Edinburgh-based vendor Bonnie Burrito offers hungry students and professionals alike the very best of Tex-Mex food, with a distinctive Scottish twist. If that sounds like a surprising and intriguing premise, read on for our interview with founder Nick Forrest to find out how it all came about!
How did Bonnie Burrito come about?
We started in 2015. I’d just left university, worked in a hotel for a bit, worked in the kitchen and did that for about a year and a half. I certainly enjoyed working in the kitchen and working alongside chefs, but I realised that it wasn’t a long-term goal for me and that I’d always wanted to start my own business. It was just a matter of working out what sort of food I’d like to do, and seeing what was out there. I’m a big fan of Mexican food, I’d make it quite often in my house; then I looked around Edinburgh and saw that there wasn’t a huge amount of Mexican food options at the time. So I thought, let’s see how this goes. I practiced making burritos for friends and family and got their feedback, which thankfully was all pretty positive! Just to tweak a few recipes here and there, but overall it was good.
And I really had nothing to lose in the sense that I was in a job which I knew wasn’t the future I wanted. And being younger, I didn’t have as many responsibilities or anything like that – no mortgage to pay, just helping mum and dad out occasionally. If I was ever going to do it, then was the time. So I saved up a bit of money and thought that instead of buying a shop, I would buy a street food truck because it’s less risky. Worst case scenario, if it didn’t go well then I could always sell the truck.
“We do a pulled pork burrito where we slow-cook it in Irn Bru”
It was also around that time that I realised I wanted to do Mexican food but with a Scottish twist – which I know sounds like a weird combination. I’ve obviously got no Mexican heritage or anything so I thought, well, at least if we bring some Scottish aspect in then I’m bringing my culture into my food. We do a pulled pork burrito where we slow-cook it in Irn Bru instead of the usual Dr Pepper or Cola they use in Tex-Mex. And then we do a haggis burrito as well, and a chicken and haggis one.
We also source from local suppliers, so our local butcher supplies us with the meat and our vegetables are also sourced locally. We try to keep it all close to home. And then yeah, as soon as I got my truck, I started looking for a permanent spot I could use and had to apply for a street license from the council. It took about a year to get all the paperwork through, and then they gave us the green light! Just the first week, lots of people came out in support, which was great. We became part of the community, helping out with local charities and giving NHS workers discounts, etc. and after a year and a half, I realised I needed bigger premises to do all the cooking and prepping. That whole time I was using my mum and dad’s kitchen, so I think my mum especially was getting a bit sick of me being there and destroying her kitchen. The more I thought about it, the more I realised it’d be nice to have a shop.
“I think my mum especially was getting a bit sick of me being there and destroying her kitchen”
I found a space – it was a wee shop, I think the oldest baked potato shop in the UK at the time, but the owner was close to retirement and was nice enough to give us the spot, rather than selling it to a big company. We’ve been there since summer 2016, right around the Fringe Festival, which was very much a sink or swim situation. I think once we’d done the festival rush, we just knew we could cope with anything. We still have the truck though, which we have for festivals, events, and weddings.
We also do our own sauces. When we started, I wanted to make it a bit like Subway, where you come in and just pick and choose what you’d like in your burrito and add the sauce of your choice. So we created our own homemade sauces for that and they were so well received that we decided to bottle and sell it too. We got a spot in Sainsbury’s nationwide, and they’re also sold in a few little local shops around Scotland. It’s a nice little side business.
What burrito filling do you most recommend for first-time customers?
I do like them all, and I am being genuine. I have a burrito every day, pretty much. I try and limit it for my own waist line. Probably the most popular burrito we offer though is the chicken and haggis, as a combination. We allow customers to combine two main fillings for the same price, and chicken and haggis seems to be a really, really popular option. We have a dish up in Scotland called a Balmoral, which is a chicken stuffed with haggis, so maybe that’s the combination people are looking for. It’s also quite a good option for tourists, or for people who have never tried haggis and are maybe a bit wary of it; instead of risking going for a full haggis they can have it with chicken, which takes that fear away.
“Probably the most popular burrito we offer is the chicken and haggis combination… we also offer vegetarian haggis and chicken”
You also offer veggie alternatives, correct?
We do lots of vegetarian and vegan options because we’re very aware that there’s a lot of people who are veggies or vegans, or even people trying to limit their meat consumption. We offer vegetarian haggis, and we’ve also brought in vegetarian chicken. It’s actually really similar in taste to real chicken, which is funny. We have had customers call us after receiving their order to say we’d given them the wrong order, and we’ve had to reassure them that the vegetarian substitute is just that good. We’re also really passionate about limiting our waste, so we use wooden forks and paper bags. We’re always looking to be greener.