Wednesday, December 13, 2017
Business

Restaurant veteran rolls out Burrito Bus Stop in Palm Harbor

PALM HARBOR — Chris Fragale, a self-proclaimed "crazy chef,'' mastered the art of rolling a burrito in Mexico City.

He'd walk down the streets, watching people selling lunch from trucks.

"I worked for General Mills at the time — about 1975. You'd see people making street food — burritos, tacos, grilled corn,'' he said. "Folding a burrito is something you learn by watching. It's a snap.''

Fragale, founder of the Ballyhoo Grill in Tarpon Springs and owner of City Fish in Oldsmar and Ozona Blue in Palm Harbor, is putting to use some of what he saw in Mexico City. He has just opened his newest restaurant, the Burrito Bus Stop and Cantina, in Palm Harbor's Fountains Plaza.

"We planned a soft opening, with a few people, but word got out and it was crazy busy,'' said Fragale, 61.

Opening day brought 450 customers and $7,000 in sales. Customers stood in line, waiting to either venture inside or order take-out at the brightly painted bus, an old school bus Fragale purchased from a Pasco County farmer.

The menu includes Oysters Taco-Fella (corn tortilla, fried oysters, creamed spinach, bacon and cheese ), tortas (a Mexican sandwich), camarones (shrimp sauteed with poblano peppers and corn in a Mexican cream sauce), chile rellanos stuffed with Chihuahua cheese (a soft, white cheese with Mexican origins), pollo mole (chicken in a mild chocolate chili sauce) as well as seafood and vegetarian dishes.

For adult beverages, choices include margaritas like the Miracle (made with tequila, Grand Marnier, champagne, orange juice and Blue Sugar rum) or the Jalapeno. ("Only for those who like hot stuff,'' said Fragale.)

There's also a mojito menu as well as $5 sangria.

"It's a Cuban sangria that we serve at all the restaurants. The recipe was my friend's, Jesus Exposito, one of the founders of the old Tio Pepe's of Clearwater. It is phenomenal,'' he said.

For dessert, there are items such as a chocolate taco filled with flan.

Fragale's days as a restaurateur go back to St. Louis, where he opened Fragale's located on the Hill, the city's Italian district, when he was 17. "I opened it by borrowing money from parents, grandmas, uncles,'' he said.

He went on to work for Ruby Tuesday, opening seven locations across the country.

For General Mills, he oversaw openings of several Casa Gallardo eateries in Tennessee, North Carolina and Florida.

The Burrito Bus Stop is my 157th opening,'' he said. "And you know, opening this Mexican restaurant, I have to say, is my true love.

Nick Marku, vice president of the new business, started working for Fragale 13 years ago. He's still amazed at what his boss creates.

"A few weeks ago, I was making mole sauce, and I got together what I thought the ingredients would be. Well, he came in and began rattling off different ingredients like the names of about 40 different peppers. I was in awe,'' Marku said.

The start-up investment for the Burrito Bus Stop was $300,000, and Fragale says the location at the Fountains Plaza was key.

"When big companies go out and look where to start up, they look at traffic count, and there's always traffic on U.S. 19,'' he said. "You should see it at 7 a.m. It's bumper to bumper."

For those early morning commuters, Fragale plans to "take the restaurant up a notch.'' In a few weeks, he will offer breakfast. Those heading to work down U.S. 19 will be able to call ahead to place an order for either a $3 taco or a $5 burrito.

It will be waiting for them when they get to the Bus Stop.

Piper Castillo can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 445-4163.

Comments
Federal Reserve boosts key interest rate for third time this year

Federal Reserve boosts key interest rate for third time this year

WASHINGTON — The Federal Reserve is raising its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year, signaling its confidence that the U.S. economy remains on solid footing 8˝ years after the end of the Great Recession. The Fed is lifting its short-...
Updated: 10 minutes ago
Pasco Business Digest for Dec. 15

Pasco Business Digest for Dec. 15

Business digestWho’s newsHOSPITAL APPOINTS ASSISTANT CHIEF NURSING OFFICER: Registered nurse Courtney Stephenson, board certified nurse executive advanced, was recently appointed assistant chief nursing officer at Medical Center of Trinity. Stephenso...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Hernando Vendors for Dec. 15

Vendors are needed for the following nonprofit events:• Vendors and volunteers are being sought for a National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day event from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 21 at Crescent Community Clinic, 5244 Commercial Way, Spring Hill. During t...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

Tampa airport ranks No. 4 for most affordable parking rates

TAMPA — Holiday flight prices may be high, but parking rates at Tampa International Airport are a little more manageable. TIA has the fourth-cheapest parking rates in the country, a study by travel and expense app company TravelBank said. TIA, the st...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Hernando Business Digest for Dec. 15

EventsDISCOUNT OFFERED TO THOSE WHO DONATE TO HELP HOMELESS: In advance of National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day, BonWorth clothing store, 12987 Cortez Blvd., Spring Hill, will offer a 10 percent discount on purchases to those who donate unwanted c...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

Target aims to boost same-day delivery by acquiring Shipt

NEW YORK — Target plans to boost its same-day delivery capability by paying $550 million for Shipt, its latest move to try to catch up with Amazon. Shipt delivers groceries to its members, who pay $99 a year. Target says it will add more products to...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines names new president, CEO for 2019

Spirit Airlines, the South Florida-based budget airline, is gearing up for new leadership. Bob Fornaro, president and CEO since January 2016, will step down from his position in early 2019. He will be succeeded by Ted Christie, the airline’s current ...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

Three things to watch for at the Federal Reserve meeting today

WASHINGTON — On the day when Janet Yellen will hold her final news conference as Federal Reserve chair, the Fed has left little doubt what it plans to do Wednesday: Raise its benchmark interest rate for the third time this year. The increase would be...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

Picturing something different: St. Petersburg man finds second career as photographer

A chance meeting during a really tough time in Rossie Newson’s life resulted in him finding a talent he never knew he had. After leaving his job as an illustrator at the Tampa Bay Times in 2009, Newson devoted most of his time and energy to his fathe...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Flipping homes for big profits is getting harder in Tampa Bay

Michael Sadeghpour was just 18 when he did his first flip.Using money saved from a job and borrowed from his grandmother, he bought a foreclosed condo in north Pinellas County for $67,000. He did some inexpensive renovations and flipped it for $125,0...
Updated: 8 hours ago