From Carousel to burritos

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 28, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — A video game designer who helped create the special effects in games like Halo and Gears of War has a vision for downtown Salisbury.
Giant, fresh, made-to-order burritos stuffed with Caribbean-flavored meats, seasoned beans, cilantro rice and sauteed veggies are coming to the old Carousel location at 115 W. Fisher St.
Mikey Wetzel, a technical director for Microsoft Game Studios whose day job is traveling the globe to build new video games, plans to open Go Burrito this summer.
Envisioning a “fun, cool place to hang out,” Wetzel and his family plan to offer live music, rope swings, outdoor dining and “beer from envious latitudes.”
“We are excited about how much the town has changed in five years,” said Wetzel, who moved to Salisbury from California in 2007. “But we have always missed a good burrito shop.”
The idea for Go Burrito started when Wetzel and his wife, Lily, convinced Wetzel’s sister, Tamie Kerr, to move to Salisbury to open a candy store, another niche they thought Salisbury lacked. (Their craving for sushi has long since been satisfied by multiple restaurants.)
But when they entered the old Carousel, Wetzel said the location called out for one thing: burritos.
Well, maybe two things. Burritos and beer.
“People eat food every day. They don’t eat candy every day,” he said. “As I ran the numbers, it got better and better.”
With room to expand upstairs, plenty of parking, an alley for outdoor dining (pending city approval) and a great view of the mural, the Caribbean-themed restaurant was inspired by hot spots like Johnny Burrito in Charlotte and Moe’s Southwestern Grill, but with an independent twist, Wetzel said.
“Go Burrito will be our own little local creation,” he said. “That gives us an advantage over places like Moe’s, and we will be able to adjust our menu and have complete creative control.”
They bought the building for $100,000 and are taking it down to brick walls and dirt floors. Wetzel estimates renovations will cost $150,000 and said he is “pretty much selling my life savings, selling every piece of stock I own,” to raise the money.
He admits some people have questioned the investment.
“The vision of the burrito restaurant trumps the financial situation of the building,” he said. “It’s going to take someone with vision to pull this off.”
Wetzel has an experienced partner. Kerr has been renovating homes for 20 years and owns a house-painting company in California.
Their parents, Acey and Carol Worthy, also have relocated to Salisbury and are lending a hand.
The family will hire a general contractor for the renovation work. Architect Gray Stout has designed the plans, and James Basinger and David Smith are serving as engineers.
Wetzel said he loves the location, just off the beaten path but on a pretty street many people choose as they walk to Main Street. The Carousel did well there for many years, he points out.
With the library nearby and a busy bank and two large events — the Rowan Blues and Jazz Festival and Pops at the Post — across the street, Wetzel said the restaurant will have plenty of exposure.
“First we thought it would be better on Main Street, but that’s not true if no one can park,” he said.
They’re even considering a rooftop bar, which would be a first for Salisbury.
Hours are not set, but the restaurant likely will open at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday and close around midnight. And if people want burritos on Sundays, “we will be open,” he said.
Lily Wetzel, who cooked for the Caniche Tea Room, will create the menu and develop recipes around the signature flavors of lime and cilantro.
A real estate agent by day, Lily Wetzel owns Homes on High Rock Lake. The couple moved from California to build a home on High Rock and start the real estate business, right before the bottom fell out of the market.
They still feel strongly that High Rock Lake offers a combination few other lakes in the United States can match: comparatively cheap waterfront property and close proximity to an international airport.
“We did months of research on lakes, and High Rock was the only one that met all of our requirements,” Wetzel said.
Lily Wetzel and Kerr will work in the restaurant. Go Burrito will seat 40 inside with space for about 20 more outside.
Wetzel said they’re not trying to change Salisbury but improve it.
“When in Rome, live like the Romans. I don’t appreciate when people want to change a small town and make it more like what they came from,” he said. “But it’s hard not to see opportunity all around you.”
Salisbury is hungry for healthy fast food, Wetzel said. The restaurant will not fry or freeze anything.
“I know there are people dying for a burrito place,” he said.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

Go Burrito
Where:?115 W. Fisher St.
When: This summer
Hours: Probably 11 a.m. to midnight Monday-Saturday. Possibly open later, possibly open Sundays.
Theme: Caribbean beach
Featuring: Live music, open mic night, outdoor dining
Menu: Seasoned, pulled chicken, pork and steak
Sauteed veggies
Cilantro rice
Black beans, pinto beans
Guacamole, sour cream, olives, hot peppers, tomatoes
Daily salad specials
Vegetarian and vegan options
Homemade salsa bar
Burrito bowls

Coming soon:?Ethos

Redneck chic is coming to downtown Salisbury.
Set to open in mid-May, Ethos Southern Bistro & Martini Bar will welcome diners and late-night patrons in the old Stelia location, 118 N. Main St.
Owner Louie Mourouzidis (DJ’s Restaurant) put in a full kitchen.
Manager Josh Wainright (former talent agent, new marketing man for Piedmont Players) came up with the redneck chic theme, complete with the restaurant’s own infused vodkas.
Chef Keith Henning (executive chef at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro and a former Catawba College basketball player) created the southern-with-a-spin menu, featuring items like lobster mac ‘n’ cheese, crawfish mashtinis and slow-cooked beef short ribs with a cherry moonshine reduction and manchego grits.
They need cooks and kitchen help. Apply online at .
Look for a story coming up in the Post.