Last summer it was announced that a food hall would be going into the former site of the Company Shops Market co-op on Front Street in downtown Burlington. Now we know what will go in it.
I got a call around lunchtime today (Jan. 7, 2020) from Wellsley Robinson, president of Core Properties, the leading developer in Burlington’s changing downtown. Robinson made the original food hall announcement in June of 2019 at a Fourth Friday during a band break in the amphitheater of the Historic Depot. She was just as excited that night as she sounded on the phone today.
“I have news!” she said and added in an interview 90 minutes later that “Go Burrito is going into the Burlington Food Hall.”
In act, Go Burrito, based in Salisbury, North Carolina with franchises in Tennessee and Florida, is gong to operate the main restaurant within the Burlington Food Hall as well as the bar and book live musical entertainment. Core Properties will manage the four kiosks, which will be operated within the 12,000-square-foot building on Front Street beside Occasions. Robinson said two vendors are under contract. One is a hibachi-style Japanese restaurant that will also feature vegan and vegetarian options. The other will specialize in New Orleans-style Cajun food, like po-boy sandwiches. Robinson hopes to lock in two more vendors within the next few weeks, possibly kiosks specializing in deserts and salads.
If all goes according to plan, Robinson said the food hall would open during a July-August time frame this year. “It’s now a matter of construction,” Robinson said. “It will be fully operational all at once. There won’t be a phase two.”
Robinson wants to keep the second floor as a community gathering space just as it was when Company Shops Market was operating. She still intends to offer storage and cooking facilities for lease by food trucks operating outside of Burlington..
Landing Go Burrito is considered a significant get for downtown Burlington. The restaurant, owned by Mikey and Lilly Wetzel, opened in Salisbury’s struggling downtown in 2013 helped spark a rejuvenation of that area, Robinson said.
“They bring a fantastic energy in life. Go Burrito was a catalyst for Salisbury’s downtown revitalization because of their vibrancy. It became a destination even when nothing else was there,” Robinson said.
According to the Go Burrito website, the Wetzels moved to North Carolina from the West Coast after several visits east to visit family in the state. Mikey Wetzel left behind a career in video games for Microsoft because the family liked the lower cost of living and the climate in North Carolina. They decided to open a California-style burrito place in an old building in Salisbury.
Go Burrito offers 20 fresh ingredients customers can chose for their burrito or folks can order a signature burrito like the San Diego — that comes with steak, guacamole, pico, and french fries and might be the first thing I order there. The menu includes nachos, quesadillas, salads, tacos, and chicken tortilla soup. One cool feature is the free salsa bar with house-made, award-winning salsas, according to the website.
The focus is on fun and the bar has a California beach kind of atmosphere. While rum drinks are a specialty, it will also offer craft beers, wine and cocktails. The Salisbury location has signature nights for team trivia competitions, live music, karaoke and open mic night.
That’s what Robinson means by energy.
Core Properties has played a significant role in several recent and successful developments in downtown Burlington, including Burlington Beer Works, Smitty’s Ice Cream, Owl and Rabbit Gallery, STEAM Junction maker space, The Blend and Co. and Front Street Bottle Shop. Go Burrito looked at a few other sites downtown before choosing Burlington Food Hall.
Robinson said she believes Go Burrito and the Burlington Food Hall will be unique and popular additions to downtown’s burgeoning food scene.
“The owner really wants to be downtown.. He sees it as a great opportunity. They’re 100 percent on board.,” Robinson said. ” I can’t wait to have it and visit myself..”