Story by Jenny Rogers
I first experienced this quirky take-out spot about a decade ago in Athens, when I was still very much a burrito hater. I didn’t get the hype: all that indulgence, all those calories, for something so meh? If I’m going to potentially ruin a week’s worth of workouts, it better be memorable.
Admittedly, it didn’t take long for Big Mamma’s Burritos to become my Sunday go-to (typical order: baby Mamma Grande and a huge fountain drink), and I wasn’t alone. The line snaked through the door and out onto the street more often than not.
But when the late-night favorite moved to the Columbus area last spring, I questioned how the menu would translate. It turns out you don’t need to be staggering up Court Street at 2:30 a.m. to truly appreciate a Chipotle Ranch Mama.
“We basically took a traditional Mexican burrito and flipped it on its head,” says owner Quinn Schaller, who opened the first store in 2005. “We have a traditional option—rice, beans, salsa, guac, all that good stuff—but from there we experimented with what our customers were asking for.”
Initially, Schaller had one goal: Create a menu inspired by and for the people. In what is arguably the most “college” of Ohio college towns, that meant crafting a lineup of burritos just as appealing at noon as they are after a night out—flavorful and just the right amount of indulgent.
That’s meant the burrito treatment for a lot of American favorites, like the Steak N Bacon Mamma (steak, bacon, potatoes, nacho cheese); the Philly Mamma (steak, provolone, sautéed onions and potatoes topped with mayo); and the aforementioned Chipotle Ranch Mamma.
“That was our second one, and it just took off,” Schaller says of the legendary burrito. “Our goal is always to create a crave-ability—we want you to sit down for a meal three days later and crave that sauce again. People tell us they can’t stop thinking about it.”
All burritos are the same price: $6.75 for a regular or $4.25 for a baby.
After opening in the former Z Pizza space in Grandview, Schaller quickly expanded Big Mamma’s Columbus presence; at first, he had his sights on a single booze-and-burritos concept but, when plans fell through, Schaller hit the ground running with a few alternatives.
“I figured one would work out,” he says. “But we really liked all three options … so we decided to run with it.”
Schaller recently opened a kitchen at Hendoc’s Pub in the Old North neighborhood and will soon serve burritos at the Daily Growler’s new German Village location. (He says they’re close to completion.)
“We’ll start out with the same menu there—we’re hoping that the crowd will give some feedback and we can test some new items,” Schaller says. “We have a million ideas we’d like to try, and I think this spot will provide us with a situation we where can play around with some of these.”
At the top of Schaller’s list is a collaboration with Schmidt’s. A Big Mamma’s Bahama Mama? Sold.
Big Mamma’s Burritos
1359 Grandview Ave., Grandview