Part of the excitement of the new Chipotle Mexican Grill in Tulsa is its history. The first Chipotle opened in 1993 with the single-minded goal of serving fresh, gourmet-quality food at reasonable prices. Chipotle's claim to fame is that it is "all about--and only about--simplicity and quality. Our menu is focused, our food, refined. Our look distinctive. Our atmosphere, eclectic. Combined, they create the Chipotle 'experience.'"
Founder Steve Ellis' experience as a chef at a renowned San Francisco restaurant led him to a simple idea: gourmet food that could be served quickly and at a reasonable price. This commitment continues in its more than 570 restaurants.
Interestingly enough, Chipotle was singled out for an international honor based on its commitment to serving naturally raised meat (meat that comes from animals that are fed a pure vegetarian diet, never given antibiotics or added hormones and raised in a humane way) and integrating organic ingredients into its food. Chipotle calls this quest, "Food With Integrity," and it has the company looking at each ingredient it uses and how it can source better ingredients all the time. Beyond naturally raised meat, Chipotle has begun buying organically grown beans (about 25 percent of all of the beans it buys this year will be organically grown) and dairy products that come from cows not treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH, which is used to stimulate mild production in dairy cattle.
"We started on this journey about seven years ago when we began buying naturally raised pork," said founder, chairman and CEO Ellis. "Over the years, we've moved well beyond that and now serve more naturally raised meat than any restaurant company in the world. This commitment not only allows us to serve better tasting food, but will help us change the way people think about and eat fast food."
A friend and I were eager to check out this new restaurant in town, especially to sample what all the fuss was about the food and the sustainable building. Its opening on October 26 aligned with Tulsa's efforts to become a sustainable city, as evidenced in the recent "Blue Skyways Collaborative Partnership Award." The new restaurant was built using sustainable architecture such as recycled drywall, low VOC (toxin) paints and energy efficient appliances.
Chipotle is small, but its size suits its small menu. And, this small menu is an advantage to Ellis' mission. This mission is often unattainable in the fast food world with a menu that reads like the Oxford Dictionary. Chipotle's menu has remained virtually unchanged for almost 14 years, serving burritos, tacos and salads thousands of ways. Chipotle grills several small batches of marinated meats consistently throughout the day, mashing bowls full of fresh, grade A Hass avocados to make its famous guacamole, and adding touches of fresh-squeezed lime juice and delicately chopped cilantro to every batch of rice.
We found this true even within an hour of closing on a Friday night. The place is small--2,000 square feet and seating for 32 people indoors and 10 more on the patio.
Its atmosphere exudes a modern look, yet comfy and pleasing to the diner. Being new to Chipotle, the staff was eager to take our order, kindly explaining the process of ordering, focusing on our many options of building our meal. It was a great help to us.
Gourmet burritos and tacos are its specialty. The burrito is a giant flour tortilla, which can be filled with a combination of ingredients to suit specific tastes.
The hot flour tortilla is the foundation: cilantro-lime rice may be added along with a choice of pinto or vegetarian black beans. Then, a choice of meats: chicken ($5.85), naturally raised, vegetarian fed chicken marinated for hours in their chipotle pepper adobo (a marinade of finely chopped or pureed garlic, chiles, onions, tomatoes and vinegar), then grilled; steak ($6.10), naturally raised beef, also marinated for hours in adobo, then grilled; Carnitas ($6.10), naturally raised pork, seasoned with thyme, bay leaves, juniper berries and freshly cracked black pepper, seared, then braised for hours; Barbacoa ($6.10), spicy, shredded, naturally raised beef, braised with their own chipotle adobo, cumin, cloves, garlic and oregano; and vegetarian ($5.50), including guacamole and vegetarian black beans, sautéed peppers and onions. Additional toppings include roasted chili-corn, salsa, tomatillo-green chili, tomatillo-red chili, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and/or fresh tomato and romaine lettuce.
The Fajita Burrito is just like the burrito but with sautéed peppers and onions instead of beans. Also on the menu are a Burrito Bowl, a burrito or fajita in a bowl rather than wrapped in a flour tortilla; tacos, three crispy corn or soft flour tortillas with a choice of meat, salsa, cheese or sour cream and romaine lettuce; and salad, leafy, romaine lettuce with beans, choice of meat, salsa and cheese with freshly made chipotle-honey vinaigrette.
Drinks include specialty beer ($2.75), domestic beer ($2.50), although no beer was available that night, bottled drinks ($1.50) and soda ($1.30-$1.70).
I went with a burrito filled with cilantro-lime rice, pinto beans, fresh tomato, sour cream, cheese, tomatillo-red chili sauce, guacamole and carnitas. It took three attempts to get this meal wrapped up in the tortilla.
My friend went with the tacos, filled with pinto beans, steak, sour cream, lettuce, tomato and cheese.
My humongous burrito was very messy to eat, so I resorted to eating it with a knife and fork. All the talk about the fresh ingredients is not just hype. The ingredients were very rich with flavor and freshness--even all mixed together. I especially enjoyed the taste and texture of the pork--very tender and flavorful.
My friend's tacos, he said, were good, but quite small for the price. He enjoyed the flavors as well, particularly commenting on the rich flavors of the marinated steak.
Business picked up closer to the closing hour of 10pm, and the Chipotle Mexican Grill staff continued their pleasant service-oriented demeanor all the way to the final customer.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
10902 E. 71st St.
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