Review: Steak Soft Tacos from Qdoba
It’s no secret that Chipotle is one of my fast casual favorites. They bring the flavor and they cater to my liberal sensibilities. Qdoba is one of their main competitors, but when I find something I like, I stick with it, thus this was my first time trying Qdoba. The menu is exactly the same as Chipotle with a couple of additions. Basically, they serve mission burritos in a too hip for its own good setting. Comparing the two is only natural and I’m certainly not the first to do so. Can Qdoba match or even surpass Chipotle’s delicious dominance? Not even close. There isn’t a description of everything on the website due to customization, so I’ll just tell you what I had; Steak Soft Tacos and Chips and Queso.
My go-to item at Chipotle is the steak soft tacos, so I figured the best way to judge Qdoba would be with the same. I topped them with all five salsas (pico, corn, red and green tomato, and Habanero), lettuce and guacamole. First off, the guy who made my tacos was an idiot. The middle taco was completely empty except for the lettuce and guac it had at the north side of it as if they were a hat. The guac was also placed perpendicular to the tacos like an avocado belt. The guacamole was bland and gritty… that’s a first for me. Gritty avocado? The steak was tender but flavorless, and the salsas all tasted jarred. They aren’t jarred, but I’ll touch on that later. The romaine was fresh, but cut in giant chunks so eating it was a challenge. Basically, these tacos sucked. The website was promoting the queso, so I figured I’d give it a try. Ever had the stuff in a jar you find below the Tostidos in a convenience store? Then you have had this queso dip. Overall a very lackluster meal. No care or attention to detail was put into anything. At a place where most things are made from scratch, those are obviously key. At least the conversation was good.
After eating at Qdoba, I decided to do some research and I realized why my food was so subpar. The people who rave about Qdoba say Chipotle is too spicy… or that there is too much cilantro. Qdoba, doesn’t assault their tongue with aggressive flavors. Qdoba is safe food, and if you are me, this will drive you insane. With Mexican cuisine (semi-Mex anyway) I want big, bold flavors. Roasted chiles, citrus, and grilled meats are what I crave, and what I expect. If I want “safe food”, I’ll get a McNugget Happy Meal. Qdoba also loves to do cooking demos. There are a ton on YouTube. In my opinion, their recipes are awful. The juice of two limes, half an onion, a touch of cilantro, one seeded jalapeno and a pinch of salt to a CASE of tomatoes to make their pico de gallo? Of course it’s bland. The guac is made the same way but swap the tomatoes for avocados. The other problem these recipes have is that if your tomatoes and avocados aren’t ripe or over-ripe and of poor quality, it will be overly apparent considering 99% of the dish is one ingredient. Chipotle does a good job of sourcing produce and serving it at the right time. It makes a huge difference and I dig that. Qdoba’s produce fails. It’s not rocket science.
So this had me wondering why Qdoba was so crappy when compared to Chipotle. Among other things the answer is simple, they franchise. All Chipotles are held to the same standards by the same people. The Qdoba you step into could be owned by someone who either knows nothing of the business or doesn’t even care if their customers are happy. Ever been to a bad Subway with old food and dirty bathrooms? You can thank franchising for that. People with no restaurant experience can open any franchise if they have the cash. In my opinion that is one of the biggest problems crushing this industry. It is also why a lot of you are getting untoasted buns with Wendy’s new burgers. If it is your dream to serve food, learn the business from the ground up or get ready to fail. Qdoba’s food has too much room for error and it was on full display with my meal. Well, this was a depressing review. Some Chipotle should brighten my mood.
Pros: Not as bad as Noodles & Co. I didn't throw any food away. Chipotle.
Cons: See above. The price was the same as Chipotle. I could have spent that money at Chipotle.
Grubbing on-the-go: 2.00/10
Price: 8.56 (Steak Soft Tacos) $3.99 (Chips and Queso Dip)