In Manhattan, Chipotle seems to run the show when it comes to Burrito chains, with their many locations and loyal, almost cult-like following. However Qdoba is also fairly widespread with at least eight locations in Manhattan, and one conveniently in my path on the way to work every day. With two burrito titans in such close proximity, it seemed only logical to compare a standard burrito from each restaurant to determine which the all around better buy is.
My all time favorite burrito chain is a regional restaurant primarily located in upstate New York called Moe’s Southwest Grill. I use Moe’s as my basis for comparison because of the plentiful meat they stuff in every burrito, the sheer size of the burrito, and the bargain they offer (free chips and salsa with every burrito).
I started my burrito quest at the local Qdoba, and ordered a standard grilled steak burrito with cilantro lime rice, black beans, the spiciest salsa they had, cheese and lettuce. The total for the burrito came to $9.78 with tax, a little more than I planned to pay for just one burrito. I tried to add multiple salsas to my burrito but the Qdoba employees forbid from adding extras unless I was willing to pay more.
The burrito itself was large and pretty heavy, but definitely did not enough chunks of steak inside it. The salsa was blander than I had hoped, and all the ingredients were so segmented that half of my bites were just tortilla, lettuce and rice. In fact the whole burrito was blander than I had hoped, not exactly the bold southwestern flavor I was expecting. On the plus side I was given a Qdoba Rewards card, with a free chips and guacamole once I activated it!
After a somewhat disappointing experience at Qdoba, I turned my attention to Chipotle. I’ve always been wary of Chipotle because of the enormous lunch time lines, but I went at 2PM and found that there was no wait at all. I tried to order the exact same burrito that I did from Qdoba, with grilled steak, cilantro lime rice and black beans. Immediately I noticed that they gave me more steak than Qdoba, so I decided to push my luck by asking for the mild salsa with big chunks of tomatoes as well as their hottest salsa. The girl making my burrito immediately obliged, and gave me a handful of shredded cheese too, as well as my lettuce.
At an even $9, this burrito was huge; so huge that I was impressed my burrito-maker could wrap it at all. The burrito felt like a rock in my hand, but infinitely more flavorful than my Qdoba burrito. The cilantro lime rice tasted like it actually had cilantro and lime in it, and the steak was far more plentiful and flavorful. The salsa was perfectly spicy, and even when the bottom of my burrito ripped open, I didn’t let any of the fillings go to waste and gladly finished it with a fork.
Trying these two different burritos gave me some great perspective on what it is I look for in a quality ‘Southwestern grill’, and that something is FLAVOR. Chipotle truly is made from fresh ingredients, and the proof is in the taste. Though still not up to par with my beloved Moe’s, I can see what all the buzz is about.
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