There is a Chipotle Mexican Grill within walking distance of my front door. Despite this fact, I have been there a total of three times in the last nine years. It's not that I really have anything against Chipotle -- it's just that on the occasions when I did eat there, I found the food to be bland. And to be brutally honest, as I live in Southern California, there are just too many far superior Mexican food options to found. (Some of which I could also walk to were I not a lazy bastardess -- I know that's not really a word, I just don't care.)
My favorite place is a mere 10 minute drive from me (with traffic -- and there is always traffic), located in what is euphemistically called the "working class" part of town. The place is packed with customers regardless of the time of day. Local PD is always in the parking lot, and there are always armed guards on site -- and yes, I mean armed as in really carrying guns. I've never seen anything go down in there, but I have watched enough "Gangland" to spot gang tats, and I am sure the police and guards are there for a reason. You will wait in line a minimum of 20 minutes to place your order, and then another 10 at least before your food is ready for pickup. There's no drive-thru, and there is no guaranteeing that the person taking your order will speak English, so you'd better know basic Spanish or bring a friend who does. So why go through all of that? Because if there is such a thing as Heaven on Earth, I am pretty sure it's smothered in their red sauce and served between warm corn tortillas. And I have often braved the above described conditions to get their carne asada tacos at 1:00 A.M. because they are just that good.
But lately Gigi has not been physically at her best, and sometimes I am just not up to the rigors required to get my ethereal Mexican treats. And this is where Chipotle comes in: I wanted something Mexican, and I have a friend who likes to tease me that I am a picky eater (does he even read this blog?!) and he is a big fan of Chipotle's Barbacoa Burrito. So I tossed caution to the wind and said why not. Rather than going to my beloved taco heaven, I went to the distinctly less celestial Chipotle.
How did it work out for me?
Well, I will give Chipotle points for a couple things:
1. In a world where many fast food joints have about 400 offerings -- most of which they should never even attempt -- Chipotle keeps the menu pretty bare-bones and simple. I think that for the most part this is the way to go. Do a select set of items and do them well, instead of 10 good items and 390 mediocre ones. The question for this review is, did Chipotle do it well?
2. The burritos are HUGE. Take a look at the pictures here -- that's not a mere saucer or salad plate my burrito is sitting on; it's a 10-inch dinner plate. I have no idea how much it weighs, but it is big enough that biting into it if you have a small mouth is nearly impossible, and attempting to anyway makes for a huge mess. I couldn't finish even half of it at a sitting. (Of course, re-wrapped and re-heated, it did make for a nice snack later.)
You get to choose what fillings go into your burrito, so here's what I had put in mine:
Barbacoa beef (which is shredded beef that is spiced with things like adobo and cumin, garlic, etc.)
Let's be honest, there is not much to say about pinto beans and sour cream. Mind, I have had some home cooked pintos that I would sell my brother for (seriously). But these are just...well, they're just beans, not bad, not great, just kinda there.
The guacamole: I know the website talks about how it's hand mashed and seasoned until it's "silky, sexy and delicious" (that is a direct quote), but frankly it tasted simply like salty, mashed avocado. And I can live with that.
The cheese...well, it's gringo cheese. If you were hoping for queso fresco...um, well...sorry...but it's shredded Monterrey Jack. Again it's not bad, it just is.
The cilantro-lime rice is simply steamed white rice with a squirt of lime juice and some cilantro mixed in. I'll give them points for it not being sticky or starchy. But again, it's generic white rice, and even with the citrus and cilantro it's kinda bland. I really can't say much else one way or the other.
The barbacoa beef: This is the one thing I really liked. The meat is very lean and super tender. I like my spicy food to be spicy, and while on my personal 1-to-11 heat scale this rates about a 3, I can understand how those with less spice tolerance would place it at a 7 or maybe higher. It at least made the rest of the perfectly serviceable but otherwise boring ingredients seem a bit more zippy.
Would I go out of my way to have this again? Honestly, as long as my "taco heaven" is open, I can't say that I would. It's not that any of the ingredients are bad; it's just that the meal as a whole -- even being helped by the barbacoa -- is a little too bland for me to get excited about.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
980 per burrito...roughly. That's based on the ingredient information on the official website, and assumes the maker used company-perfect portioning of ingredients.