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Chipotle

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OMG! I had my first Chipotle today -- a barbacoa burrito. Four bites (I thought I needed to give it a fair chance) and it was in the trash!

How have they stayed in business?

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  1. Because 99% of people really enjoy their food, which is a big step up from most other fast-food chains in terms of quality, sustainability, and flavor. I'd suggest that if your food was so bad that it was literally inedible, you should talk to a manager at the store.

    20 Replies
    1. re: Boston_Otter

      Hooray for people who like it but I take it they don't have any idea what good Mexican food is...

      1. re: rainey

        There's "Mexican food", and then there's Chipotle. I wouldn't think of Chipotle as authentic Mexican food. If anything, it's Southwestern-inspired. If I want good Mexican food, I'll go to the Oaxacan restaurant down the street; if I want a big wrap with carnitas pork in it, I'll go to Chipotle (or the taqueria a few doors down).

        1. re: rainey

          How is Chipotle Mexican? Isn't it an American chain?

          1. re: rainey

            That's your mistake right there. You went in thinking it was going to be like authentic mexican food. It's not, nor is it trying to be. It's fast casual food with mexican "flavors". Nowhere do they claim to be authentic mexican.

            And, for the record, I grew up in the central valley of CA. I know good Mexican. And I love Chipotle.

          2. re: Boston_Otter

            Chipotle is not very healthy. It's fast food wrapped up in a pretty package. I love it, don't get me wrong, but I don't fool myself into believing it's healthy.

            1. re: BostonLover

              Chipotle can be done healthily. Lettuce, chicken, fajita veg, and the salsas of your choice. If you don't have a fat phobia you can add guac for healthy fat.

              1. re: BostonLover

                Depends what you order. I order a bowl and it comes in under 500 calories with a ton of protein.

                1. re: juliejulez

                  Ton of protein? You have to pay extra for adequate protein if you don't want to fill up on rice, beans and chips.

                  My husband tried it for work lunches. Said it's all a pile of starch with a smidge of protein. Unless you pay more than it's worth to avoid a rice/bean/chips bomb.. That's how I recall my one trip there.

                  1. re: mcf

                    Unless Chipotle has changed the way they serve people food, this isn't true at all. If you don't want a huge pile of rice, you can say "no rice" or "just a little rice". I get so much meat in my burrito that it's more than I can finish. I don't understand all these people who claim they're getting a tiny piece of meat in their wrap.

                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                      It seems to be location and employee dependent. There's one employee at my local store who knows that I come in once every few months and all I care about is meat and beans and she loads it up. Other employees I end up with 3 mouthfuls of meat.

                      1. re: Boston_Otter

                        It's not food worth the price of making it adequate, in our estimation.

                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                          I always order 'all meat' burritos; no rice/beans. At Chipotle, the guy made my burrito according to their std. proportions and it came out looking more like a quesadilla than a burrito. He said he didn't feel right about charging me full price for something like that so he just gave it to me. Cheap filler with as little meat as possible is how they make money.

                        2. re: mcf

                          Yes, getting enough meat for someone like me costs me a fortune.

                          1. re: mcf

                            Adequate for what you're looking to eat, which...cool.

                            As compared to the recommended daily intake of protein (which for an average person is about 50 grams per day) a chipotle chicken burrito/bowl with black beans has about 40 grams of protein...30+ of that from the chicken...it's a ton of protein for one meal.

                            1. re: ccbweb

                              50 grams of protein per day is too low, way too low, especially if it's not all animal protein. All the RDAs on fat, protein and carbs are criminally bad, bought by lobbyist paid credentialed folks.

                            2. re: mcf

                              My meal I get at Chipotle has 43 grams of protein and is 490 calories based on the meal builder on their website. Considering my protein goal per day is 100 grams, 43 is pretty good for one meal. I get a bowl of brown rice, steak, hot salsa, and cheese. I don't ask or pay for anything extra. Also, depending on location, they charge me about $5 for it since I get so few ingredients.

                              If I think they're skimping me on the meat (which is maybe 10% of the time and as already mentioned, employee depending, noticed it's usually the newer employees when it's not busy), I ask for a bit extra and don't get charged for it. You only get charged if you ask for double meat.

                              1. re: juliejulez

                                Exactly. Lots of folks don't eat bowls of rice, choosing salad or veggies instead. So double meat. That's what I've been saying.

                                I never said they shorted the meat, only that you're not getting "tons" or "piles" of it.

                                1. re: mcf

                                  So if you don't eat rice or need 8oz of meat to feel full, don't go to Chipotle...simple as that. Who says everyone has to like it? There's lots of places I don't care to eat at, so I just don't go there. I don't go online and yuck people's yum.

                                  I credit Chipotle with helping me lose 50lbs. It was my go-to fast food place when I couldn't make it home to cook a meal, and is a way better alternative than the fast food that's available in many parts of the country.

                                  1. re: juliejulez

                                    Hello? See the subject header and post up there by the OP?

                          2. re: BostonLover

                            I know someone on WW's and say it's 6 points to get a burrito bowl with brown rice (on the side and only eat half), then add lettuce, corn, beans, chix, tomato (salsa), and corn. Then she asks for extra cilantro and they give you a container of it on the side.

                            It's pretty good too.

                            www.saffron215.blogspot.com

                        3. I think there are a few other threads on this topic with interesting discussion of the likes and dislikes.

                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/894539
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837932
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/792157
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/380313
                          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/494822

                          With that being said, Boston_Otter has a point. Most people I know love the place.

                          1. Is there something in particular you didn't like?

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                              It was just different kinds of glop rolled together. Nothing had any flavor to speak of. Yuck!

                              A burrito can be a wonderful thing but the elements have to have flavor and texture of their own before they can create a thing worth having.

                            2. Marketing. I've watched people order food there and I wonder how they justify spending that much for so little food. It's mostly rice and beans and a some vegetation. There is so little meat going into the burrito it's ridiculous. I just go there for a little snack. I get a small cheese quesadilla for $1.25 and I'm done. If I want to eat a meal, I go where they put some food on the plate.

                              I know others love Chipotle. I'm not one of them.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                You can order extra of everything (rice, beans, fajitas, salsas, etc.) but the meat and they won't charge you. I've known people who could make 2-3 meals out of one well packed bowl/burrito.

                                1. re: Kate is always hungry

                                  EXACTLY! It's mostly cheap filler with a bit of meat.

                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                    If you're only getting "a bit of meat" at Chipotle, they're not making your food correctly, and you should complain.

                                    A friend of mine gets his burrito without rice, and it's a huge pile of meat and guac wrapped in a tortilla -- two meals' worth. No 'cheap filler'.

                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                      4 oz. of meat, is not a "huge pile" for non starch filled meals.

                                      1. re: mcf

                                        I need an "mcf" button :)

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          As others have said, it sounds employee/location dependent. I've never only gotten 4 oz. of meat at any location -- more like a big scoop that fills a tortilla. It's a shame that you're literally getting a few tablespoons of protein but I don't think that's normal.

                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                            It is so normal that Chipotle lists it as their nutrition data. 4 oz. I don't just make this shit up. It's the same for the salad as the burrito:
                                            https://www.chipotle.com/en-us/menu/n...

                                            1. re: mcf

                                              I didn't suggest you were "making shit up". I'm saying that I've never seen anyone served that little meat at any location, and I feel sorry for people who are getting short-changed.

                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                I agree with you Boston_Otter, but will say that each location is different. I've had bad experiences at Chipotle where they are not accommodating in the least, and others where they have bent over backwards to please.
                                                The food taste is not consistent either. They cook/grill in house, so whoever is doing the cooking does influence the flavor.
                                                There is one location in particular that I will never step foot in again and one that I frequent.

                                  2. I've only had a few bites of a Chipotle burrito once, years ago, and felt it was really bland as well.

                                    However, it was at a catered event at work, and there were a slew of dietary restrictions involved, so I figured I must be missing something that everyone is raving about. In fact, I'm sure of it.

                                    All that being said, agree with Botson Otter. Here in L.A., 99% of people who try it love it, and I'm all for the healthier fast food option (not to mention the whole concept behind the business, the sustainability, employee training, etc.). It's really almost inspiring.

                                    1. I don't love Chipotle, nor do I think it's real Mexican food, but it serves a purpose for me. I should note that I'm actually not a fan of burritos in general, so if I was, I might actually love it. Instead I get a burrito bowl and make them into little tacos. I disagree that this isn't a lot of food for the money, too. I could make 10-12 tacos with that burrito bowl if I wanted to, but instead a lot goes to waste, and this is after eating it for lunch and dinner that day. Not a bad value for $7 bucks (if you get no guacamole) IMO.

                                      1. Chipotle isn't trying to be "the most authentic", and i feel like for people who buy ortega taco kits, rotel, and taco bell that chipotle is going to be really amazing.
                                        I am not a fan since i grew up in cali with lots of legit amazing mexican food and it doesn't satisfy my craving.

                                        But i only respect the company and the founder for his dedication towards sustainability and rethinking the sourcing of such a business while at the same time making significantly better food than most of the competition at that price point.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Ttrockwood

                                          Define sustainable:

                                          http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2...

                                        2. I've tried Chipotle twice- a couple of years apart in two different states so it wasn't just the location. It was terrible both times. It was like the only flavor they used was salt.

                                          I wanted it to be a "better" choice when I have the need to grab something on the run since there is one in an area I frequently end up in at lunch time but it wasn't and it isn't a matter of it not being "authentic." There are better authentic and non-authentic places in this area and all of them are less expensive, too.

                                          1. I have never had the barbacoa. The chicken and the carnitas (or a combo) are pretty good in my opinion.

                                            What do you like in a burrito?

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: melpy

                                              The short version: flavor.

                                              Really, you can put anything in a burrito. But it should be properly cooked with texture and flavor not lifeless strings of meat in a watery slurry. If it's good on its own, it will be good in a burrito. If it isn't worth eating neither will the burrito be.

                                              Oh, and all the other stuff like salsa and guac is enhancement and should be used as an accent.

                                            2. I find their food incredibly salty. I think it's the rice that is over salted.

                                              When in a pinch and someone is bringing me food from there I order the bowl and modify it add the quac, and sour cream and light on the rice.

                                              I usually only eat half of it.

                                              1. Rainey...I couldn't agree with you more. I've tried Chipotle twice and both times at least 80% of the food wound up in the trash. But it's obvious that a lot of people seem to like it...probably the same folks who rave about In 'n Out Burgers. I don't get it!

                                                9 Replies
                                                1. re: josephnl

                                                  "...probably the same folks who rave about In 'n Out Burgers."

                                                  Oh dear. To this, I have to object.

                                                  1. re: nothingswrong

                                                    I'm glad you like In 'n Out. You have many friends on this board who agree with you. I, on the other hand, think that InO is just another fast food place, not very different from McD, Carl's, Arby's, etc. All are fine when I'm on the road and hungry but would never be a place I'd frequent otherwise. I'd put Chipotle in the same category.

                                                    1. re: josephnl

                                                      I grew up in L.A. so I've had In n Out since they opened up here. It was a revelation for a broke college student, compared to McD's. Used to stop by the one next to UCLA before class probably 4 times a week.

                                                      I'll confess: I was a vegetarian most of that time, so didn't eat the meat. Just got a cheeseburger with no patty, and fries. For a vegetarian "fast food" meal, it couldn't be beat. Hit the spot every time.

                                                      Can't really attest to the quality of the actual freaking burger. I've just never really met anyone here who doesn't love the place.

                                                      Respect your opinion, just took me by surprise!

                                                      1. re: nothingswrong

                                                        If you follow the CH chain threads you will soon discover that the lovers of InO likely outnumber the detractors of the chain by at least 10:1...nevertheless there are many who consider it just another fast food joint and no better than most others.

                                                        1. re: nothingswrong

                                                          Oh, don't get involved in this side discussion -- there are just a few people around here who will take any opportunity to bash INO, even when it has nothing to do with the thread at hand. Anyone who puts the place in the same class as McD's, when the products are objectively different -- not taste wise but in terms of ingredients and process -- either isn't paying attention or has some sort of agenda. Anyone who can't taste the difference, whether or not they care for the place, should see a doctor.

                                                          I guess I could see someone disliking INO, or even preferring McD's, but I can't see anyone with functioning taste buds thinking they taste the same.

                                                          1. re: acgold7

                                                            Who said they taste the same?

                                                    2. re: josephnl

                                                      Heh see I love Chipotle but I don't like In n Out!

                                                      1. re: juliejulez

                                                        Same here Julie. I get a salad bowl with chicken, black beans, fajita veggies, corn salsa & cheese. No dressing - comes in at 500 calories and is nice and spicy. Works for me! Never ever thought it was Mexican.

                                                      2. re: josephnl

                                                        josephini, we are soooooo on the same page!!!

                                                      3. I don't get it either. I thought the meat itself tasted fine, better than Moe's FWIW, but everything else was blah. Now it didn't help that I asked for rice without cilantro but I didn't expect plain unseasoned, unsalted, un-anything rice. Also, I use the extensive selection of veggies at Moe's to boost the flavor of their burritos but that option doesn't exist at Chipotle.

                                                        So, to sum it up, okay meats, far too much flabby tortilla, bland everything else. The rest of the family liked it, though. As always, YMMV.

                                                        12 Replies
                                                        1. re: rockycat

                                                          I think that if you request unseasoned rice and receive unseasoned rice, it's sort of an odd thing to complain about.

                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                            But Rockycat didn't ask for unseasoned rice- just no cilantro. If that means unseasoned rice, an employee should have said something.

                                                            1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                              How many versions of rice would be reasonable to expect them to have? They have the rice that's prepped and out for service (which has cilantro and, I believe, lime and some salt) and they have rice that hasn't had those things added to it.

                                                              Obviously if you don't like the food you don't like the food, that's going to happen. But for a $7 burrito I think expecting the ability to customize _ingredients_ is starting to be a bit much. And to expect an employee at such a restaurant to offer up "oh, you know that also means no lime or salt on the rice?" Also seems to me a bit much.

                                                              1. re: ccbweb

                                                                Considering most burritos here are in the $3-4 range I would expect the employee to at least be able to utter the words "Would white rice be ok?" for a $7 item. Assuming the customer has been there enough to be familiar with each and every menu item is just poor customer service.

                                                                1. re: ccbweb

                                                                  What would be a reasonable price for a burrito that would be "customizable" ?

                                                                  1. re: rochfood

                                                                    That was my question too. I think a $7 burrito should be infinitely customizable. I think a $2 burrito should be the off-the-rack variety.

                                                                    1. re: rochfood

                                                                      Well, for one thing, definitely go get the cheaper burritos then I guess.

                                                                      That customizable.....I'm talking about expecting to customize the ingredients, not how those ingredients are then assembled. Does the rice just get salt? Or does it only get lime? Or both of those? What else is reasonable to alter on the fly? Pico de gallo without onion?

                                                                      Now, once everything is on the steam table or cold table for service yeah, fair game, mix and match those things in all kinds of ways. And if you ask for something to have no X, and they can do it, awesome.

                                                                      But if you want to be able to alter the way a restaurant is actually preparing its ingredients then I'd expect to pay least double the $7.....definitely into the teens in terms of dollars. That requires a ton more flexibility, a lot more workers to assemble things as they go, smaller batches of things being made....all things that increase costs a lot.

                                                                    2. re: ccbweb

                                                                      It would be reasonable to let the customer know that a request for no cilantro = a request for no seasoning whatsoever. At that point the customer can make an informed decision. When I was told that the rice had cilantro I was simply going to skip the meal. The employee informed me that they had a cilantro-free option. I had no reason to assume that it was not a standard menu option.

                                                                      Also, if you read these boards much you'll see that it is not that uncommon to have a very strong aversion to cilantro. I never understood why a national chain would build their core menu item around a component that so many people find distasteful and/or intolerable.

                                                                      Customizable? One question - Have you ever been to Moe's? Not discussing the quality of their food, just the choices. For a similar price to Chipotle, maybe a little less depending on your market, they offer over 20 different vegetable, bean, cheese, and salsa options. For fast food, that sounds pretty customizable to me.

                                                                      1. re: rockycat

                                                                        Moe's isn't available everywhere. I just looked, the closest one to me is 137 miles away with the majority of the Rocky Mountains between us.

                                                                        As for cilantro, it's a pretty standard ingredient in the "flavor profile" they're going for. If you don't like cilantro, don't eat there. My other half has Crohn's and cilantro really messed him up. When we go, he just gets the plain rice. The tiny amount that's in the salsas doesn't seem to bother him.

                                                                        1. re: juliejulez

                                                                          That's why I was willing to skip eating there until the employee suggested a cilantro-free option. I had no idea that the sheer amount of plain rice (which I love as a side dish at dinner, say) would completely overwhelm the rest of the food and leave it tasting like nothing.

                                                                          My point was that other national chains - and Moe's does quality as national with locations in 35 states - don't necessarily feel the need to make cilantro such an integral part of their menu. I manage to eat in traditional Mexican and Indian restaurants just fine and still avoid cilantro, even though both cuisines use it heavily.

                                                                          I obviously know now that Chipotle is not a good choice for me and I have no intention of returning.

                                                                          Btw, I sympathize about the Crohn's. I have it too, although cilantro doesn't seem to cause me Crohn's problems. I just abhor the stuff.

                                                                          1. re: rockycat

                                                                            I will say when he gets the plain rice, he has to tell them to go easy on it. Since they make a full batch of the plain, but not a lot gets used, I think they double up on it to get rid of it.

                                                                          2. re: juliejulez

                                                                            You keep telling people who have decided not to eat there, not to eat there. What's your point?

                                                                2. is there a fast food chain that's better ?

                                                                  74 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                    Baja Fresh,

                                                                    1. re: Mister Big

                                                                      Sorry. None around here. Non chain "Mexican" places here charge $12 and up for really bad tasting burritos.

                                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                        fwiw, i get very tasty burritos from Freebirds.
                                                                        dunno if you have any near you.

                                                                        1. re: westsidegal

                                                                          thanx. none anywhere near here. Long Island NY...
                                                                          http://freebirds.com/locations/

                                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                            sorry.
                                                                            it's the one chain i'll actually patronize, but it's STILL a chain,

                                                                      2. re: Mister Big

                                                                        My parents used to pick up Baja Fresh for dinner on busy nights a couple times a month. I personally loved it, as did the family. It tasted... well, fresh. I worked in an agency on Hollywood Blvd for years and the BF was packed constantly with tourists. As far as cheap food goes in that area, the only other spots that were able to stay open were McD's and Hooters.

                                                                        Incidentally, our Mexican-born nanny thought it was the most abhorrent food she'd ever tasted and refused to touch it with a ten foot pole.

                                                                        There's another chain that opened up when I was in high school I think called Poquito Mas, and since it was closer to the house, we switched over to that for Mexican "fast" food. The nanny would eat the hell out of that sh*t.

                                                                        1. re: Mister Big

                                                                          Completely agree that Baja Fresh is way better than Chipotle. Of course BF is fast food and not in the same league as the better Mexican restaurants in southern California. Nevertheless pretty much everything they serve is prepared from scratch each day from raw unprocessed ingredients, is reasonably tasty and unlike Chipotle, when I eat at BF, I pretty much finish everything I've ordered and can walk away not feeling ickish.

                                                                        2. re: Gastronomos

                                                                          Yes. All of them.

                                                                          1. re: acgold7

                                                                            Sorry. None around here. Non chain "Mexican" places here charge $12 and up for really bad tasting burritos

                                                                            1. re: acgold7

                                                                              I think that's a very silly comment. As noted above, Chipotle's very popular and unique among fast-food places for its commitment to sustainability and environmental friendliness. It might not be your thing, personally, but when they get called out by chefs and other fast-food places for being the best at their game, I think that declaring them the worst chain is ridiculous.

                                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                You're right. I stand corrected. They are the most awesomest and uniquest and everyone on this thread who hates them as much as I do is also wrong.

                                                                                I am going to go there now to wait in line for a $9 pile of bland, carb-rich, poisonous, flavorless empty calories that makes meal time a punishment. They're totally awesome for those who want to lose weight because you throw away half your food and what you eat puts you into hyperglycemia and you throw up a lot.

                                                                                Get those insulin pens out, folks.

                                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                                  is there a fast food chain that's better ?

                                                                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9670...

                                                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                    Asked and answered, your honor...

                                                                                    1. re: acgold7

                                                                                      Folks, this is getting pretty snippy and we've removed some posts. It's fine to disagree with each other, but please focus on the restaurant and not on your fellow posters. Thanks.

                                                                                      1. re: acgold7

                                                                                        oh. so you like to eat at CPK. if there was ever a place that was worse, you found it.

                                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                          No, not a fan of CPK either. And last time I was at one, it wasn't fast food.

                                                                                          1. re: acgold7

                                                                                            <last time>
                                                                                            so you've been several times?

                                                                                            worst shit on shingle I've ever encountered by far.

                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                              I've been more than several times. My parents took us there often growing up and my bf went through a CPK phase about 2 years ago, and we ate there probably 5 times over 6 months.

                                                                                              He seems to love their pizza combinations. You know, all the wacky crap like Thai chicken stir fries on top of floppy dough. BBQ chicken and all that. Last time we were there (maybe a year and a half ago?), they'd introduced a new "Chef's menu" with Mexican fusion using in-season organic produce or something. I don't know where they're looking to go with this, but there you have it.

                                                                                              Every time we went, I got a tomato/basil/cheese. I'm a purist maybe. It wasn't inedible in the sense of being disgusting, but was so bland I found myself not wanting anymore after the first slice. The (traditional thin) crust has an okay flavor but needs salt or something. It also gets very soggy in the center. The "fresh mozzarella" is flavorless and absolutely dripping with grease. Like enough that there is a huge puddle in the center of the plate within minutes. Not my cup o tea. Tomatoes are canned, with no seasoning. Basil is the only thing with flavor on the pizza, how can you mess up nature's finest herb?

                                                                                              I found on every occasion, that to eat said pizza, it had to be liberally sprinkled with my secret stash of seasonings I keep in my purse. I also had to get a stack of napkins to soak up some of that grease. I try to be discreet when doing such things, I know it's uncouth. My stomach can't handle an entire cup of oil with dinner.

                                                                                              The one thing I love at CPK is the bread basket with butter. I fill up on it purposely before trying to eat.

                                                                                        2. re: acgold7

                                                                                          enjoy your burger, king...

                                                                                        3. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                          imho, Freebirds is MUCH better.

                                                                                        4. re: acgold7

                                                                                          The truth, in actuality, is that Chipotle's food is exactly the opposite of what you're describing, acgold7. No, it's not poisonous. No, their food isn't "empty calories" in any way. No, their food isn't 'carb-rich' if you get one of the very popular bowl options.

                                                                                          I have no problem with people disliking their food if it's not your thing, but let's not get into hyperbole. I'm no fan of Pizza Hut, myself, but I'm not going to tell people it's because their food is 'poisonous'.

                                                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                            Because "unique among fast-food places for its commitment to sustainability and environmental friendliness" isn't hyperbole. OK.

                                                                                            1. re: acgold7

                                                                                              Can you name another major fast-food chain that actively commits to sustainability and locally-sourced meat and produce? I can't. Therefore, they're unique in that regard.

                                                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                That's irrelevent. Chipotle is the company making claims about it. The fact that others are gleefully despoiling the environment doesn't establish that Chipotle has made much more than gestures.

                                                                                                Cynical folks might consider their lack of commitment where it's not convenient or profitable to show it as a mere marketing ploy.

                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                  Not true at all. Again: can you or anyone else name another major fast-food chain that has committed to using organic, sustainable, locally-sourced food in their stores? Chipotle has.

                                                                                                  "Sustainable" doesn't mean that we're running out of produce. It means that the farmers are using better ways of growing and feeding their plants and animals. And if you don't think the environment's suffered when farmers don't do so... I dunno what to tell you.

                                                                                                  1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                    They are claiming they are, doesn't mean they are.

                                                                                                    http://www.organicconsumers.org/artic...

                                                                                                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                                                                                                      That's from 2011. They've made major changes to their programs/systems since then. I'm not claiming they're some paragon of food virtue, but that piece is clearly well out of date at this point.

                                                                                                      More recent stuff from the same source:
                                                                                                      http://www.organicconsumers.org/artic...
                                                                                                      http://www.organicconsumers.org/artic...
                                                                                                      http://www.organicconsumers.org/artic...

                                                                                                      (I should note...I don't much care about whether Chipotle is precisely as whatever as they claim they are....but it's important to me that relevant, current information is used in discussions.)

                                                                                                      1. re: ccbweb

                                                                                                        Thanks for the links, I'll read them when I can.

                                                                                                    2. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                      Not true?

                                                                                                      What others do has nothing to do with whether Chipotle is behaving in a way that speaks to commitment to sustainability, and i believe the answer is "no" based upon their practices in communications vs. their food.

                                                                                                      http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2...

                                                                                                      In case you missed it. I believe it's, rather, a cynical commitment to marketing to easily fooled Feel Good Consumers who don't do their homework.

                                                                                                      It's ok with me that your opinion may differ. But nothing I've posted is "not true at all."

                                                                                                      From Chipotle's Chief Marketer about the scarecrow ad:

                                                                                                      "Mark Crumpacker: The film is really what I would describe as aspirational. It’s a view of a potential future that we would rather like to avoid as opposed to a literal representation of Chipotle’s exact practices."

                                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                                        Yes, that's the extreme cynical view, as you mentioned.

                                                                                                        Given that the scarecrow ad depicts a dystopian futuristic fantasy setting populated with talking scarecrows, it'd be sort of bizarre for someone to take it literally in any way.

                                                                                                        Again: can you name another major fast-food chain that's committed to locally-sourced sustainable meats and produce?

                                                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                          It's probably time to let this one go -- going back and forth repeating the same points over and over again isn't going to get anywhere.

                                                                                                      2. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                        http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-w...

                                                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                          Interesting theory!

                                                                                                          I'm sort of a part-time vegetarian anyhow, so personally, using meat to add flavor rather than have it be the be-all and end-all of a dish makes sense to me anyway.

                                                                                                          1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                            same here. vegetarian and/or vegan twice a week at least. plenty of dark leafy greens daily. I'd say "meat and three" is me, but doesn't exist in any form here in the suburbs of NYC. and the meat optional. and my last few trips to Chipotle have been veggie bowls, no meat. satisfying and better than most of what's quickly available nearby here.

                                                                                                          2. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                            I guess I'm on my to the grave :)

                                                                                                            1. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                              "The majority of Americans are eating about twice as much protein as they should, and it seems that the best change would be to lower the daily intake of all proteins but especially animal-derived proteins," at least in middle age, study senior author Dr. Valter Longo, of the University of Southern California, said in the university news release. "But don't get extreme in cutting out protein; you can go from protected to malnourished very quickly."

                                                                                                              http://healthyliving.msn.com/health-w...

                                                                                                              1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                That's crap based on an RDA roughly half of what one needs for health and lean body and bone mass.

                                                                                                                1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                  i'm not gonna argue as I am not a nutritional anthropologist, but, in my own experience, protein is overrated and meat isn't the only source of protein.
                                                                                                                  I find that many of those I know and have known that try to reduce the amount of meat they eat and they consume way too many carbs. pasta. pasta. pasta. rice, bread, etc.
                                                                                                                  is it so bad for me to consider that vegetables are a good source of nutrition? vegetable protein is viable.
                                                                                                                  I also find viable scientific studies showing that a high protein diet is an acidic diet and not healthy. an alkaline diet, with vegetable protein is much healthier. but every doctor has an agenda to sell...

                                                                                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                    I didn't comment on what you choose to eat, that's your business. I commented on the poor quality of information about human protein requirements.

                                                                                                                    That acid/alkaline stuff is crap.

                                                                                                                    1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                      it is crap. that's why I posted it. it flip flops within itself just to confuse those that don't know what to believe. just like all those body builders that take in nothing but protein and are dropping dead. acid blood. acid body.

                                                                                                                      go alkaline.

                                                                                                                      pHountainhealth.com

                                                                                                                      1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                        Yeah, I read headlines every day about bodybuilders dropping dead for nutritional reasons.

                                                                                                                        It's not as if they're juicing up with steroids, insulin, HGH or its secretagogues, creatinine, all sorts of supps.

                                                                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                          Hi there!
                                                                                                                          You have to do what's right for your body. For me, because I cook for me and my H, meals have to be meat/fish/colorful veggie and good fat heavy, because that's what keeps his blood glucose from going out of whack.

                                                                                                                          For him, not to do this would bring kidney damage, nerve damage, and blindness. In fact, he's working now to correct some neuropathy symptoms through diet. That's what works for him, and how I eat now too.

                                                                                                                          As for the OP, it's really cost-prohibitive for us to get lunch at Chipotle---what would be a satisfying lunch for him would be more expensive than what we'd want to pay for a fast food lunch. Yes, we could get a salad with meat, greens, guac and salsa, but it'd be pricey.

                                                                                                                          That's why we don't go to Chipotle.

                                                                                                                          1. re: pinehurst

                                                                                                                            http://www.theonion.com/articles/stud...

                                                                                                                2. re: fldhkybnva

                                                                                                                  Wait up!

                                                                                                        2. re: acgold7

                                                                                                          Sure it is; replete with the current socio-political buzzwords. Sustainability??? We've been eating cows, chickens and pigs for thousands of years and we're not about to run out of 'em nor has the environment suffered for our doing so.

                                                                                                    3. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                      >> Chipotle's very popular and unique among fast-food places for its commitment to sustainability and environmental friendliness.

                                                                                                      I absolutely agree with this, and I admire their commitment, because if they stick to their guns and continue to be successful, they will have the buying power to affect the food system in America in a similar (but opposite) way that McDonald's has.

                                                                                                      But please note, none of this has ANYTHING to do with the actual flavor of the food, which is BLAND BLAND BLAND beyond compare. There's no reason that organic/sustainable/humane has to be so intensely bland as Chipotle. (Here's a tip-- how about organic chipotle en adobo as a condiment?)

                                                                                                      While Baja Fresh doesn't subscribe to the sustainability thing, in their day they were radicals for actually cooking their food instead of just dumping from bags like Taco Bell. ("No Microwaves, No Can Openers, No Freezers, No Lard, No M.S.G."). Plus, their food actually **tastes** like something.

                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                        I actually completely disagree that their food is "bland" in any way. It's not super spicy, no, but they're going for mass-market appeal, so people can spice it up with their varieties of salsa or hot sauce. I personally think that a carnitas taco with their cilantro rice and salsa is hugely flavorful, and an infinitely more flavorful choice for lunch than a rubbery McDonald's burger or a lunchmeat sub from Subway. Apparently that makes me someone who "hasn't developed his palate".

                                                                                                        That said, given the choice, I'll happily go to the taqueria down the street for tacos al pastor.

                                                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                          Out of all the various national fast food chains I go to in the boston area (which isn't super often, but happens), I find Chipotle to be by far the most boring & bland. I'm mainly talking about chipotle, taco bell, mcds and wendys.

                                                                                                        2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                          Regarding Baja Fresh, you say "in their day". The signs still say "no microwaves, no can openers, no freezers, etc.". Do they no longer cook their foods from scratch?

                                                                                                          1. re: josephnl

                                                                                                            They do. What I meant is that actual cooking at a "fast food" restaurant was revolutionary in the 1990s (in their day.)

                                                                                                            Remember, this was way before the foodie revolution took hold of the American consciousness. Organic, fresh, local, etc. was the lunatic fringe, not the mainstream.

                                                                                                            In the 90s, if you said "fast food Mexican", most Americans would have thought of Taco Bell. So, for people like me who arrived in So Cal in the 90s, places like Baja Fresh and Poquito Mas were a major shift away from what people in the Midwest and east coast called "fast food Mexican".

                                                                                                            Chipotle is the modern revolutionary (of course, they're way more successful than Baja Fresh ever was). Chipotle is offering a whole new paradigm-- they're over the "no microwaves, no msg, no can openers" thing. We've moved beyond that-- it's taken as read. Now it's about fresh, local, sustainable. By taking the fresh food to a new level, Chipotle is the Baja Fresh (or Poquito Mas) of its day. It's just too bad their food is so fucking flavorless.

                                                                                                            Mr Taster

                                                                                                            1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                              I've never heard of/seen a Poquito Mas outlet. Is it a step "above" Del Taco?

                                                                                                              1. re: BuildingMyBento

                                                                                                                Poquito Mas came before Baja Fresh. Extremely similar concept, but a much smaller chain. Poquito Mas never went national the way Baja Fresh did.

                                                                                                                Mr Taster

                                                                                                              2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                Keeping in mind that I never eat fast food unless I'm really very hungry and very far from home...I can eat at Baja Fresh, fill up and not feels ickish thereafter. Not so at most fast food spots including Chipotle where after 2 bites of a burrito and it's in the trash, same with I'nO. At McD's, I just have the fries which aren't bad.

                                                                                                            2. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                              Have you ever been at a Chipotle where the line to order snaked out the door? Those are the people Chipotle targets; it's not you. There's a Chipotle a block from my office and 3 blocks down there's a Mexican taco/burrito joint. I bypass Chipotle 95% of the time. The other place is impossibly inconsistent, I never get the burrito made the same way twice (I always order the same thing) - but therein lies the charm. I don't find many fast food options appealing but there are clearly people who do and they're the target audience.

                                                                                                              1. re: ferret

                                                                                                                That's very much it, ferret -- I can see why going to a taqueria or taco truck would be intimidating for a lot of people. I've been to ones that barely speak English, or at all ...I was used to ordering in Spanish in SF or LA. With menus partially or mostly in Spanish, choices like "cabeza", "lengua", and "ojo" (eye tacos!), it's a little scary for some folks. The risk to reward ratio at Chipotle is low, but it's safe!

                                                                                                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                  I've spent the last 50+ yrs in LA and never saw ojo before but I do love the others including tripas and buche. Where did you get ojo tacos?

                                                                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                    I saw them a few times in spots around the Bay Area, but -- bizarrely -- I'd see them all the time in a hole-in-the-wall taqueria in Newport, Kentucky, across the river from Cincinnati OH. I'd often stop in there for cabeza, birria (goat), tinga, and huitlacoche. Never tried the ojo or brain tacos, but saw people getting them. Tried tripas and lengua but never really dug them much.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                      I guess you have to acquire a taste for foods like tripas, birria and lengua. I haven't quite mastered the taste of birria yet and lengua is an old favorite from the Jewish delis. Buche is a bit chewier than I like but is ok. I'm not sure I'd try ojo or brains either.

                                                                                                        3. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                          If we're talking Americanized Mexican food, I like Tijuana Flats better. Seems to have more flavor even before I hit the hot sauce bar.

                                                                                                          We end up at Chopotle on road trips because the always picky spousal unit will eat there without complaint. The way I've gotten rid of the bland that seems to overpower everything else is to say tacos with chicken, fajita veggies, a very small amount of rice, whatever salsa looks good and guac. The cheese and sour cream there are fat without flavor, and the beans just seem to generate a force field of dull.

                                                                                                          1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                            I don't know if there's a 'better' one. I think Baja Fresh and Chipotle are fairly equal. Both are overpriced and use a latex based tortilla.

                                                                                                            1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                              The big difference between Chipotle and Baja Fresh is that Baja Fresh actually tastes like something.

                                                                                                              Chipotle's food is so excessively bland-- just watery, crunchy vegetables with bland fats, served on a tortilla that sticks to the roof of your mouth and must be pried off with a toothpick.

                                                                                                              And the chutzpah to name your restaurant after something as deliciously spicy and flavorful as a smoked jalapeno... and then to serve up that bland junk... it's utterly baffling why people keep queuing up at this place.

                                                                                                              I have a hypothesis that the people who queue up for Chipotle are the same ones that aren't offended by the terrible smell at Subway restaurants. I'd love to test out that theory.

                                                                                                              Mr Taster

                                                                                                              1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                I think your theory is spot-on. Both places are geared to the young, trendy crowd who wouldn't know what real Mexican or Italian food is .We agree on the rubber tortillas and I think the reason for the blandness is that they have to cater to mass tastes. Not everyone likes or can eat spicy foods which is why they provide a variety of salsas.

                                                                                                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                  I've said this on my other thread, and it bears repeating.

                                                                                                                  The founder of the restaurant is a white guy from Indianapolis, and he opened his first shop in Colorado in the 1990s. So all of these ingredients and flavors have been filtered not through a latina abuelita's idea of cooking, but through the extreme blandness filter of caucasian midwesterners, and the food absolutely tastes like it.

                                                                                                                  Why a chain like Chipotle can be successful among the many taquerias and loncheros of Southern California is a bit like why Domino's can be successful in New York City. I think it just comes down to the fact that there are a huge amount of people who

                                                                                                                  1) haven't made any effort to develop their palates
                                                                                                                  and/or
                                                                                                                  b) just don't care.

                                                                                                                  For us Chowhounds, it defies logic. The embodiment of gustatory insanity run amok.

                                                                                                                  Mr Taster

                                                                                                                  1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                    well said.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                      As I said earlier in this thread--marketing. Here in southern California, where there's no shortage of authentic Mexican food, people line up for this stuff at lunch!

                                                                                                                      1. re: Mr Taster

                                                                                                                        Mr. Taster -

                                                                                                                        We are very spoiled in California. Happily so!

                                                                                                                        They got a Chipotle in Ohio by my family a few years ago - and they were thrilled. THRILLED. And these are folks who know good food!

                                                                                                                        Problem is, in their neck of the woods, there is no decent mexican food. There's taco bell or, you make your own. That's IT. So to have a place that is fresh and you can customize? They don't consider it mexican food, or real mexican food. They know it's fast food. But it's better than many of the fast food choices they have.

                                                                                                                        And for folks who have food allergies, the ability to customize your choices and look up the ingredients online? Huge.

                                                                                                                      2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                        I think this is more the case. They don't highly spice their meats because they're going for mass appeal, and to let people spice them themselves with salsas and sauces, if they like. That's sort of logical, to my mind. You can absolutely get a very flavorful meal there, but if you don't choose to add things that are intensely flavored to your chicken or pork, then it won't be intensely flavorful and/or spicy.

                                                                                                                        In the end, they're a chain, started by a chef who was going for mass appeal of fresh food. They're popular for the same reason that McDonald's is popular when there's great burgers next door: they're unintimidating and you know exactly what you're going to get. It's not a "chow-ish" place, by any means, but it's simple, fresh food that's super-customizable.

                                                                                                                    2. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                      I give Baja Fresh points for a corn tortilla. It's not the best ever but it's better than Chipotle's chewy flour one.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                        Big plus here for corn tortillas, definitely. I really wish Baja Fresh was out where I'm at!

                                                                                                                        1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                          Chipotle did a test run type thing of corn tortillas in my area (northern VA) last year and they were very good quality, unfortunately. Baja Fresh's are pretty tasty.

                                                                                                                          1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                            The Chipotle I frequent here in Richmond, VA has fresh corn tortillas.

                                                                                                                            1. re: Janet from Richmond

                                                                                                                              How are they?

                                                                                                                              1. re: Hobbert

                                                                                                                                They are good. It is what I generally get if I am not getting a bowl.

                                                                                                                    3. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                      That was my point upthread....there are few options with actual ingredients you can identify and ways to even make a vegetarian meal that isn't centered on cheese or french fries.

                                                                                                                    4. I think you should read my post from 2011 in which my first time Chipotle experience was shockingly similar to yours.

                                                                                                                      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/768493

                                                                                                                      Having said that, I really do appreciate their ethic of using sustainable, non-factory farmed meat. I just don't understand why the food is so goddamned bland. Those two traits are not mutually exclusive.

                                                                                                                      Mr Taster

                                                                                                                      1. I like it. It's fast, clean, reasonably priced, and enough food.

                                                                                                                        1. I like it. I don't go into thinking it is authentic but it is good and quick lunch time option. I never get a burrito though because I find them sloppy. I usually get the soft tacos with chicken but lately have been getting the new sofritos (tofu) as it reminds me of old school ground beef tacos of my youth.

                                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                                          1. re: lbs

                                                                                                                            Agreed that the new sofritos is an excellent alternative and, as far as I know, the only real vegan option at any fast food chain.

                                                                                                                            I have to admit that I like the crispy tacos myself. They're still messy to eat but are lighter and more manageable than the big burritos.

                                                                                                                          2. Chipotle is good if you avoid their signature item: the burrito. To be good a tortilla has to come in contact with grease on a hot griddle at some point; this seals the burrito closed and gives it a nice crisp shell. The steamed tortilla at Chipotle is a gummy abomination that sticks to the teeth and stretches like a balloon animal.

                                                                                                                            In a bowl, their food is respectably good. I think the barbacoa, especially, beats out that found at many local Mexican joints in Chicago.

                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                            1. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                                                              I've been to plenty of taquerias in San Francisco, Santa Fe, etc., and I think what you're describing is what they usually call a "quesadilla"; at SF Mission taquerias and other spots, they usually just flash-steam a tortilla or warm it in a circular griddle before wrapping your burrito in foil and handing it over. If you order it as a quesadilla, they'll toast it on a hot griddle before filling it.

                                                                                                                              I've never seen any authentic or mission-style taqueria toast a burrito on a greased griddle to seal it and crisp it, and I'd never expect it, though it does sound great.

                                                                                                                              1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                I didn't know SF-style burritos have the steamed tortilla. Chicago has independently owned taqerias on almost every block and every one of them gives the burrito a good griddling before wrapping it up.

                                                                                                                                I do stand by Chipotle's barbacoa though. The barbacoa found at the local places around here is basically just slow-cooked salted beef in a gelatin-rich broth, without a lot of spice. Tasty in its own way, but I like Chipotle's spiced-up version better.

                                                                                                                                1. re: Boston_Otter

                                                                                                                                  The steamer is hardly around anymore. Most taquerias in SF/Northern California put the plain tortilla on the hot flat top griddle for a minute or so to warm it up before assembling the burrito.

                                                                                                                                  The places that still have a steamer will sometimes put the assembled and foil-wrapped burrito into the steamer. This is usually to melt cheese if included in the burrito.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: pamf

                                                                                                                                    Totally agree. Same procedure in southern CA. Typically the tortilla is warmed on a griddle for a few minutes before putting together the burrito. I've never seen any place griddling a fully stuffed burrito before wrapping it up.

                                                                                                                                2. re: RealMenJulienne

                                                                                                                                  I agree their barbacoa is the best thing on the menu. I like your explanation of the rubber tortillas. It makes sense. Since all the chains serve it, I was attributing it to the use of the cheapest commercial grade available.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                                                                                                                    If you haven't already, please read the link I posted elsewhere in this thread describing my first experience at Chipotle.

                                                                                                                                    They recommended the barbacoa. I was not amused.

                                                                                                                                    Mr Taster

                                                                                                                                3. did anyone eat at Chipotle before they became so bland?

                                                                                                                                  I kinda sorta remember back about ten or so years ago that the food was tastier and the rice had more seasoning in lemon/lime, cilantro etc. and the rest was a bit better.

                                                                                                                                  I think that since they got to expanding so very much that they dumbed down the food for the masses. people do like bland. maybe not Chowhounds, but the public at large does flock to unseasoned food service establishments in droves country wide. those are the places that I find I empty a salt shaker on my plate in vain trying to extract some semblance of flavor that might be present...

                                                                                                                                  I guess that's why Chowhound.com exists. So we can identify what pleases us. food beyond the masses...

                                                                                                                                  I also enjoy Chipotle once every now and again if I'm in a hurry with nothing else in the area. Or if I'm in a place that I did not have time to research Chow worthy establishments to dine in. Chipotle is just fine, if not as fine as it once was...

                                                                                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                                                                                  1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                    Very much agree. When they were a smaller chain, the food was definitely more intense, in my memory. I think the bigger they've gotten, the less spicy/intense the meats have gotten, so people can add salsas/sauces. They're crazy popular in the midwest, and among my midwest family, my sister refuses to eat green bell peppers because "they're too spicy" and my mom says that anything with spice in it is "sadistic". So I can see why.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                      On Long Island, this is a much better choice than Chipotle. http://greencactusgrill.com/corporate...

                                                                                                                                      I don't eat there, don't do chains or fast food as a rule,but I would choose over a lot of other places for flavor.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                        mcf,
                                                                                                                                        <<I don't eat there, don't do chains or fast food as a rule,but I would choose over a lot of other places for flavor.>>

                                                                                                                                        I think I prefer Zim Zari in Massapequa... jussayinzall... ;-)

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                          I doubt I'd make a special trip for it from the north shore, though.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                            It may not be a "special trip" kinda place. But if ever on the south shore and in the mood for sunburned steak burritos. ..

                                                                                                                                            1. re: Gastronomos

                                                                                                                                              I recommended Green Cactus because it's a chain, as Chipotle is, with a related cuisine, and has multiple locations on Long Island. http://greencactusgrill.com/locations...

                                                                                                                                              Zim Zari doesn't share the attribute of the other two of multiple locations, not yet, anyway.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: mcf

                                                                                                                                                true. and thank you for the suggestion. it is a good chain. I have been there. perhaps better than Chipotle. not that I've had either enough to worry about it.

                                                                                                                                                and as you stated, "...don't do chains or fast food as a rule, but I would choose over a lot of other places for flavor"
                                                                                                                                                so I suggested one that is not a chain. that was in Chowhound fashion.

                                                                                                                                                <<multiple locations, not yet, anyway.>>
                                                                                                                                                Zim Zari does have two locations. One in Massapequa, NY and one in Florida.

                                                                                                                                                anyroad, thanks again for the suggestion. it was very nice and good Chowhounding! :-)

                                                                                                                                    2. ....never even stepped inside the door of one-