Saturday, January 26, 2008

REVIEW: Chipotle Mexican Grill- *** / $

Chipotle Mexican Grill is one of those major chains invading our precious state. If only they could all be as good. Taking the place of the old Bickford's RT 2 location, Chipotle has completely renovated the old place, oddly, shrinking the dining area to less than half its original size. While I vaguely miss the Bickford's, its existence always seemed a bit strange, what with two more Bickford's within ten minutes drive from the spot.

The whole place is compact and extremely austere in decor. Lots of metal and bare wood give it an industrial look that's, well, different. I like it well enough, but it's far from cozy and could hardly be described as inviting. It's appropriate, since this is what can be best seen as the modern evolution of fast food.

I don't mean that to sound bad. It is fast food, for sure. If you define fast food as food that is cooked in advance and stored for quick, assembly line-like delivery, that's what this is. The business model of storing the specific bits of food along an assembly line that the customer can travel with the server is a model that's just exploding. Chipotle is certainly far from unique. Another example is the nearby Fresh City. They all even have similar resource models; using as many local ingredients as possible and then advertising that fact.

Chipotle does this model well, though. It doesn't have anywhere near the great selection at Fresh City, but it does its whole Tex-mex thang suitably well. They've got tacos, burritos, fajitas, and salads. It's all made with the same basic ingredients, namely two beefs, chicken, pork, lettuce, sauces, rice, and beans. It's not much, but that's not the point of Chipotle. It's to deliver a quick burrito or taco that actually tastes good. To be sure, Chipotle has Taco Bell square in its sights. This is an edible Taco Bell. You're in, you order, and can be out in less than five minutes. All options cost less than $6, and every one will fill you up.

So, now, I can actually say that I do eat fast food. This is fast food and the old guard of the institution had damn well better be afraid. Because unlike them, this isn't just some cheap crap to fill you up. This is good food in its own right, and the dawning of a new era in what you eat while stuck in rush hour.

Chipotle: ***
Price range for two: $10-15

969 Bald Hill Road
Warwick, RI 02886

All week 11:00am to 10:00pm

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