Family A Key Ingredient In These Burritos

According to Christian Bowles, the kitchen always has been a special space for his family: “Our family seems to be centered around food, and the kitchen is a natural meeting spot.” So it made sense when Christian, his siblings Michael and Katie, and their mother Kathy all opened Bowles Burritos together in Kailua three years ago.

With the motto, “We pack ’em fat and roll ’em tight” (and really, what more could you want in a burrito?), the main attraction here is the construct-your-own burrito. It also serves up taco salads, nachos and burrito bowls. For each, you get to choose from a list of options that includes kalua pork, marinated chicken, mahi mahi and carne asada, as well as other key ingredients, such as beans, Spanish rice, cheese, cilantro and more.

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Owners Christian and Kathy Bowles outside of the store

“We just kept thinking that this feels like a niche that needs to be filled,” Kathy says, explaining that they modeled the eatery after their favorite burrito joint in Southern California. “And we just thought it would be a fun family venture, and it has been.”

Christian and Kathy manage the restaurant’s day-to-day operations. While Michael and Katie helped launch the restaurant, they both live on the Mainland now. Despite the distance, they still stay involved.

Katie, who is away at college, works in the office with Kathy when she comes home for winter and summer breaks. She even manages the restaurant’s social media accounts remotely.

Michael, who manages a restaurant in California, acts as a sort of consultant. Whenever they need to troubleshoot a problem, they get Michael on the phone.

Behind Bowles Burritos’ taste, they say, is a dedication to preparing everything homemade, and to utilize local, fresh ingredients.

When it comes to concocting recipes, it’s a group effort. While Kathy, who Christian says is a “great chef in all types of cuisine,” was the mastermind behind a lot of the dishes initially, everybody’s influence comes into play.

“Everybody puts a lot of love and attention into the preparing of the food here,” Kathy says, “and Christian’s salsa is out of this world.”

The Bowles family, after all, has an extensive collective history in the restaurant industry. When the kids were young, Kathy owned a steak and seafood restaurant on Kauai. Later, the family moved to Kailua, where Kathy was raised, and she became a manager at the former Lucy’s Grill & Bar.

Christian has fond memories of growing up around food: “I would follow my brother everywhere, and he took interest in the kitchen watching my mom and dad,” he recalls. “And then I slowly gained interest, too.

“Cooking is fun — you can do a little bit of experimental work.”

In that spirit of experimentation, Bowles Burritos currently is in the process of creating new menu items and hopes to unveil dishes such as enchiladas, chili rellenos and a broader selection of breakfast options in the next few months.

The Bowles also hope that their restaurant can serve as a cool, casual hangout. In the past, they have hosted burrito-eating contests, a spice challenge and karaoke. They also feature live music about a once a month.

While some may think that business and family don’t mix, the Bowles’ believe that is just what has kept Bowles Burritos going — and what will allow it to expand.

“Partnerships can be difficult, and if it were anyone other than family, I’m not sure it would work,” Christian says.

Bowles Burritos is located at 270 Kuulei Road in Kailua. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday-Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday-Sunday. Call 888-8841 or visit bowlesburritos.com.

coconnor@midweek.com