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Thanks to its appearance on “Breaking Bad,’’ a New Mexico fast-food restaurant is no longer just in the burrito business: It’s in the tourism business.
Twisters, a burrito and burger place located where the AMC drama is set in Albuquerque, N.M., has been drawing travelers from as far away as China who want to get a look at the restaurant that serves as the setting of the fictional “Los Pollos Hermanos.’’ On the second through fourth seasons of “Breaking Bad,’’ drug kingpin Gus Fring, played by Giancarlo Esposito, uses the 14 locations of the chain restaurant as a front for his crystal meth empire.
Central character Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) and several other primary characters are regular visitors to the chicken fast-food establishment, which in real life has become one of the tourist landmarks around Albuquerque sought by rabid fans.
“People are always coming in asking, ‘Where’s Gus?’’’ Twisters district manager Gaston Monge told TODAY.com. “Since my name is Gaston, at first employees kept coming in the back looking for me. I would keep coming out and saying, ‘No, I’m sorry, I’m not Gus,’ and just try to say something funny to them.’’
The now-famous Twisters restaurant on 4257 Isleta Boulevard in Albuquerque is one of 20 Twisters locations in central New Mexico and Colorado. Tourists have steadily streamed into the restaurant, which has a “Los Pollos Hermanos’’ picture on the wall but no other adornments or menu items signifying the relationship to the show.
“They put in a book for visitors to sign about two weeks ago, and there’s already 10 or 15 pages filled already,’’ Monge said. “On the weekends, there is a line of people waiting to get their picture taken next to the Los Pollos picture on the wall.’’
People have visited from as far away as France, England, China and Spain, according to Monge. Many of them also get their picture taken sitting at the specific table used by Walter White on the show. The influx of "Breaking Bad" fans is so steady that employees are trained to deal with it.
“It’s fun, and we’re getting used to it,’’ said Monge, who has worked for Twisters for 16 years. “All the employees enjoy it. With the new employees, we have to feel them out and train them right away because people are going to be constantly asking, ‘Where did this guy sit? Where did this happen, where did that happen?’’’
Monge was even an extra in one episode, playing a cook at Los Pollos Hermanos, although you could only see his hands (and not his face) on the show. He recently put pictures on the wall of himself and fellow employees shaking hands with Cranston and Esposito during a visit from the actors, but said the photos mysteriously disappeared quickly.
The buzz from “Breaking Bad’’ has improved the bottom line at the Twisters location by about five percent, according to Monge.
“We actually get a lot of customers who live in the nearby neighborhoods but had never come in here until they heard everything with the show,’’ he said. “They also will come out and take pictures when they are filming.’’
The show producers originally wanted to use a different location in Albuquerque, but the initial location was too busy.
“They have been great people to work with,’’ Ray Ubieta, one of Twisters’ owners, told TODAY.com. "They let you come and watch when they're filming, and business is definitely up due to the show.''