New Restaurants Popularize Lafayette

Chipotle hosts the long awaited Grand Opening in Lafayette  Plaza on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Chipotle hosts the long awaited Grand Opening in Lafayette Plaza on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Karmi Chan and Katie Hoskins

On Sept. 21, the popular Mexican restaurant Chipotle opened a Lafayette location and may be followed by Fenton’s Creamery next year.

The new Chipotle took the space formerly occupied by NorSki and El Belazo in the Plaza shopping center.

City Manager Steven Falk has been involved in the process ever since the company first expressed interest in occupying the space. Falk is optimistic about the public’s response to the new Chipotle, claiming that the restaurant is part of a new wave of “fast-casual” restaurants.

“It’s a whole genre where you can order at the counter and still have a nice environment to sit down in,” said Falk.

Falk predicts that teenagers in the Lamorinda area will gravitate towards new “fast-casual” restaurants rather than traditional sit-down locations like the already successful Pizza Antica or Chow.

Miramonte students are enthusiastic about the opening.

“I’m extremely ecstatic,” said sophomore Isabella Calderon. “Chipotle is my favorite Mexican restaurant.”

While Chipotle seems like the ideal addition to Lafayette’s Plaza shopping center, city management is worried about the extra traffic the restaurant will generate in the already congested parking lot. Falk, however, believes that having a shortage of parking is a welcome alternative to having no customers to take up spaces.

The popular ice creamery Fenton’s has also expressed interest in adding a location in the space now occupied by the vacant Park Theater. Falk has no doubts about the success of the restaurant if it were to be added, but the space does present some construction problems.

“The public would go banana splits for Fenton’s, but the theater isn’t currently zoned to allow restaurant use,” said Falk. “They would need to add kitchen facilities and reengineer the floor because right now it slopes.”

Parking would also be an issue if Fenton’s were to move in because the current lot for the theater isn’t big enough to accommodate the customers Fenton’s would draw. Before signing any permits, Fenton’s will have to fully develop a plan to either buy one of the nearby parking lots or build an entirely new one to keep customers from parking on the residential streets.

“We are working hard to make it happen but we need to ensure that the surrounding neighborhood is protected from a Fenton’s parking invasion,” said Falk.

Both the addition of Chipotle and the possibility of a future Fenton’s are part of Lafayette’s plan to establish itself as the restaurant city of Contra Costa County. “Lafayette is trying to carve out an identity as a restaurant mecca,” said Falk.

While the addition of Chipotle promises to be a successful step in reaching this goal, Fenton’s is still only a possibility and isn’t set in stone.

“It’s okay to get your mouth watering for burritos,” said Falk. “But don’t get your hopes up for ice cream.”