It’s a tale of two burritos.
The Freebirds location near the Promenade mall, which opened in early 2012, closed about a week ago. A sign on the window directs Freebirds fans to the Austin-based chain’s Grenada Hills or Redondo Beach locations.
According to the Freebirds site, the first location was opened in Santa Barbara in 1987 by “ex-hippies,” which explains the name —- a nod to the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic—- and the decor of most locations: a mix that combines the colors of a tie-dye shirt and the design aesthetic of a concert poster.
WAIT THEY GOT RID OF FREEBIRDS?????? Okay I’m leaving Temecula now bye
— lito🦇 (@jedimasterlito) June 3, 2018
The founders replicated their success in Santa Barbara by opening new restaurants near colleges, with the Texas A&M location doing especially brisk business for years.
With the closure, Freebirds is down to around 50 locations, with the vast majority operating in Texas.
A property manager on site Monday said he’s not sure what the chain plans to do with the Statue of Liberty riding a motorcycle installation that hangs from the roof or the motorcycle handlebar salsa dispenser.
And he hasn’t heard what business will be taking over the space, which sits at the southwest corner of Margarita and Winchester roads.
In other burrito news …
The Salt Lake City-based chain, Cafe Rio, opened a new spot in Temecula a couple months ago. That restaurant, which specializes in wet burritos served in aluminum pans, is located in the Winchester Road shopping center that also features Trader Joe’s, Bushfire Kitchen and FedEx Office.
Cafe Rio’s first location opened in St. George, Utah in 1997. The founders, Steve and Tricia Stanley, sold the chain in the early 2000s when it had six locations.
The group that bought it, which included a British equity firm, broadened the chain’s footprint beyond Utah — which is apparently a hotbed for fast casual Mexican restaurants — and invested heavily in expansion efforts.
As of late last year, the chain had around 120 locations.