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Indiana judge rules tacos, burritos are sandwiches

A variety of tacos from La Pasadita Restaurant in Fort Worth, Texas, include from left steak fajita, al pastor, barbacoa, carnitas and chicken. (Photo by Ron T. Ennis/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WISH) — A judge in Fort Wayne has ruled tacos and burritos are sandwiches.

In 2019, commercial developer and restaurant owner Martin Quintana sought a zoning change for a strip mall. To avoid remonstrators from residents in the Covington Creek Condominium Association, Quintana agreed to written commitments — including one about restaurants — with the neighbors to get the plan commission’s approval. It worked.

The Famous Taco Mexican Grill, which sits east of Glenbrook Square mall in Fort Wayne, wanted to expand into the strip mall at 6626 W. Jefferson Blvd. That’s southwest of downtown and near Covington Plaza.

In 2022, Quintana made plans for The Famous Taco to open in his Quintana Plaza strip mall.

The neighbors cried foul but worked out an amendment to the written commitments to allow the restaurant. The plan commission, though, didn’t approve of the amendment. Quintana then sought a judge’s review.

The commitment that caused contention had been designed to keep out traditional fast-food restaurants.

“A sandwich bar-style restaurant whose primary business is to sell ‘made-to-order’ or ‘subway-style’ sandwiches (which by way of example includes, but is not limited to, ‘Subway’ or ‘Jimmy John’s’, but expressly excludes traditional fast food restaurants such as ‘McDonalds’, ‘Arbys’ and ‘Wendys’), provided that any such restaurant shall not have outdoor seating or drive-through service. For the avoidance of doubt, the sale of alcoholic beverages is expressly prohibited upon the Real Estate.”

Allen Superior Judge Craig J. Bobay on Monday ruled a Famous Taco restaurant would be permittable and the commitments don’t need to be amended.

In his ruling, the judge wrote, “The proposed Famous Taco restaurant falls within the scope of the general use approved in the original Written Commitment. The proposed Famous Taco restaurant would serve made-to-order tacos, burritos, and other Mexican-style food, and would not have outdoor seating, drive through service, or serve alcohol. The Court agrees with Quintana that tacos and burritos are Mexican style sandwiches, and the original Written Commitment does not restrict potential restaurants to only American cuisine-style sandwiches.”

The judge also noted that, despite his ruling, he did not consider the plan commission’s actions to be improper, leaving the door open for an appeal.