It’s 7.40pm on a Wednesday evening, 20 minutes before closing time in Badass Burittos, Catherine Street. I walk in to do an interview with the owner, Mags Nash, aka Buritto Lady, whom has adopted an unlikely position as one of Limerick’s most controversial characters of late. It’s a hot, balmy night in Limerick and I expect us to have the place to ourselves.

Burrito lady
badass lady

Through the course of the interview we are interrupted five times by customers, some travelling in from the suburbs to get their fill of what they describe as ‘Limerick best burritos’. Rocky, a regular customer, comes back in for seconds and bemoans the fact it is now closed on a Sunday, depriving him of what he describes as his weekend ‘cheat’ meal. When he mentions the lack of Sunday opening Mags gives me a self-deprecating look and with the same jovial banter she uses with her customers, she suggests we start with just one of the contentious issues that has made her one of Limerick’s most talked about women in recent weeks.

On her opening hours ..

I feel that people can’t knock my food because the food is good so they’re going after my hours. They feel that is something they can tune into. The two years that I have been here I have always been closed Monday and Tuesday. I have started closing on Sundays as well because I was only taking in something like, €115 in a day. It wasn’t paying me to run the electricity. You know what, I spend my Sundays with my mother now and those are times I’m never going to get back. There have been times that I’ve left here to go visit my mum in the hospital if she’s been in the hospital and to me, any day, mother trumps burritos. My mum has been in and out of hospital a lot. We have a live-in carer and on her (the carer’s) day off I take care of her. My mum has done so much for me my whole life, it is a pleasure to be able to take care of her.

On her history ..

I’m born and bred in Limerick. Originally from Thomondgate and of late, Greystones. I’m a sodacake! I have buried three siblings in this city, one from suicide, one from a road traffic accident, one from mental health issues. I have a lot of history in this city. My mum when she was 24 had four of us under 4. My parents ran a shop in Thomondgate under our house, from 8am in the morning to 8pm at night. It was just down the road from Whelan’s pub. My parents saved enough then and said, right, we are moving on up. We were like the Beverley hillbillies, and we moved to Greystones, Ennis Road. Not Greystones, Wicklow as some people seem to think it is!!

On her travels ..

I used to work in Jury’s Hotel and then this flier came around looking for people to work in the Cayman Islands so I signed up and said I’d go there. I went there for about three years. Then came home and didn’t know what I wanted to do so I followed a friend to San Francisico and ended up staying for 15 years. I left in a recession and came home to a recession. I came home because my parents were getting older and I don’t have any siblings here so I came home to take care of them.

Why burritos?

I used to make any excuse to go up to Dublin…I used to go to Pablo Picante’s..love his burritos. Then I said why not open a burrito bar. I thought about a coffee shop but there are already so many of them in Limerick. I had worked for a catering company in San Francisco and worked with a lot of Mexicans there. I got in touch with them, got lots of recipes, tried it all out at home. I’ve always believed in my product, I know it’s good and I know I have a good response from it so I knew I could make a go of this.

I’m tipping away here now doing well. I have my regular customers, I have the same faces coming in all the time. I might not know them all by name but I know exactly what goes in their burrito. It’s slow cooked fast food. It takes a lot of prepping. It takes 16 hours to cook it.

You know, there’s a lady called the lunch lady in Vietnam and people come from all over the world to queue up for her food. Every day she makes just one item and she makes enough for 100 people and when it’s sold out, it’s gone. That’s what I wanted to do here. I don’t waste food. Everything I do, I do fresh every day and if I was doing higher volume I wouldn’t be able to sustain the quality that I serve. That’s important to me. That’s more important than profit. I mean sure of course I want to make a living, but it’s not about huge profit.

Why Badass Burritos?

I used to go to Badass Café in Dublin and they used to have the old wiring system in where you put the order in and I thought it was the best thing ever. When I came home then that stuck in my head, so Badass Burritos was born!

On being a badass ..
I do food with a bad attitude. Do I have a bad attitude? According to Boards.ie I do!
There are times I guess when I can be a badass. If you ever watch Seinfield there’s an episode on it with the soup nazi. If you watch it, that’s me! I’ve worked in this industry for a long time. What’s the most badass thing I’ve ever done? Oh I don’t think the statute of limitations has run out on that one, I couldn’t actually share that type of information! If this is anything, I worked for Burning Man for three years so that will give you an idea of where I’m at!

Burrito lady 2
The Badass loyalty wall

On Burrito gate ..

It was never a case of Fusion Foods being given a spot over me. I said (to the council) “listen, how am I supposed to compete when someone is down there and they have no rates to pay, no rents to pay and no electricity to pay?”. I said to them (the council) “you’re in breach of your own terms and conditions”, which were you had to have a business in the city and you had to be paying your rates. I said right, I’m done with this. I gave them two weeks to sort it out, but was thrown back and forth. They’d tell me they’re gone one minute, the next minute they’re not. I said I’m taking this public. I was being promised one thing and then another thing was happening.

So then on Saturday, I posted it on my Facebook. I was very careful about picking my words for that post. I’m dyslexic so I’m not going to choose words to hurt another business. Someone posted to boycott them (Mexican Food Dudes) and I said no that’s not my intention, my issue is with the council. They are meant to be there to help businesses but I have come across nothing but hurdle after hurdle with the council.

What’s best about Limerick?

That my mother is here.

What’s worst about Limerick?

The addiction, the heroin addiction. It’s sad to watch it. It’s heartbreaking.

Best spot to eat (aside from Badass Burritos obviously!)

Curraghower Pub on Clancy Strand! Best burger I have ever had in my life! I’ve been telling every customer coming in here, I’m so passionate about their burger.

Favourite Limerick person?

Jim Kemmy. He was good for Limerick in his day.

Vision of limerick?

The council seem to have great ideas and plans for Limerick. If that all comes to fruition it will be a great city. Not, that it’s not a great city. It is. From when I came home first and everyone was talking about the recession. You can totally feel the change. It’s totally different.