For all the grief I continually heap on a place like Chipotle, I seem to find myself going there to eat more and more consistently. There comes a point in a situation like this when I need to stop blaming the wife and look to myself to see what it is that continually keeps me rip roaring back to this strange, hypnotic, even dangerous place. Is this a ‘guilty pleasure’ as I’d always heard adults talking about when I was younger? Is there something in their meat or cheese that’s latched inside my taste receptors that isn’t letting itself go? Is it something deeper? Is it something shallower? Does anyone care? I’ve decided to put it to a careful analysis as the more that my opinion in opposition of Chipotle hardens, the more I permit myself dine there.
The whole concept behind Chipotle is fairly straightforward: tacos, salads, and other Mexican cuisine at a relatively reasonable price. Chicken, beef, pork or a vegetarian medley all fit the bill and are your dining choices. But their biggest capitalization has to be their burritos. It seems that this is the harried, hurried, careless American’s best bet in any event: fill up the burrito with a little bit of everything that they shouldn’t be eating (and a little bit of lettuce); pack it tight, wrap it up, and send you off on your way.
The rise of the burrito has got to be in conjunction with the growing of the American waistline. When I was growing up in the suburbs, there wasn’t even a Mexican restaurant anywhere in town! We had our “Old El Paso” taco nights where my mother would get some 93% sirloin and we’d fill them with small servings of cheese but plenty of tomatoes and lettuce. We never had any guacamole and sour cream? No way!
It wasn’t until I was in high school that we even had a Taco Bell come to town and that was the beginning of the end. We teenagers loved it because it was cheap and it was filling. The latest Taco Bell commercials, lauding their late hours and the clarion call for “fourth meal,” was something that I and my suburban teen compatriots had figured out a long time before. It wasn’t until Taco Bell entered the scene that there were any of these “authentic” Mexican restaurants began slowly cropping up in my hometown and surrounding areas.
But Chipotle takes the relative cheapness of Taco Bell and steps it up a wee bit. It’s still fast food but it doesn’t feel like fast food. This is because of the generous servings you get as well as the fresh pressed burrito shell that’s a part of most entrees. Even though they pull it out of a plastic bag with a thousand other burrito wraps tucked tightly, it still feels like your food is being made fresh. Like “Subway” goes Mexican.
And the thing they do; when they lay out that burrito shell that looks so big on their counter and ask you what you’d like inside is part of the illusion of freshness. They add what looks like small amounts of meat, beans, tomato, rice, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, and guacamole and then wraps it up tight. You always want to tell them to put more food in but you are quickly taken for the fool when you have a hard time finishing what’s presented to you.
So when you look at it from food standpoint there seems to be scantily little wrong with this place so many people enjoy. However as a less than healthy alternative to many of the other food choices out there (even do the Old El Paso at home is healthier) there is a lot better that we all could be doing than the heart attack wrapped burritos at Chipotle.
And yet, with history as my guide, you can bet that I’ll be there tomorrow.