Art Santoya prides himself on his personal service behind San Bernardino’s favorite Super Burrito order window. He remembered the names and orders of regular customers. He is happy when loyalty extends to the second or third generation of a family.
But when Santoya retired on December 31, he kept quiet. Only a few people know. His last day passed the way he wanted, without fuss, without fanfare.
We spoke in person on December 27 at his Waterman Avenue restaurant, a permanent place since 1978. I was going to have this printed before his last day, but he asked for it. I put it off until he’s gone. The prospect of being surrounded by regulars was emotionally overwhelming.
“I haven’t actually told anyone I’m retiring,” Santoya said. “It’s hard for me to say goodbye.” And, because he’s selling to his chef, and the food isn’t going to change, “I don’t want people to think it’s going to be different.”
The new owner is Fred Anguiono, a mainstay of Super Burrito for over 30 years, Anguiono’s wife and stepchild. They had experience with Tres Jalapenos in the Highland and Zorro in the Redlands.
Art’s wife, Suzanne Santoya, said: “It’s in good hands.
What if people asked, “Where is the art?” Daughter Arlene volunteered to write a cover story: “On a break.”
I’ve only eaten at four restaurants in San Bernardino, and – what are the odds? – Super Burrito is one of them. It’s a walk-in counter with a patio and picnic tables and steady business at the ordering window.
I was told by Olivia Tierney, a first cousin of Suzanne, that Art was retiring. Since December 27th was cold and rainy, Art, Suzanne and I talked in a corner of the kitchen, standing up.
At 63, Art feels it’s time to let go of the stress of working 12 hours a day, six days a week, and enjoy life with his wife, four children and seven grandchildren.
“His mind was always on the business,” says Suzanne.
Once, she said, she woke up in the night and Art, sleepwalking, was standing in front of their bedroom closet, the door open, asking the clothes racks, “Do you want cheese and salsa on your burrito?”
I burst out laughing.
“My mind is not always on the business,” says Art.
“Even when you’re sleeping!” Suzanne exclaimed.
The business, started by his parents, is so closely tied to his life that it always feels more like his home than the one he grew up in.
“It was my mom’s adventure,” says Art of Carmen, a hairdresser who loves to cook and dreams of owning a restaurant. His father, Raymond, worked at Norton Air Force Base.
When she was looking for a restaurant to rent, young Art came along. She asked which one was the best. He chose the burger stand at 449 N. Waterman Ave.
“We were living in Colton at the time. So I said this was the best because it was the closest,” recalls Art.
The family started the newly named King Size Burger in 1968. Carmen was there seven days a week, cooking, taking orders, buying groceries, cleaning floors, whatever needed to be done.
When his mother wanted to retire in 1978, Art jumped at the chance. He briefly worked for the Colton Parks and Recreation department and was not interested in it. But he always enjoyed his time at restaurants as a teenager.
Because customers were asking for more Mexican food, he dropped the emphasis on burgers (although they’re still on the menu), switched to burgers and tacos, and changed the name from King Size Burgers to Super Burrito.
“We made everything super-sized. We came out with larger portions and everyone loved it,” said Art.
First the jumbo burrito, then other signatures: Dino Burrito (named after San Bernardino), IE Burrito and The Bomb.
“I turned on the radio,” Art said of his inspiration, “and they were playing the song ‘You Dropped a Bomb on Me.’ I thought, ‘That would be a good name for a burrito. I’ll put everything in there” – pork, beef, steak, beans, rice and sour cream. The bomb weighs about 2 pounds and is served wet.
The base burrito is about the size of a normal burrito anywhere else. It is correct.
Customers range from judges, lawyers, police officers and county employees to those who can barely afford a meal. Art is used to extend credit to people out of compassion and surprise how many people return over the weekend to deal.
He would give the destitute a task like picking him up around a parking lot in exchange for a hot meal, or treating someone who had just been released from prison before they got on the bus.
“I won’t let me down by giving them a bean burrito,” says Suzanne, quoting her husband.
Art says Super Burrito always gives customers a little change without saving, because his mother’s philosophy is that “you don’t spend a lot of money and they’ll appreciate it”.
Friendliness is equally important. “If you are friendly, and you make a mistake, they give you a second chance,” says Art. “If you’re rude, they won’t, even if the food is good.”
Super Burrito has weathered a lot of weather, including Norton’s closure and the onslaught of COVID. Because it’s a centralized place, business goes up during the pandemic.
People all over the region know about Art. He has been recognized in Las Vegas and at the LA County Fair. When he got his first COVID shot on Loma Linda, one of the nurses saw him and exclaimed, “Super Burrito!”
“He doesn’t think so,” said Suzanne, “but I think he’s pretty popular.”
His local fame helped in a difficult situation in San Bernardino in the 1990s. His white van was mistaken in the Smart & Final parking lot for a damaged vehicle. steal. The police ordered Art out of his truck with a gun.
Then a cop who was a regular customer said, “Aww, that’s the Super Burrito guy,” and everyone apologized.
Good thing he wasn’t shipping a Bomb burrito at the time.
Thursday’s travel tip in the New York Times’ California Today newsletter came from a San Jose reader who recommended Palm Springs. “I love it as a place to come and relax, have fun, and just feel free and happy,” she wrote. From experience, how proud the locals are of their city, I suspect that many people reading her vague advice felt anything but a chill down their spines.
David Allen writes Friday, Sunday and Wednesday freely and happily. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.
https://www.sbsun.com/2022/01/06/thats-a-wrap-as-super-burrito-owner-retires-in-san-bernardino/ It’s an end as Super Burrito owner retires to San Bernardino – San Bernardino Sun