Burrito Drive is closing after 16 years; ‘It’s been a long torture’

Burrito Drive, a favorite of Near East Side Madison with its signature Tex-Mex dishes and homemade salsa, will close on March 26.

“It’s a sad thing,” said founder and co-owner David Swedarsky. “We had a good run for 16 years, but it just ended.”

Tucked behind Williamson Street is 310 S. Brearly St. The shop was packed with regulars on Thursday and others who wanted a Burrito Drive burrito, enchilada, taco, or quesadilla after learning the news.

Swedarsky said there were multiple reasons behind his and his business partner, Zach King’s decision to close last week.

“As with most places post-COVID, we’ve had our fair share of all kinds of things really, from staffing issues and product pricing,” Swedarsky said.

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Burrito Drive, a fixture on Madison’s Near East Side for 16 years, is closing this month.

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Swedarsky said he has had contract extensions since their contract expired at the end of February.

He was 29 and was the delivery driver for Glass Nickel Pizza for nearly 10 years when he needed Mexican food delivery, and at that time opened Burrito Drive with the three owners of Glass Nickel.

King, who had worked on Burrito Drive almost from the very beginning, bought the other partners about six years ago, Swedarsky said.

Swedarsky said the location is great as the restaurant has its own parking lot which is perfect for delivery and pickup.

Burrito Drive window

At Thursday dinner time, wait times for transport were twice as long as news of Burrito Drive’s imminent closure spread among its devotees.

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He said the delivery was done by three or four drivers in the dinner rush, making up about 75% of his business. The remaining 25% is delivery.

The partners, like all local restaurants, closed their 30-seat dining halls in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and never reopened for in-person dining. He said they need more space for storage.

Before the pandemic, the restaurant was open until 3 am, seven days a week. They received a large number of orders late at night, particularly on Fridays and Saturdays, but Swedarsky said the business was evenly distributed over lunch, dinner, and late night.

But the restaurant lost its business late at night when the bars closed in the early hours of the pandemic. They also lost their hard-to-replace employees.

Burrito Drive is open from 11:00 am to 9:00 pm most days, except Wednesday when it is closed, and until 10 pm Friday and Saturday.

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‘One last ride’

Trevor Carter and Kyra Beckman said on Thursday they were collecting food for a houseful of people. “It is truly the saddest news. We had to try one last time before it closed,” Carter said.

“It’s an amazing feeling to be a part of the East Coast,” said Beckman, who ordered his favorite Hungry Hippie burritos with rice, guacamole, Mexican sprouts, tater tots, and pickled red onions.

Jay Olle of Cudahy, outside Milwaukee, was also waiting for his order on Thursday. The 2012 UW-Madison graduate said she appreciated that Burrito Drive was a neighborhood spot and was open late when she was in college.

“It’s a difficult order,” Olle said of her favorite order. Honestly, any burrito on the menu.

“I think we have the best burritos in town,” Swedarsky said without boasting. Fresh, high-quality ingredients help, but thanks to childhood friend Kurt Pickerell, who designed the original menu and recipes.

One of the fan favorites is the restaurant’s house enchilada with chorizo, shrimp, corn, asadero cheese, scallions and cilantro, cooked in a tomatillo cream sauce and topped with chili puree, but Swedarsky’s two bestsellers are the She-meh-neh and the High Roller burritos. .

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She-meh-neh features mashed sweet potatoes, grilled chicken, queso fresco, pickled red onions, Nueske’s bacon, and rice. The High Roller comes with carne asada, beans, rice, asadero cheese, guacamole, and Nueske’s bacon.

The restaurant’s infamous White Trash Burrito—Spam, Velveeta, tater tots, baked beans, and salsa with ketchup—was somewhat popular, but was a casualty of the pandemic.

“It just had so many processes, so many steps, and it took a lot of time and soiled a lot of dishes,” Swedarsky said, adding that he only had many ingredients that were used for a single item.

Swedarsky said owning the restaurant was a great experience. “We’ve had great employees, great customers. We really couldn’t do anything without the wonderful employees we’ve had over the years. It’s just time for a new chapter.”

He said nothing is yet in order for Alan and he is not sure what the future holds for him. He knows that with the closure of the business, he has a lot of work ahead of him.

“Then I’ll probably take some time to myself,” he said. “It’s been a long grind.”

Read more restaurant news at go.madison.com/restaurants