Goodnight, sweet prince.
This is our newsletter-first column, Microtones. It runs on the site on Fridays, but you can get it in your inbox on Thursdays by signing up for our email newsletter.
No longer just closed on Wednesdays, my friends. We’ve lost another one of the greats in the long line of restaurants to grace the streets of Madison: Burrito Drive. When I first heard the terrible news, I planned to be there on the final day for one last burrito. Except, it was always more than just burritos and tots.
On that fateful day that will live in infamy, March 26, 2023, fellow Burrito Drive devotee Hayley Sperling (of Madison Minutes and Tone Madison fame) and I made our way to the little shop on Brearly Street between East Wash and Willy, fully ready to go hard on our final order. We got two High Rollers, a chicken chimichanga, braised pork quesadillas, two orders of tater tots, and hot and green salsas, and decided to bum around the city reminiscing on all the good meals and memories associated with Burrito Drive. It was surreal to see Burrito Drive’s delivery cars zipping around the city one last time. Each time we saw one, I yelled out the window unapologetically, “We love you and we’ll miss you!” or “Thank you for your service!”
Is this even the same city if Burrito Drive signs aren’t out in these streets? For the last 16 years, Burrito Drive has been there for us through all the late night drunchies after bar close with friends (it used to be open until 3 a.m., a godsend in a very drunk city with bizarrely few late-night food options), and those midday munchies when you absolutely couldn’t get through without a Hungry Hippie.
And for me personally, Burrito Drive got me through the pandemic. One-dollar delivery and a burrito the size of an infant that easily made two meals—what more could a cooped-up mid-twenty-something want out of life in Madison? The world was allegedly ending, but at least Burrito Drive was there with copious amounts of comfort food to keep me sane, stable, and satiated.
Even as things got less cooped-up, Burrito Drive stood the test of time in my household of one. It became my backup meal of best resort. Whenever I didn’t feel like cooking or couldn’t figure out what to have for dinner, so long as it wasn’t a Wednesday, I knew Burrito Drive would be there to save my evening.
My usual was a build-your-own burrito with chorizo, black beans, sweet potato puree (because it’s Mid-Wexican food, never forget), basmati rice, asadero, pickled red onions, guac, and hot salsa. Tater tots on the side, with chips and cheese sauce. Topped off with a mandarin Jarritos and bread pudding for dessert. I won’t go into the sickening details of how I eat my burritos (Hayley bore witness for you all, send her thanks), but that meal would’ve been my last if I had to choose one. I didn’t get it as my last, last meal to save the staff from more work during the tidal force of Madisonians coming in for their final farewells to an old friend.
Burrito Drive was known for its speed and bounty when it came to its orders, and the final meal—our last supper, as it were—did not disappoint. Walking in to check on the status of our order, I noticed a fellow citizen taking a quick selfie with their own final order. They saw me see the selfie and looked at me slightly abashed, so I quickly smiled and said, “Don’t worry. We’re about to do the same thing on our way out.” And we sure did. I had to get all the last pics, and even had to take one last menu for the road. The meal was exceptional as always, and it somehow didn’t feel like the end while we ate. It felt like just another delicious and munchy mending meal from Burrito Drive.
Now, in the brave new world without Burrito Drive, where do we go? Where on this good, green Earth am I going to find a sinus-clearing hot sauce that tasted so good I could scream now for want of it! Seriously though, if someone wants to share that recipe with me, please contact the good folks here at Tone Madison who will put you in touch with me. I promise to keep the recipe confidential and utilize the utmost discretion while making said hot salsa. I work in survey research as a day job, so I am quite versed in the ways of confidentiality and discretion. I’m begging now, but that salsa was from another world in the best possible way.
And so goes my decorum, along with a famed and fabled restaurant. We will sorely miss you and thank you again for all you did for us over the years. You shan’t be forgot, Burrito Drive!