Sunday, July 21, 2013

Burrito Battles: Qdoba Mexican Grill

I was never what you'd call, a burrito kinda guy... at least not until I got hooked on Chipotle. That was about two years ago; and since then, I've tried 'em all. Or so I thought. Somehow, I managed to miss Qdoba Mexican Grill and all three of its DC locations. One look at the line for nearby Georgetown Cupcake, and I quickly changed my lunch plans from cupcake to burrito... in the blink of an eye. Seriously, how do you line up outside for a cupcake when it's almost 100*?

I wish I could say Qdoba stands out from the pack, but it looks like everyone else... from the line to the dining area. One noticeable difference is the chain's "Signature Flavors." Sure, you can choose from chicken, pork and steak just like the rest, but my eyes caught hold of the Ancho Chile BBQ Burrito. I chose the pulled pork version with brown rice, no beans and standard salsa. It cost me $7, and I paired it with a regular soda (and free refills) for another $1.85.

Service was quick, and the folks at Qdoba are nice enough. I took a seat near the counter (the restaurant was about 1/4 full) and used one of two private restrooms to wash my hands. Note: Bathrooms are clean, not spotless. No complaints. I loaded up on napkins (Qdoba also offers a pair of hot sauce options... nothing like California Tortilla though) and returned to my seat.

You'll have to trust me on how my burrito looked, because taking a photo of one is a lesson in futility: For all you know, I could have shot a can of soda wrapped in tin foil. Showing its plain-colored tortilla shell isn't much better, and I refuse to advertise food after I've taken several bites (gross!)

Burrito photos... Why bother?

My burrito was a bit smaller than I'm used to, but not noticeably so. Unfortunately, their pulled pork isn't tender at all... it's actually quite tough. The BBQ sauce advertises a hint of chocolate, hickory and smoked mesquite; but all I got was sickly sweet. Not exactly a dream combination, is it? They put enough meat inside, but I had a hard time wiping the sight of dripping pork from my memory (sometimes it's not a great idea to watch your food get prepared.) Taste-wise, it was miles behind Chipotle, but I still managed to finish it. To be fair, it got better the more I ate.

The more I think about it, the more I wish the ingredients were as clearly displayed as they appear on Qdoba's website. For example, I had no idea I could include fajita vegetables... or that I had a choice between regular and whole wheat flour tortillas. That seems important, doesn't it? Considering it was my first visit, I'll let it slide; but at least now, I know what to do next time.