Omnivore - A visit to Bell Street Burritos in West Midtown

Nostalgia tastes good

Image I ate dinner at Bell Street Burritos' new Westside location last night. And I can't wait to return. And return. And return.

The restaurant's story is already in danger of morphing into an urban legend. Owner Matt Hinton is a former theology professor who was addicted to the so-called San Francisco-style burritos at Tortillas, an appealingly shabby Midtown joint beloved by students, alternative types, rock musicians and foodies. It opened in the mid-'80s and was, according to Wikipedia, one of the first San Francisco-style burrito joints on the East Coast. It closed in 2003, in the shadow of obnoxious competitors like Moe's and Willy's.

Hinton, trying to supplement his income at Spelman College, decided to bring back Tortillas as West End Burritos in 2009. He made 50 burritos a week for delivery to customers. Then, with demand growing, he opened a stall at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market. The problem there is that the market's hours limit business to lunchtime.

At this new location — the original is not closing — Hinton has expanded the menu and added dinner hours. The burritos really are like something transported from Tortillas by time machine. My favorite will always be the shrimp burrito with roasted green chiles added to the plump red beans and rice, along with a generous squirt of green sauce. It's pure comfort food.