The first Chipotle I ever entered was in downtown Minneapolis in the early aughts. A bunch of us roadtripped to visit our buddy Whammer for a wild weekend. Saturday for lunch, he took us to Chipotle. I’d been spending most my time in Iowa City around that time, which only featured a Pancheros at the time. My first Chipotle burrito didn’t knock my socks off, but it did what Chipotle does – offered me a quick, quality, consistent meal at a reasonable price.
Fast forward a few years and I – like Eric Cartman & the rest of the country – grew into a Chipotle addict.
A healthier choice in the fast food world with a Mexican twist, sign a grownup up. I’d go there 3 times a week, on average. Grab an appealing dinner that wasn’t a burger. My order never varied: chicken burrito; no rice; pinto beans; wait until they give you a scoop of meat and then declare “double meat” so you get two fulls scoops instead of two smaller scoops; pico de gallo & green sauce & lettuce. Sometimes I’d get cheese or sour cream. So maybe it did vary. But always a chicken burrito. Don’t fall for the overpriced guac & chips or the fountain drink if you can help it – & you’re staying under $10. Pretty much had to get a pop if you’re eating there, especially when opting out of sour cream to cool the mouth. Typically I took it to go.
Eventually, I started feeling like I was wasting my meals. This was a processed machine meal. It was Big Burrito. And here I was in Chicago, land of a 1000 unique and beautiful authentic burritos. I covered myself in the green sauce of shame.
However I rose like a recovering junkie and rededicated myself to the real burritos this wonderful city has to offer. Dinner would be from the La Pasaditas, Jaimitos & Arturos of the world. I stuck to my resolution and my dining life was richer for it.
Chipotle suffered in my wake. Not because they lost my 3-burrito a week habit business, although perhaps there were thousands of others out there like me who had a change of heart. Mostly, listeria outbreaks linked back to Chipotle gave the chain the unsettled stomach so many of us experienced after a meal at their establishment.
Last summer I attended my cousin Pat’s wedding in Newport, Rhode Island. My return flight wasn’t until 5am on Monday, so I grabbed a hotel room near the Providence airport. For Sunday night dinner, I studied my options. There was this unique east coast roast beef sandwich place that looked appealing, but it was several blocks away. Right next door to the hotel: a Chipotle. Tired, hungover legs helped me make the decision to return to the restaurant chain I’d abandoned. It’d been over 3 years since I’d stepped inside a Chipotle. The experience hadn’t changed much, ordering was fast & friendly. I rattled my order off at each ingredient station without any prompting. Like riding a bike. I took the chicken burrito back to my room and housed it. It was good and comfortable. Early to bed and early to rise for my flight without any intestinal issues. Felt sort of good to face my ex.
Last week I went for a dentist appointment up in Hoffman Estates. Traffic on 90/94 was shockingly open and I got to the area with 30 minutes to spare. Lunch was still on my to do list so I searched Yelp for a quick lunch spot. Chipotle on Roselle Rd. was the only place within shouting distance that would get me in and out in a hurry. I signaled and entered the parking lot.
I included sour cream and left out the green sauce just hedge my bets against an unpleasant urgency during my appointment. The burrito was the same as ever, appealing and tasty.
Now, I don’t think I’ve ever walked out a Chipotle after eating lunch and thought to myself: That was a great decision. But I didn’t feel terrible. A little rumbly for a minute then I shook it off and my digestive system did a great job dealing with an old adversary. Everything was just as you’d expect from Chipotle: not bad. It was my first one since Rhode Island 11 months before and as life winds, I’m sure I’ll end up there again someday. But I’m secure in my decision to end things with Chipotle, even if I stumble in for the occasional hookup. I’m better off seeing other burritos.