August 2017

Java Burrito Company – Mexican Eatery + Coffeehouse: Refining the Vision … Deliciously

Author: Kitty Bartell | Photographer: Krisztian Lonyai

Connecting the ancestral dots, Mason Wasserstrom set his family’s fate in motion when he began selling hot dogs from a cart in Columbus, Ohio in the early 1900s. It may seem like a long way from that hot dog cart to Java Burrito Company – Mexican Eatery + Coffeehouse, where descendent Michael Fekete and partner Frederika Liene Håkansson’s have created their über-cool restaurant and gathering place located in Village at Wexford on Hilton Head Island. However, it was the 115-year-old restaurant and bar equipment supplier, the Wasserstrom Companies, that helped Fekete and Håkansson refine their vision for their thriving three-year-old burrito bodega, cum coffee canteen.

Knowing who you are and keeping true to that vision can be a particularly stiff challenge in the fast-paced restaurant business, especially here in the Lowcountry, where the competition is very local, very dedicated, and very talented. It has been said before, and it is worth repeating: The cool kids at Java Burrito know what they’re doing. “After three years we always come back to asking ourselves: What is our focus? What are we? Who are we? How do we continue to be true to our awesome customers and offer the best of the best…and maybe some new items, too?” Håkansson said.

Who and what they are is the place where the ingredients never have artificial preservatives, growth hormones, or antibiotics. Locally-sourced and primarily-organic proteins, veg, and even fruits (tip: do not pass on the inspired peach salsa) are the foundation for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at JBCO, and every ingredient is prepared in-house. The wall-size chalkboard at the front door displays the names of the purveyors Fekete and Håkansson have so prudently selected. “It has become prestigious to be on the board,” Håkansson said. A potential new vendor recently commented that she wanted nothing more than to be on the JBCO board.


Michael Fekete and Frederica Liene Hakansson stand outside Java Burrito in Village at Wexford

“People are going back to the basics of tracing all their food and having it cooked on the spot—keeping it fresh and healthy, with no additives,” Fekete said. Offered in bowls, or built into burritos, tacos, or salads, the chicken, steak, pork, veggies, and fish, come with a choice of fresh accompaniments including cilantro lime rice, beans, fresh veggies, salsas, and queso, and out-of-this-world homemade guacamole. Breakfast is a riff on all these ingredients with the addition of a particularly outstanding breakfast sandwich that begins with local, thick-cut, artisan pineapple brioche bread, organic eggs, thick-cut local bacon, and cheese. This is a habit worth forming.

The beans in the coffee bar are procured locally at Savannah Coffee Roasters, served with all-natural cane sugar sweeteners, organic milk products, and dairy alternatives, and are producing award-winning cups of java. Based on Yelp customer reviews, in March of this year, JBCO’s coffee bar was named “Best Coffee Shop in South Carolina” by the web-based magazine Business Insider.

Never letting up on the accelerator is a big part of the key to their ongoing success and popularity. “We push ourselves,” Håkansson said. “We say to each other, this is what we’re doing now; this works. Is there a way for us to do this better?” There are whispers of some exciting additions to the JBCO menu. Shhh… they’re not saying anything just yet. Keep in-the-know by following them on Facebook and Instagram, and of course, stop-in frequently, whether for a meal, a coffee, an all-natural ice cream milkshake, a killer margarita, a nosh and a beer, guacamole, and an iced tea. It’s clear that any occasion is a good occasion for JBCO.

“Catering is taking off,” Fekete said. Another way to make JBCO a part of any occasion: weddings, rehearsal dinners, graduations, birthdays—all have become popular. Local businesses and sales people are also finding the JBCO catered meals easy to arrange, and equally as popular with office staffs. “We can set up a Java Burrito line at your house, at your office, at your wedding. Everyone goes through the line and makes it just the way they like it.” JBCO’s catering menu is available on their website. Customers are also invited to fax in their orders for quick pick-up. Be sure to give them about an hour lead-time, and call to confirm your order has been received. Online ordering is coming soon. Yay!

Always pushing to use ingredients to their fullest potential, Fekete has begun rooting the avocado seeds that come from the mountain of avos used for their guacamole. Once they are strong enough, he is potting and selling them at JBCO. “It takes two or three months to get them big enough to sell,” Fekete said. “I don’t know where else you’re going to find an avocado sprout.” In addition to JBCO hats and T-shirts, they are also selling lovely, fully-lined market bags made of jute with leather handles—perfect for Village at Wexford’s Wednesday summer markets, grocery trips, or beach days.

Another part of their vision has remained the same: Customer service is priority number one. They’ve come a long way in three years when JBCO opened with only seven team members (including Fekete and Håkansson). “None of us really knew what we were getting into,” Håkansson said. “We were seven people just doing the best we could.”

And business is very good. “We owe a lot of credit to them,” Fekete says of their ever-growing team. “We’ve got a really strong team now, and some veteran players that have helped us to be able to consistently put out this type of food, with this many people coming in the door.” Seven has grown to 25-plus team members, and JBCO is always on the lookout for the right people to execute their vision.

Like drawing a line from 1. to 2. to 3. to 4. and onward, Michael Fekete and Frederika Liene Håkansson are connecting all the dots rather deliciously.

Java Burrito Company – Mexican Eatery + Coffeehouse is in Village at Wexford at 1000 William Hilton Parkway, Suite J6, Hilton Head Island. For more information, please visit javaburritoco.com or call (843) 842-JAVA (5282).

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