On the recommendation of friends, my wife and I had dinner at the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Watertown NY on a sunny mid-April 2014 evening. As we entered the place, we were greeted by a busy serving/dining area that was noisy due to the high ceilings, normal conversations between the numerous diners, and the boisterous exuberance of a women’s softball team that had dropped in for a meal. Perhaps we should have taken the near-chaos as a hint to try another time, but we decided to stick with our friends’ recommendation and stayed. We quickly noticed a large black/white sign that turned out to be the menu posted on the wall behind the serving line. The menu looked both simple and complicated at the same time, at least to first-time diners like us – it wasn’t obvious what or how to order a meal and the noise of the place did not help! We asked the person standing in line in front of us if she could help us understand the menu and how to order, but she responded that she was a first-timer, too. Anyway, we more or less followed her lead and that of the person in front of her, and we all managed to figure it out … sorta. My wife ordered a salad bowl with steak, while I picked crunchy tacos (3 to an order) with steak (on 1) and barbacoa (on 2). The steak was somewhat lacking in flavor, was quite tough/chewy, and occasionally surprised with some tough gristle. Oddly, I found the barbacoa tacos of inconsistent quality; one lacked any meat flavor, but one was pretty good. Chipotle offers a range of extra ingredients that you can pile on your menu item, including beans (black and pinto), rice (white and brown) with lime and cilantro, whole kernel corn, sour cream, shredded cheddar and jack cheeses, guacamole, pico de gallo, various cooked salsa(s), and likely a few other things that I forgot. Some of the extras disappointed; for example, the corn was tough and provided little corn flavor; the pico de gallo contained over-ripe tomatoes, was watery and lacked a savory character. Also, there is a temptation to pile on the extras, but too many ingredients create flavor competition rather than complementation and dulls the overall experience. The cost of our dinner was quite inexpensive – well under $20 for our meals. Of course, the Chipotle is self-serve and self-bus, so you put the tip in your own pocket. Bottom line – we left the restaurant about as quickly as we could, and we did so with no plan to return to the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Watertown NY and not much interest in trying one anywhere else.
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