The Battle of Burrito: Qdoba vs. Chipotle

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The Dish: Here's a little-known fact: I love Chipotle. Lest you think I'm the only one here, may I remind you of Sheehan's recent post about the transcendence of loathing? Here's another little-known fact: My boyfriend loves Qdoba. For the last two years of our relationship, as this burrito impostor has popped up all over the country, I've resisted. Well, that's not entirely true. I've had Qdoba once and only once. Do I need to tell you I was sadly disappointed?

Enter last week. After a quick shopping trip downtown, my boyfriend and I decided to split a burrito bowl as a pre-dinner snack. As we walked through the Chipotle doors, he stopped abruptly, looked at me, and asked, "How about we try Qdoba today?" Grimacing, I remembered my 2011 promise (damn those!) to try new things, and marched myself across the street. And so it began.

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Qdoba: The ordering process at Qdoba is anything but intuitive. Their website, with a dedicated section on how to order, makes it seem simple enough but in actuality, it's kind of a mess. The signature items, mixed up with the create-your-own options are confusing but in the spirit of going with the flow, I digress.

After some solid attempts at Spanglish with a new employee over my gluten intolerance, we ended up with the naked chicken taco salad, served over a bed of lettuce with black-bean corn salsa and fat-free picante ranch dressing, plus a side of chips and three-cheese queso dip. Turns out wheat-free doesn't translate, as examination of their website shows the ranch dressing is wheat-full and the chips have a high probability of cross-contamination.

In terms of overall looks, the dish was fairly underwhelming. Even my Qdoba-loving BF agreed that it looked eerily similar to the airport food we'd snagged from the Chili's to-go at the airport recently. On top of the unappealing nature of the haphazardly thrown-together ingredients, the chicken was cold. The only redeeming aspect of the meal was the three-cheese queso, which was surprisingly spicy.

Chipotle: Sheehan nailed some major points in his review, including that Chipotle, while far from perfect, is at the very least dependable. You know what you're going to get every time. Chipotle's ingredients are naturally raised, farm-to-table friendly, and local when possible. Ordering is simple. The assembly line is laid out in front of you, and unlike Qdoba, clearly maps out my options. If I stumble, the crew behind the line picks up, coaxing me into making the next decision.

My usual order consists of a burrito bowl, layered with rice, topped with barbacoa, hold the beans, pico de gallo, corn, sour cream, and shredded cheese. It is filling, balanced, and rewarding. I know what to expect. Where Qboda's salad bowl looked anemic, Chipotle's practically encourages obesity--unless I'm really hungry, it's often a struggle to finish it all.

The Champ: Even with my proclivity toward Chipotle, I feel I gave Qdoba a fair shot . . . twice, now. Unfortunately, they just didn't live up. I should point out that after our little side-by-side, the BF is also a Chipotle convert. Chipotle for the win.

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