Bright blue and yellow walls, festive music and an extended dessert menu are only the first of a slew of changes recently implemented at 320 Elm St.. Entering its sixth week of business, Bulldog Burrito has replaced Mexicali Grill in more ways than just in name.
While still adhering to the fresh-Mex theme and reasonable prices of its predecessor, Bulldog Burrito has a new owner, Jason Congdon, with a fresh vision for the restaurant.
“Our goal is first of course to serve the highest quality fresh Mexican food,” Congdon said. “But also we are going for more of a high-energy, welcoming ambience rather than a fast-foody feel.”
Because Mexicali was a popular stop for Yale students and local residents, especially for late-night meals, Congdon said he was fortunate to already have a solid constituency of customers when he opened Bulldog Burrito. Director of University Properties David Newton said he thinks Bulldog Burrito has the potential to improve on some of Mexicali’s weaknesses and gain a broader customer base.
“The quality of food at Mexicali got a little questionable toward the end, but Jason has some good food experience and I hope he will capitalize on that,” Newton said.
Congdon said that he has received positive feedback from returning customers, who appreciate his changes.
“We started hoping that the same folks who came before would come back, and now we’ve established a good base of regulars, which is key for any restaurant to be successful,” Congdon said.
Bulldog Burrito offers a slightly more extensive menu than Mexicali, including shredded beef and chicken, vegetarian burritos and daily specials such as chimichangas. It also plans to add larger portions and combination deals.
The restaurant is in the process of applying for a liquor license, which would allow it to serve alcohol after 5 p.m. Congdon said he aims to be serving a limited amount of margaritas and beer by mid-November.
“I want to make sure that people come here for food, and that the drinks just complement the food, not the other way around,” Congdon said.
Manager Henry Villegas is also new to the restaurant, although he said some of the employees in the kitchen and behind the cash register previously worked at Mexicali and decided to stay on board after the change of ownership. Villegas said he thinks the Bulldog Burrito staff is overall more confident and has more knowledge of Mexican food.
“I think the employees appreciate the change because with everyone working so well together, each person has to do a lot less than they did before,” Villegas said.
In order to spread the word about the new restaurant, Villegas has been working with Congdon on some new advertising strategies. They hope to eventually initiate a catering and delivery service and promise to reinstate the 3-pound burrito-eating contest.
Gabriel Hernandez ’07, previous “campeon” of the contest at Mexicali, said he was relieved to hear this news.
“I didn’t even want to eat at Bulldog Burrito because my picture isn’t up anymore, but now that I know it’s good food and I have the chance to win again, I’ll definitely give it a try,” Hernandez said.
Congdon purchased the space from two former Yale students who started Mexicali but ultimately found they could not make the full-time commitment to running the business. Newton said although he does not usually allow people to transfer his property, he liked what Congdon had to say about his vision for the restaurant.
“We thought that fresh-Mex was the right concept on the right corner since it had been there in the past,” Newton said. “And since someone was ready to take it over, it seemed like a good fit.”
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”17032″ ]