"I don't dislike chain fast food restaurants for their ubiquity, but for the deadening effect they have on businesses around them--the way they suck all the oxygen out of a neighborhood by offering ease and convenience and cheapness and exert a gravitational pull that draws trade away from independent restaurants within their sphere of influence. I don't dislike chain restaurants for what they serve, but for the way they serve it--their proud insistence that eating at a McDonald's in Maine is the same as eating at a McDonald's in San Diego (or Hong Kong or Moscow); that the gordita experience at a Taco Bell in Brandon, Florida, will be the same as the gordita experience at a Taco Bell in West Seattle. One of the reasons I love this country is because it is not a homogenized place. Because it has resisted every attempt at turning it into an easily demographized Flatland of sameness. When I go to Manhattan, I want it to be different than Cleveland. I want Cleveland to be different from Atlanta and Ohio as a whole different from Georgia as a whole. When I first came to Seattle from Denver, I did not immediately run out and try to find something to remind me of Colorado, I went down into the International District, Pioneer Square, drove Aurora Avenue and hung out in Ballard. I wanted Seattle to be Seattle and Denver to be Denver and to not just know, but feel the difference between the two.
And when I was done with all that, then I went to Chipotle."
From this week's review of Chipotle Mexican Grill--the story of how one little burrito restaurant changed the world.One of the first things I investigated after finding out that I would be moving to Seattle was whether or not there were any Chipotles in the city. And where they were. And how far I would have to travel to get to one if I was at the office, at home, out grocery shopping, just released from jail.
As some people are with In-n-Out (read: obsessive), I am with Chipotle. I would feel distinctly uncomfortable if I ever found myself in a place that didn't have one close by--worried that, should I be seized with a sudden, uncontrollable urge for a big-ass carnitas burrito, there would be no place for me to go and, in misery, I would just end up curled into a ball on the floor, weeping and rocking slowly back and forth.
I can imagine a world without Chipotle, but I don't want to. It's like imagining a world without coffee or cheeseburgers or porn--really not worth living in at all. But thankfully, I don't have to think about that kind of thing because Seattle has a few Chipotle locations and, this week, I've written about them--about the history of the chain, its importance, the taboo-breaking place it has in my heart. I even had a few words to say about the food so, you know... That's a change.
Check it out right here tomorrow. Or go and pick up a paper from the stands. And if you need me, all this writing about burritos has made me hungry. Can you guess where I'll be?