Beautiful day in Friendship Heights. I was very hungry and we realized that today would be the first day of the spring that we could sit outside for lunch. We decided to go to the über-popular Chipotle. These things are poppin’ up almost as frequently as websites about hipsters. Almost daily someone from my office goes down to Chipeezy for lunch, and when they ask if I want to go… how can I possibly say no?
So I roll down to Chipeezy, about 50 deep with co-workers…. give or take 40 (yeah, it was probably closer to 90), we post up at some tables and go to town on a variety of Mexican fare. The long and short of Chipotle is that you get quality food and convenience with a decent variety of choices at only a slight premium. Major bonus points go to the many environmental and animal welfare policies that Chipotle implements. Napkins of recycled paper, and food with integrity means that the meat is treated humanely and not fed anti-biotics or hormones.
To my knowledge, Chipotle is the only nation-wide chain that does anything like this. There are a lot of good links and reading suggestions (like Michael Pollan’s The Ominvore’s Dilemma) on the Chipotle website. At least they’re using their burrito powers for good.
In the past, I have gotten the chicken burrito ($6.10 + tax) because it is cheaper and I generally prefer poultry over pork or beef. I decide to switch it up and get barbacoa ($6.50 +tax) – shredded, seasoned beef, similar to carnitas. Chipotle manages to churn out burritos at an impressive rate, which means that even when the line is long, the wait is bearable and worth it. We start with a steamed tortilla (I love burritos with steamed tortillas – it improves texture, decreases dryness, and makes the burrito more structurally sound). Throw on some white cilantro rice (disappointed that it’s white, but I love the cilantro), and the option of black or pinto beans – an important option to have. Carnitas and barbacoa both look dried up like 50 Cent’s career, but we’ll see how it tastes (and as I wait for another 50¢ album, come on buddy!)
Four options for salsa: pico de gallo (mild… hey! That name sounds familiar!), roasted chili-corn salsa (medium), tomatillo-green chili salsa (medium), and tomatillo-red chili salsa (hot). To say the pico de gallo is mild is like saying Lady Gaga has a peculiar fashion sense. It adds moderate taste and texture, but doesn’t have a knock out flavor, although none of the salsas do. I end up throwing together 3 of them: the pico, the corn “salsa” (really, it’s just corn), and the tomatillo-red chili salsa, which does add a bit of spice, but not much considering it’s billed as “hot.” Guacamole is an additional $1.85 on meat burritos, which is a big minus. The guacamole is delicious and I believe each individual avocado is tenderly loved and raised on Baby Mozart and then has its balls caressed ever so gently when it’s time to make the salsa. While I appreciate organic and whatnot, $1.85 makes it unrealistic to ever put guac in the burrito.
Finally, add on some sour cream (nice option), throw in some shredded cheese and romaine lettuce, and wrap that sucker up! I am hungry and excited, and being the showman that I am, I am giddy with anticipation to have people watch me devour this burrito and critique it on the fly. My co-workers are equally riveted at the prospect of seeing a real live burrito connoisseur in action.
Grab a seat and go to town. The meat did in fact taste as dry as it looked. I would not recommend getting the carnitas or barbacoa ever. I can say from experience that the chicken is quite tasty and rarely too dry; the steak is somewhat bland but has not had the same dryness problem as the pork; and the veggie burrito, as long as the preparers don’t overwhelm it with beans, is very satisfying, delicious, and never dry (probably b/c of the big helping of guac and salsa you’re able to get on it).
So, as I said at the beginning, Chipotle is a great option because of its accessibility and quality of ingredients. It’s not particularly creative and has somewhat limited options, but that doesn’t stop people from lining up to get a piece. I can assuredly say that Chipotle is the best chain burrito joint that I have encountered so far. Bonus points for locations and food with integrity practices.
Final verdict: 3.5/5 Sombreros