Portillo’s suggests beef bowl diet — an Italian beef without the bread — and hilarity breaks out

Louisa Chu, Chicago Tribune

If you’re still thinking about a New Year’s diet, then Portillo’s, the Chicago fast food restaurant chain, may have just the one for you.

“Cutting out carbs in the new year?” asked Portillo’s via social media on Monday. “Try one of our Beef Bowls, featuring our classic Italian beef, but without the bread.” You can also add peppers and cheese for an additional cost, the fast food specialists helpfully suggested.

Hilarity and confusion ensued.

On Twitter, one reply stated that “a beef bowl wet is technically soup.”

As regular eaters of Italian beef know, the iconic sandwich can be ordered wet, dipped, juicy or soaked. The preferred language, and amount of beef juice in or on bread, can vary by stand and counterperson.

Incidentally, the above mentioned Twitter user publishes a vegan recipe blog called Dragged Through the Garden. The phrase refers to Chicago-style hot dogs and their vegetable toppings. The blog features recipes for a vegan Italian sausage, vegan Jewel-Osco taco dip and many more veganized local delicacies.

Another reply succinctly called the Portillo’s beef bowl “Chicago ramen.”

One customer was so excited that they ordered the beef bowl that night, then posted a photo, which showed a warped plastic bowl with meat, sweet peppers and cheddar, so quite frankly got what they deserved.

Italian beef purists allow hot peppers, better known as giardiniera, and sweet peppers. Provolone and mozzarella were introduced to the sandwich canon fairly recently. Cheddar is frowned upon completely.

Birrieria Ocotlan, the Mexican restaurant in the East Side neighborhood posted, “Lol we love you guys ... but,” because their signature dish birria bears a striking resemblance with its meat in consomme Birrieria Ocotlan’s is far better, though there’s really no comparison.

Another Twitter reply said deadpan, “Wow Chicago finally got a Sweetgreen.”

For the record Chicago got its first Sweetgreen, the Instagram darling salad chain, back in 2016.

Portillo’s actually introduced the bowls back in August, at the height of beach season. I actually tried their Chicago combo bowl Italian beef and sausage back in November when the newest Chicago location opened in the Avondale neighborhood. Superfans waited for hours on grand opening day.

My mini review? It’s actually pretty good, but disproportionate with a huge mound of beef and a stubby bit of sausage, plus way too salty without the bread. It’s no substitute for the iconic Chicago-style sandwich, because the anointed bread holds a holy place in that glorious creation. But as a main dish with steamed white rice? It’s a good deal, carbs notwithstanding. Next time, I might add even double extra mozzarella and giardiniera, inspired by Korean drinking foods that load on cheese and heat.

What to eat. What to watch. What you need to live your best life ... now. Sign up for our Eat. Watch. Do. newsletter here.