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Chipotle comes to town, with free burritos

Sean Sweany | Thursday, September 21, 2006

The choices are simple. Fajita or burrito? Black beans or pinto? Chicken, steak or carnitas? Hot, medium or mild salsa? Sour cream, cheese or lettuce? Perhaps a splash of guacamole for extra flavor?

The result is delicious. A personalized, mouthwatering Chipotle creation made from fresh ingredients right in front of your eyes. For those who have enjoyed Chipotle food before, a description and thoughts of such a meal may cause a rumbling in the stomach. For others who have not experienced the joy of a Chipotle meal, this may sound like unnecessary hype and praise for such a seemingly simple thing as a burrito.

With the opening of South Bend’s first Chipotle, however, the uninitiated need remain that way no longer. Access to what the company itself calls, “A complete, four-course meal in a handy tortilla carrying pouch” is now available to all who can ferry themselves out to Grape Road.

The success of Chipotle took some by surprise, but has most certainly not gone unnoticed. Conceived as a more casual fast-food establishment than a McDonalds or Burger King, Chipotle has enjoyed wild success in its meteoric rise as a prominent restaurant chain. Other competitors including Wendy’s and other smaller corporations have launched competing chains like Qdoba and Baja Fresh to capitalize on the Chipotle phenomenon.

The secret to Chipotle’s success, however, is quite simple. As soon as diners walk in the door, they know that they will receive fresh, quality food with no frills, obnoxious advertising or grotesque pictures of clowns or other cartoon characters everywhere. Rather, the setting is trendy and varied, eclectic music tracks set a mood conducive to relaxation and peaceful dining.

The food itself is the true gem of the restaurant and the one-pound burritos make a perfect meal for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Many people like senior Tim Wyne feel the key to Chipotle lies in one thing.

“The guacamole,” Wyne said. “You can tell it’s not been in the store for months like other Mexican restaurants.”

Chipotle’s guacamole is famous and hand made several times daily at each Chipotle location.

While the guacamole is excellent, the attention and care that Chipotle employees lavish on the other ingredients such as marinated chicken and slow roasted pork are equally as good. Various types of salsa – from mild to very hot – garnish each creation with a mouth-watering, eye-watering taste that gives one the “symphony orchestra in your mouth” feeling after every bite. It is this great taste present in every menu item that keeps customers coming back for more.

Notre Dame students have been eagerly awaiting the grand opening of the South Bend Chipotle, especially since free burritos are being given away today. Senior Irish swimmer Julia Quinn said, “My teammates and I are immediately going to Chipotle after practice today.” Students hoping for a free burrito can expect long lines considering the popularity of the restaurant chain among the girl’s swim team and many other people at Notre Dame.

Sophomore Anthony Ashley has never been to a Chipotle. However, upon hearing about the restaurant and today’s giveaways indicated he would like to give Chipotle a try.

“Free burritos and spicy goodness sounds good to me,” Ashley said.

As the Chipotle craze sweeps campus, others who have not experienced the sensation will no doubt be joining the bandwagon along with Ashley.

This is perhaps one of the key characteristics that Chipotle imparts to its customers. The sense of belonging to a select “club” of people who have had the pleasure of enjoying a Chipotle burrito at least once is a special feeling and allows people to share their experience with others. Thankfully, this club is not exclusive, but rather welcomes all who are willing to give their taste buds a workout. And for today, at least, membership is free.