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Freebirds Burrito set to open Jan. 31 in downtown Lawrence; company looking for co-tenant for building


There’s a search underway for a new nesting partner. No, the search isn’t for me. (It was a long vacation, but my wife didn’t tire of me so much that she kicked me out of the nest.)

I’m talking about a different bird: Freebirds Burrito. As we reported in July, restaurant chain Freebirds World Burrito has signed a deal to locate in a portion of the former Maurices building at 739 Massachusetts St. in downtown, and now is looking for a co-tenant for the space.

We reported this summer that the restaurant was set to open by the end of October, and then Freebirds seemed to become about as grounded as the KU football team’s passing game did this fall.

Well, work is clearly underway now, and a spokeswoman with Freebirds told me the restaurant is scheduled to open near the end of January, and I’ve since seen where the company’s website is listing Jan. 31 as the store’s grand opening date.

Caitlin Noble — director of marketing for Kansas City-based FBMidwest Development, which is the franchisee for Freebirds in the Midwest — confirmed Freebirds will take about two-thirds of the former Maurices building. The other third will be left for another tenant. Noble said another tenant hasn’t yet been found. No word yet on whether Freebirds is open to another restaurant locating in the spot, or whether they will hold out for a more traditional retailer. My understanding is that Freebirds is in control of the space because it has leased the entire building and will sublease the remaining space.

For those of you who have forgotten what the heck a Freebird is, it is more than just a really long Lynyrd Skynyrd song that disc jockeys play when they need to take a bathroom break.

But it is a little funky like Skynyrd. According to the company’s website, the chain got started in 1987 by a couple of “ex-hippies” in Santa Barbara, Calif. The company then expanded into College Station, Texas, where the restaurant became a hit with Texas A&M students, which is odd since I’m almost certain the restaurant doesn’t serve eggs benedict. Benedict, as in Benedict Arnold. Famous traitor. Texas A&M and its Big 12 betrayal. (This is not good: The first column of 2013, and I’m already having to explain jokes.)

What the restaurant does serve is a large mix of burritos, tacos, nachos and other similar dishes. Freebirds promotes that it is uses hormone-free, grass-fed beef and free-range chicken, which the website says goes back to the company’s hippie roots.

Here’s another thing that may go back to the restaurant’s hippie founders: Pot brownies. I’ve asked several hippies if those were popular back in the day, and they said they couldn’t remember. I took that as a sign that they were very popular. But before you grab your tie-dye and start forming a line at Freebirds, you should know that these pot brownies are named such because they are served in a black pot. (The tie-dye would still be fun, though.)

When Freebirds opens in Lawrence, it will be the company’s second Kansas location. Its first Kansas location opened in 2012 along Metcalf Avenue in Mission. It also has restaurants in Westport and Lee’s Summit in the Kansas City area.


msezdsit 5 years, 5 months ago

How many mexican restaurants can downtown lawrence support? How much different can a taco or burrito be to distinguish them from all the others? This definitely sounds better than a burrito with fuzz on it, but is it? Macdonalds downtown mexican restaurant makes some of the same claims as this new one. I guess we shall see.

myop 5 years, 5 months ago

Freebirds is awesome! I am super excited for it to open. It is way better than Chipolte (and not more expensive), and I love the refried beans. We used to eat there weekly when we lived in Texas. Welcome to Lawrence!!

jack22 5 years, 5 months ago

Seriously, you lived in TX and ate at Freebirds once a week? That sounds to me like someone vacationing in Italy and eating at Olive Garden. Awesome!

kufan1146 5 years, 5 months ago

I'm curious but for quick Tex-Mex fare I really like Fuzzy's. We will see how Freebirds compares.. but man, that butt burnin' sauce at Fuzzys sure is good.

Keith 5 years, 5 months ago

Lawrence rule regarding remodeling a space to be a restaurant: You're doing it for the next tenant.

Clearly4Kansas 5 years, 5 months ago

Head and shoulders above Chipotle. I've eaten at the one at 60th and Metcalf a couple of times; best southwestern food I've ever had.

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