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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Better than sex?

I once made the pronouncment "A Chipotle burrito is better than sex - half as messy and twice as fulfilling..." Of course, that was back when I was in charge of running six of the restaurants in the Windy City of Chicago, back in the early days of our new millenium, when I had a girlfriend in this country and sex was plentiful, if underappreciated. Those were the halcyon days when I traveled by train or car from location to location, offering advice to managers, putting out fires and tasting the food for quality. It was one of the highlights of my life to be able to travel from location to location to test the wares.

I must have had a thousand meals at Chipotle - half when I worked there, and half through the "free burrito" coupons that have found their way into my hands in the years since. I used my last Chipotle marker - a delightful coin pressed with the logo of a chipotle pepper, good for one free burrito - today, a day which I was prepared to log into the annals of infamy. My last free burrito. I noticed that the chain was now offering "brown" rice, in addition to the original, cilantro/lime version to which I was accustomed.

So, I tried the brown rice, ordered a steak burrito and added the quacamole - price was no option with the rare coin. I asked for an order of chips and made my way to the cashier. To her credit, she gave me the chips for free and stopped just short of genuflection upon accepting my coin. I glanced at the register and saw that the total charge of the burrito and chips was over ten dollars, which surprised me; I have had a burrito with a side of rice and beans and an icy margarita in a sit-down joint for less, but I was in no position to complain - I was getting the food for free. We all smiled and I walked out of the restaurant, Chipotle bounty in-hand and a keen hankering to quench.

Then the unbelievable happened...

I had a disappointing Chipotle experience. I tore into the burrito like a fierce lioness attacking the weakest of the antelope and immediately bit into a huge chunk of beef-gristle. I spat it into a napkin, not willing or able to allow such a minor speed bump interfere with my Chipotle experience, and continued with my meal, willing to believe it was an anomoly. I opened the bag of chips and dug in - the lime-juice/sea-salt chips are the best, I didn't want to waste time pouting over a single mouthful of gristle.

The chips were stale and limp - the opposite of the crisp, tasty chips I had grown accustomed to in the salad days of my career with the company. I made my way through the burrito, on which I had ordered the brown rice, which had been hard and chewy, the soft chips and drank two cans of beer to make up for the poor quality of the burrito.

I sat back on my couch and gazed upon the wrinkled foil wrapper - I had seen hundreds of such wrappers, which had been the last reminders of meals that had nearly conquered my body and my soul. And the half-empty bag of chips that had in years gone by been the treasured prize for my children, who had fought to tears over its possession.

A small tear found its way down my cheek and I had another sip of beer as I mourned the past and the Chipotle days gone by. I gazed at the foil and rejoiced in the many friends I had made and lost in the heyday and the merciless punishment my stomach had taken at the hands of the vicious hot salsa.

They say you can never go back - and I believe them - but I am deeply disappointed that my Chipotle memories have been sullied with an experience such as I bore this evening. I can only hope that this was an abboration and that overall Chipotle still holds its standards high as the sun, but truthfully, at ten-dollars a meal, I may never venture back to find the truth.


  1. I won't go back...I have one right near us in Gilbert. I have been twice and it was bad each time..too many other good places.

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