As a former computer programmer, the path that Dave Gelfond took to become a cook is not a typical one. But with his new business, Burrito Dave's, he's banking on the quality of his offerings to keep him in the world of cuisine for a long time.
Now in his fifth week of operating out of his truck on Highland Avenue, parked along the side of CVS and Trader Joe's, Gelfond is already finding compliments and repeat customers.
"The response has been very good," he said. "People like the product and they've brought other people with them when they return. In general, Needham has been very supportive."
The support was certainly there on Wednesday as a steady stream of customers began shuffling up to the truck shortly after noon. Among the clientele were members of the Needham Police Department, a general contractor in town and a businessman on lunch break.
Before he was making fresh burritos for hungry Needhamites, though, Gelfond was a computer programmer for over 30 years. Gelfond related that during a time in his life when he decided to lose weight, he took on a regular workout regiment and became a vegetarian with a focus on extra carbs. His quest for good food took him to the old Boca Grande restaurant.
"I was introduced to their burritos and loved them. I started with beans and rice, and then gradually moved on to adding cheese, guacamole and other ingredients," he remembered.
Asked how he decided to make the switch from computers to burritos, Gelfond responded, "I was a good programmer and a good cook. Mexican cuisine is something I love and cook myself."
Gelfond believes that his burritos are a good way to keep healthy, as he uses a "fair amount" of vegetables and his dishes are low in fat. Despite his belief that Burrito Dave's cuisine will taste good, though, he makes no pretenses about the bare bones presentation of the finished product.
"I'm not in the restaurant business. I don't have any allusions that everything looks nice, but I make really good food," he said. "I really like feeding people and seeing a satisfied look on their faces afterwards. I've actually had people come back up to me, after eating a burrito, to tell me how much they liked it."
Gelfond also pointed to a text message he received from a customer this week that rated his burritos as a "9 out of 10."
Part of what makes Gelfond's food a success, he believes, is his dedication to making a good meal. All of the ingredients are fresh and made daily, including the homemade guacamole and pico de gallo (a salsa-like dish of chopped tomato, onion and cilantro).
"I work really hard to get the best ingredients for people as possible," said Gelfond, "that's my reward."
Burritos at Burrito Dave's come in several varieties, including Angus beef, pork, chicken and vegetarian, and are served in regular ($4.50) and grande ($5.50) sizes. If burritos aren't your thing, you can also purchase a taco ($3 for a single, $4.50 for a double) or a 10-inch quesadilla ($4.50). Sodas and water are additionally available for purchase.
Gelfond said that he is considering adding to the menu tostadas, a grilled tortilla dish that Gelfond often makes at home with crabmeat. Because of the short shelf life of shellfish, though, Gelfond said he would take to sites like Twitter to announce that he is planning on serving tostadas that day.
Until that day arrives, Gelfond will continue to serve the dishes that bring him repeat customers and show them the kind of dedication that they show him, even if they occasionally linger past his 6 p.m. closing time.
"If the line is stacked up, I'll stay until I can't stay any longer," he said.
Burrito with Beef
Monterey jack cheese
Angus beef (pulled)
Pico de gallo
Hot peppers (if desired)
Sour cream (if desired)
Hot sauce (if desired)
- Melt cheese into heated tortilla
- Spoon rice and then beans onto tortilla
- Add beef
- Top with pico de gallo and guacamole. Add salsa verde to desired level
- If desired, top with hot peppers, sour cream and hot sauce
- Roll tortilla and enjoy!
Burrito Dave's is open for business 11:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Highland Avenue (across from the Needham Heights Train Station). More information about Burrito Dave's can be found at the official website.