Fast food conjures up over-sized portions of greasy foods that leave someone feeling overly full and guilty for having consumed 1,000-plus calories in one sitting. Now that chain restaurants in New York are required to post calorie counts for menu items, we are all more aware of how many calories we are eating. Chipotle Mexican Grill, founded by a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), is an anomaly. While Chipotle shares the characteristics of other fast food restaurants—you can plan ahead what you will order, you can predict the décor, and you can expect to be hurried along throughout the process—the company also offers freshly prepared ingredients and naturally raised meat, flexibility in creating anything a patron wishes, and willingness to serve alcohol.
Chipotle also caters to vegetarians. A burrito stuffed with fajita vegetables will satisfy as well as one full of grilled chicken or steak. Regardless of what you order—tacos, burritos, fajitas, or salads—you have the freedom to add a variety of other ingredients. You can pass on the sour cream and cheese and load up on lettuce and salsa, or you can jump in with both feet and add all of the above, plus guacamole. For the low-carb version of the burrito, customers can make it a Burrito Bowl instead, forgoing the tortilla. The biggest dilemma for meat-lovers is picking the main ingredient: chicken, pulled pork, shredded beef, or steak. And, of course, you can top your meal off with a cold Mexican beer or margarita, a rare treat in the ever-expanding world of fast food. Chipotle is a lunch and dinner venue, generally open from 11am to 10pm (though hours vary by location).
According to the website, there are currently twenty-four Chipotle restaurants in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn. The majority of the Manhattan locations are below Central Park, making them an ideal lunch spot for business professionals.
Regardless of which Chipotle you choose, you enter through the large metallic doors and step into a high-ceilinged space filled with some combination of booths, high tables, low tables, and counter seating. Chipotle restaurants are all similar, but not exactly the same, so the trick is to identify the kitchen immediately and from there, the standard procedure commences. Beginning at the far right end of the ordering counter, which is adjacent to an open kitchen, you can decide what to order and then, following the server, work your way down the line of ingredients. For a first visit, try to go during off-peak hours when the lines tend to be shorter. Once the order is complete, the only choice is whether to enjoy this trip to Mexican paradise in the restaurant or to take it home. Of course, if you choose to eat in the restaurant, you can benefit from the free refills of soda.
Chipotle’s founder, Steve Ells, after graduating from the CIA, went on to work at a high-end restaurant in San Francisco before pursuing the Chipotle chain. His sophisticated approach to fast food is likely a result of this fine dining education. An impressive feat, Ells has created a fast food chain that can attract even the health-conscious. In an age of scrutinizing everything that is put into our bodies, fast food would seem to be a dying breed, but Chipotle maximizes the pros and minimizes the cons normally associated with fast food, so hopefully it’s here to stay.
Type of Food—Mexican
Various locations in Manhattan, one in Brooklyn
Romantic-1 Child Friendly-4
Girls’ Night Out-2 Solo Dining-5
Business Dining-1 Visitors Welcome-5
Dress Code- Casual Budget-Inexpensive