This past weekend I was with the family out in Portland’s shaved and deodorized armpit, otherwise known as the Tigard/Beaverton interchange near Washington Square Mall. Lacking a clear consensus on what/where to eat, we stopped at Chipotle Mexican Grill because it happened to be on a street.
Chipotle is owned (or used to be owned or something (I’m too lazy to look it up or even care)) by the McDonald’s corporation. But apparently it has much more meager roots as a small chain in Colorado with an emphasis on natural, sustainable ingredients — most notably the beef, pork and chicken they feature in their burritos and tacos.
Back when I lived in Tucson, Chipotle opened a branch near the University of Arizona campus that I visited a couple times, and I was duly unimpressed. Some 6 years later, I’m similarly unimpressed and, in fact, rather fucking pissed about the entire enterprise.
I ordered the tacos, which came 3 to an order for the soft version, and 4 to an order for hard tacos. I’m not sure why the disparity — this is the kind of thing that pisses me off right off the bat and keeps me up at night. Of course I ordered the soft tacos, as that’s my thing, but now I have to wonder why I’m getting shortchanged one taco. Don’t make me think, you goddamn soft taco cockblockers!
Thinking I would get soft corn tortillas, instead I watched as the guy behind the counter took out three small flour tortillas and stuck them into some steam/press contraption (similar to what you’d press a pair of slacks with) for about 3 seconds, ensuring that the flour discs themselves would reach the optimum level of gummy crappiness as dictated by the corporate division of Standards, Weights and Measurements.
You have your choice of meats – Chicken, Carnitas, “Barbacoa”, or Vegetarian. I had the “Barbacoa”, which is essentially braised, shredded beef. Each of the meat choices vary in price difference, from 15 cents to a quarter or so or more, and the Vegetarian is the cheapest, but by not as much as you’d think. The Vegetarian option includes guacamole, yet guacamole is an upcharge for the other choices. Again, why the disparity? Why is one meat 15 fucking cents cheaper than the other? You’re AGAIN pissing me off. I hate you and your tiered meat pricing, you fucking corporate bean counting rat bastards.
I digress. Chipotle takes the Subway approach, in that you’re immediately pushed into a conveyor belt as you build your burrito/tacos. The same guy who reconstituted my gummy tortilla discs apparently is too into himself to be the same person who horks the meat on my tacos. I kinda wish he had, because the chick who did dress my tacos gave me ABOUT A TABLESPOON AND A HALF OF “BARBACOA” MEAT PER TACO. Seriously, I thought they were going to wrap up the thing into a beggars purse, it was so sparse. At least that would have been an interesting presentation, and would have spared me the ignominy that was to follow, which is choosing my salsa.
As she moved me down the conveyer belt, she asked which type of salsa I’d like. As I remember it, this was what bugged me the most when I first went to Chipotle some six years ago. Whereas most corporate chain Mexican grills — such as La Salsa, Baja Fresh, Rubios, et. all — allow you to garnish your own offerings with a variety of fresh and tasty salsas from their garnish bar (and often times, limes, pickled peppers, chopped onions and cilantro), Chipotle usurps this consumer right of manifest destiny. Again with the cockblock.
They have four different types of salsa, I think – a pico de gallo, a green, a hot red, and a corn. Corn? That’s not a salsa – that’s a relish. Stop calling your relish “salsa”! She asked what kind of salsa I wanted, and then it all came back to me. Why. I. Hate. Chipotle. Most. Of. All. They want you to choose just one salsa. Just. One. What if you chose “corn”? Well, you’d be supremely fucked, because, da dum, you didn’t even get a goddamn salsa – you got a relish. Your burrito would be dry and flavorless because of their salsa segregationist policies. And I remember, that fateful day, six years ago, I asked for more than one type of salsa, and THEY UPCHARGED ME FOR IT. Bad memories came flooding back, memories long ago repressed, reconciled, and mercifully forgotten.
I did not blink. I did not waiver. In response to her question, “What kind of salsa…” I replied, “All of them.” Never before had a challenge been so forcefully communicated. What was she going to do, upcharge me three times? She hesistated for a moment, and seemed like she was just about to call my bluff, but ultimately in a huff spooned out about half a teaspoon of each salsa on each taco. Chintzy, to be sure, but at the time I was so content with my moral victory I didn’t notice that I was not offered my choice of cheese or sour cream which the menu stated was my God-given right. I still lost out in the end.
We paid for our tacos and my wife’s and her sister’s burritos (which were upcharged $1.40 apiece for a small schmear of guacamole making it the lamest $7 burrito ever) and retreated to our table. The tortillas were alternately gummy and falling apart soggy from the “Barbacoa”, and the salsas so lifeless and sparse I was forced to augment with the Tabasco brand green jalapeno and chipotle jarred hot sauces Chipotle is kind enough to actually allow patrons to use. BTW, these Tabasco sauces suck when applied straight-up — you might as well put uncut vinegar on your food and then punch yourself in the eye.
The shame was that, while way too much accompanying braising liquid was served with the “Barbacoa”, the meat itself was fairly flavorful. I just wish I would have been served more than 2 ounces total of meat with my $6 taco order (and unlike Baja Fresh, you don’t get any chips). A side note: my wife and her sister totally dug their burritos/Chipolte experience. Fucking white people.
Chipotle. Shame on you. Shame on the entire state of Colorado. And shame on me for being fooled. Again.