At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, chef Nick Melvin furloughed himself from his job at Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, but shortly after, he launched a weekly burrito pop-up, Poco Loco, out of his own home kitchen. Since then, people have flocked to Melvin and his wife, Kristen’s, house on Saturday mornings to pick up hearty breakfast burritos along with “provisions” like salsa, shredded chicken, soup, and cookie dough.
Now, nearly a year later, Melvin is opening a brick-and-mortar location of Poco Loco in Kirkwood. Located in the former Dish Dive space (2233 College Avenue Northeast), the restaurant is expected to open next month.
“Kristen has been slowly starting to try to kick me out of the kitchen for a little bit now,” Melvin laughs. “Having Poco Loco in the home kitchen has definitely made it interesting, to say the least.”
When the couple heard about Dish Dive’s closing in mid-February, Kristen suggested they go for it, and within 24 hours, the lease was signed. “I’m excited because for the first time I’m operating it, honestly, with my wife,” Melvin says. “And that makes me feel so much better about it, just having her there. She’s so much smarter than I am.”
The space is only around 700 square feet, with enough room for just a few tables, but that’s one of the reasons it appealed to Melvin. “It might be just coming from Louisiana, but I’m obsessed with homes that are turned into restaurants, like in the Garden District,” he explains. “You work with what you’ve got. And that’s what we’ve been doing for the past year, cooking out of our house with no hood and just doing the best we can. It just fit.”
On the first day of the Poco Loco pop-up, Melvin sold 25 burritos. He now he sells 280 on a typical Saturday. And while Melvin plans to amp up the amount of food made and sold, the brick-and-mortar menu will be pretty similar to the pop-up. There will be four or five different breakfast burritos made in small batches. (“We’ve found that a breakfast burrito is really great once it sits in a steamer for a little bit; it just gets super happy and becomes one,” he says.) There will also be fresh tortillas, meat by the pound, beans, and salsa. The plan is to open from Thursday to Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Even as the pandemic slowly winds down, Melvin thinks the takeout model is going to remain strong. “I think people have been forced to change their practices in terms of how they look at food. Dining isn’t going to go away, but I think people like that they can get restaurant-quality, top-notch ingredients fast and keep going on with their lives,” he says.
Most importantly, opting for a smaller restaurant with shorter hours allows him to keep the part of the pandemic he most enjoyed: spending time with his family. “I want to continue to do that and be there. But now can I get the joy that I have with [operating] a restaurant and do that at the same time,” Melvin says.