During a recent trip to Washington DC, I had the opportunity to dine at Chipotle Mexican Grill and take a behind-the-scenes tour. The popular chain started in Denver, Colorado in 1993. There are more than 500 company-owned restaurants throughout the United States. Chipotles’ food tasted super-fresh and really delicious – the kind mama makes – especially if she is of Mexican descent.
Chipotle specializes in deluxe ‘San Francisco’ or mission-style stuffed burritos, well-wrapped in foil to keep the tasty ingredients intact inside the large flour tortillas. You can also purchase stuffed tacos in soft or crispy corn tortillas, fajitas, bowls and salads with your choice of Barbacoa, Beef, Chicken, Carnitas (Shredded Pork) or vegetarian-style.
The San Francisco burrito is said to be a progenitor of the popular wrap, which was invented by four best friends who were vacationing in Cancun. The guys were sitting around brainstorming the type of business they wanted to start and came up with the original San Francisco wrap restaurant called, World Wraps.
Chipotle’s founder Steve Ells says the basic menu stays simple in order to focus on doing a few things really well. If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it! Numerous ingredients on the line gives customers options for many variations.
The Chipotle restaurant interiors feature materials like steel, concrete and plywood. Through architecture and good design, they are transformed into something unique. The restaurants are environmentally friendly. On the website, Ells says, We want to incorporate elements of sustainable design into all our new restaurants.”
The same parallel can be applied to the food. Ells explained, “we use basic building blocks, such as rice, beans, and meat great cooking techniques, fresh herbs and citrus elevate the ingredients to something extraordinary.
Ingredients are selected following a ‘Whole Food With Integrity philosophy.” The restaurants serve Niman Ranch free-range pork, Bell and Evans chicken – naturally raised without antibiotics, beef raised without antibiotics or hormones and beans that are mostly organic. Bill Niman is a leading pioneer in the movement towards sustainable farming and a household name in the sustainable food and restaurant industry. He has joined Chipotle as a Sustainable Agriculture Adviser.
Chipotle does not serve sour cream or cheese made with milk from cows treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). It is the first national restaurant chain to eliminate the hormone entirely from the menu.
The backdrop of each restaurant is an open kitchen where customers can see the food prepared – avocados being mashed, meats being grilled, chips being fried and herbs being minced.
Charlotte NC and Atlanta, Ga. are the two closest Chipotle locations to Columbia, SC. But a branch will soon open in Greenville, South Carolina. Perhaps we will get lucky and Chipotle will make its way to Columbia. Sadly, I don’t feel this type of food in similar area establishments compares quite as favorably.
To learn more about Chipotle Mexican Grill, visit
4 Market Point Drive
Greenville, SC 29607
Open 11 am-10 pm daily
2109 South Blvd.
Charlotte, NC 28203
Open 11am-10pm, 1.8 miles away
2921 Providence Road, Suite 100
Charlotte, NC 28211
Open 11am-10pm, 4.7 miles away
1909 Matthews Township Pkwy.
Matthews , NC 28105
Open 11am-10pm, 10.7 miles away
Chipotle’s Cilantro Lime Rice
2 teaspoons vegetable oil or butter
2/3 cup white (long grain) basmati rice
Juice of 1 fresh lime
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped cilantro (or to taste)
In a small, heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat until hot. Add rice and stir well for 1 minute. Add lime juice, water and salt then bring to a full boil. Cover at once and turn down the heat to low. Simmer on low until rice is tender and the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork. Stir in the cilantro. Serves 2 to 3.
This adapted recipe is sourced from Chipotle’s Co-CEO Steve Ells.
Photos copyright by Susan Slack