As a Californian exiled to DC, it’s taken me a while to come to terms with fact that if I want a burrito, I pretty much have to go to Chipotle. It’s not terrible or inedible or anything. It’s just not that good, and it’s pretty expensive for any burrito, mediocre or not.
What’s wrong with it? For one, the article is right about the packing. A good mission-style burrito is a neat, tight little package of food. You slowly peel down the foil and eat it bite by delicious bite. Chipotle burritos, on the other hand, are loose and sloppy. You feel down the foil, and you get juice and stuff dripping everywhere. A good burrito leaves the foil clean at the end, while at Chipotle I’ve always got a nasty puddle of bean sauce and the like leaking out of the end, and the last few bites are almost impossible to manage as the whole burrito seems to dissolve into an incoherent mess. It’s just not well crafted. It’s like going to Subway and getting the new sandwich cut that makes lettuce fall everywhere and your hands get stained with mustard.
Taste-wise, one major objection I have is that they do not melt the cheese. Typically, I’d expect cheese to be steamed along with the tortilla, creating a warm, gooey, flavorful bed for the beans. If I wanted to eat a handful of cold shredded cheese, I’d go to Taco Bell. Seriously, who wants to eat cold shredded cheese? I haven’t found any variety of Chipotle meat that I like. I’m not a huge meat eater, so I’ll give them a pass one that. But it all seems kind of dry and chewy. The beans are bland but edible, I pass on the rice (starch on starch?), some of their salsas are pretty good, and the guac is okay but again, bland. They put way too much rice and lettuce into the thngs- these should be side-notes to provide contrast, not the bulk of your burrito. They don’t have anything you can add to make an actually spicy burrito- I eat it with a bottle of tabasco sauce in hand, saucing each bite. Tabasco isn’t the right kind of heat for that purpose to begin with, and I can’t add it into the burrito because I’m afraid it will dissolve into incoherence if I unwrap it. Anyway, the whole package just doesn’t work together. Burritos are all about contrast- hot beans and cheese, cool sour cream and guac, a hint of crisp lettuce, spicy meat, chewy steamed tortilla…all in one delicious bite, with each bite just so slightly different in balance than the last. But a Chipotle burrito is just…saucy and incoherent.
Finally, it’s just too pricey. I want to pay $4.00 for a non-guac veggie burrito, up to $6 for meat with guac. When I go to Chipotle, I pay $6-$8.50 for a burrito. Burritos are fast food. They are a cheap lunch on the go. I really don’t want to pay dinner prices for some beans on a tortilla. To me, it’s like being asked to pay good money for a hot dog…I just don’t want to pay that.