From the outside, The Portage seems just like any number of corner storefront restaurants that dot Chicago's neighborhoods. But once you enter this charming spot in Portage Park, you'll discover not only hidden outdoor dining, but an eclectic menu of traditional American fare cooked to perfection.
Owned and operated by Chicagoans with decades of restaurant experience, The Portage is classy while remaining friendly and accessible.
The well-stocked bar serves terrific mixed drinks alongside perfectly prepared Kiddie Cocktails (with extra cherries). Although the menu changes seasonally to take advantage of the freshest ingredients, diners can always find a great variety of trendy food (duck fat fries) and classic meals (southern fried chicken). Proteins range from fish and scallops to chicken and steak, all priced between $12 and $20. It also offers vegetarian entrees, salads and appetizers.
The Kids' Menu, priced at $5.95, includes chicken strips, mini corn dogs and a junior-sized Kobe burger. Those meals come with soda, hand-cut fries and even a scoop of house-made ice cream for dessert. My 10-year-old insisted his made-to-order Kobe burger was the "best meat ever." I thought the same thing about my perfectly grilled pork chop. And we were honestly battling each other for the last bite of our mac and cheese appetizer. Finishing our meal off with classic apple pie and ice cream, we left completely satisfied.
It's no wonder that families were waiting to get in. Speaking of which, The Portage is a cozy space, with limited seating for large groups. I highly recommend making reservation for the outdoor patio, lit by string lights and completely hidden from traffic. You may still have to wait for a bit, but it's worth it.
Alena Murguia lives in Berwyn, Illinois along with her husband and three growing sons.
See more of Alena's stories here.