Burritos stuffed full of beans, meats and rice drew more than 1,000 students to the first floor of the Student Center on Feb. 9. They started lining up around 4 p.m., a full hour before the scheduled opening of the first-ever campus Anna's Taqueria.
The much-anticipated opening of the popular Mexican fast-food stop--a favorite of many MIT students--has been delayed twice by snowstorms in the past two weeks. The line was especially long on Wednesday because Anna's was offering free food as part of its grand opening celebration.
"Everybody has been patiently waiting for us; this is a way to thank them," said Mike Kamio, owner of Anna's. Kamio estimated that he gave away about 1,200 burritos and 300 quesadillas on opening day.
A steady stream of students kept workers busy until 10:30 p.m. when the doors closed. "It was certainly a good reception," Kamio said with a laugh.
Sophomore Patrick Petitti waited in line two hours with a group of students that included freshman Laura D'Aoust. They were among the first to get burritos.
"We have just been really excited," said Petitti, who has been biking into Harvard Square to get burritos from a different place for more than a year. "This is going to be a really nice change," he said.
The MIT location will be the third Somerville/Cambridge location for the growing chain, which also has two locations in Brookline--all owned by Kamio. Many MIT students have trekked regularly to the Porter Square location for years, said Rich Berlin, director of campus dining.
Last summer, an online survey of close to 1,000 students asked them to rank their top choices for a restaurant to replace Arrow Street Crepes in the Student Center, which closed in June 2004. Berlin estimated that at least 600 of those surveyed listed Anna's among their top choices.
"It is a good, inexpensive, filling choice for a college student," said Berlin, who estimated the weight of each stuffed burrito to be about a pound. A small burrito cost a little under $4, a large around $5. "They really offer a lot of food for the money," he said.
Anna's most popular food is the burrito, but the restaurant also offers quesadillas, chips, salsa and sides of guacamole and sour cream.
The space, with its many tables and earthy Mexican tiles is a light, inviting eatery. "It's a good social atmosphere," said Berlin. Students who want to stay can do so comfortably, but those on the go can expect the same fast service that has made Anna's so popular.
On Feb. 10, the first full day of business, all the seats were full during the lunch rush, and the line snaked back past the Student Center lobby stairs.
Both Petitti and D'Aoust were back in line. "I do expect to gain a little bit of weight," Petitti said with a laugh.
In line with Petitti and D'Aoust, Annika Larsson was weighing her order options and fending off peer pressure to super-size. "I was planning to get a small," she said. "But I may have to get a large today."
Junior Ana Matos was unable to get out to the Student Center for opening night. "Somebody did bring me something though," she said, while waiting in line Thursday and anticipating a roasted pork burrito. "It is just really good food," she said with a smile.
Anna's Taqueria will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to midnight.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 16, 2005 (download PDF).