YoBo marks 20 years of ‘Mo’ burritos, mason jar margs and more

The original Yo Burrito opened at the corner of Wentworth and St. Philip streets in 2000 | Provided

YoBo Cantina Fresca celebrated its 20th anniversary in August, quite a feat for any restaurant or small business for that matter. Founder Nick Powers first opened Yo Burrito at 86 Wentworth St. downtown in August 2000.

Powers has opened six new locations and employed more than 1,000 people since Yo Burrito’s debut. Twenty years on, two of the Charleston-area locations are still going strong, dishing out tacos, burritos and more. We spoke to Powers about the restaurant’s impressive run, what’s changed over the years and what’s next for him and YoBo Cantina Fresca.

The West Ashley location on Windermere Boulevard is one of two YoBo locations still in operation | Provided

City Paper: What were you doing before Yo Burrito?

Nick Powers: I was a yacht captain prior to this, so I didn’t have any experience. I was coming into town looking to be by the ocean and look at boats. In my mind, I was like, “It’s healthy California-style Mexican and it’s not here.”

CP: What’s been the key to your staying power? 

NP: I don’t have a manual. I try to find good people that I like to work with and I give them a responsibility. Small batches make a big difference because the food is fresh, and trust is our secret ingredient. I put a lot of trust in these kids. Don’t be an idiot. If something’s on the floor pick it up.

CP: What’s changed since you opened Yo Burrito downtown in 2000? 

NP: Certain overhead expenses have really gone up, and that brings nothing to the bottom line. That’s something that people don’t really see. Obviously rents in the downtown area have gone way up, so it’s hard for individual operators like us to have a downtown location.

CP: What sticks out from the last 20 years? 

NP: I’ve always felt that I’ve worked well with people, and I definitely learned from my people. I’ve had a great influx of old staff sending in text messages and telling their stories.

A mason jar marg from the second Wentworth Street location of Yo Burrito | City Paper file photo

I remember the first day. I was in my old pick-up truck thinking, “This is the first day of the rest of my life,” and thinking that things would be different. And it has been. Everyday is like putting on a show and I get excited every time I open the doors and people come in. Some of my best memories have been helping my employees when they are having a tough time.

CP: What’s been the most consistently popular dish? 

NP: People sent me all these video texts, and people keep talking about the cheese dip, margaritas and the “Mo” Burrito, which has been the number one seller since day one. Also, the Cheap Beer Hall of Fame. The beers were $1 during happy hour from 4-8 p.m.

CP: Future plans? 

NP: I still work at both restaurants practically every day. I’ve got a great staff, and I have very low turnover. I’ve got a manager who’s been with me for 10 years. As long as I have people with me who are enthusiastic to come in, I don’t have any intention of stopping. I’m not really pursuing opening more restaurants but if I were to, I could see myself doing an O.G. Yo Burrito if the situation presented itself.

Ma'am Saab teams up with Bok Choy Boy for Stems & Skins pop-up

"Bold flavors with the right amount of heat"

Ma'am Saab teams up with Bok Choy Boy for Stems & Skins pop-up

"Bold flavors with the right amount of heat"

Charleston Beer Fest cancels September event, plans virtual events

“We feel it would be irresponsible to hold an in-person festival this year”

Charleston Beer Fest cancels September event, plans virtual events

“We feel it would be irresponsible to hold an in-person festival this year”

Vivian Howard’s colorful cafe Handy + Hot opens Tuesday

Handy + Hot will serve biscuits, hand pies, coffee and more

Greenville planning scaled-back Euphoria wine and food festival in September

Culinary Institute of Charleston's Kevin Mitchell to participate in event's grand finale

Local retail stores and restaurants advocate against proposed 100 percent tariff on imported European wines

US Trade Representative accepting public comments online through July 26

This week, celebrate Christmas in July at Jackrabbit Filly

Bring essential items to donate to Lowcountry Orphan Relief

Coconut Joe’s purchased by Charleston Sports Pub owner with plans to keep name but revamp the space

“It’s going to stay Coconut Joe’s, but we’re going to put that sports pub touch on it”

Padma Lakshmi explores Gullah Geechee cuisine in her new show Taste the Nation, debuting this week

“I really wanted to highlight the contributions of African Americans to our food culture”

Sunday: Watch Charleston chef Vinson Petrillo on 'Beat Bobby Flay'

Two-time Chopped champion returns to Food Network

How a Charleston pizza shop delivered 12 pies to the crew stuck on board a cargo ship in the harbor

“I had no idea how involved I was going to be getting with this adventure”

Charleston Wine + Food Festival says 2020 event had $19.9 million local economic impact

This year's fest got in just under the wire before nationwide closings

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