A burrito bar is coming to Main Street in Downtown Buffalo. And so are tacos and number of other Mexican delights. Breezy Burrito Co. will be joining the gang at EXPO Market in coming weeks. The gal behind the initiative is none other than Briana Rose Hunter, a 26 year old who has already made her mark on the Buffalo cocktail scene. Bri is leaving her bar manager position at Lockhouse Distillery to follow her true passion – making Mexican food.
It just so happens that Bri grew up living in a room just above her parents’ Mexican restaurant called Hotel Grande. Her family’s Tex Mex bar and grill, located in an 18th century hotel just outside of Potsdam NY, is still open today. The restaurant is where Bri first got her hankering for Mexican food. She started helping out at Hotel Grande when she was just 12 years old, bussing at first. By the times she was 16 she was serving, and by 18 she was bartending. During that time, her mother (chef) taught her the tricks of the trade when it came to cooking Mexican fare, while her dad taught her the ins and out of running the front of the house.
As for Bri’s extensive bartending career since moving to Buffalo, she considers herself a “liquid chef”. Now she’s ready to take on the food aspect of the industry that she has come to love. Recently, Bri was presented with a business opportunity when the Crush Juicery operation at EXPO merged with Newbury Street (also at EXPO). It was Gabrielle Mattina (owner of GBGB at EXPO) who suggested that Bri consider opening up in the freshly vacated space. When Bri first came to Buffalo, she got her initial bartending gig at The Gypsy Parlor (also owned by Gabrielle). It was then that Gabrielle learned about Bri’s passion for cooking Mexican food and her family’s history in the business.
“My parents’ restaurant seats 120 people,” Bri told me. “So I figured that the EXPO opportunity would be a great start. It was then that I wrote up a proposal for the space. In order to prove that I could do it, that I had the skills, I was required to cook a meal for all fifteen owners and managers. It was the first time that they had all voted unanimously in favor of someone moving in. Now I’m officially an owner at EXPO…. it’s pretty cool.”
Once Bri was handed the keys, she set out to find a sous chef. It just so happens that there was someone right under her nose – Amilcar José Tenorio. José had been a barback at The Gypsy Parlor, but had also been cooking Mexican and Puerto Rican food for most of his life. In order to test him out, Bri booked a catering party for 126 people and José passed with flying colors. The event also helped to solidify their passion for working and cooking together. It was the prefect match, and the food that they were cooking was an instant hit with those that tried it.
Bri brings to the table a number of her mother’s recipes, including her famous salsa. Together with José’s experience, they came up with a medley of recipes that held a depth of flavors that would be perfect for the build-your-own burrito bar. Customers will soon be able to place an order for a taco, or burrito, as servers walk them through the process of building the meal (think Chipotle). Aside from the burrito bar, there will also be a grab-n-go chips, salsa, guacamole, and chicken tortilla soup bar. This second bar will for those who just can’t wait for a burrito to be made, or for people who want something on the lighter side.
The restaurant is being called Breezy Burrito Co., for reasons that I should not have to explain. Bri and José will have access to the communal kitchen where they will be cooking up slow roast braised beef for up to six hours at a time. Once the customers have their food in hand, they will be able to choose from the various seating options at the market. “I’m also going to be planning a margarita menu for GBGB,” Bri told me. “I will match the margaritas with the fare being served at Breezy Burrito. Buffalo is a foodie city, but it’s also a city that likes to drink. A customer can even grab a beer at GBGB, and then stop by Breezy Burrito for a bite to eat. It’s great that we can all work together in this market space.”
When I asked Bri about the style of food that she would be putting out, she told me that she wants to get back to the basics. “You won’t find cow tongue on the menu here,” she noted, while sipping a beer at GBGB. “When José and I sit down to talk about the food, we really get into it. I want to ‘wow’ people with color, texture, flavor and balance. This will be wholesome food, like the food that I grew up eating with my family. I consider a burrito bowl or a taco salad comfort food. The burritos and tacos are perfect ‘drunk food’ too. Our queso is pure velvet. The house pico de gallo is on the milder side, but you can build heat on top of it with other hot sauce selections. We want to create the perfect tacos and burritos that are easy to eat, packed with flavor, filling and affordable.”
Aside from the huge support crew (street team) that Bri has already established in Buffalo, she says that her mother calls her every day, saying how proud and excited she is. “My parents love Buffalo, and can’t wait to come see the restaurant,” Bri stated proudly. “I want them to move here, and they haven’t said ‘no’. José and I aren’t even from Buffalo, but we have been welcomed with open arms. Now we want to give back to the city that has been so good to us.”
Breezy Burrito Co. | 617 Main Street | Buffalo, New York | Opens 11am | Closes around 9pm | Facebook