Restaurant Review – Chipotle Mexican Grill

My cousin’s husband shared an interesting story about Mexican dining with me. While working in Juarez, Mexico, a taco stand set-up shop across from the building he worked. Every day for lunch, he and his co-workers would walk over there for a quick meal. One day right before noon, a car pulled up in front of the booth. Several men jumped out and machine gunned the place. The following day, after cleaning up the blood and debris, the taco stand opened for business once again. I wish my experience at the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Mount Laurel, New Jersey could’ve been that pleasant and as quiet.

I haven’t had Mexican food in a while, so Chipotle seemed a good place to rectify that. I should’ve known from the décor that I’d made a mistake. This establishment sported the worst ambiance I’ve even seen in a restaurant. All the tables in the building were plain metal; I’m thinking some kind of steel. No tablecloths, no Mexican accoutrements, just metal. The lights reminded me of the kinds of devices used to keep food warm in a kitchen. Most of the chairs were made of wood and made sitting very uncomfortable. Some tables had stools, however.

Compared to the condition of the floor, everything else seemed high-class. I don’t know if they ran out of money before the contractor finished the job, but the section of flooring under me wasn’t smooth. (Maybe that explained reason for the poor quality lighting.) The other parts of the floor looked like plain concrete. I felt like I was eating lunch over someone’s driveway.

Granted, I don’t go out dining expecting the establishment spent big money on an interior designer. Still, a restaurant needs to provide some sense of sophistication. Even fast food establishments like McDonalds or Subway have nice dining areas. The inside of this building made my old high school cafeteria comparable to Seasons 52 in Cherry Hill. I went to a Catholic School. I assure readers: the school didn’t invest what little money it had in making the cafeteria look good.

As I’m writing this review, I’m realizing that I must’ve really been hungry today. I decided to get some lunch. The ordering format at Chipotle is similar to that of a Subway restaurant. You place your order, select the items you’d like on it and the server makes your meal while you watch. The person behind the counter asks what you want and then puts it on your taco, burrito or salad.

I didn’t understand why they used this process. At a place like Subway, they offer numerous breads to choose from along with myriad meats and condiments. Chipotle doesn’t offer that many choices that justify this arrangement. Granted, diners have options in terms of meat, the mildness of the sauce, brown or white rice, etc. I’m sure the assembly line process speeds up their throughput. Because of the lack of items on the menu and the limited variety of condiments, it struck me as a little “showy” as opposed to functional.

I ordered a Chicken Burrito with Guacamole. I had mine with brown rice, mild sauce and sour cream. A better way of describing lunch would be: I had globs of guacamole and sour cream with traces of rice, sauce and pieces of chicken packed together. They loaded my burrito with so much of the stuff that it tasted cold. You read that right: my Mexican food tasted cold.

I think I met my lifetime quota of guacamole today. I’ve read it contains avocado which is good for the heart. I was real happy to hear that because there was yet another aspect of my visit that could’ve sent my blood pressure soaring. I don’t know why, but numerous young children were in the building: to the point where I thought I entered a day care center as opposed to a restaurant. They weren’t the best behaved, either. I had to slalom around a number of kids running around the room. A few even broke the din of incessant crying by screaming.

I know readers will object to the above comments citing the fact I’m not a parent, myself. Let me respond by saying I live up to the standards I expect from others. Yesterday, my father took me out to lunch at a different establishment. Dad will back me up on this: not once did I run around the building, start screaming or crying. I know if I did so in front of my old man, it would be the last time I did it in front of him. (Parents take the hint.)

With my meal I decided to splurge and get the chips with mild salsa sauce. I thought the later very spicy, but I like that flavor. It wasn’t so hot that it burned my mouth, but it had more of a kick than what I expected from “mild” sauce. Based on the quality of the chips, I could understand why they’d make the sauce extra spicy. The pronounced corn flavor really came through. (I met my lifetime corn quota today, as well.) Normally, corn chips have a very crunchy or brittle texture. I couldn’t quite bend the ones I had, but I thought them soft.

I compliment the outstanding quality of the customer service. The gentleman making my burrito noticed a break in the shell. He gave me the option of either putting the contents into a new one, or wrapping everything in another one. I liked the fact the server took the time to discern what the customer wanted. I don’t receive that treatment as often as I would like.

I’m going to give my cousin’s husband a call the next time I’m in the mood for Mexican food. I’ll see if he can give me the address of that taco stand in Juarez. After my experience at the Chipotle Mexican Grill, I’m sure I’ll have a much more enjoyable dining experience there.

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