The Fighting Burrito, a popular late-night, fast-food burrito shop in Ames was looking to expand its business to downtown Des Moines and jumped at the chance to develop this tenant improvement space in the Nationwide Insurance Building just off of Locust Street, on 13th Avenue, near the Western Gateway Park. The shop caters to the downtown lunch crowd with its selection of fresh ingredients that are rolled up in a choice of tortilla and also offers delivery to nearby businesses. The challenge of the design was to balance the efficiency of the queuing line while maximizing seating capacity within the relatively narrow space. A simple solution of “divide and conquer” was devised to split the queuing line into two separate lines from the middle of the restaurant, effectively doubling the efficiency of the restaurant.
The visionary owner of Fighitng Burrito took every opportunity to capitalize on the architecture to communicate the brand of the business. Inspired by the restaurant’s hallmark tortillas, the undulating ceiling cloud, the large curved booths, and the bamboo wrapped alcoves were all created with the simple idea of “wrapping” architectural elements around one another to define individual spaces within the restaurant. Employing the talents of Des Moines based graphic artists, Basemint, vinyl graphics communicating the unique brand of Fighting Burrito adorn many of the walls and ceiling surfaces.
This coffee house and restaurant is part of Ames’ up and coming Campustown district. With an aggressive timeline and vision to create a European style cafe, the renovation included the phased redevelopment of two-thirds of an existing building containing multiple tenant spaces into a singular business entity.
The challenge of consolidating multiple tenant spaces into a singular space provided an opportunity to create different zones within the restaurant to allow varying levels of privacy for visitors. Raised platforms with formal and informal seating provide optimal sight lines to see and be seen while alcoves provide quiet retreats from the lively coffee shop for relaxation and rejuvenation. Furthermore, the raised platforms form an inherently dramatic ‘stage’ providing a live venue for performing artists.
As part of the phased renovation, the kitchen was expanded and made more efficient. Consequently the owner has been able to greatly expand the restaurant menu to include a diverse array of food and beverage offerings, making it a destination eatery within the district.
Direct lighting was incorporated at the various wall expanses within the space to allow the restaurant to double as an art gallery for local artists. The resultant effect of the gallery space, coupled with the dramatic interior design and excellent food and beverage offerings have effectively created a lively ‘third place,’ a social environment separate from the home and the workplace. Ultimately, the aggressive vision of the owner and the successful realization of that vision for the designed space have allowed Stomping Grounds to become a model business for the redemptive process in the Campustown district.