Westerly has some truly exceptional culinary options for such a small town, and lucky for us, there’s a new option to discover and enjoy! Dan Latimer recently took some time to chat with us about his latest restaurant endeavor, Bomb Burritos & Bowls.
Having garnered over two decades of restaurant experience, Dan decided to team up with friend and colleague Chad Bauerle and bring something new to Westerly. “We both had been in the industry for so long and after closing up our bars at night, we’d end up back at his house or mine to hang out, make some burritos, and discuss things,” Dan explained. “We had talked about maybe a food truck or some cool street food or comfort food, and we looked around at Westerly and realized that there was no place but Amigos to get tacos, but that’s a different concept than what we wanted to bring to the table.”
From there, the planning began in earnest. “The mission statement has always been to not take ourselves too seriously,” Dan explained. “We’re not classically trained chefs, we’ve just worked around food for a long time and really enjoy it and are having fun with it, and I think that comes across in the playful, whimsical names a lot of our menu items have.”
of course, it hasn’t just been all play and no work – the two cashed out their 401ks and went all in on this joint project, building out the restaurant and hand-picking the staff and designing the menu from the ground up. The menu planning began in the early days of the pandemic and a location was found by Summer 2020. Getting a business going is always a moving target, and Covid has added its own complications along the way so their original opening date of December 1st, 2020 rolled into January 1st, 2021, which in turn rolled into the actual date which was April 1st. They couldn’t have picked a better day for it, however, given that by pure happenstance April 1st is also National Burrito Day!
One of their goals has been to offer more variety than their corporate competition. While still in the planning stages, they visited every burrito place within fifty miles to figure out what they wanted to provide and what they landed on was all about balance – a menu that was full of options, but none of them heavy or greasy. “The bomb sauce is the perfect example,” Dan explained. “It’s bright and fresh because of the lemon and lime juice, but earthy because of the stewed peppers. Our recipes are intentionally lighter, because we want you to leave feeling full and energized, not weighed down the way a lot of burritos will leave you.”
At Bomb Burritos, the business’ philosophy and work culture is of paramount importance alongside their ingredients and preparation. “The restaurant industry can be just a means to an end for a lot of people, but we wanted to create a culture of growth by putting our people and our priorities in the right places,” Dan explained. “We’ve worked for bosses who were terrible and bosses who were great so we drew a lot from those experiences,” Dan shared. They also dove into Dave Chang’s Pre-opening Diaries podcast to figure out how to create a great culture from conception to opening and beyond. Their primary decision was simply to focus on their employees. “When you put your people’s personal and professional progress at the front and prioritize their well-being, a sense of place and pride and ownership are natural outgrowths of that,” Dan explained.
The first team arrives in the early morning to start prepping, chopping, and cooking. Dan and Chad were offered some frozen and pre-made options from their vendors that would have saved them some labor, but they made the choice to stick with fresh ingredients not only because of the superior product but because of the effect it has on the employees. “When you have a staff that’s actually making something rather than ripping open a package, there’s a pride element to it,” Dan explained. “We want our staff to really learn how to cook and gain this skill. We also try to be transparent with them about our decision making process and our finances so we can teach them the ropes and encourage them to consider opening their own business down the road.” It’s all about the team effort – as Dan and Chad work to educate and encourage their staff in all aspects of restaurant ownership and management and service, they also help out with continuing to wash dishes themselves.
Although they felt prepared on opening day, they say the surprise has been just how well Westerly has reacted to them. They only got 48 hours into opening before realizing that they would need more space to keep up with the demand. Fortunately, they had room to grow and were able to pop into the empty unit next door and switch on the fridge and keep things rolling. “We really hit the ground running and the work hasn’t stopped – our expectations were great but the reality has been incredible,” Dan shared. “We’ve had no poor interactions, and we’ve had a line out the door every day. For people to take the time and stand in line for a burrito is just so awesome.”
The future holds a lot of good (and delicious!) things for Bomb Burritos, their staff, and their customers. Dan and Chad are currently tinkering around with a new protein to add to the menu and a new salsa, and the goal is to expand their hours as well and incorporate online ordering (which will hopefully cut down on the line-waiting). Stop by Bom Burritos & Bowls for your next local food adventure!