st Ave., Merrillville
More info: 219-769-8300
When it comes to reviewing Italian beef, the Portillo's franchise carries an air of royalty among its sandwich comrades. The longtime Chicagoland name is a favorite.
Its Merrillville location is just off I-65, perfect for grabbing something before you make a road trip. The amount of Illinois plates in the parking lot and drive-thru would suggest our friends from the Prairie State trust it enough to spend time and stop by. The restaurant, though modern, is adorned with retro designs and blasts classic pop and rock music from The Coasters to The Ramones.
The sandwich ($5.75) is comparable in size to the selection from Pop's Beef. The beef is excellently cooked, sliced and seasoned, and the bread it's laid upon is soft in texture.
However, the signature style offered by Portillo's is using gravy on the sandwich. A standard selection can come "dry," but other options include having it splashed and, probably the hometown favorite, "dipped." Making the addition is sure to send you to flavor heaven.