If all goes to James Bramante's plans, moviegoers at will be take home a burrito after viewing the latest western.
In a move that will bring the first-ever Mexican eatery to Belmont, Studio Cinema owner Bramante with his brother, David, is seeking permission from the to open a burrito cafe next to the historic movie theater on Trapelo Road in the space once occupied by .
"It makes a lot of operational sense that we run this," said Bramante Tuesday, less than a day after the ZBA heard the appeal for a special permit to bring what is called a "fast food" operation at 374 Trapelo Rd. in Belmont's Central Square.
"There is a lot of traffic coming and going in the area which makes it very attractive," said Bramante.
Bramante, who has owned the Studio Cinema for the past 17 years and the Angelato space, said he is bring a concept first popularized in San Francisco's Mission District of a day-long cafe that serves premium coffees and light breakfast items then transforming into a speciality Mexican restaurant from lunchtime onward.
"You know we have to call it fast food but it really is a healthy alternative to just having a sandwich," Bramante told Belmont Patch this afternoon, noting that there still is a limited number of Latin or Mexican food outlets in and around Belmont.
Bramante is also tapping into one of the most popular dining segments in the US. Fresh Mexican food has become the fastest-growing segment of the restaurant industry, according to the National Restaurant Association. Today, Mexican cuisine is one of the most recognized ethnic dining categories in the United States, tied with Italian and Chinese food at a 97 percent consumer-awareness level.
A new all-day dining concept
While there are competitors in the area – Chipotle Mexican Grill is in Watertown and Fresh Pond while Anna's Taqueria in Porter Square has long been popular with Belmont High School students – Bramante's operation will differ by being a hybrid cafe – coffees in the morning with Mexican fare beginning in the afternoon – that has gained a great deal of popularity in northern California and the Bay Area.
To be known as "Cafe Burrito," Bramante will blend two popular trends, an early opening (at 6:30 a.m.) professional coffee shop featuring freshly ground and brewed multi-flavored coffees and teas, espresso drinks and baked goods.
Beginning at 11 p.m., the operation turns to simple and fresh lunch and dinner items. The sample menu provided to Belmont Patch includes made-to-order tacos, burritos, taco and bowl salads and quesadillas. There will also be chips and daily-made salsa, guacamole and sour cream, seasonal chili and soups and a long list of smoothies.
"I look at Anna's (Taqueria) a great model to follow," said Bramante, who said the team at the Studio Cinema will allow for a "hands-on operation" that will allow for quality control.
"We want to provide a nice healthy food. It will be a simple menu because that is what people are looking for. In addition, customers will not only make the order but watch it being made," he said.
After a meeting which saw overwhelming support for the eatery, Bramante said he hopes to have the restaurant up and running soon after the ZBA makes an official ruling scheduled for July 6. After the final decision follows a 20-day appeals period before work can commence.
Bramante said that the build-out period to transform the site from selling gelato to Mexican food will not take long since much of the equipment needed for the new operation is on the location after Angelato closed.
"We are looking to be up-and-running soon after the permitting process is finished," said Bramante. "First we want to give it a nice face lift."