Portillo’s to host Texas pop-ups ahead of first restaurant opening in state

If you’re a filthy Midwestern transplant like myself, you know the panicked joy of seeing a sign for Portillo’s at a highway exit and sweeping two lanes of traffic for an impromptu second lunch. 

The Chicago-based restaurant chain specializing in Italian beef and hot dogs continues to branch out into new areas, extending its reach into such exotic locales as “Indiana” and “near the Indiana border” (I know there are also a few in California and Florida, relax). For its latest conquest, however, the beef chain has set its sights on North Texas as a possible point of mass expansion, beginning with the opening of a brick-and-mortar location at Dallas-area township The Colony in late 2022. 

As first reported by The Dallas Morning News’ Sarah Blaskovich, Portillo’s first Texas location will be situated in The Colony’s Grandscape development on State Highway 121. Ahead of this opening, the franchise will send in its mobile Beef Bus to conduct a series of pop-up appearances at venues and events in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, effectively serving as an au-jus-powered advance force for a larger, meatier invasion to come.

The run of events begins next week and includes seven scheduled pop-up appearances featuring the Beef Bus over the month of September, according to Blaskovich. The following stops are slated for the Portillo’s Does Dallas 2022 Tour:

  • Dallas Arboretum (September 13 and 14): Lunchtime pop-up beginning at 10:30 am. Visitors are asked to park at Gate 4 and non-Arboretum members will have to fork over $10 for access to the area.

  • Harvest House (September 16): Service begins at 2 p.m. and will run until “dinnertime.”

  • Taste of Oak Cliff (September 17 and 18): Service runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Access to the festival is $20.

  • Nebraska Furniture Mart (September 20): Service begins at 4 p.m. and runs through “dinnertime.”

  • Truck Yard in Dallas (September 21): Service begins 11 a.m. and runs through “dinnertime.”

  • Truck Yard in The Colony (September 22 and 23): Service begins 11 a.m. and runs through “dinnertime.”

  • Texas Live! in Arlington (September 24): Service begins 11 a.m. and runs through “dinnertime.”

It should be noted that all of these appearances come with the caveat of “while supplies last,” so arriving early to ensure there’s beef to be had is your best bet for a day un-ruined. The bus will sell a limited menu of four items, including its Italian beef sandwich (get it dunked, you cowards), a classic Chicago dog and two varietals of Polish sausage (one will be Chicago-style with all the fixings, the other a Maxwell Street Polish featuring yellow mustard and grilled onions).

The opening date for the location in The Colony has yet to be finalized, but representatives with the company told Blaskovich that the franchise hopes to open between 18 and 20 restaurants in the Dallas area over the next five years. When reached for comment, a spokesperson from Portillo’s said a Houston-area location is not imminently in the works but could be in play sometime in the future.

“Texas is the number one state Portillo’s ships our Shop and Ship offerings to, and we’ve long had our sights set on entering the Lone Star State,” the spokesperson said. “We are excited to enter the Dallas-Fort Worth market this year, with more restaurants planned in the area within the next few years. We don’t have additional information to share at this time, but we are looking forward to bringing our delicious food to Texans and are open to future expansion opportunities.”

Alas, one can hold out hope. Just because Philadelphia’s Lefty’s Cheesesteaks floundered in Houston, doesn’t mean the city’s not ready for an armored division of Beef Buses to roll through town.