“You know how I feel about tacos. It’s the only food shaped like a smile.”
— Spoken by the character Earl Hickey in “My Name is Earl,” (2006)
Chipotle Mexican Grill
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that Chipotle had delivered a number of burritos to the folks at the newspaper to try, as an introduction to their soon-to-open restaurant on Missouri Flat Road across from Safeway. Well, last week they had a pre-opening event to train their people and introduce their food to the locals. I got to go twice, once for lunch and once for dinner. Both times I was impressed.
I would say their food is very “middle of the road,” meaning that it ranges from lightly spiced to not too highly spiced, something most people enjoy. Now, for we who eat fire, they have several varieties of Tabasco sauce to add .
To give you a bit of background, the first Chipotle was opened in Denver, Colo. in 1993 by Steve Ells, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America. The business has rapidly expanded since then, and is now a publicly traded corporation with more than 1,100 restaurants world-wide. They are all company owned and not franchised.
In 2001 Chipotle released a mission statement called “Food With Integrity,” which highlighted efforts to increase the use of naturally raised meat, organic produce and dairy without added hormones. They still strive to do that at all the restaurants, while also shopping as locally as possible and using products from small, family owned farms whenever possible.
The menu is simple and the food preparation is fast. You start at one end of the counter where you are greeted with a smile by one of the team members. You decide if you want a burrito (wrapped or in a bowl), tacos (three) or a salad and tell the team member what kind of meat (or no meat vegetarian) and what kind of beans (or sautéed peppers and onions) you want.
The meat choices are chicken, steak, carnitas and barbacoa; the bean choices are pinto or vegetarian black. They add your choice to your dish, along with their famous cilantro lime rice, if you wish, passing your food to the next team member who adds cheese or sour cream, your choice of salsa (mild tomato, medium roasted chile-corn or tomatillo-green or the hot tomatillo-red), lettuce and, for an additional cost, guacamole.
To that you can add a drink, chips, salsa and more guacamole if you like.
After paying you take your tray and find a seat at one of the inside or outside tables, or on one of the stools at the counter along the wall, which I like.
Chipotle is also very kid friendly and has four items on the kid’s menu: a small cheese quesadilla, with a side of rice and beans; a small meat and cheese quesadilla, with rice and beans; a single taco with a side of rice; and a unique taco kit, which includes the ingredients for two tacos they can build themselves, on a tray for easy building. All kid’s menu items come with a kid’s chips and a drink (juice, organic milk — plain or chocolate).
What did I try? At lunch I had a burrito in a bowl, made with barbacoa (shredded beef braised with the chipotle adobo), black beans, rice, cheese, the hot salsa and a scoop of guacamole. It, along with a sample of all three salsas and a bag of chips, made for a very good tasting meal. I really liked the spiciness of the barbacoa, their unique, limey chips, the tasty green salsa and the freshly made guacamole.
After working off lunch, for dinner I had a chicken salad. It started with romaine lettuce, grilled chicken (marinated in the chipotle adobo), cheese and salsa (again hot). Instead of beans I chose the fajita mix of sautéed peppers and onions. I added some guacamole and with the chipotle-honey vinegarette it was outstanding. It was a different experience that I really enjoyed. I would choose it over a burrito for a lighter meal. Yes, I had more chips and guacamole, which I shared with a neighbor.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is located in the shopping center with Safeway, at 3987 Missouri Flat Road in Placerville. It is open daily from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. and can be reached at 530-748-0094. You can also order online at chipotle.com, or use your iPhone or by fax. The fax number is 530-295-0118.
Take time to stop by and give them a try.