Posted 1/05/16 (Tue)
By Amy Robinson
Farmer Staff Writer
For most people who have tried a fresh-grilled burger at Watford City’s Burgerrito’s, it will come as no surprise that the little, hole-in-a-wall, burger joint was ranked as the 4th best burger joint in North Dakota.
“I like to think it’s the combination of the grill - because it’s seasoned really well and it’s out of our old wagon, and we always use fresh ingredients,” says Tony Wishinsky, owner of Burgerrito’s, on what makes his burgers the best. “I want to give a good product and I think we do fairly well at that.”
Wishinsky’s burger joint was ranked by www.onlyinyourstate.com for North Dakota. The only burgers ranked better than Burgerrito’s was Sickies Garage in Fargo, JL Beers in Grand Forks, and Reza’s Pitch in Bismarck. Burgerrito’s was only one of two burger places representing western North Dakota, a pretty prestigious recognition for a burger joint who started out in an old wagon just four years ago.
Wishinsky grew up in the central part of North Dakota where his father owned a restaurant. And from the time he was old enough to learn how to cook, his dad was teaching him, one food item at a time.
As soon as Wishinsky graduated from high school, he went straight to Chef School in Fargo, where he graduated in 1983. It’s pretty fair to say that Wishinsky worked in the food industry for most of his life, so it was only fitting when he and his brother decided to buy a wagon and haul it out to the Bakken to ignite a life-long dream of opening a restaurant.
That was back in April of 2012, when the oil boom had really started taking off.
“We were working in Fargo and we kept hearing about the oil boom in western North Dakota,” remembered Wishinsky. “It was the modern-day gold rush. And we thought to ourselves, we’re not even a part of it! So, we thought, why can’t we make some money too? When we decided to come out here, my brother and I had a deal. Since I’m a little better of a cook than my brother, the deal was he sells the bullsh*t, and I sell the food!”
So Wishinsky and his brother bought the little wagon, hauled it to Watford City, and bought about a thousand dollars worth of food to get started. They set up their little food cart off the edge of town in an empty lot, hoping their business would take off.
“The first three days we were open, I couldn’t even give away a cup of coffee!” exclaimed Wishinsky. “I was really nervous. But I thought, put my toe to the line and just do a good job. Then, things started going pretty good. I think something that made us really popular was that we were open all the time. I think we only closed for three days total that first year.”
Not only did Wishinsky have his food wagon, he had a passion for fireworks as well. So he and his brother started selling fireworks out of an empty building as a side business. That venture also did well. After about two years of operating out of their little food wagon, Wishinsky and his brother decided it was time to abandon their wagon and move their food inside to an actual building - a place customers could continue ordering take-out food or have the option to dine-in as well.
“We always wanted to get into a building,” said Wishinsky. “My brother actually came down and sat at every intersection in Watford City and Williston. He sat at each intersection for about 15 minutes, clicking for every car that passed through. After he did that, we saw that this was a prime spot before the bypass was completed.”
When the brothers decided they wanted to move into a building, they put out a jar for the new building. Wishinsky said his customers stuffed that jar every day. The people here were so good to the brothers, Wishinsky said. And soon, they had enough money to rent the building they’d move their food into.
“We opened up the building in May of 2014,” said Wishinsky. “Basically everything was mine and my brother and I had a five-year plan. If he could make it five years, he’d own half the business. But plans changed a little and my brother ended up leaving and going back home. But I had my wife and we had great employees. And Watford City has been very supportive of us and very accepting. It’s the people here that has made our food business successful.”
From a wagon to a full-fledged restaurant, Wishinsky is proud of Burgerrito’s. He says when he and his brother first opened the restaurant in Watford City, their goal was to be a family-oriented restaurant that dealt in comfort food.
“We deal in comfort food,” laughed Wishinsky. “It’s what makes us so popular. After we had dropped off the wagon in Watford City, we had gone back home to load up the rest of our stuff. We were driving an old ’77 Ford F350 and we broke down. We were stuck in this hotel and it was storming outside. It was at that time we were contemplating our menu.”
The brothers thought to themselves, ‘what are the top food chains in the country?’ They knew McDonald’s was No. 1, and Taco John’s or Taco Bell was No. 2. Then there was KFC and Subway. So, with the knowledge of what topped the charts, they decided they needed menu items that represented the top food chains with a good variety. They had to have a cheeseburger, a burrito, sandwiches, and homemade feel-good meals.
“Our own signature was the Prime Rib Sandwich,” said Wishinsky. “I remember one of our first customers saying, ‘if it ain’t on a bun, I don’t want it.’ That’s why I came up with what I came up with. We were limited in a trailer and had to get creative.”
Wishinsky says their best-selling burger is their Cheeseburger, but their best-selling menu item is the Breakfast Burrito. His top-selling side dish is his infamous Mac-Bites, which is Mac ’n Cheese deep-fried into a golden crispy breading. And everything comes with the option of being served with their signature Fry Sauce.
“We’ve started making more and more from scratch,” says Wishinsky. “And I’m going to be updating and adding more to our menu. Customers should really try our homemade chicken tortilla soup - it’s really good! And I’ll be adding Fry Bread Tacos to jazz it up a little. Plus we have desserts that are freshly-baked every day.”
Wishinsky says the slowdown has definitely affected his restaurant, and not in a good way. Revenue is down, but his hopes aren’t. He tries to stay positive every day. He says something good happens every day. And he’s thankful. He’s thankful for the opportunity he had to come to the Bakken during the modern-day gold rush. He’s thankful to his employees, many of them long-term, that have stuck by his side. And he’s thankful to a community that continues to support his business.
If you haven’t already, you need to get down to Burgerrito’s and see what all the hype is about. They weren’t named 4th best burger in the state for nothing!