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Burritos fill bellies of ND students

Chris McGrady | Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Students have been caught up in the craze for Chipotle – the burgeoning empire of burrito restaurants built on the backs of organic meat, beans, and guacamole. Chipotle, a Colorado-based Fresh-Mex chain, has hit the Michiana area with all the force of, well, a three-pound burrito.

Chipotle opened on Main Street in Mishawaka a little more than a year ago. The restaurant was popular initially, but mostly with those students who had been to Chipotle in other cities. But as time went on, the phrase, “Wanna go to Chipotle?” became as much a campus mainstay as, “What did you think of the game?” Now, if you head to Chipotle at 6 p.m. on any given day, expect the line to reach the door.

Chipotle’s secret is simplicity. Its menu only has a few options: burritos, tacos (hard or soft shell), burrito bowls (a burrito minus the tortilla) and a salad. But the possibilities within these choices are endless. Four different kinds of meat, four kinds of salsa, two types of beans and, oh, would you like sour cream and cheese on that? These ingredients ultimately become the real weapon behind their success – taste.

So often lost in the restaurant atmosphere-battle (see also, the “how much stuff can we put on our walls” battle) is, ironically, good food. Chipotle founder Steve Ells is a cook at heart, and it shows. The adobo rubbed steak is delicious, the chunky guacamole is flavorful, and the tomatillo salsa is spicy and robust. Chipotle boils its menu down to a few things and does them very well, rather than having dozens of mediocre choices. The recipe works.

Many area students enjoy Chipotle on a regular basis. Interestingly enough, some don’t choose Chipotle for its taste or convenience. Rather, they choose the restaurant for its morals.

Chipotle is dedicated to what they call, “food with integrity.” The restaurant uses free-range and humanely-raised meats and vegetables from sustainable farms. The sour cream is made from milk that doesn’t use RGH, a hormone used to increase dairy production. Even the restaurant buildings are made from recycled materials. Talk about commitment.

Other students are jumping on the bandwagon as well, and not just because of the company’s ethical motto. A burrito is big enough for a whole meal, and costs less than $6. With students’ limited budgets, a $6 meal isn’t half bad.

But students aren’t the only ones afflicted with the Fresh-Mex madness. In its second quarter press release, Chipotle noted an increase in net income earnings of 72 percent during the previous six months. The restaurant opened 32 new restaurants and its stock is now worth more than $110 per share. Chipotle’s popularity is booming across the country, not just at Notre Dame.

With tasty options, reasonable prices, and a penchant for morality, why not join the craze?