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Wimpy and Fritz take their tacos from farmers market to Riverbend restaurant

By Valerie Phillips - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Dec 16, 2021

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Lefty Montoya and Brian Zinsmann, owners of Wimpy and Fritz restaurant and food truck in Ogden.

Wimpy and Fritz isn’t your typical Utah Mexican restaurant. Instead of sombreros, you’ll find colorful painted skateboards on the walls at 352 Park Blvd. There’s also a vibrant mural of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, created by Ogden artist Richard Ramos.

The ambiance feels light and open due to a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that can be opened like a garage door onto the patio during warmer weather.

“Our whole style is the vibe of the California skateboard era of the late ’80s when we grew up,” said Lefty Montoya, who owns the restaurant and food truck with Brian Zinsmann. “We are still skaters, and many of the boards on the wall came from our basements.”

This self-proclaimed Ogden Taco Cartel is also more playful with its food than your typical Mexican restaurant. Its new Cuban sandwich is called the Tony Montorta — an inside joke from the movie “Scarface,” in which the Al Pacino character was a Cuban named Tony Montana. “Everyone who has seen that movie knows what we’re doing,” said Montoya. (The sandwich won’t be listed on the menu until January, but you can still order it. Just tell them Tony sent you.)

Another wordplay: their Borracho por Vida taco translates to “drunk for life.”

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The O.G. taco plate includes one each of Wimpy and Fritz's signature tacos — carne asada, al pastor and smoked carnitas. It's served with beans and fideo, a short, skinny pasta.

“So it’s kind of like a cure for a hangover if you get drunk on Friday or Saturday night,” Montoya said.

These Borracho tacos have become a best-seller, and not just for folks who drink too much. They are a riff on birria tacos, a current foodie trend across America. The smoked carnitas taco is draped in chihuahua cheese and seared to crispness. It’s served with a dipping broth, or consommé.

“The outside is seared, not fried, so it’s not as heavy,” Montoya said.

Their Sunday brunch, called Hair of the Dog, is another reference to hangover cures. It includes that hipster favorite, avocado toast.

Although one might say this isn’t your grandfather’s typical Mexican restaurant, in a way, it is. Montoya’s grandfather was nicknamed Wimpy, and Fritz is the nickname of Zinsmann’s grandfather.

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The Nachos Por Dinero are topped with a choice of shredded meat, queso, pico de gallo and jalapeño relish.

So how did two skater dudes get into the restaurant business?

Zinsmann attended the Dubrulle School of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, British Columbia. He and Montoya met in the early 2000s, when both worked for the Gastronomy restaurant group that owned Salt Lake landmarks such as Market Street and Oyster Bars, Café Pierpont and The New Yorker.

“I didn’t do any culinary schooling, but everyone in my family, especially my grandmother, is a great cook, and I picked it up,” Montoya said. “Our whole menu is based on family recipes and our own ideas.”

The two started out with a humble 10-by-10-foot tent at the Ogden Farmers Market.

“Every week we added more equipment, more coolers,” Zinsmann said.

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

Borracho por Vida tacos are smoked carnitas, draped in chihuahua cheese and seared until crisp. They're served with a consommé dipping broth.

They began taking requests for private catering events. Working the Ogden Twilight Series gave their food a larger audience. For about a year, they shared space with The Yes Hell bar on Grant Avenue off 25th Street.

“We took over their kitchen and got our feet wet with the restaurant,” Montoya said. “But because it was a bar, we lost a lot of our customers that were family-based.”

About a year ago, they bought a food truck to travel to venues and events. The iconic, can’t-miss-it exterior was also done by artist Richard Ramos.

They opened their own space on Sept. 9, after Brian Wrigley, CEO of Lotus Development, offered them a spot at Riverbend, a 30-unit townhome development along the Ogden River, just west of Washington Boulevard.

They said they enjoy the hospitality aspects of their business.

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The Tony Montorta Cuban sandwich is an inside joke from the movie “Scarface,” in which the main character was a Cuban named Tony Montana.

“I like the interaction with people that it gives me, because I’m not very outgoing at all,” Zinsmann said.

The side dishes are also different from the typical rice and beans. Instead of rice, they serve fideo, a short, skinny pasta (think vermicelli).

“We did it to be different, but my grandma and aunts used to make it, and you could guarantee the kids would eat it,” Montoya said. “It’s a good feeling when people come in here who are from Mexico or New Mexico and say, ‘Fideo! I haven’t had that for a while.'”

Also, the beans are flavored with Mexican oregano instead of the usual cumin. In fact, the restaurant doesn’t use cumin at all, which Zinsmann says is overused in Mexican restaurants.

“Unless it’s in Middle Eastern food, I’m not into cumin,” Montoya said.

Valerie Phillips, Special to the Standard-Examiner

The Wimpy and Fritz food truck was painted by Ogden artist Richard Ramos.

The two pride themselves on the freshness of their food, adding that everything is made from scratch daily, and the tortillas are made locally.

Their O.G. taco plate includes one each of their three signature tacos — carne asada, al pastor and smoked carnitas. (Bragging rights here: The carnitas, made from smoked pork shoulder, won Best Taco at the 2019 SLC Taco Fest.)

The Nachos Por Dinero are topped with a choice of shredded meat, house-made queso, pico de gallo and jalapeño relish.

Of their three vegan menu items, the Jacked Up taco plate is the favorite, made with smoked jackfruit instead of meat. “It’s the same flavor and seasoning as carnitas,” Zinsmann said. “It’s our No. 1 vegan (dish) for sure.”

Although it’s not listed on the menu, you can ask for a Keto plate, made of three types of meat topped with two fried eggs and a little avocado.

El Gordo’s XL Burrito is huge, stuffed with fideo, beans, onion, pico, cilantro and a choice of meat: carne asada, smoked carnitas, pollo adobo or al pastor. Those who take the challenge and completely finish it get half off their next order.


If you go

WIMPY AND FRITZ

Location: 352 Park Blvd., Ogden

Contact: 385-492-3735, instagram.com/wimpy_and_fritz

Prices: $11-$13 (except for El Gordo’s XL Burrito, $22); kids menu, $6

Hours: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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