Openings and Closings

A Lesson from Great Portillo Beef Truck Hunt of ’22: Take Sunscreen

The Portillo Beef Bus made its first stop in The Colony Monday, July 11
The Portillo Beef Bus made its first stop in The Colony Monday, July 11 Hank Vaughn
As reported in the Observer last week, Portillo’s, the lauded Chicago-land hot dog purveyor, is sending out its Beef Bus food truck to North Texas over the next few days in anticipation of opening its first location in Texas this fall.

The first stop was Monday, July 11, near their eventual home in The Colony, and it promised to be an event for Chicago ex-pats, hot dogs and Italian beef lovers in general. With great anticipation, I entered the  address into the GPS and the journey began in time to arrive 30 minutes before the start time, just in case there was a line or something.

Well. The physical address provided turned out to be the physical address of the entire Grandscape complex. It’s a huge area, with hundreds of acres of parking lots, shopping areas, food malls and theaters, with streets meandering everywhere like strands of spaghetti in a very large bowl. And very little shade. After parking, once the GPS announced destination arrival, the trek began, the search for this elusive Portillo’s truck. It was not at the address given, that was for sure.

Other people were walking around with searching looks on their faces, many with Chicago Cubs shirts, Bears hats and Chicago flag T-shirts. We all knew what we wanted, and none of us could find it. We walked this way for a block or so, but nothing. So we walked that way for a block or so. Nothing. We found a food court. Nope. We walked almost all the way to Nebraska Furniture Mart, but still, this troupe of Chicago ex-pats could not locate the food truck.
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Portillo's Beef Bus food truck: myth or reality?
Hank Vaughn
Maybe it was just an internet rumor? Calls were made, social media sites checked, and sure enough, other people were eating Portillo’s dogs and beef. One couple was on the phone with their daughter who had somehow found it and was trying to direct them. “We are right by the Giant A on the building near Nebraska. Which way should we go?” We eavesdropped. It was every man for himself.

We asked a Grandscape employee on a golf cart (because, again, this area is huge) where the Portillo’s truck was. “Oh, you can’t miss it. You’ll see all the cars.” But we couldn’t see all the cars.

After about 20 minutes and some calls we learned that it was actually at the intersection of Grandscape Boulevard and Destination Drive, which was easily a quarter-mile away from the location given on their website and not even visible from the lie that was 5752 Grandscape Blvd.
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Lines and lines of people waiting to sample some dogs and beef sandwiches from Portillo's Beef Bus
Hank Vaughn
Many of us at this point had probably walked close to a mile in 100-degree weather for close to half an hour. We were hungry (it was past lunchtime), a bit cranky and wanted a Portillo’s fix. Drenched in sweat, hair looking and feeling like a wet mop, legs sore, our little group of a dozen or so brothers in arms in the Great Portillo Beef Truck Hunt of ’22 finally found it, but we had to be within about 50 yards before the truck  and the extremely long line of people waiting was even visible. The truck had just been open for about 15 minutes, but we were told the line was about 2.5 hours long.

Exhausted and assuming they’d run out of food by the time three hours passed, and as the day would only grow hotter, we decided to go home, having stupidly not thought to bring sunscreen to a hot dog stand.

Before leaving, however, we soaked up the wonderful aroma and talked with a couple of Portillo’s reps: Sara Wirth, senior manager of public relations, and David Fisher, a field marketing coordinator.

They were pleasantly surprised at the turnout, and Fisher explained, "We have our shop-and-ship program, where people can order Portillo's and have it shipped directly to their house, and this area, specifically, is where we saw a lot of shipping going out, which is what helped us determine where to expand.”

Chicago-area restaurant Al’s Beef made a foray into North Texas a few years ago, and it was not successful, lasting not much more than a year. When asked how Portillo’s hoped to avoid this same fate. “We know we do best when we get food in people's mouths, so we let people sample, so it's really building that up early, making sure everyone knows who Portillo's is, what we're about, that our focus is both quality and fun," Wirth said.

While the majority of the people in line appeared to be Chicago transplants, Portillo’s knows they will have to appeal to a broader market than ex-pats and believes that the food will speak for itself in that regard.
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After a long wait, finally at the order window.
Hank Vaughn
Wirth and Fisher wanted to emphasize that Instagram and Twitter is the place to track the Beef Bus, and it must be pointed out that the Instagram page did have the intersection of the truck’s location rather than the numbered address that the webpage has, so perhaps keeping up with them on social media is indeed the way to go. After a few private events during the remainder of the week, they will be at AT&T Stadium this weekend. How hard could they be to find there?
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Hank Vaughn is a freelance writer who enjoys sharing and overthinking his food and drink experiences, both good and bad, from his culinary journeys with his wife across North Texas and beyond.
Contact: Hank Vaughn