How do you pronounce Chipotle? Chee-phot-leah? Cha-pot-ale? Or do you have a nickname for it? Chippy’s? That burrito-joint? Or my favorite…mecca. However you decide to pronounce it (correctly it is stated “chee-phot-leah”), as a burrito-making restaurant, with its rapid growth and large profit margins, Chipotle is clearly a favorite of the chain restaurant crowd.
Personally, I came to the party late – having come from a state where genuine Mexican food is a short drive around the corner. I just wasn’t sure how I felt about a chain burrito making joint. I mean, honestly, how good can pre-manufactured food be? Plus, after having read “Fast Food Nation” and watching the movie “Super-Size Me”, I wasn’t sure how I felt about chain restaurants like McDonald’s producing the type of food I wanted to eat.
Admittedly, I am not a rabidly, or even conscientiously thoughtful eater, i.e. more concerned about the origin of my food than I am about the taste itself. I love food. Period. It’s just hard to ignore the truths in books like the aforementioned “Fast Food Nation”or recent best seller from Michael Pollen called “Omnivore’s Dilemma.”
So it wasn’t until McDonald’s divested itself of all Chipotle stock that I even decided to have a go at this chain, and now that I live a five- minute walk from one, it was hard for me to ignore it. Then, one day, with no food in the frig and zero desire to drive anywhere, I walked over to my neighborhood Chipotle.
After one visit, I have conclusively determined that Chipotle is not your typical chain restaurant.
At www.chipotle.com, you can see the business paths that Chipotle founder Steve (no last name given) has taken recently such as the “Food with Integrity” initiative. Basically the food sold in Chipotle comes from natural sources and the taste clearly reflects it. As Steve states “The hallmarks of Food With Integrity include things like unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal. And, since embracing this philosophy, it's had tremendous impact on how we run our restaurants and our business. It's led us to serve more naturally raised meat than any other restaurant in the country, to push for more sustainable practices in produce farming, and to work with dairy suppliers to eliminate the use of added hormones from their operations.”
But let’s face it. Chipotle isn’t good because the food has integrity. The food is good because it tastes good…and it’s darn cheap!
For about $6, you can get a fresh, hearty basic burrito. Chipotle takes a huge flour tortilla (regular or whole wheat) and steams it for about 20 seconds. Then, if you so choose, they first layer a bed of cilantro-lime rice. On top of the rice is the meat. With four meat choices – beef, chicken, carnitas and pork – it is seriously good. Cooked fresh, in plain view, over the in-store stove as well as chopped up right in front of your eyes into bite-sized portions, a carnivore like me couldn’t wait to get my hands on my burrito! Additional toppings included beans (black or pinto), sour cream, corn, hot sauce (mild or hot), lettuce, tomato, cheese, guacamole (for an extra fee) and pico. All this is rolled and tightly sealed in a gigantic sheet of aluminum foil.
Three other variations to the basic burrito exist. One is the vegetarian burrito – which comes with guacamole – or the fajita burrito – which comes with sautéed peppers and onions instead of beans – or the vegetarian fajita burrito – which is a combination of the vegetarian and fajita burrito.
Two popular alternatives include the burrito bowl, which is basically a burrito without the flour tortilla, leafy romaine lettuce instead of rice and chipotle-honey vinaigrette dressing, or the three tacos.
Extra sides include chips and hot sauce. Chipotle even has an array of beers to wash down your food as well as the ever-present fountain drink stand.
It’s worth a visit. For the location nearest you, go to http://www.chipotle.com/#flash/restaurants_locations.
More For Locals Only