While driving down Elliot Road, the smell of authentic Mexican food seems to find its way through my car window and I always want to stop and follow my nose. How can anyone resist? No one can, especially when the smell is coming from The Original Burrito & Company.

We all know of the place and chances are you probably ate there recently. For the past 28 years, Ahwatukee Foothills residents have been blessed by the authentic Mexican food The Original Burrito & Company cooks every day, but also by the extraordinary family behind the restaurant that brings good food to our community.

The idea of Burrito Company was started when the Martinez family moved to Ahwatukee back in 1980. Tommy Martinez, otherwise known as "Uncle Tommy," was eating at the Top Potato restaurant and started talking to the owner, who was looking to sell his restaurant. It was then and there that Uncle Tommy started envisioning Burrito Company. The family instantly got involved to get this idea up and running. They used old recipes from their Nana Jessie Martinez, and when they first opened the restaurant there were only 10 burritos on the menu. Fast forward 28 years later, they have more than 50 choices on the menu. While Uncle Tommy wanted to continue pursuing his culinary and painting career, his sister, Margaret De La Cruz, continued running the family business. She has been running the business ever since, with the help of her family, including her children, which were the third generation to be a part of Burrito Company.

The Original Burrito & Company was a family business from day one. When they first opened, Uncle Tommy's brothers helped with the building maintenance, while all of the sisters and Nana Jessie helped with the rest. The restaurant has grown over four family generations and they are excited for future generations to be able to experience what they have started.

Monica De La Cruz, part of the third generation, describes the early days of Burrito Company as: "I remember when all of the girls in the family would set up grills outside and start an assembly line for making tortillas for opening. I will never forget how they were always laughing while they were working and having fun."

Now, 28 years later, the family is still having fun, laughing, and enjoying working there.

The family has been blessed for now and are going on four generations to be involved with the restaurant.

"It is nice to see my son Diego laughing and helping with the sweeping and shoveling debris when we first moved into the new place," Monica De La Cruz said just after the family moved into the old Kentucky Fried Chicken location. "Our kids are now able to be a part of what we were a part of when we were young kids growing up when Burrito Company just started. With the new location they can witness a new Burrito Company that is starting."

When asked what the family's greatest accomplishment was in regards to the 28 years they have been open, Monica said, "Our greatest accomplishment was when Uncle Tommy and my mom (Margaret De La Cruz) bought food at the old ABCO with only $75 for their first day when Burrito Company first opened back in 1982."

Another accomplishment she talked about was how thrilled they were the day they made their first $100.

This restaurant has made a significant impact on the Ahwatukee Foothills community by sponsoring teams, schools, and local causes. When they moved, the family said that the customers have been supportive. Some have sent them flowers, cards, plants, brownies, and a whole lot of thumbs up, compliments and pats on the back. They said customers seem to be adapting to the changes just fine and have been supportive of them even when things were a little crazy the first week they moved into the new location.

Since the restaurant has moved into the new location, regulars have followed and continued to support the family eatery. They have also been seeing a lot of new faces, especially during the first week at the new location.

Customers have also been kind enough to give the family feedback on the restaurant, the service, the food, as well as the new location.

"One lady said she never liked Mexican food and now after going to Burrito Company, she loves to get the rolled tacos/flautas.," Monica said.

The family is excited about the new chapter they are starting. They also talk about how grateful they are for their customers and all of the support they have received over the years.

The Original Burrito & Company is located at 4949 E. Elliot Road. They are open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Sundays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

For more information, call (480) 893-3857.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Michelle "Mikey" Arana is a 2003 graduate of Mountain Pointe High School. She can be reached at www.myaskmikey.com or myaskmikey@yahoo.com.



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