Review: Carnitas Quesadilla from Chipotle

Most secret menus aren’t so secret anymore. In-N-Out’s secret menu is more popular than the regular one (see Animal Style). Five Guys bypassed the secret menu all together, and put pretty much anything you could think of on the menu with items like the Grilled Cheese. I first started eating at Chipotle about ten years ago. A store opened in my area, and as a promotion they put an empty bag in the local newspaper. Bring in the bag and they will fill it with a burrito.

Needless to say, my friends and I chowed down on dozens of burritos over a month or two for about twenty-five cents each, if that. Sure I manipulated the system, but Chipotle ended up with a loyal customer that has stood by them for the last ten years. Over said decade I have tried just about everything on the menu, but not the secret menu. Chipotle will make anything you ask for within reason… they have the ingredients. I love my Steak and Guac Soft Tacos, but it seems time to venture outside of my comfort zone and try something new; The Quesadilla off the secret menu. Will it stack up to my beloved tacos?

Since it’s a secret (albeit a poor one), there is no official description for a Chipotle Quesadilla, so I will make one up.

A giant flour tortilla stuffed with whatever you like and grilled to perfection. We at Chipotle are assuming one of those ingredients is cheese.

I went with cheese, carnitas, and fajita veggies. I also added a side of red tomatillo salsa. They pile on the ingredients, fold it like an envelope, and toss it on the tortilla warmer.  This was pretty good, but not without faults. Chipotle went all the way when loading on the ingredients, and I really dig that. The massive amount of cheese was melted perfectly, and the tortilla was browned just right. If melty and crunchy are words that appeal to you, this is right up your alley. Though the annoying problem I had.. the two main ingredients seemed to be at war with each other. The carnitas (roasted pulled pork, by the way) were REALLY good. The cheese was just… salty. It took away from the greatness of the pork that was clearly made with love. The harmony of flavors took a hit and the carnitas won hands down.

While eating the quesadilla all I could think was that I just wanted a giant bowl of carnitas, lime to squeeze, and a frosty beer. I have had the carnitas plenty of times before, but never with so few other ingredients along side it. The seasonings were dead on, and the perfect amount of juniper came through. The cheese just didn’t need to be there. Dipping the quesadilla in the tomatillo hot sauce added some nice heat, but didn’t do much to elevate the entire package. Mind you, I am a chile head, so be careful if you can’t take the heat.

This was tasty, but cheese, black beans and guacamole would have made for a better combination. Hindsight, right? Oh, the fajita veggies were forgettable, so I guess that explains me forgetting to include them in the review. “Food With Integrity” is Chipotle’s motto and I dig it. The carnitas are one of the few ingredients they don’t cook fresh in every store. They only use hormone free, free range happy pork, prepare it in a single factory, and then ship it to all their stores. Considering doing it in store would increase the price and margin of error, I totally understand this practice. Perfect pulled pork ships really well. If they start making the guac or rice this way, I will be the first to cry shenanigans. They make those the same way we do in the independent restaurants I work at and it shows in the quality of the food and the line out the door of every Chipotle I step into. Sure Steve Ells is a (expletive deleted), but considering all he has done to raise the bar in the world of fast food, he has every right to be.

Oh yeah, once again, the steak soft tacos are REALLY good.

Pros: Happy healthy animals taste awesome. The word "melty". Beer. Beer and lime. Chipotle. For some odd reason this was really cheap.

Cons: My inability to have the foresight to constrict a decent quesadilla. My inability to have the foresight to add guac or sour cream. Quesadillas aren't tacos.

Taste: 8.25/10
Value: 9.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 9.00, if dipping your food in salsa: 2.00
Price: $4.75

Overall GrubGrade: 8.50/10

Nutrition Facts:
600 calories, 26 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat, 1610 mg sodium, 49 grams of carbs, 43 grams of protein.

28 comments on “Review: Carnitas Quesadilla from Chipotle

  1. SkippyMom says:

    “Sure Steve Ells is a (expletive deleted), but considering all he has done to raise the bar in the world of fast food, he has every right to be.”

    Sorry, but no one has a right to be that arrogant. He is a jerk and it is what keeps me out of Chipotle. He didn’t invent the wheel. He made a good, fresh burrito. Woo…hoo.

    I don’t like leaving a negative comment, because I really like you guys, but please. He’s a jerk.

    • laura says:

      +1. totally agree.

      i couldn’t stand the guy on the next best restaurant show. if only the food wasn’t so damn delicious i would refuse to go there solely due to the incredible arrogance and rudeness of steve ells.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      Lol, it’s not like you have to hang out with the guy when you eat there. =P

  2. TSBB says:

    I love love love love love Chipotle! I always get a steak burrito bowl, extra rice, extra black beans, steak, extra corn, ALL the salsas, some sour cream, and cheese. Oh, and two tortillas on the side! Can you believe they don’t charge you for getting extra of any of those items?! They only charge for extra meat… I walk out of Chipotle with a bowl that seems like it weighs at least 3 pounds and it lasts me for two or three meals! Definitely good for my college budget….

  3. SPM says:

    I have been to this place about 5 times in my life and just find it to be too much of a gimmic. I find it to be low on flavor and high on price. Also hate how they nickel & dime you for “extras”. Also, would it kill them to have an actual salsa bar?

  4. Zor says:

    It’s really surprising how many people falsely associate “healthy food” with Chipotle. Or whatever “fresh-Mex” is.

    1 13″ flour tortilla, some rice, black beans, carnitas, red tomatillo salsa, and some cheese and sour cream. Can’t be all that bad, can it? Not unless you consider 1,195 calories and 42 grams of fat bad. Add some guacamole and switch the tomatillo salsa with corn salsa, and you’re talking 1,437 calories and 57 grams of fat.

    Fresh and healthy!

  5. rob says:

    I have eaten at Chipotle a bunch of times but have no idea who Steve Ells is, does he come out and spit on your food while you are mid-meal?

    Because if that is what he does, I will take that dude out … I will body-slam the dude … I have no tolerance for that kind of stuff.

  6. Chefprotoss says:

    Ummm… I never said this was healthy. They do have healthy options though, but I didn’t mention that either. O_O

  7. J.B. says:

    Raise the bar on food?
    I think Chipotle is OK, maybe good, but I would hardly call it raising the bar on food or groundbreaking.

    I would give that title to Rick Bayless and his Frontera Fresco restaurant before I gave it to Chipotle.

    And yes, Steve Ells is a d bag and I sincerely believe that he probably stole the idea and recipes from some Mexican friend or worker. Nothing about that guy gives me the impression that he is capable of coming up with these ideas by himself.

    It is sad how far food has devolved in this country where actual fresh, unaltered food is considered groundbreaking.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      I said raise the bar on fast food, not food. This is just a place that serves mission style burritos really well and puts a lot of effort into using free range meat and organic veggies. They also put a lot of effort into transparancy. When other fast food joints outsource almost everything (beef from south america,etc…), Chipotle is getting as much as they can from local farmers and ranchers. I really dig a chain doing that.

      • J.B. says:

        I was not knocking you, all my ire is aimed squarely at Steve Ells as well as the general public’s penchant for mediocrity.
        I just can’t enjoy that place knowing that I am putting money into his pocket.

        Besides, I have tons of Mexican friends and every Mexican woman I know can make this stuff as good or better than Chipotle or any of the other places.

        • Alexg says:

          “Besides, I have tons of Mexican friends and every Mexican woman I know can make this stuff as good or better than Chipotle or any of the other places.”

          J.B. aren’t you afraid they are going to get sued for stealing? After all an Architect can get sued for stealing… Just kidding.. 🙂

          Chipitole is an International fast food chain now. You can’t compare it to home cooking or 3 restaurant chain opened up by Rick Bayless. It’s apples and oranges.

          As for publics penchant for mediocrity, you should applaud them for actually caring where their food is coming from. Unlike say an International Chain such as Burger King whose produce looks like it was instantly frozen ten years ago and defrosted a week ago.

    • Alexg says:

      Comparing Rick Bayles’s noted restaurant of distinction Frontera Fresco to an International chain such as Chipotle with 1 thousand locations is kind of unfair. Bayless has been preaching “Sustainable Agriculture” for over a decade and I’m sure he’s thrilled that a Corporate Chain is pushing that very same philosophy.

    • Justin ST says:

      Frontera Fresco dude? Isn’t that the one in Macy’s around Chicago and the suburbs? Why didn’t you just go to XOCO? How did you miss that? Fresco is not as bad as Qdoba or Chipotle, but it’s close in terms of quality.

      I don’t know where your mind is at. Anyways, next time you venture into the big city, try XOCO out, it’ll probably blow your mind.

  8. Justin ST says:

    Ryan, seriously, you need to go to some really good Mexican fast-casual places sometime. Take a trip to California or Vegas sometime and ask around. Roberto’s is in Vegas and San Diego. You will never want to look at Qdoba or Chipotle after going there. I know there are good Mexican places around Maryland and DC. Expand your horizons!

    • Ryan says:

      Who me? I didn’t write this review, but I’ll chime in anyways. Yes! I’ve actually been to one of the Roberto’s Taco Shops in Vegas. I’ve been to a ton of Mexican joints in San Diego (I want to live there). There’s a really great Mexican place in Philly called El Vez that I’m a big fan of. And yeah there are worthy Mexican places around here too… my favorite local hole in the wall is a place called Fajita Grande. Good stuff.

  9. Matt says:

    Who goes to chipotle thinking it’s healthy? And when is that ever implied?

  10. Alexg says:

    Thank you for the review! I’ve eaten at Chipotle once and I found the food tasty. The problem is out here in the San Francisco bay area is that we have local Taquería’s (Taco Stands), Burrito trucks, stand alone restaurants that will blow your mind in freshness and tastiness. After all, San Francisco is the Birthplace of the “Mission Burrito”, which Chipotle is emulating. I’m sure Steve Ells would agree, since he copied this style of food while apprenticing in Stars Restaurant in San Francisco, that franchised food can’t compete with the heart and soul of a “Mom and Pop” restaurant that cares about it’s food and it’s customers. Yes, Steve Ells, thank you for reminding us to eat organic and sustainable food, it’s an amazing accomplishment at the fast food level, something Bayless, hasn’t done(Burger King sell-out not counting) but I will support “Mom and Pop” over corporate chains every single time and I have a feeling you would back my decision too.

  11. Alexg says:

    As far as “Raising the bar on food”, Steve Ells did just that. At the fast food level. He’s right there with In n Out in corporate philosophy. I can’t think of any other chain besides those two that supports naturally raised meat and sustainable agriculture. If someone knows of a national chain that has those qualities, please post. FYI, Steve’s inspiration came from:

    • J.B. says:

      “Inspiration” is legal speak for “steal someone’s idea”.
      Singers tend to like using that term when they ripoff someone else’s music.

      If you were an architect and you copied another architect’s design and then said you were “inspired” by their design, you would get the pants sued off of you.

      I don’t know about his naturally raised meat and sustainable agriculture ( which I bet will be outed as lies and BS one day anyway) but I do know about his penchant for hiring illegal immigrants. It is also nice when your daddy can write you a check for $1.6 million.
      I have no respect for this guy.

      • Chefprotoss says:

        So everyone who sells a hamburger owes Ray Kroc a dollar? If I open a tapas restaurant, am I stealing my idea from Spain?

      • Alexg says:

        So you are saying that we could only have one Mission Style Burrito in the whole world because if anyone else did it, it would be stealing? I don’t quite follow your logic. As far as sustainable food vs mass produced, please go ahead and put anything in your body as you wish. That’s your right. That’s why America has the highest obesity rate in the whole world. For those of us that actually care what we look, feel like, and put in our bodies, we will push for more options. That’s our right as Americans.

      • Alexg says:

        “I don’t know about his naturally raised meat and sustainable agriculture ( which I bet will be outed as lies and BS one day anyway)”

        BTW, it’s great that you like Rick Bayless’s restaurant Frontera Fresco. He’s been talking about Sustainable Food in the restaurant industry for the last two decades. All his restaurants use Sustainable Food. He’s probably the leading voice in that movement.

  12. […] have ever had, it easily blows every other fast food pork product out of the water. Sorry Chipotle, your delicious carnitas lose out to ham. Maybe next time Steve…When I took my first bite of this sandwich, I uttered […]