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Burritos are Coming

October 28, 2009

Something very exciting is happening next week.  A Chipotle is opening in Latham, less than ten minutes on the Northway from Albany.

This town needs a Chipotle.  Badly.  We also need a Trader Joe’s, but that is an entirely different subject.  The most popular burrito joint by far is a disaster of a place called Bomber’s.  And people love it.  But it seems they mostly love it because they are drunk and/or stoned at the time.

I love Chipotle.  Maybe that’s a bit too strong.  Maybe not.  Let me try it this way.  I love what Chipotle tries to do.  Especially the part about using happy meat.

Next week before the official opening, I am going to a tasting at Chipotle, where apparently I will learn more about their “farmers and ranchers across the country” who provide their high quality ingredients.  My hope is to use that opportunity to see how much of this is marketing, and how much is legitimate.  (Apparently in our modern age, I am considered to be a member of the media, and thus get asked to attend these events.  Who woulda thunk?)

It all sounds good on paper.  And part of me wants to accept the company line and not ask too many questions.

They say:
All the pork and chicken Chipotle serves is naturally and humanely raised (an all vegetarian diet, no added hormones or antibiotics and responsible animal husbandry).

And
All the East Coast Chipotles serve naturally raised beef.

Also
Its sour cream and cheeses are made from milk that is rBGH-free (recombinant bovine growth hormone).

Certainly they do a very good job using all of my hot-button trigger words.  This is exactly what I was talking about in food versus restaurant food and what got my ire up in the yogurt aisle.

My guess is that once they are open, they will have more throughput of happy meat than all of the other high-end restaurants in the region combined.  Not because I am expecting a perpetual line around the block, but because there is so little of this high quality meat available at any price around here.

And at Chipotle, you can walk out with a burrito filled with the stuff for well under $10.

Let’s focus on the burrito part for a moment.  And let’s take my perspective out of the mix, because I am clearly biased.  Plus I have been living in a burrito wasteland for far too long.

There is a dedicated group of burrito lovers who are more obsessive about the form than I could ever be.  They have a site that is dedicated to reviewing all the taquerias in San Francisco.  Every burrito they eat goes through a twelve-stage evaluation.  In theory the top score would be a 10, but to date the highest scoring taqueria has earned only an 8.82 (for comparison’s sake the lowest is 5.67).

Competing against the best and most authentic burrito specimens in the burrito capital of the country, Chipotle’s downtown location scored a 7.42 – ultimately brought down by the bland white rice that I wholeheartedly agree is the weak link of the restaurant’s ingredients.

That’s a respectable score, for what its detractors deride as “just another chain.”

B-Day is Friday, November 6, when the doors open to the public at 2 Wade Road (just off Troy-Schenectady Road) in Latham.

Heads up.  The Profussor is going to Washington D.C. later today.  My copyeditor has a conference (oddly not copyediting related).  There may be some unexpected disruptions of service over the next few days.  Thanks in advance for your understanding.  It may be a great time to catch up on the archived posts you somehow missed the first time around.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    October 28, 2009 10:26 am

    I agree wholeheartedly with you and frequently patronize the one in Saratoga (Wilton, actually).

  2. October 28, 2009 11:48 am

    i avoid chain restaurants like the plague. however, my love of burritos has me curious about Chipotle

  3. Paul Kornblueh permalink
    October 28, 2009 12:07 pm

    I agree and do like Chipolte we are spoiled with one every four or five blocks in NYC, is it true that McDonalds owns them?

  4. October 28, 2009 12:20 pm

    I really do love the concept of Chipotle, but in my experience it has always still tasted like chain fast food, with the associated not-consistent quality of prep.

    Tough because I really do want to buy what the PR machine is selling us. I guess if it were convenient–say I hadn’t brought lunch and it was around the corner from where I worked–I might choose it over another fast food place because of the ingredients. But I’ve never had anything from there that was worth going out of my way to patronize the place.

  5. October 28, 2009 12:56 pm

    You going to that tasting thing? I got invited but am guessing it is going to be lame. However, I will probably swing by Chipotle to give it a try. I still haven’t been to a location yet.

  6. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    October 28, 2009 2:31 pm

    Paul Kornbleuh, McDonald’s initially owned Chipotle but it has been independent of them for at least a couple of years now.

  7. brownie permalink
    October 28, 2009 9:09 pm

    Dude, their “we-don’t-use-chemicals-you-don’t-like” copy reads like a Camry Hybrid brochure. Don’t be lured in just because there’s no Mex food in Kosovo Albany. Chipotle and your nemesis Danone are in the same business: volume food sales. Why care to learn more about their tenuous free-range grass-fed hormone-free hippie-approved status when the food is meh?

    Overpriced, oversized, and bland. Where’s the horchata to wash down my carnitas? The gaudy coats of paint? Cheap decor and one entire nuclear family cooking, serving, and cleaning up after your meal? Chipotle is fast food for yuppies (says this yuppie). The ingredients may be good, but in combination they are wholly uninspiring.

    The last Chipotle burrito I choked down cost me over $10. $10! A freaking burrito. The carne and guac were extra, I admit, but still too damn much.

    Sigh, profussor. Between this and that Taco Bell post it occurs to me that either a) you miss real Mexican food so badly that you’re seeing its mirage in a sand dune, or b) your culinary expertise falls short at any counter where your entire meal can be ordered by number. If it’s the latter I’d be happy to lend my vast experience (and waistline) to yin your fussy yang.

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