Earth-friendly Latin fusion joint takes taste buds on a trip
Seven years ago in a Planet at the intersection of Hwy. 114 and Kimball Avenue in Southlake, Texans and Californians began battling it out to earn the love of hungry customers. Beef brisket, barbecue sauce and shredded cheese met grilled fajita steak, roasted garlic and guacamole in a field of crinkled tin foil, and when the steam cleared, both had made it to the top of the menu. See, at this Planet, the Texans and Californians — along with Jamaicans and Surfer Babes — are signature flavors to be found in tacos, galactic burritos and salads.
"I have a love and passion for Mexican food done differently," said Bill Campbell, a co-owner of Planet Burrito. "This isn't your typical Tex-Mex restaurant."
Campbell opened Planet Burrito in Southlake at the end of 2005 along with his father, William, and his uncle, Bob. The three have worked together for years, running corporate and vacation travel businesses. The inspiration came from Bill, who grew up in Texas but lived in California for a decade as an Air Force pilot.
"Growing up in Texas, I loved Tex-Mex," he said, "but when I lived in California, I loved the burrito stands you'd find there. And when I was flying with students all over the place as an instructor pilot, it seemed like the students really liked to go to burrito places."
Looking to add something new to their business mix and establish a catering option for their existing corporate customers in the DFW area, the Campbells began developing their topical-Latin fusion menu in a test kitchen. Now signature menu items include the "Jamaica Mon," featuring Jamaican jerk-seasoned fajita chicken, fresh mango and grilled jalapeno, and the Ah-Chee-WaWa, featuring bratwurst sausage with crushed tater tots and chili. Most signature items, which can be eaten as a taco, burrito, bowl or salad, are also flavored with fresh-made sauces and dressings (everything from a spicy avocado sour cream sauce to a chipotle aioli). And for those who want something truly original, a custom build option is available.
"A lot of people pay up front and have their food brought out versus standing in line, but we wanted to still have the option for those who like the custom-build experience," Bill Campbell said.
Although the name hits a sci-fi nerve, the Campbells say the concept is really focused here on Earth: being planet friendly and using flavors from across the globe. The interior features low-voltage lighting and low water use fixtures. The owners also seek out options to use recycled goods and decrease their carbon footprint by buying products locally.
The menu has grown organically over time, inspired by the owners' travels and customers' preferences.
"As we travel ... we're always thinking, 'Is that something we ought to add to the menu?'" Bob Campbell said.
Customer input has truly guided the offerings at Planet Burrito, the Campbells said, leading to more vegetarian options (including meat-free beans) and a menu that is completely gluten free with the exception of the flour tortillas. The restaurant also offers a lineup of beer, wine and margaritas, which entice customers to stick around in the evenings and on the weekends. After seven years, the Campbells say they are now looking at the possibility of franchising their concept — perhaps as soon as within the next six months.
"We envision growing out only when we think the concept is absolutely set in stone and ready to go," Bill Campbell said. "We've had a lot of franchise interest and we're actually ready as a company from a structure standpoint, but from a concept standpoint, we're still tweaking it and tinkering with it."
Fish Tastic – Tortilla, chipotle and lime-encrusted fried tilapia topped with cabbage slaw and pico de gallo, and drizzled with chipotle aioli. ($3.59-$10.29)
Californian – Marinated grilled fajita steak and roasted garlic clove topped with shredded lettuce, diced tomato and guacamole, and drizzled with fresh lime juice and garlic lime sauce ($2.99-$8.89)
Southwestern – Slow roasted pork carnitas, grilled serrano pepper and grilled corn topped with shredded cheese and guacamole, and drizzled with diablo sauce and chipotle aioli ($2.99-$8.29)
Planet Burrito, 260 N. Kimball Ave., Ste. 264, Southlake 817-421-7593, www.planet-burrito.com
- Mon.-Thurs. 11 a.m.—9 p.m.
- Fri. 11 a.m.—10 p.m.
- Sat. 11 a.m.—10 p.m.
- Sun. 11 a.m.—9 p.m.