Image via Wikipedia
|A Chipotle Mexican Grill in Colorado Springs, Colo., the state where the chain started.|
The "Food With Integrity" policy at Chipotle Mexican Grill puts other fast-food chains, fancy burger restaurants and many expensive restaurants to shame.
The policy is posted next to the wall menu at the busy Paramus store: chicken, pork and beef served here were raised without antibiotics, growth hormones or animal byproducts, and some of the vegetables are organic.
Here's what the company Web site says about the pork it uses:
"There are ranchers whose pigs are raised outside or in deeply bedded pens, are never given antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet. It's the way animals were raised 50 years ago before huge factory farms changed the industry. We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we've ever tasted.
"We call this style of ranching naturally raised, and since 2001, we have sourced 100% of our pork from producers who follow these guidelines."
When we walked into the restaurant Saturday afternoon around 5, there were already about 20 people on the line and after a few minutes, another dozen or so customers arrived.
The menu is limited: burritos, tacos, and bowls made with or without meat, such side dishes as guacamole, chips and salsa, and soft drinks. Sadly, no fish or shrimp tacos are available. Main dishes are $6.25 and $6.65 (pork).
It's strictly counter service. The menu is posted above servers who assemble your meal as you move down the line, but the pans they are dishing from are unlabeled. Your last stop is the register, where credit cards are accepted. More employees work in an open kitchen behind the servers.
We ordered three bowls, one of them to go, with chopped chicken, shredded pork (carnitas) or peppers and onions, and all of them with white rice, black beans, sour cream, cheese, hot sauce and a side of guacamole ($1.95 extra). Pinto beans made with a little bacon also are available.
Our food was tasty, but not hot enough. I didn't get hot sauce on my vegetarian meal, but used one of the bottled hot sauces next to the drink machine. My wife found a filament in her food and, at home, my son said there was some grit in his guacamole.
Image by shawnblog via Flickr
My son's bowl with shredded pork filled about three-quarters of a dinner plate when we heated it up in the microwave. My wife took home half of her meal, and I was pleasantly satisfied after finishing mine.
In view of the restaurant's popularity, I'd definitely choose take-out next time for all three meals. Although we found a table right away, there was the inevitable bumping into other customers at the drink machine, where I found lemon wedges for my seltzer.
If you Google "Chipotle Mexican Grill," you might come across many negative "reviews" online from people who ate at the Paramus restaurant, but I didn't see any uncleared tables and the staff was harried but friendly. It's hard to know if the store was poorly run at one time or if the reviews are completely off the mark.
As we waited on the line, an employee was walking around the small dining room, sweeping up anything that had fallen to the floor from tables.
Our bill for food and two soft drinks was $30.17, with no need to tip, far less than what a meal for three, tip and tax would be at a restaurant serving conventionally raised, mystery food.
Chipotle Mexican Grill, 81 Route 4 west, Paramus,
in the 35 Plaza shopping mall; 201-556-0180.
Web site: Food With Integrity