Vote For the Opportunity to Get a Portillo's Beef in Your Hometown
The Portillo's Beef Bus will come to your town, but only if you're American!
Yep, I'm still hacked off about the Chicken & Gravy Pizza. So I'm taking solace the best I can in counting my own chubby little blessings.
Note: not the Beef Bus. This was the original Portillo's Dog House location in Villa Park, IL from 1963.
Chicago based, yet methodically expanding, Portillo's Restaurants was voted the best Fast Casual restaurant chain in America by TripAdvisor in 2018, and was rated in the TripAdvisor top 5 last year. Springing from the same humble, strange roots as many other hot dog stands run by Italian-Americans in Chicago, Dick Portillo offered guests hot dogs, french fries and (cheap, disgusting, extruded, prepackaged) tamales out of his portable "Dog House" parked in a Pizza Hut parking lot in the western suburbs.
A Chicago tamale. Ingredients: corn meal; beef; beef fat; beef tallow, etc. No corn husks were used.
A few years later, that Pizza Hut closed, and Dick moved his operation inside. Customer seating! Good fortune and success soon followed.
The Holy Beef Trinity pictured inside a brick-and-mortar Portillo's location, which appears to have a 50's diner motif
With success came expanded menus and permanent locations. Each location tends to have one of several 'local historic' decor motifs, from Al Capone Prohibition era to recent Chicago sport champions. There is no table service. There is drive-thru and they're trying remote ordering, but all other orders are placed at the register, and are picked up at the serving counter from a hyper-cheery attendant ("Nummmmber 49, is divine!"). Although the menu now includes flame broiled burgers, baby back ribs, salads, and incredibly rich cakes for dessert, most locals agree that the Italian Beef (along with its brethren the Combo and the Cheddar Beef Croissant) are the best and most famous items in their repertoire.
The big problem is, as I mentioned, expansion has been slow. Dick Portillo insisted on ownership of facilities rather than franchising. This resulted in very tightly controlled operations which served them extremely well. Product quality and delivery is uniform throughout. But, as of 2015, locations were limited to the Greater Chicago area, as well as a few specific locations in California and Arizona where snowbird Chicagoans tend to retire. The next year, Portillo's was sold and the new owners let a few more states get into the action. But the vast majority of the nation is forced to get their beef fixes from online ordering.
"In Russia, you come to food. But here in America, food come to you!" - Yakov Smirnov
However, because they do the Lord's work, Portillo's recently announced the @BEEFBUSOFFICIAL megasize food truck. For enough money, organizations can arrange for the Beef Bus to come serve their gatherings. But to properly introduce this rolling hunk-a-love, Portillo's is currently having an online election. Simply log onto the Beef Bus website and enter your zipcode for the chance to have the Bus come to you!
Back in the 1980's, my best friend got his first job in Topeka, KS (zipcode 66622) watching people make Lay's potato chips. I visited him, and that night we wanted some Italian beef. We went to the Yellow Pages (ask your parents) and found exactly one so-called 'Italian deli' in town. We called to ask for an Italian beef sandwich, to be told they had never heard of it. We asked what they did have? "Baloney. Ham. Uh....cheese?". So, if you're stuck in the 66622 and you want to sample one of the most succulent sandwiches known to man? Get your friends together and start voting! And when you speak of me? Speak well. Thank you!