Phat Burrito to reopen after a nearly 5-year closure

Phat Burrito to reopen after a nearly 5-year closure
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The Phat is back.

What’s happening: Nearly five years after it closed, the landmark South End burrito joint Phat Burrito has a new location and plans to open in spring 2022.

  • The new Phat Burrito will open in LoSo Village near the corner of South and Clanton, owner Michael Cox tells Axios Charlotte.

What to expect: The same oversized burritos, that’s for sure. The 2,600-square-foot corner space is a bit bigger than the original location, but Cox hopes to capture the same feel inside.

Stephen Justice, the original owner, is consulting for the project to make sure both the burritos and the feel of the place are as close to the old Phat Burrito as possible.

  • “I’ve tried to share my experiences with him and what I think would have worked better,” Justice told us when we first shared the news of Phat Burrito’s return in 2020. “Predicting the restaurant business is a little like prophesying (laughs). I don’t claim to know what the answers are. I just gave him the best advice I could.”
  • Justice now lives in Breckenridge, Colorado and says he doesn’t miss the work, but he does miss the “good people,” both customers and staff.

Rendering of the new Phat Burrito space courtesy of Michael Cox. The architect on the LoSo Village project is Cluck.

Flashback: In the last days of Phat Burrito in 2017, people lined up around the yellow and blue building, stretching for about a block down Camden Road.

  • They were there for the burritos, of course — the oversized kinds you needed both hands to lift up for a bite.
  • But regulars also flocked to Phat Burrito to get a taste of the atmosphere one last time. “It had bars on the windows. There were tears in the seats,” Cox says. “It had a certain vibe to it.”

That vibe has all but vanished in the South End of today. When Justice opened Phat Burrito in 1998, it was one of just a handful of places to eat in South End. There was no light rail, no corporate towers, no breweries.

  • It wasn’t a desirable location for a restaurant, but it was cheap.

Now the one-story brick building is home to Flower Child, a fast-casual chain that started in Phoenix. The space is clean and bright and a little corporate-y; the meals are light and healthy. Ted Williams raves about it. It’s the antithesis of Phat Burrito.

michael cox phat burrito

Charlotte native Michael Cox plans to reopen Phat Burrito before the end of 2021. The beloved South End burrito joint closed in 2017. Flower Child is now open in its place.

Bringing back Phat Burrito “feels like a long time coming,” Cox says. “It’s exciting me. It’s exciting for Charlotte.”

About: A 30-year-old Charlotte native, owner of Ptah Investments and son of Mac’s Speed Shop co-founder Andy Cox, Michael Cox doesn’t want to turn back the clock to the South End he grew up with. Rather, he wants to bring back a piece of it.

  • “(Phat Burrito) is what I knew. It’s what I grew up with,” he says. “And it’s part of, in my opinion, what made Charlotte great.”

Why now? Amid all the crap of 2020 and 2021 — including the closure of Charlotte’s iconic greats like Bill Spoon’s and Price’s Chicken Coop — Cox says he thinks Charlotte needs some good news.


Thank goodness cell phone photo quality has improved since this photo was taken in 2015.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in September 2020 when we learned of Cox’s plans to bring back Phat Burrito. It was updated on Oct. 12, 2021 now that we know where the new location will be.

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