GTPulse: Happy’s Taco Shop’s Frozen Burritos are Takeout Gold
The humble frozen burrito wears many hats. Late night snack, quick morning breakfast, or hotel dinner are all ways that I’ve enjoyed various frozen burritos. They’re like sex or pizza in that, even when they’re not great, you’d still rather have it than not. A burrito from Happy’s Taco Shop isn’t a half crocked solution but a full-blown answer to store-bought or fast food burrito woes. You won’t find these in a lit-up, refrigerated glass case at a Marriot. These heavenly heroes are at The Little Fleet and you don’t have to worry about them getting soggy before you get home. Co-owner and burrito maker Drake Nagel has nostalgia for the freezer-dwelling meal too.
“Tina’s Frozen Burritos, I loved them. As a kid, I’d get home from school and pull out a frozen burrito that would end up soggy, but I just loved them. I’d still eat one now and think, ‘Oh that’s good.’”
He owns Happy’s Taco Shop with Drue Wright. The pair met in college at Northern Michigan University, and though neither of them planned on opening up a taco truck, Happy’s has become a staple in both Traverse City and Petoskey.
After college, they started Happy’s Taco Truck in 2013. The menu has been in a constant state of transformation since.
“For the most, I cook what I feel like cooking and change the menu when I feel like changing. I was 24 when I wrote the first menu, so as I grow up I feel like the food grows up a little bit as well.”
The truck secured a spot at Little Fleet after parking the truck outside of the Boyne Mountain Resort to start. They were up and running in the dead of winter, and from there they started taking the truck to farmers markets and got a recurring spot at a brewery too.
“I still remember when Gary [Jonas] approached us. We had probably been open a year and were at the Boyne City farmers market. They had been open for maybe a year or so. We did their rotating spot here, and then the year after we were invited full time.”
They’ve grown even further within the Little Fleet and have moved indoors as the in-house restaurant.
“I think it just kind of made sense for them to have something in here to bring people in. It made sense for us because instead of rebuilding our staff every summer season, we can actually employ people year-round and create careers for a couple of people and just kind of keep the ball moving into the summer season.”
2020 hasn’t been kind to any of us, and particularly, to restaurant workers. Happy’s has worked hard to roll with the punches all while keeping their heads up. They’ve worked inside of the Little Fleet’s kitchen before for pop-ups, and with food truck roots, are no stranger to giving good takeout service. The frozen burritos are a smart and fun addition to the rest of their mouthwatering menu.
“COVID aside, I’ve always wanted to do frozen burritos. They’re nostalgic, and remind you a little of college life. The idea is to take them to the next level.”
And next level they are. They’re a full meal by themselves and so good. Smoked potatoes, chile nacho cheese, roasted onions, chihuahua, and black beans make for a perfect meal any time of day. An answer to long trips home from picking up carry out, you won’t worry about these getting cold or soggy before you get home.
“We’ve taken it and tried to make something unique out of it. We sort and soak the beans and cook them from scratch, the crisp chile queso sauce is really good. It’s something a little different.”
There’s only one kind offered for now, but Drake has ideas cooking for a breakfast variation, and a few other unique and delicious combinations to offer as well. Look out for what comes next, and make sure to check out their full menu too. Online ordering is available at www.happyonlineordering.com, and they can be reached for call-in orders at (231) 330-9408. Open Wednesday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Little Fleet, and Thursday through Monday at the same times at The Back Lot in Petoskey.
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