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Progress Edition 2022: Sanchez Burrito owner takes pride in community involvement

Yunior Sanchez achieved his American Dream through opening his own restaurant, Sanchez Burrito, in Little Falls in 2018.

Man ladles salsa verde on a burrito
Yunior Sanchez makes a burrito Thursday, July 7, 2022, at his restaurant, Sanchez Burrito, in Little Falls.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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LITTLE FALLS — Hues of bright orange, ornate custom-designed tables and smells of sizzling meat and veggies welcome hungry visitors to Sanchez Burrito.

Authentic Mexican artwork adorns the walls, while wooden furniture from south of the border and lively, upbeat music complete the festive ambience.

The Little Falls restaurant is a manifestation of the American Dream for owner Yunior Sanchez, who was looking for better opportunities when he moved from Honduras to the United States as a teenager in 2009.

“We’ll just call it the American Dream,” Sanchez said during an interview in a booth at his restaurant in July.

He went first to Louisiana when he was 17 years old before a friend talked him into moving up north to Bemidji. He made his way down to the lakes area about 10 years ago and now lives in Brainerd with his wife and daughter.

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“The people are friendly, and I like the lakes,” Sanchez said. “I don’t like the big cities. I’m a small town guy.”

Wooden tables, chairs and booths sit inside the restaurant, with orange walls and brightly colored paintings
Colorful décor and custom-made tables and seats fill the inside of Sanchez of Burrito in Little Falls. The menu includes burritos and items like quesadillas, tacos, nachos and burrito bowls as well.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Cooking was a central part of growing up in a small-town family with four boys. Sanchez learned to make things like grill fries and chicken in his early years and translated those skills over to working in Mexican restaurants in the U.S.

“I found out when I was working in a restaurant that it was something I can manage,” he said. “... And I can see myself having a restaurant, too.”

So when he — along with his family members — didn’t feel valued highly enough in his last job, Sanchez decided to embark out on his own.

He found the perfect place in a former Chinese restaurant in Little Falls and spent a few months fixing it up before opening Sanchez Burrito in October 2018. The staff is made up entirely of Sanchez’s family members.

Storefront of Sanchez Burrito with cars parked out front
Sanchez Burrito, owned by Yunior Sanchez, opened in October 2018 in Little Falls.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The family bond is always there, but Sanchez said they all manage to remain professional at work for the good of the business.

“I like to be working with the guys. They respect me and the way we work,” Sanchez said. “And we don’t have someone telling us how to do it because we know how to do it now.”

As the name implies, burritos tend to be the biggest seller at the restaurant, but the menu extends beyond the establishment’s namesake to include items like quesadillas, tacos, nachos and burrito bowls as well.

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“I would say we make the best quesadillas,” Sanchez said with a smile, noting the cheesy tortilla dish is another favorite with his customers.

Man sits in booth at restaurant
Yunior Sanchez came to the Brainerd lake area about 10 years ago and now lives in Brainerd with his wife and daughter. He spoke of living his own American Dream July 7, 2022, in his Little Falls restaurant, Sanchez Burrito.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

And if a customer comes in with a different request, Sanchez will try to make that happen, too.

“If you come with some ideas, we can cook something that’s on your mind,” he said.

Fajitas are a possibility, too, and won out as the choice for a 400-person catering gig in July when a large family reunion chose Sanchez Burrito to make the food for the event.

Catering is part of what keeps the business afloat, as are repeat customers who enjoy the food and a steady stream of hungry visitors from nearby Camp Ripley.

As Sanchez approaches four years with his restaurant open, the biggest challenges he sees in the business are inflation and the rising costs of food. The price of ingredients hits especially hard for a restaurant like Sanchez Burrito, where a typical meal only costs about $10 or so, compared to restaurants that can charge more for their food.

Orange wall with vibrant painting of a man and a donkey
Vibrant artwork adorns the walls of Sanchez Burrito in Little Falls.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

But so far the support of the Little Falls community keeps the establishment going. Even the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t cause too much concern for Sanchez.

“We didn’t have much problem because the health department, they let us open the doors, and people could still walk in and order,” he said “... It was pretty good, a lot of support, too, so I’m happy.”

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That support encourages Sanchez to reciprocate, giving back to his community in return.

One way he did that earlier this year was by donating 300 tacos to raise money for the Little Falls Lindy Dance Team.

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“I like to be involved in the community, not just to have a business,” Sanchez said. “I want people to see me in different ways, too, not just, ‘Oh, I’m here (in the restaurant).’ I want to get respect too in the community.”

Sanchez Burrito was named the Judges Choice winner for the dance team’s taco challenge event. A taco-shaped trophy commemorating the win sits in the restaurant, enticing customers to try Sanchez’s award-winning food.

“Everyone’s welcome to come in to give us a try,” he said, noting quality customer service and a welcoming atmosphere is his goal.

But if Sanchez isn’t behind the counter making the food or personally welcoming customers to his restaurant, he might just be in a corner booth, basking in the fruits of his labor.

“Sometimes I grab a cold beer, and I’m like, kind of thinking to myself, ‘Wow, look at what we’ve been doing,’” he said. “So, it gets me excited.’”

Excited at attaining his American Dream, excited to help support his mom back home in Honduras, and excited to keep serving his burritos and quesadillas to the Little Falls Community that embraced Sanchez as one of their own.

Wooden, hand-carved bench says "Welcome to Sanchez Burrito, Little Falls, MN, Est. 2018
A custom-made bench sits in the entryway of Sanchez Burrito in Little Falls.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

For your information

Business: Sanchez Burrito.

City: Little Falls.

Number of employees: Seven.

Interesting fact: Sanchez Burrito offers mushrooms to put in burritos, and they are a popular ingredient among the customers, according to owner Yunior Sanchez.

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THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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