the great burrito debate…

In some quarters of our country, a huge debate rages. Chipotle or Baja Fresh?

While I have to admit that Tex-Mex isn’t my favorite cuisine, it does hold a place very near and dear to my heart. I lived off of burritos for a significant part of my college life.

My senior year in college, I moved into a rather upscale part of college town (if such a place could be said to exist where I went to college). With a Whole Foods next door (literally – my bedroom window looked out onto the alleyway where Whole Foods had their dumpster) and couple dozen restaurants within blocks, I was sure to have a wonderful year of eating.

However, unbeknownst to me at the time was that the highlight of my year would be a new fast food restaurant that opened directly across the street (literally – I could see it out of our living room window) shortly after my arrival. It was a Chipotle. Little did I know that the good burrito-wrapping people at Chipotle would become my best friends.

To say the least, my low budget and Varsity athletic appetite soon found Chipotle burritos a economical way to dispatch my hunger. My friends and roommates, some who were twice my size, were absolutely amazed that I could put away two of their huge burritos in one sitting with no problem. I ultimately settled on a favorite: chicken fajita burrito with rice and a little black beans, a mix of mild (tomato) and medium (corn) salsas, guacamole, cheese and just a dab of sour cream.

Despite being a McDonald’s subsidiary, I was in love with Chipotle.

Sad to leave college, I headed for another quadrant of our country in search of good food (and a living). While my new abode did not face a Chipotle, or any other restaurant (my place faced a nice big park), my office not only conveniently located across the street from one of the largest malls in America (whether this is a good or bad thing I’ll let you decide) – but more importantly, more than handful of good restaurants within a fork’s toss. Japanese, Italian, French, Korean, Chinese, seafood, steak, and… Tex-Mex.

By chance, my first day at work, my co-workers introduced me to their favorite burrito place across the street. They swore by Baja Fresh – a chain, I soon learned, that dotted the city like ABC convenient stores infest Honolulu. They raved about ordering their Baja Fresh burritos “wet.” Apparently a surfer term, “wet” burritos were covered in cheese and enchilada sauce (on the menu, it’s technically called “Enchilado Style”).

Anxious to find a worthy replacement to my beloved Chipotle, I dug in. After multiple visits, I finally came to a clear verdict – my heart and stomach would always be Chipotle’s. I found Baja Fresh’s burritos to be too greasy and heavy. The vegetables were overcooked and soggy. The meat was juicy, flavorful, but somehow lackluster…

I believe it was fate that, after a couple of months of dissatisfactory burrito-eating at Baja Fresh, brought my lover back to me. A brand-spankin’ new Chipotle opened a few months later in the beach community within walking distance of my home.

From then on, I spurned my “wet” and greasy seductress and I ventured off on my own culinary adventures on the office’s “Baja Fresh days” – knowing that I would go home to my tried and true soulmate, Chipotle, and enjoy my chicken fajita burrito with rice, black beans, two salsas, cheese, guacamole and a dab of sour cream on the beach… it was a love affair meant to be…

~ by ulterior epicure on March 13, 2005.

14 Responses to “the great burrito debate…”

  1. Guess what? There’s no Chipotle here in AA.

    Stuck

  2. stuck.

    1). i’m sorry to hear that… are you familiar with chipotle? (being the frequenting visitor of new york that you are, i assume you are – but there are too many more good tex-mex shops in n.y. to justify spending your hard earned cash on a chipotle burrito in light of better options).

    2). i heartily echo your laments. it is AMAZING new york doesn’t have better dim sum spots – well, at least manhattan. further afield in flushing are some decent places. i also agree, in general, that the u.s. is greatly lacking in good chinese food in general. canada has got it better than us!! toronto and vancouver have amazing asian food (particularly cantonese).

    when i lived in hong kong, one of my biggest joys was getting a big steamy bowl of congee with , rice noodle-wrapped “oil sticks” and oyster sauce – or whiling away a good half-day with my friends at dim sum “palace.”

    3). do you have a car? there is one dim sum place i know of in the detroit area that i’ve been to. it’s not great, but it’d do if you’re really craving it…

  3. stuck.

    if you’re so miserable – then why don’t you leave? (perhaps this seems like a flippant question). do you actually enjoy law school? how many years do you have left?

    u.e.

  4. i like the law school. it’s just that i’ve been in aa a while, and have exhausted the scarce dining resources.

  5. stuck.

    i know you had showed a liking for the “west end grill” (which, to be honest, i’m not sure i’ll be able to visit anytime soon), but what are some other of your favorites in “aa” neighborhood?

    u.e.

  6. we talked about the common grill, not the west end grill, which i’ve not tried. as before, middle kingdom is pretty good. the chop house is very good for steaks. there’s a sushi place called yotsuba that has surprisingly fresh fish (i can’t get there easily ‘cos i don’t drive). otherwise, i live on bread and preserves from my favourite store (don’t make me say the f word again).

  7. stuck.

    sorry, another anonymous reader had posted a comment urging me to try the west end grill…

    yotsuba – as in “four leafed clover?” interesting – given that it’s nearly st. paddy’s day…

    ha! you crack me up with the “f” word… well, the good people at “f” have a worthy job – little do they know that their products are keeping a poor woman stuck in aa sustained!!

    u.e.

  8. … sorry, i’m just personally curious – do you not know how to drive? or is it that you don’t have a car?

    i have a friend who didn’t get her driver’s license, well… ever… and although she’s fairly young still – (25), i still find that disconcerting given that she has lived in the u.s. all of her life…

    i guess i just can’t imagine – having grown up in farmland myself, not learning to drive before the age of (well, for me pre-maturely at 14) 17 at the latest!

    u.e.

  9. I can’t drive. Besides AA, I’ve only lived in big cities. Also, I grew up in one where owning a car is prohibitively expensive. That’s why I am …

    Stuck

    Btw, do you like “oil sticks”? What about sweet bean curd?

  10. stuck.

    sorry to hear that… well, you’re stuck… look on the bright side – there are worse places, i can imagine, than aa.

    1). a good oil stick is indespensible to a great breakfast (preferably with sweet soymilk – i never understood those who like the savory version)… they are also very good, as i mentioned, wrapped in funh twan (broad rice noodle sheets) and congee… oooooo…

    2). sweet bean curd is lovely – especially if it is very soft and spiked with jio nian (i’m not a student of pinyin, so i’m trying my best), which is a seductively sweet rice liquer…

    are you craving chinese? you seem awfully intent on it.

    u.e.

  11. Which dim sum restaurant in Flushing do you recommend? I want to one that was incredibly garish – never seen anything like that.

    I’m always up for (good) Chinese. A dim sum cum Peking duck lunch … yum.

    I’ve not had the spiked bean curd. In Malaysia, they do one with black palm sugar. An acquired, but acquirable taste. Have you had the standard bean curd in Ping’s (Manhattan)? Soft, smooth and warm.

    Stuck

  12. UE,

    Sorry about that. Didn’t mean to try to lift your veil of anonymity. Feel free to delete my comment(s) and your response. Also, you might want to put up an blog email address for your readers to contact you. Something like gmail or hotmail or yahoo so you can preserve your privacy. (Unless you already have one and I missed it.)

    AFW

  13. afw.

    no problem, no harm done, indeed! thanks for posting, and yes, i have gmail at ulteriorepicure@gmail.com. you may contact me there.

    otherwise, i look forward to seeing your future posts!

    u.e.

  14. I’ve stumbled across your blog when I done some restaurant baltimore research in Google. You’re doing a pretty nice job
    here, keep up the good work! check out restaurant baltimore

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