This article can also be found at Seattle Dining!
Closed by the massive Greenwood gas explosion in March 2016, it took until August 20 for Gordito’s to reopen. Now things are pretty much back to the pre-explosion glory days.
The home of Seattle’s famous baby-sized burritos suffered immense destruction from the explosion that left the community in complete shock, including a multitude of broken windows and a blown-out wall.
The family-owned business primarily employs family and friends of family, explains Owner Shannon Hall, so when the restaurant was closed for just over five months after the explosion, he paid his employees out of pocket. “They didn’t ask for that explosion to happen, so it only seemed fair,” he says.
Since reopening, Hall says that not much about the restaurant has really changed. “I wanted it to feel like the same place,” he says, referring to the 22 years the restaurant has been operating. “The food is all the same and the restaurant is still operating the same.”
And what Hall says about the food is true; the burritos are still the same gargantuan masterpieces they’ve always been. Even the “regular-sized” burrito is nearly the volume of a football (and one can only guess how much bigger the Burrito Grande – aka the “Baby Burrito” – must be). It’s chock-full of your choice of succulent grilled meats, delectable homemade salsas and rice and beans. And in case you didn’t think that was enough, it’s topped with a healthy dose of sour cream and smothered in melted cheese and a red sauce that’s just teeming with rich, zesty flavor.
And of course, there’s also the “Chiquito Menu” for those who aren’t in the mood to be stuffed to the brim with delicious Gordito’s food (but let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you be?).
Hall says Gordito’s has a different feel from other Mexican food in Seattle. “Nobody cooked the same as my dad,” he says, referencing the restaurant’s influence by his Mexican-born father who cooked with only fresh, healthy ingredients. Gordito’s never uses canned ingredients, lard or trans-fat, and everything – from the tortilla chips to the salsas – is made fresh in the mornings.
Hall has been around the business since the restaurant first opened in 1994 when he was only seven years old, so it isn’t too hard to see why he declined an offer from someone to buy the damaged building after the explosion. “Greenwood is our home and I’ve grown up in this building,” he says. “I’m here more than I’m at my house,” he admits with a laugh.
Moreover, Hall feels that Greenwood has the perfect neighborhood feel for the restaurant that just can’t be replicated anywhere else. It shows, as Gordito’s regular clientele base ranges anywhere from families with small kids to twenty-somethings in search of hearty hangover food. “We bring people together who would never talk to each other normally,” he says.
Adding to the neighborhood feel is the art that Gordito’s features. Hall, an art-enthusiast himself, is always looking for willing local artists to display their work on the restaurant’s walls for two-month-long installments. “It doesn’t even need to have a particular theme,” he says. “I just like art and I like supporting artists.”
The final touch of Gordito’s reopening was the addition of a massive mural of a chameleon on the side of the building. Its sheer size and display of bright colors is hard to miss, but interestingly, the mural itself was not intended to be symbolic in any way. The artist, Oasis, is from Hilo, Hawaii, and is a friend of Hall’s.
Although Hall insists that nothing has really changed about Gordito’s since its reopening, it’s curious that he chose a chameleon in particular for the mural. It is, after all, a creature of change.