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NORMAL — One of Chicago's most popular restaurant chains is coming to the Twin Cities.

Portillo's, which serves Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and other American-style food, will open a location in Normal in 2017, the company announced Thursday. It will be the first downstate location for the chain.

"There’s great brand awareness for Portillo's already in Normal and at ISU (Illinois State University), so it’s just a natural fit,” said Nick Scarpino, the company's vice president of marketing and public relations.

“We get requests from all over the country constantly of where we should open a new Portillo's, and we’ve gotten many, many requests from people in Bloomington-Normal.”

Scarpino said the Oak Brook-based company is "looking at a few different locations (in Normal) and don’t want to comment at this time.”

The company hasn't discussed locations or incentives with town leaders, said City Manager Mark Peterson.

Portillo's owns and operates all of its locations. The company has restaurants in Chicagoland, Rockford, Arizona, California, Indiana, Florida and Wisconsin.

“We are very interested in opening other restaurants in Central Illinois,” Scarpino said. “We are looking at other Central Illinois cities, including Springfield, Champaign and Peoria.”

The announcement drew accolades on social media.

"Love this place! Now I don't have to drive two hours for it!" posted Cyra Buttell, a human resources service specialist at State Farm, to The Pantagraph's Facebook page.

The Twitter page for ISU's police department published a photo of the company's announcement with the message, "A crime perpetrated against Bloomington-Normal has been resolved."

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Follow Derek Beigh on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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