A Step Above Taco-Bell, And Lately That Isn't Saying Much
Mar 6, 2007
Pros: Fast food; fresh ingredients; reasonably fast service.
Cons: Wheres the beef, or chicken? Mediocre sit-down experience.
The Bottom Line: Chipotle is just another in a long line of boutique eateries that offer just okay food for ridiculously high prices.
My wife loves Mexican food; me I am not as enthusiastic about the cuisine, but I do enjoy my occasional steak burrito. There is a dearth of Mexican restaurants in out ever-growing city, thanks in no small part to the burgeoning Latino population. So we have sampled the local fair, but most fall short of spectacular. For the last two years our local favorite has been a chain restaurant, On The Border, but my wife was tiring of ordering the same ole thing because she doesnt like the wider menu choices. So we are always on the lookout for a new Mexican restaurant, and this past weekend we decided to drop in on the local Chipotle (Mexican Grill); I can safely say that that was the our first and last visit.
Just a step above Taco-Bell, with far fewer menu choices, Chipotle is a small foot-print fast food establishment that mostly serves tacos and burritos. The interior of the restaurant is ugly minimalist wood and stainless steel. There were of course loose tables and benches, with some aligned along the restaurant windows. The seats were horrifically ugly and uncomfortable, and the art on the wall was equally as ugly and abstract, made as it was of wood and aluminum. The overall interior lacked character and imagination.
Like a Chinese fast food joint like Panda Express, the food is arrayed along a long counter in metal containers, warmed from underneath. And while of the food is fresh, the meat may or may not be freshly cooked.
As I mentioned above Chipotle serves just two types of main course: tacos and (gourmet) burritos. Ingredients that go into the staples include pork, shredded beef, steak, chicken, as well as rice, beans, corn, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, guacamole, and salsahot or mild. While the vegetables and other ancillary ingredients looked and tasted fresh, the meats were not. They were not cooked fresh and were cut into small chucks instead of long thin fajita strips, and were for the most part cold and tough.
The menu consists of three type of burrito; the regular burrito, the fajita burrito, burrito bol (burrito or fajita in a bowl, no tortilla); tacos and salad. All of these can be had with your choice of marinated chicken, steak, pork (Carnitas), or shredded beef.
My wife and I both ordered a fajita burrito; she ordered hers with chicken, and I ordered mine with steak. They were wrapped in a tortilla given a scant helping of meat, a heaping spoonful of Cilantro-Lime rice and fajita vegetables, cheese and salsa. My wife opted for guacamole, which I hate, and I add chili-corn salsa to mine. The end result was a fat burrito with little meat and lots of rice and vegetables and other fillers. Three bites into the burrito and I had yet to hit meat; my wife had a simulate experience. Needless to say were disappointed, since neither of us is a vegetarian; we wanted some meat thank you.
Not that the rest of the ingredients werent tasty; as it turns out the fajita vegetables were fresh and crisp, as was the corn and lettuce, but the salsa and side order of chips were not to what we were used to from On The Border. We ate them because we were hungry and we did pay for them. And speaking of paying, out meal came to a whopping $17.59 for two fajita burritos, a basket of chips and two medium sodas; altogether a bit much for what we got.
Needless to say we will not be making a return trip to Chipotle any time soon. El Famous Burrito, a local restaurant chain, offers the same type of cuisine in a similar setting does it better and for less. And Taco-Bell may not be a hip, but it does offer a lot more menu choices and seriously lower prices.
Chipotle is just another in a long line of boutique eateries that offer just okay food for ridiculously high prices in a setting that is supposed to be trendy, but is shabby chic instead. No thanks!
Chipolte Mexican Grill Fox Valley, Aurora, IL 848 N. Rt. 59 Aurora, IL 60504 (630) 851-3271
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Chipotle Mexican Grill is a chain of fast-casual Mexican-style restaurants best known for its large burritos and chunky guacamole. In addition, it is one of the first restaurants to successfully transition to the fast-casual style of dining. The restaurant was founded in 1993 by Steve Ells of Denver, CO (where the company is currently headquartered).
McDonald's used to have a majority share in Chipotle; however, full disinvestment was completed in October 2006. The restaurant chain employs more than 18,000 workers and currently operates in 32 US states, as well as the District of Columbia and the Canadian province of Ontario.
Today, Chipotle restaurants serve chicken, beef, and pork in burrito, bowl, or taco formats. The restaurant is also making a transition to using more healthy ingredients and naturally raised farm animals as a means of responding to a growing nationwide trend in healthier eating.