Today the 46-year-old founder of Bell Street Burritos owns three Atlanta stores. As the coronavirus outbreak paralyzes the restaurant industry, Hinton is reinventing himself yet again. Miraculously, he hasn’t had to lay off any of his approximately 50 employees.
“At first, I was like, ‘Oh, no, what are we going to do?’” Hinton said. “But then, on the other hand, it was like, ‘Wait a second. I’ve been here before.’”
New to the Bell Street menu: Texas-style smoked brisket and pulled pork. CONTRIBUTED BY MATT HINTON / BELL STREET BURRITOS
Along with quesadillas, tacos and mission-style burritos inspired by the legendary Tortillas restaurant on Ponce de Leon Avenue, Bell Street now offers family takeout meals. And, via an online market, it’s selling ingredients used in its recipes — tomatoes, avocados, onions, cilantro, limes — and a few hard-to-find pandemic essentials, like toilet paper, bleach and vinyl gloves. “Our dining rooms are now our storerooms,” Hinton said.
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Now, when you order your burrito and cheese dip, you can add on a pound of rice ($1) or pinto beans ($1.50); a can of Bohemia ($4) or a six-pack of Emergency Drinking Beer ($25.20). You also can get an $11 quart of soup (chicken and rice, loaded potato, tomato basil) to heat up at home, or a $15 quart of meaty Bolognese or chicken with white wine and cream sauce. Unless you bought burritos from West End Burritos (as Bell Street originally was known), you might not know that Hinton sold pasta sauces in his salad days.
Bell Street Burritos is now offering family-style pasta meals like this Bolognese with fettuccine, and chicken with white wine cream sauce over penne. Rolls and butter are included. CONTRIBUTED BY MATT HINTON / BELL STREET BURRITOS
Hinton also is showcasing hand-crafted pork and chicken tamales prepared by Lidia Jimenez, a longtime Bell Street line cook. Once sold on Fridays only, they are now on the regular menu. “They are as good as any tamales in Atlanta. I’ll say that, because I don’t have anything to do with them,” Hinton said.
And, he's collaborating with Tucker neighbor Steven Bowe to sell Bowe's smoked meats by the pound. It's "the best smoked meat I've had in the state of Georgia," Hinton said, whistling and smacking his lips to make his case. The day I spoke with Hinton on the phone, he was developing a barbecue sauce to go with Bowe's pulled pork and Texas-style brisket.
Tacos available from Bell Street Burritos include (from left): pork green taco on flour tortilla, chipotle pork taco on flour tortilla, shrimp chipotle taco on corn tortilla, and grilled chicken green taco on corn tortilla. CONTRIBUTED BY MATT HINTON / BELL STREET BURRITOS
To help out-of-work restaurant workers, Bell Street has created a website feature that lets customers donate gift cards, which are then distributed by the Giving Kitchen. To make such a gift, enter "email@example.com" in the recipient field. A similar service for health-care employees is in the works.
Menu: all the Bell Street classics.
What's new: family meals, tamales every day, smoked meats, and a market that sells pantry staples and domestic necessities like toilet paper. (With an order of $20 or more, use discount code FREETP20 to get a free roll.)
Alcohol: singles and six-packs of local, domestic and imported beers
What I ordered: a grilled pork and green chile burrito, a pork tamale, a chicken tamale, a ground beef taco, a shrimp taco, a small side of guacamole and chips, a quart of meaty Bolognese and two fresh avocados. I'd never had a Bell Street burrito, and now I can't stop thinking about that juicy double-fister, packed into a buttery, flaky tortilla (from the griddle).
Service options: ChowNow, via the restaurant website. Also, Uber Eats, DoorDash, Zifty.
Safety protocols: Each restaurant has a timer that goes off every 20 minutes to remind employees to sanitize surfaces. Only one customer is allowed in the building at a time. Contact-free transactions are preferred. Employees are mindful to maintain appropriate distancing for credit-card transactions.
Address, phone: 1816 Peachtree St. NE, Atlanta, 404-815-0011. 112 Krog St. NE, Atlanta, 678-732-9122. 4053 Lawrenceville Highway, Tucker, 770-417-8018.
Hours: 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
Read the AJC Fall Dining Guide: The Noodle Edition
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