By Jack Carley
The Flying Burrito was a Chapel Hill landmark for more than 20 years, but now Phil Campbell, the man who started it, has moved on. The Burrito has closed for remodeling, sold by its former owner.
The Flying Burrito was, at different times, a ballpark vendor, a hipster hotspot, a corner pub and neighborhood restaurant. It was also the name of the signature burrito.
I worked there for only two years, but one day last year stands out in my memory. There was a power outage along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and the building that housed The Burrito at the corner of MLK and Hillsborough sat dark. The restaurant might have closed down, but the steam table that contained the basic burrito ingredients ran on gas. The cooks had a couple of candles. And people wanted burritos.
They could have gone across town and eaten food from any other burrito joint (there are many). Maybe even a cold beer. But no, they wanted flying burritos. I couldnâ€™t understand it. Why didnâ€™t they just go someplace where the lights were on?
Phil told me it was about the community. After so many years looking after the Flying Burrito, I think he was in a position to understand.
That seemed to be the nature of The Flying Burrito. It was a chaotic place, but it stood firm for a long time. It became a landmark through perseverance and its particular character. I think people appreciated the strange attraction of the place that came from its mixed and unconventional style.
This is not the end of the story, just the end of the era. The Flying Burrito will be back, refurbished and under new ownership. It will continue to be The Burrito, and will continue to attract the new and the curious along with the old and regular.