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Writer / Jon Shoulders

Photography / Ron Wise

Portillo’s officially opened the doors to its most recent Indiana restaurant on East U.S. Highway 36 in Avon last September, further demonstrating its commitment to building a lasting presence in the Hoosier state.

“It’s going really well here,” says General Manager Jessica Roberts, who joined the Portillo’s team in May of 2018 and trained for three months over the summer at the company’s Chicago headquarters for the Avon position. “The team has been really excited and I think it’s working out as a great location.”

Located on the site of a former Sears Appliance and Hardware store, the 9,000-square-foot restaurant, which features a prohibition-style interior visual theme and employs approximately 130 full and part-time staff members, includes seasonal outdoor seating, drive-through lanes and an interior capacity of 200. Known for its hot dogs, burgers, Italian beef and desserts, Portillo’s has launched four additional Indiana locations to date in Merrillville, Mishawaka, Fishers and Greenwood.

During the September 24 grand opening, Portillo’s Avon held a hat and t-shirt giveaway, hosted local officials and Chamber of Commerce representatives for a ribbon cutting ceremony, and company owner Dick Portillo was on site to take pictures with patrons. Roberts says Avon was a natural choice for the next Portillo’s Indiana location, and the town had been on the company’s radar for a few years prior to the fall opening.

“We very much have a family-type customer base, and Avon has that feel of being an up-and-coming area on the west side of Indianapolis,” Roberts says, adding that Avon’s retail presence and resulting combination of residential and business customers, was a significant factor in the company’s decision.

“From a marketing and business standpoint, Portillo’s wanted to be able to hit all sides of Indy with Fishers, Greenwood and now the Avon store,” she adds. “This location is another example of how committed the company is to serving Indiana.”

Avon crowds have taken to most Portillo’s menu items with enthusiasm in the restaurant’s first six months of operation according to Roberts, particularly its signature chili dogs, burgers and Italian beef sandwiches.

“We’ve also found out that Avon people love their desserts, so we go through a lot of our strawberry shortcake and chocolate cake on a daily basis,” she says. “It’s fun to see what people go for and what becomes popular.”

Roberts says her customer base has grown steadily since September’s grand opening, and she and her staff enjoy seeing new faces stop in for lunch or dinner week after week.

“We’re still getting new people in who have heard about us, which is a good sign that people are still talking about it in the Avon community and throughout the city of Indy,” Roberts says. “We’ve already built up some regulars who are on a first name basis with us, and that’s a fun experience for the staff.”

Portillo’s, which began as a modest hot dog stand in Chicago back in the early 1960s operated by Dick Portillo known as The Dog House, now includes more than 50 locations nationwide, and Roberts says Hoosiers shouldn’t be surprised if additional Indiana locations pop up in the coming years.

“As a company, we spend a lot of time investing in our staff, and it shows in how every customer is treated and their overall experience coming here,” she explains. “Yes the food is fantastic, and we’re going to get it to you fast and hot, but ultimately we realize that we are also in the people business along with being in the food business.”

Portillo’s is located at 10444 East U.S. Highway 36 in Avon. Call 317-766-9955 or visit portillos.com for additional information including menus, catering details, a merchandise page and to sign up for the Portillo’s Birthday Club to receive a complimentary slice of double-layer chocolate cake on your birthday.

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