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090716-blm-loc-1portillos

A Portillo's restaurant in suburban Elgin is shown in the photo. More information about the company's planned Normal location is expected this week.

NORMAL — It won’t be long before Portillo’s many anxious fans in the Twin Cities will know where the restaurant will be located.

“We are narrowing down our options and hope to sign a lease very soon,” company spokesman Nick Scarpino said via email. While there is not an exact timetable, the company hopes to make a decision “as quickly as possible, so we can start building a restaurant,” he said.

The Oak Brook-based chain, known for its Chicago-style hot dogs and Italian beef sandwiches, announced nearly four months ago it would open its first downstate location in Normal.

The decision follows years of lobbying by Portillo’s groupies; a “Bring Portillo’s to Bloomington-Normal Illinois” Facebook page started in 2013 has nearly 6,000 likes.

Scarpino said the restaurant’s siting requirements are “a bit unique” and include needing two acres for an 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot building with a double drive-thru lane.

He said there are hundreds of factors that are assessed in choosing a location, including such things as traffic counts, site access, daytime/nighttime populations, proximity to homes and businesses, and availability of real estate.

He said the restaurant is looking in Normal rather than Bloomington, but not because it favors one community over the other. “It’s just that we’ve seen some sites we like in Normal,” he said.

Normal City Manager Mark Peterson said via email he’s heard the company is still looking in the area. He has not had any direct conversations with Portillo’s and has only spoken with a third party firm that is helping in the search.

The company currently has more than 40 locations in Illinois, Indiana, Florida, Arizona, California and Wisconsin. Portillo’s also is considering locations in Champaign, Peoria and Springfield.

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