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Portillo’s Hot Dogs’ ban on bikes in their drive-throughs doesn’t cut the mustard

When I stopped by one of their restaurants after the dining room had closed, they wouldn’t serve me at the drive-through. Photo: John Greenfield

I realize that writing a Streetsblog Chicago post inspired by an annoying thing that recently happened to me on my bicycle is something of a "think locally, act globally" situation. But responses on social media suggest this kind of thing is a pretty common experience for folks who ride bikes in Chicago, so here goes.

On Monday, I needed a little inspiration to pedal a few miles despite the dismal weather, so I decided make my first-ever visit to a Portillo's Hot Dogs restaurant. Yes, although I recently created a map that highlights iconic restaurants in just about every Chicago community area, I have never eaten at a Portillo's. It's a Villa Park-founded, until-recently-Mexican-American-owned chain that serves as an ambassador for Chicagoland-style street food, selling Italian beef sandwiches, Chicago hot dogs, and Maxwell Street Polish sausages in locations as far afield as Florida and Las Vegas. In that sense, the company is doing the Lord's work.

A more serious issue during the crisis was that many pandemic testing sites were drive-through-only, although many others took walk-ins.

Kevenides said the drive-through issue affected him personally during the early days of COVID when he needed to pick up a prescription from a Walgreens and wanted to avoid potential exposure to the virus by using the drive-through, rather than walk into the store, and was turned away. "I don't buy the excuse that such businesses are just trying to protect the biking public. If that were really the case, drive-throughs could be designed with the safety of bike riders in mind with good lighting, signage and other design elements. Elevating the driving public ahead of everyone else is silly and probably bad for business."

Your bike is welcome at our drive-in (And the @SuperdawgWheel drive-thru) anytime 😍🚲🌭

— Superdawg Chicago🌭 (@Superdawg) November 17, 2021

On the bright side, as you can see from the tweet above, there's at least one other beloved Chicagoland hot dog purveyor that welcomes cyclists with open arms.

Update 11/18/21, 8:15 AM: Immediately after publishing this post, I returned to the same Portillo's and ordered food in the dining room. It was pretty good.

Update 11/18/21, 11:45 AM: The Chicago Tribune reported yesterday, "Portillo’s said early this year that it plans to open a restaurant in Joliet with no space for customers to sit down, but three drive-thru lanes."

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