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Portillo's to open in Woodbury next July

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Portillo's has broken its silence, and the Illinois-based chain made famous for its Italian Beef Sandwiches and Chicago-style dogs announced its opening date in Woodbury.

The company's CEO, Keith Kinsey, said Thursday that the restaurant will likely open in early July next year, marking the chain's first dip into the Minnesota market.

The Woodbury Portillo's, which will be located off of Radio Drive near Cabella's, will feature a Prohibition-era theme with images of Al Capone and other Chi-Town gangsters splashed across the walls, Kinsey said.

The restaurant will tip its cap to Minnesota's milling transition with a hand-painted Gold Medal emblem and Pillsbury labels on the building's exterior.

Portillo's operates close to 50 chains in the Midwest and got its humble start as a hot dog stand during the early '60s in suburban Chicago.

The decision to come to Minnesota after expanding to Wisconsin was the next logical step, Kinsey said

"You guys are foodies," he said. "You like new kinds of brands and new kinds of foods. You're well-educated in food styles in trends."

The chain is also eyeing other Minnesota locations, he added.

With the rapid development of nearby retail and offices at CityPlace and growing daytime traffic, Kinsey said Woodbury was the ideal city in taking Portillo's to the Minnesota market.

Before the Woodbury City Council approved the restaurant's building plan last month, city hall staff have been fielding phone calls from enthused residents. One resident even spoke at a public hearing to express his excitement for the restaurant coming to Woodbury.

The restaurant's menu includes hamburgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, shakes and malts, but the Italian beef and sausages are "where it's at," Kinsey said.

"We're really proud of our Italian Beef. It's very special, and there's no taste-profile like it," he said. "Our Italian sausage is also off the charts. It's mouth-watering, and it's just phenomenal."

Portillo's is also known for its chocolate cake.

Though Kinsey wouldn't reveal the secret recipe, Nicholas Scarpino, the Portillo's vice-president for marketing, said staff bakes a fresh cake every day. "Sometimes twice a day," he said.

Kinsey said the restaurant will employ close to 200 people. The restaurant is currently hiring managers and other staff ahead of what could be a very busy opening day.

The training for managers, he said, includes a 14-week crash course on all thing Portillo's, from keeping the drive-thru lines moving to getting the perfect char on a sausage. "There's a lot of culinary elements to our food," Kinsey said.

The 208 seat restaurant also includes and an outdoor patio and the Drive-thru has two car lanes, where food runners bring customers' orders curbside.

Portillo's hours, once opened, will be from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

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