While Mexicali Grille closed its doors this summer after only a year and a half in business, burrito lovers need not despair. An almost identical concept will soon be taking its place at 320 Elm St.
Jason Congdon, originally a resident of West Hartford, established Bulldog Burrito after taking over the lease of the building on August 1. He said he was hoping to open the fast-food restaurant by the time Yale students began returning for fall classes, but now hopes to be ready soon after Labor Day weekend.
“We’re in turbo mode right now to get it wrapped up,” he said.
Many people thought Mexicali Grille filled a void in the dining options near campus when it opened in the spring of 2003. But after two of its co-owners, both of whom are Yale alumni, decided they wanted to pursue other interests, the third co-owner, who also owns another Mexican restaurant in Hamden, decided he did not have the time to take care of the business.
Congdon, who said he has always enjoyed Mexican food and wanted to pursue entrepreneurship, said the business was the perfect fit for him, and that he has enjoyed working with University Properties.
“It was an opportunity for me to put the passion of food and the passion of being my own boss together,” he said.
Bulldog Burrito will offer much of the standard food from Mexicali Grille’s old menu, including Burrito, fajitas, tacos and nachos. But Congdon said he will also expand his customers’ choices by including more appetizers, entrees and daily specials like fish tacos.
He described Bulldog Burrito’ menu as “consistently delicious, fresh Mexican-style food, everyday.” He said he plans on putting a strong emphasis on the freshness of the food.
“I can’t say I’m a five-star chef, but I can definitely make a burrito,” Congdon said.
The restaurant’s decor will change slightly, but the casual, fast-food style setup will remain the same.
Congdon said he was originally looking to open a similar business in Hartford, but was glad when a possibility in New Haven opened up. He said the opportunity was actually a “blessing in disguise,” because the crowds of young college students gives the New Haven location an edge over the more stodgy Hartford.
Shannon Stockdale ’06 said she and her roommates used to buy meals at Mexicali Grille with flex dollars. She said it reminded her of many popular fast food chains, like Baja Fresh, in her home state of California.
“It’s kind of comparable to The Whole Enchilada. But I thought it was pretty good, I’m kind of sad that it closed down,” Stockdale said.
Liz Dohrmann ’06 said she is excited for Bulldog Burrito to open, but hopes that the quality of the food improves a notch or two over the previous establishment. She said she thought Mexicali Grille had decent food, especially since there were so few places near campus to buy Burrito, but said she was disappointed when the restaurant ran out of ingredients or had long lines.
“Well the first time, of course, it’s good,” she said. “But I thought it was a little bit lacking after the second time I went there.”
Before taking over as the owner of Bulldog Burrito, Congdon worked in brand marketing for Lego for four years. He then went to work at On the Border, a Mexican fast-food chain with restaurants in Connecticut, when he decided he wanted to continue his passion for Mexican-style food.