Chipotle v Qdoba
By Austin Hearne
When I was twelve years old I ate so many hard tacos from Taco Bell after a South East Denver Little League practice that I could have sworn 40% of my body mass was ground meat, cheese and corn tortilla. Back then Taco Bell was my passion, and I’m proud to say that in some ways it still is. However, somewhere along the way I came to discover “real Mexican food”. This began the age of Chipotle and Qdoba. Both of these chains specialize in building and then serving gigantic burritos. Though both restaurants are good, after weighing the pro’s and con’s, Chipotle is hands down better than Qdoba.
I would like to start out by saying that, like most things, I prefer Chipotle to Qdoba because that’s how I was raised, and instead of trying to hide my biases I would like to be upfront and say that I will always prefer Chipotle no matter what. Day in day out, Chipotle rules and Qdoba sucks! However, I like and appreciate Qdoba on some level for what it represents competition-wise. Similar to what 50 Cent said in his song Many Men, “Sunny days wouldn’t be special if it wasn’t for rain, and joy wouldn’t feel so good if it wasn’t for pain”, likewise, Chipotle wouldn’t taste as good if it wasn’t for Qdoba.
Before I get into the reasons why Chipotle is superior to Qdoba lets look at the history. Steve Ells founded Chipotle in 1993, the same year I was born, in Denver Colorado, the same city I was born in, on Evans St. and University Blvd., very close to Rose Hospital where I was delivered. The name comes from the Spanish word for a smoked, dried jalapeno pepper. Chipotle has now spread through the US, Britain, and Canada. The restaurant is known for it’s large burritos and healthy ingredients (“Go History: The Life and Times of Chipotle”, 2011). On the other side, Anthony Miller founded Qdoba in Denver in 1995, after seeing the success of Chipotle (the clear original), under the initial name of Zuma. As they hoped, it boomed and they had to change their name twice because they pretty much picked names that were being used by other restaurants that were previously established (“The Burrito Timeline”, 2011)
Chipotle’s food is better than Qdoba’s because of its far healthier ingredients. Unlike Qdoba, Chipotle serves only organic meats ever since 1999 when Steve Ells took a trip to the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and discovered the horrific and brutal treatment of cattle. Now they only use free-range livestock and chickens for their ingredients (“Go History: The Life and Times of Chipotle”, 2011). This goes hand in hand with their motto “Food With Integrity”. This shows that even though it is more expensive than to use non-organic ingredients, Chipotle has the integrity to put forth food that they can be proud of. This is definitely experienced by the customer when they take a huge bite and taste the great flavors that only Chipotle can provide. Qdoba does not have this same flare for creativity and in many ways is only interested in the biggest profit margin. As Babyching says in her article Chipotle vs. Qdoba - Which Mexican Restaurant Is the Best? , “Chipotle is a creative student, Qdoba is a corporate suit.”
It doesn’t just end at the organic meats that Chipotle promotes. Many of their other ingredients are superior as well. When it comes to the beans I think its safe to say that the black beans are somewhat identical between the two chains. The big difference is in the pinto beans. Qdoba has basic pinto beans, which is fine, but Chipotle adds bacon to their blend, which makes them taste leaps and bounds better. But hold on, you may be thinking, “I thought Chipotle was healthier, so why are they putting bacon in their beans?” Actually, Qdoba pinto beans have 31 calories per ounce, while the bacon-flavored Chipotle pinto beans contain 30 calories per ounce, giving them an edge for this comparison.
Most people that I know say that they like the taste of Chipotle over Qdoba. However, there are many (apparently) well-adjusted people that enjoy the taste of Qdoba more. To that I say everyone has a different pallet of taste buds and obviously some people will have bizarre preferences and actually like Qdoba more, and that’s why we live in a free country. Most of the time I don’t care if you like Qdoba more because I know where I stand, but I have a few pet peeves that are triggered when those weirdo’s feel the need to insult my beloved Chipotle with their attempts to argue that Qdoba is better. Every single Qdoba fan has the exact same argument. Eventually, the person I am debating with will say, “Qdoba is better because their burritos have queso.”
This starts what I like to call “the queso argument”. Look, I get it; the queso makes the burrito taste way better. I agree completely. I myself have often gone to Qdoba just because of the queso burrito and I do enjoy it. However, to use queso as an argument of why Qdoba is better than Chipotle is just preposterous to me. First, Qdoba would not be in business if it were not for the queso burrito simply because the queso covers up the dreadful tasting ingredients that are way less fresh and healthy than Chipotle’s ingredients. Second, if you don’t get a queso burrito at Qdoba you will be disappointed, so because of this nobody strays from the queso drenched path. That’s all fine and dandy, except what people don’t realize until its too late is that a Chicken Burrito with queso at Qdoba is more expensive than a normal Chicken Burrito at Chipotle, which doesn’t need to be saturated in cheese sauce to be delicious. Although it’s not that much of a difference, this can be huge for a college student where a little bit of money can go a long way. When you have to hand the cashier eight dollar bills for a less gratifying Chicken Burrito instead of a respectable seven dollar bills at Chipotle, you feel a little violated. Lastly, for those people on the fence who say, “If Chipotle had queso I would definitely like it more than Qdoba”, I simply say that Chipotle merely has too much pride in what they create and don’t have to cover it up with runny queso just so that people can choke it down.
At the beginning of this essay I said that I appreciate what Qdoba represents and that without their crappy food, Chipotle wouldn’t taste as good. I’m going to explain this dynamic between Chipotle and Qdoba in a way that makes the most sense to me. Chipotle is like your really really hot girlfriend that you have always loved and to which you will always be true. She is perfect in every way and she’s been there through thick and thin. In essence Chipotle is your “main squeeze”. But low and behold there’s this other girl, Qdoba, who isn’t nearly as hot or cool, but she does have one really great quality, queso, that you want every once in a while. You know it’s wrong and shady but it happens and you hate yourself afterwards. However, it makes you understand and appreciate your love for your really hot girlfriend, Chipotle, who will forever be your true soul mate. This explanation was passed on to me by a much older and wiser man, Marc Houghton, and I will always remember it.
In conclusion, it is obvious that both restaurants are very similar. Although when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, Chipotle is the clear winner in this burrito-boxing match. Furthermore, I have some last advice to all you omnivores out there. If you support copycats and are looking for a less flavorful imitation of a great tasting burrito, I recommend you stay away from Chipotle at all costs. And if you are looking for a great tasting, healthy, more affordable, and reliable burrito made with love, I recommend you avoid Qdoba, in favor of Chipotle. Other than that, you’re on your own.
“The Burrito Timeline.” Qdoba.com. Qdoba, 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <http://www.qdoba.com/?enthusiasthistory.aspx>.
“Go History: The Life and Times of Chipotle.” Chipotle.com. Chipotle, 9 Nov. 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2011. <http://www.chipotle.com/?en-US/?chipotle_story/?where_did_we_come_from/?where_did_we_come_from.aspx>.