Are Burritos Sandwiches: Indiana Judge Rules that Burritos are Sandwiches

Written by: Darby Peters

What constitutes a sandwich? Well, according to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a sandwich is defined as (1)(a) “two or more slices of bread or a split roll having a filling in between”; (1)(b) “one slice of bread covered with food”; or (2) “something resembling a sandwich”. This leads to one of the greatest debates: are tacos and burritos sandwiches?

Finally, there has been an answer to the controversy and debate over whether tacos and burritos are sandwiches. In Quintana v. Fort Wayne Plan Commission, an Indiana judge held that tacos and burritos do qualify as sandwiches. However, this is not the first time that a judge has had to decide whether tacos and burritos are sandwiches.

2006 Decision Declaring Burritos and Tacos are not Sandwiches
Before Quintana v. Fort Wayne Plan Commission, a judge in Massachusetts held that a burrito was not a sandwich. In this complex litigation, a Panera Bread franchise sought an injunction to prevent a Qdoba franchise from moving into the same shopping center as where the Panera was already operating. Panera had a clause in its lease with the shopping center which prevented any other restaurant or bakery from opening which made 10% of its sales from the sale of sandwiches. The clause also prevented the shopping center from entering a lease with a restaurant or bakery “with primary sales in ‘high-quality coffees or teas.” Panera hoped that these clauses would injunct Qdoba from becoming its neighbor.

In this 2006 decision, Judge Jeffery A. Locke, a state Superior Court judge in Massachusetts, held that Qdoba could open in the shopping center because a burrito was not a sandwich. Thus, Qdoba was not a restaurant or bakery which made more than 10% of its profits from sandwich sales. The lease in this case failed to provide a specific definition of what exactly constituted a sandwich, but Judge Locke used both a dictionary definition and his own common sense to conclude that a burrito did not equal a sandwich. Judge Locke reasoned that burritos and tacos are typically made with one tortilla with various fillings inside, and that most people would not consider these as sandwiches themselves. This ruling allowed Qdoba to open in the same shopping center as Panera without a violation of Panera’s agreement with the shopping center.

Judge Today Changes Courses and Holds Burritos and Tacos are Sandwiches
In Quintana v. Fort Wayne Plan Commission, Plaintiff Martin Quintana tried to open a second branch of his restaurant, the Famous Taco. The plaintiff wanted to open his second location of the Famous Taco in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Defendant, Fort Wayne Plan Commission, had a zoning restriction that prohibited fast-food establishments from opening in the specific shopping center, but had an exception for “’made-to-order’ or Subway-style sandwiches.” The plaintiff was originally told that he could not open the Famous Taco as it would violate the rules of the ordinance.

This led the plaintiff to seek an amendment in the zoning ordinance to open the Famous Taco. The amendment would only let the Famous Taco open as an exception and would require that any other restaurant that did not meeting zoning specifications also to seek an amendment to the code. The Fort Wayne Plan Commission ended up denying the amendment, which resulted in Quintana’s inability to open the Famous Taco.

However, Judge Craig J. Bobay in the Allen County Superior Court in Fort Wayne, Indiana, ruled that Quintana could open the Famous Taco even without the amendment to the zoning restriction. Judge Bobay reasoned that burritos and tacos are sandwiches, so no amendment was needed. Moreso, the sandwich exception is not solely limited to American style sandwiches. The judge held that “tacos and burritos are ‘Mexican-style sandwiches.’” This meant that Quintana could open the second location of the Famous Taco. Judge Bobay extended this decision to state that even different type of foods such as “’Greek gyros, Indian naan wraps or Vietnamese banh mi’” may also be sandwiches.

While this may answer the question of whether burritos and tacos are sandwiches, the question of whether hot dogs are sandwiches remains for the courts to decide.


Bret Thorn, Burrito Not a Sandwich, Judge Rules in Panera-vs.-Qdoba Tiff, 40 NATION’S RESTAURANT NEWS, Nov. 13, 2006 at 4, 73.

Joseph Lamour, Is a Taco a Sandwich? An Indiana Judge Settles the Debate, TODAY (May 16, 2024, 3:12 PM).

Massachusetts Judge Settles Dispute by Ruling Burrito is Not a Sandwich, FOX NEWS (Nov. 10, 2006).

Praveena Somasundaram, Are Tacos and Burritos Sandwiches? A Judge in Indiana Rules Yes, WASH. POST (May 16, 2024, 7:00 AM).

White City Shopping Center, LP v. PR Restaurants, LLC, No. 2006196313, 2006 WL 3292641 (Mass. Super. Ct. Oct. 31, 2006).