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Talita's back in Clintonville with updated eatery

Neighborhood favorite that closed in 2007 will open soon in new High Street location

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Frank Prince is the owner of Talita's Mexican Kitchen. Talita's, whose Clintonville store closed in 2007, soon will reopen in the former Babushka's Kitchen location, 4675 N. High St.
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Fans of Burrito Wednesday rejoice: Talita's is returning to Clintonville.

The vaunted Tex-Mex restaurant, which had built up a steadfast following during its nearly 40 years in the neighborhood, will take over the former Babushka's Kitchen location at 4675 N. High St.

It will be called Talita's on High.

"They've always been good to us, so we're excited to get back in there," owner Frank Prince said. "We feel it's the right thing to do."

Prince, who's owned the Grove City location for 15 years, said he intends to open the Clintonville restaurant in the next 60 days. The Grove City location will remain open.

The plan is to be open for lunch and dinner. The Clintonville spot will serve the same menu of burritos, enchiladas, tacos and sides. All meals are priced less than $8.

Each day will offer a specialty menu item, including Wednesdays, when the restaurant's seven burritos -- including the signature cheese version smothered in enchilada sauce -- will be featured at discount prices. It often drew a waiting list at the last Clintonville location, 2997 N. High St.

There will be some noticeable programming changes at the new location.

For starters, alcohol will not be offered, and Prince does not intend to overturn the district's current dry status. Also, there will be counter-order service, helping to improve efficiency and keep costs down, he said.

"I'll be honest with you -- the Chipotle style is the New Age thing," he said. "It's what people are going to.

"That's the trend and we'll have to tweak our operation to go with the 21st century."

The 6,000-square-foot Clintonville store formerly was a retail building that was converted to a Scottie MacBean coffee shop in 2004.

Babushka's Kitchen, a Polish eatery, followed in 2011. After 14 months, it moved to Sinclair Road last fall. It has since closed.

Prince said the challenge will be to let people know there is parking behind the building. He also hopes to build up a strong neighborhood following.

"At times there may be a bottleneck, but our other location never had much parking either," he said. "But my food is going to be so good they won't mind walking a block or two to get it."

Talita's was founded in 1968 at 2660 N. High St., just south of Clintonville, by Matilde "Talita" Arroyo and Tony Neno Prince, Frank Prince's parents.

Frank Prince worked at the restaurant as a student at North High School, now North Adult Education Center on Arcadia Avenue. After graduating in 1969, Prince went to work for the restaurant full time.

He said he has stayed true to his mother's recipes.

"It's very simple. It's easy, but it's dynamic," he said.

The original restaurant, which had by then moved a few blocks north on High Street, closed in 2007 when owner Toni Prince West, Frank's sister, decided to retire.

Frank Prince later split from the family and was a partner in Chico's Chicken and, later, director of operations for Big Bite. Both were multi-unit chains that have since closed. He opened the Talita's in Grove City 15 years ago.

At 61 years old, Prince is grooming a whole new generation of restaurateurs to expand the concept.

"My wife asked me what I'm going to do for retirement. I said I'm going to do what I like. I'm going to open up restaurants and put people to work."

Daughter Danielle, who's been working with him for 15 years, will manage the new place.

He's also recruited another daughter, Cristina, and son, Frank Anthony. Their joining him made the decision to expand a lot easier.

"I feel more comfortable, but I know there are a lot of good people out there," he said.

Graffiti Burger closed

The Clintonville location of Graffiti Burger, 2700 N. High St., has closed.

Messages left with franchise owner James Torski last week were not returned.

The two other stores in the chain, on Sawmill Road in Dublin and West Fifth Avenue in the Grandview Heights area, remain open. The Pickerington location closed last year.

Members of a Clintonville discussion forum on Facebook said employees at the Graffiti Burger told them, variously, that it was the end of the line for that site or that it was to undergo renovation.

"I tried to stop by there today and an employee who was walking in said they are closed for renovation," one poster said.

"I was there (Feb. 10) and the employee said it was their last day of business in that location," another wrote.

-- with reports by Kevin Parks

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