I cook a lot of meals at home. I really do. More often than not, they even involve green vegetables.
But life moves fast, and it’s not always easy–or possible–to settle into a kitchen routine for an hour or two. Sometimes a fast food solution is too easy to resist.
After an early evening spent at a middle school “away” basketball game, I pulled into a Portillo’s drive-through. My local Portillo’s is always busy, to the point where its parking lot traffic squeezes the business out of neighboring chains Chipotle (totes Chipotes) and Jimmy John’s.
The drive-through line was easily 10 cars deep when I joined it. I was probably six car lengths behind the outdoor menu when a Portillo’s employee came up to my driver’s side window. “Can I take your order?” she asked.
“Sure. I just don’t know what it is yet.”
“You don’t know what you’d like?”
“No. Can I have a menu?”
Her reaction would’ve been less incredulous If I’d ordered a sofritas burrito bowl with tomatillo salsa and corn. She cocked her eyebrow, paused for a moment, then said, “just pull up.” Cars were already stacking up behind me. I did as she said.
Apparently you should know exactly what the fuck you want before you even pull into Portillo’s territory. I had to pick out dinner for my family of four, so I needed to have some reference to work from. I also hadn’t been to Portillo’s for a while, so I wasn’t sure if they served a Maxwell Street Polish. For that matter, I wasn’t sure if I wanted an Italian Beef. Or a beef/sausage combo. Or hell, I heard their salads are good. Point is, I came to Portillo’s looking for inspiration. Instead, I got a sneer.
I pulled all the way around to the pick-up window. The person behind the window started to hand me someone else’s meal. “Nope, that’s not mine,” I said.
“I’ve got a burger, hot dog, shake …”
“No. I didn’t order anything. That’s not mine. I wasn’t allowed to see a menu, so the order-taker had me move on. I finally saw a menu, though. Can I order here?”
I placed my order (which came with complementary eyerolls!), and was asked to pull around to one of Portillo’s meat-purgatory reserved spots to wait for my order. I waited there for about 10 minutes until someone brought my food out.
It’s cocky … arrogant, even, for Portillo’s to expect its customers to know exactly what they want, the second they pull up. Even if I had gone to McDonald’s–a place where every menu item is known worldwide–I’d have needed to look at the menu before ordering.