I hold this truth to be ludicrously self-evident (and am thoroughly baffled at any dissention), that not all Burritos are created equal. The proliferation and American bastardization of the “Mexican” staple, the Burrito has become a taste sensation throughout the United States, garnering an unprecedented devotion among college students and a bemused and begrudged acceptance among their elders. While many franchised and local establishments exist throughout our great country and the world to cater to our Unquenchable Thirst for Burritos, there are two that set themselves apart in the minds of the constituency.
Given my current residence in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I am most intimately acquainted with the Burrito scene of its hallowed grounds spreading from Main to State street and all the way to the outskirts. The popularity of the Burrito only second here to that of the Pizza, I have had the pleasure of sampling and pontificating about the merits and disadvantages of each fine establishment. Moe’s Southwest Grill might as well not even exist; their wide selection of various unlimited mediocre salsas being their only bragging right. Their salsas are bad, forcing Moe’s into irrelevance. One step above Moe’s is Panchero’s, who boasts freshly-made tortillas on the regular. While the tortilla is imperative in guaranteeing Burrito cohesion, there is a large population who prefers an unwrapped or naked Burrito, rendering such quality tortillas obsolete. By this logic one can deduce that, just like humans like to say about other ugly humans, it’s what’s inside the outer protective shell that is most important. Such a heartwarming deduction leaves us with few establishments whose substantive Burritos are worth debating: local favorite BTB, centrally-located Chipotle, and our off-the-beaten-path lovable underdog, Qdoba.
While BTB holds a special place in any wolverine’s heart, its reputation as drunchies and limited scope force it off of our radar, which caters to the national (at the very least regional) population in its quest to ascertain the best franchised Burrito around. Prepare yourselves, ladies and gentlemen, for the two heavyweights to square off, and understand that my opinion is thoroughly and unabashedly biased. While normally such admission of partiality would minimize my credibility in your eyes, dear Reader, I implore you to recall my expertise in all things Burrito and also encourage you to believe that anyone possessing such chutzpah as to pen a Burrito Manifesto is probably correct by default.
To begin with the more logistical aspects of any burrito decision, one must consider the cost associated with each and every burrito. Given that numbers turn my brain off, I will deal with rough estimates and let you do the rest. Chipotle ~$10, Qdoba ~$8. Whew. Not only is Qdoba cheaper to begin with, BUT it also offers a decidedly kickass rewards program, featuring a signing bonus of free chips and guac (or salsa, but if you make that decision…sigh), AND a free entrée for every ten you buy. I consider it a point of pride not shame that I probably could not count high enough to keep track of all the free entrees I’ve enjoyed in my six years of marital bliss with Qdoba. Maybe I’m always just blindsided by the price of guac while I’m at Chipotle, but I’ve never noticed any rewards program available. Loyalty is the foundation of any successful love story, and Chipotle just doesn’t seem to get it.
Moving on to more important matters, I am going to boldly assume that, like me, many of my fellow burrito consumers are more concerned with taste than health. To be fair, we’re eating a flour sack filled with carbs mostly, traces of usually questionable meat, and an inordinate amount of “healthy fat” in the form of guacamole. For this reason we will continue onto a close analysis and comparison of the taste sensations and completely dispense with bringing up the whole GMO scandal of which Chipotle has recently been made victim. (A thinly veiled attempt to point out that Qdoba has virtually no bad press to speak of. Just saying.)
Even for us more seasoned veterans of the world of Mexican food, too many options can be paralyzingly confusing. BUT they are still necessary for the democratic society in which we live. So why would I go to Chipotle for the obligatory burrito or tacos when I could go to Qdoba and choose between a burrito, nachos, tacos, quesadilla, OR my personal favorite, the Mexican gumbo (or any combination thereof)? Furthermore, Qdoba has more options for tasty things to put on any of these vessels; like ground beef (which doesn’t exist at Chipotle), quesomole, several options for queso (LIKE BACON JALAPEñO), and six salsa options to Chipotle’s four. While taste is important for any foodstuff, many of us turn to burritos for the portion size. Coincidentally, this is another arena where Qdoba is victorious. Chipotle, with its oblong serving vessels attempts to dupe the consumer via optical illusion, but the savvy consumer knows better. The rounder, the taller, the better, and in that regard, Qdoba wins every time.
Aside from the burrito’s taste and size itself, the accoutrements are always imperative to nail for any hopeful successful burrito chain. Which brings us to chips, the perkier, more portable counterpart to the tortilla. At Chipotle, you get a half-full (like, even less full than that last bag of Ruffles you bought), room temperature chips with an iffy-at-best crunch. Qdoba? Bottomless (when you eat in the restaurant and I mean why would you not? Ain’t nobody got time to wait when you have a burrito in your hand) full trays of warm, thin-but-crunchy ones, even kissed with a hint of lime. Besides these superior menu choices, tastes, portion sizes, and tortilla alternatives, the fact that Qdoba boasts the most concentrated Sprite I have ever tasted is just a perk.
My last and certainly most potent argument will stand alone in all its splendor. It should be magic to any college student’s world-weary eyes:
Need I say more?