In these economic times, where can you go on a shoe-string budget that will provide a satisfyingly filling and good meal? For those of us tired of typical fast-food, there is an option throughout the United States that gives fast-food new meaning: Chipotle Mexican Grill. I was delighted to find and eat at Chipotle Mexican Grill in Orlando, Florida this weekend.
The bright decor and simple menu of this franchise bring it a charm and feel that sets itself apart from mainstream fast-food restaurants. This gourmet burrito chain claims to have “Food With Integrity” – and once you eat there, you will know this statement is not just a marketing slogan.
They use “unprocessed, seasonal, family-farmed, sustainable, nutritious, naturally raised, added hormone free, organic, and artisanal” foods. This philosophy has had tremendous impact on how they run their restaurants and their business.
Each restaurant’s design represents their idea behind the food: “simple materials put together creatively, elevating them to a higher level”. Each location uses the same architectural materials, but no two look the same. But certainly, each is unmistakably “Chipotle“. Every restaurant showcases original artwork from Bruce Gueswel, each piece inspired by the artistic style of the ancient Mayans. The artist also designed the unique chairs Chipotle uses.
The first Chipotle opened in 1993 with a simple idea: food served fast didn’t have to be a “fast-food” experience. “Using high-quality raw ingredients, classic cooking methods and a distinctive interior design, and have friendly people to take care of each customer”. Some 16 years and more than 795 restaurants later, they compete in a category of dining now called “fast-casual”; “the fastest growing segment of the restaurant industry, where customers expect food quality that’s more in line with full-service restaurants, coupled with the speed and convenience of fast food”.
The menu is a dream to me – just a few items, but they can be mixed and matched thousands of ways. It is always my impression that when a restaurant offers very few things, it means that they do those few things extremely well. I always enjoy eating at a restaurant where the menu doesn’t confuse me – or make me feel indecisive about what I want to eat. The items offered at Chipotle are: burritos, burrito bowls (a burrito without the tortilla), tacos, and salads.
This is what I immediately loved about Chipotle – as a customer, I get to create whatever I want – customizing and building the perfect dinner for me. At Chipotle, you get exactly what you want. Every time.
First, decide if you want a burrito, a soft taco, a crispy taco, a salad, or a bowl. Then, decide what you want to put in it: cilantro-lime rice; sautéed green bell peppers and red onions; black beans; pinto beans seasoned with bacon, herbs, and spices; carnitas (seared and braised seasoned pork, shredded); grilled chicken (marinated in a smoky, spicy chipotle pepper adobo); grilled steak (marinated in a smoky, spicy chipotle pepper adobo); barbacoa (spicy, shredded beef,); mild fresh tomato salsa; medium roasted chili-corn salsa; medium hot tomatillo green-chili salsa; hot tomatillo red-chili salsa; sour cream; cheese blend of grated jack and white cheddar cheeses; guacamole; romaine lettuce.
I chose a burrito, and had it stuffed with the rice, black beans, grilled steak, mild tomato salsa, the corn salsa, sour cream, cheese, guacamole, and lettuce. It was enormous! The rice is light and fluffy, seasoned with freshly chopped cilantro, citrus juice and a bit of salt: the perfect foundation to a huge meal. The black beans and steak were incredibly tender, the salsas were incredibly fresh – their flavors mixed gave a sweet, tangy, but with a little heat, too. But the one item that stood out to me was the guacamole. I have prepared my own in the past with fresh ingredients, and I knew full well that someone in the Chipotle kitchen was mashing up ripe avocados. The guacamole was the ideal blending of avocado, fresh chopped cilantro, onions, jalapeño peppers, citrus juice, salt and spices. It was so incredibly silky I would undoubtedly declare it the best guacamole I have ever tasted. For this chef/freelance writer to admit that Chipotle’s guacamole is better than her own is a momentous occasion – put it in the history book now.
Chipotle delivered exactly what they said they would – food with integrity, food served fast that does not have to be a “fast-food” experience, food with fresh, simple ingredients that are delicious.
To contact or visit the Chipotle I experienced, call 407-532-8808, or go to 2850 South Kirkman Road in Orlando, Florida. To find a Chipotle located near you, go to their website and go. Go eat. Go fall in love with a burrito. I did.