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Curl up with a Stray Cat Chimmi for a comforting meal

Most culinary historians agree that the chimichanga, a deep-fried burrito often served in Mexican restaurants, actually originated in Arizona in the first half of the 20th century. The exact details are unclear. However, legend has it that the now-beloved comfort food was the result of a happy accident when a restaurant cook inadvertently knocked a burrito into a deep fryer.

Peyton Hartman didn’t get into the chimichanga business by accident. His father, Artie Hartman, was the proprietor of the popular Mexican restaurant chain Stray Cat Cafe, which had several locations throughout West Virginia.

The restaurants closed after the elder Mr. Hartman’s death in 2016, but Peyton wanted to revive the family tradition. In 2021, he opened The Stray Cat Chimmi Shack, where he began serving up his fresh take on the chimichanga. His establishment shares his father’s motto: “Life is good, eat it up.”

At first, Hartman operated under a tent, then invested in a food truck. While the food truck still makes the rounds at local events, Hartman was able to open a more permanent location on University Avenue in Star City in March of this year. The building, which formerly housed Star City Hotdogs, was repainted the same distinctive teal color as the food truck. In warmer seasons, patrons can enjoy their food in an outdoor seating area decorated with vintage signs from the original Stray Cat Cafe.

The chimmis on the menu range from $10-$13. Some are standard flavors like shredded chicken and cheese, while others are more inventive, like dill pickles with Thousand Island dressing. And, of course, there is a pepperoni roll chimichanga. Salads, fries, drinks and a selection of enticing deep-fried desserts are also available. Open hours at the University Avenue location vary due to food truck events, but updates are posted on social media.

EVA MURPHY is a freelance business writer for The Dominion Post. She writes a column on businesses, churches and other entities in the city.