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Posted on Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 6 a.m.

Pacific Beach Burritos on Washtenaw in Ypsilanti Township to introduce full service dinner and alcohol

By Tom Perkins


Pacific Beach Burritos chef Jose Chaves prepares a meal during a recent lunch rush.

Tom Perkins | For

Pacific Beach Burritos owner Matt Rinna's jaw dropped when a friend who owns a full service bar and eatery in Plymouth told Rinna his nightly sales figures.

Rinna instantly knew his restaurant model had to change.

His less-than-a year old southern California/Baja-style taco and burrito restaurant was breaking even selling burritos made from fresh ingredients at $5 to $6. While he called selling fresh burritos at low prices noble, his sales aren’t where he would like them to be.

That’s where Rinna sees a new dinner menu, liquor license and a “Mickey Mouse” renovation providing a boost.

“The $6 burrito, that will carry us, but it’s not where we want to be from a revenue cost,” he said. “People who want to go out and celebrate and eat Mexican food, they want a margarita, and they want a Mexican beer.”


Pacific Beach Burritos located on Washtenaw Avenue in Ypsilanti Township.

Tom Perkins | For

The Ypsilanti Township Board of Trustees recently approved Rinna’s application for a liquor license and the paperwork will now go to the Michigan Liquor Control Commission. Rinna is hoping to celebrate the changes on Cinco de Mayo.

By design, Pacific Beach Burritos feels like a fast food restaurant when you step inside, even if the food is in another class and service slightly slower. Rinna aims to offer a clean, neutral appearance because the cheap food means costs must be covered in volume. It’s the kind of interior that urges someone to eat and make room for new customers, Rinna says.

But that will change with the low-scale renovation. Rinna doesn’t want to sink any significant sum of money into the project, so he’s taken the advice of his employees and friends and developed a better way to do it on the cheap.

At 3 p.m. each day, employees will dim the lights, bring out tablecloths, light candles and roll out some plants. Instead of self-serve at the counter, a wait staff will serve dishes ordered from the dinner menu, ranging in price from $8 to $14.

Although the new dishes will be slightly more expensive than Pacific Beach’s standard tacos, burritos, flautas and current options, they are also more complex. Rinna’s chef, Jose Chaves, grew up in Santa Ana, Calif. Rinna says that’s where the chef learned to make magic out of a simple fish like tilapia. The plates will come with additional sides that a la carte items don’t include.

Rinna says the idea is to make Pacific Beach more comfortable, but not too much so, like his favorite restaurants in Mexico.


Pacific Beach Burrito's dining room will receive a "Mickey Mouse" renovation in the spring.

Tom Perkins | For

“We all had this common, shared belief while traveling through Mexico that the uglier the place was, the better the food was going to be,” he said. “If you go to a place that looks too pretty, typically you’re going to get average Mexican food. It’s not about people coming in and feeling like they’re in some Taj Mahal or even Chili’s. It’s about the food.”

Rinna explained his travels through Mexico and working with Chaves got him acquainted with the “Mickey Mouse” approach.

“The people down there can rub two sticks together and make gold,” he said. “It’s about making it appealing enough for people want to be at the restaurant, but it’s not about impressing people with oak mahogany.”

Rinna attended college in San Diego and spent countless days on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico. After losing his job in the tech industry in Michigan, he drew his inspiration from the seafood dishes at the taco carts and small restaurants in Mexico.

“That’s what we’re going to bring forward,” he said. “Those fishing boats would come up to the shore and ten minutes later everything would be on a taco cart ready to eat. It’s all about taking tilapia and making it taste like it’s something incredible. That’s all in the sauce preparation and chiles.”


On of Chef Jose Chaves's signature shrimp dishes.

Tom Perkins | For

The current southern California and Baja-inspired menu receiving so much attention will remain available, even when the lights are dimmed. People will still be able to order carry out and the drive through will stay open.

Rinna said he has regularly engaged his customers for suggestions on improvements, and many have told him they would prefer sit down service. Rinna opened Pacific Beach with the intention of attracting investors and franchising, and he believes this is the next step toward reaching that goal.

“Our food costs are high, our prices are low, and that’s what has been challenging for us,” he said. “Our customers love the taste and love the price, but we believe we’re leaving money on the table at night.

“I’m confident with the addition of full service dinner and alcohol, that will push us into another realm.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Wed, Dec 1, 2010 : 5:01 p.m.

This place needs to try to improve their food before they change how things are. I have had a few things from here that are good but its really nothing more than sub par food. They also need to not charge so much for extras such as salsa and sour cream. Last time I went here I had to get a side of sour cream which was listed.50$ on the board and the guy charged me 1$ he said price have changed. Maybe if the guy spoke a bit more English I could have disputed it. Also they tried to do the ghost chili salsa thing but failed at that. We talked to one of the girls working and they said they decided to not make it as spicy so more people could eat it....but its a ghost chili, people who really know what the ghost chili is and what kinda punch it packs want something that lives up to the name not a dulled down version of it that most people can tolerate. If your looking for some good mexican I say go to La Fiesta on Cross street right next to the Double Eagle it has amazing food and you can even bring your own beer and not have to pay jacked up prices on it!

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

sorry, no matter how they try to make that building look like a will always look like a refurb'd a&w to me.


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 1:54 p.m.

I only stopped in here once and I'm not sure I would go back, table service or not. The carrots were great in my veggie burrito, but it seemed like they charged extra for salsa/sour cream that in my opinion should come standard.


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 1:24 p.m.

Glad to hear they are getting their liquor license. I love eating there. I really hope they finally get rid of the Styrofoam and chose something that is biodegradable. I know several people that would eat there if they made that change.


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 12:13 p.m.

This is, hands down, my favorite Mexican in AA and Ypsi. I have been eating my way through the menu and so far there is nothing I wouldn't order again. I won't miss the styro and plastic either, when eating in. The Parthenon did this exact upgrade (liquor and wait staff) about 20 years ago and it appears to have worked for them.


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 11:42 a.m.

Maragrittas to go, awesome!


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 10:28 a.m.

Maybe this means they will finally stop serving everything on styrofoam plates with plastic ware. I never could get over the waste...not to mention the unpalatability...of all that disposable tableware. good luck...and good bye to styrofoam!


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 10:28 a.m.

I like the food at PBB, but raising prices and the cost of tipping will probably drive me to La Casita across on the other side of Washtenaw. I think the liquor license is a good idea, just NOT the sitdown part.


Mon, Nov 29, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

Great news, I love this place!