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.

Taste: 5.00/10
Value: 5.00/10
Grubbing on-the-go: 2.00/10
Price: 8.56 (Steak Soft Tacos) $3.99 (Chips and Queso Dip)

Overall GrubGrade: 5.00 (Steak Soft Tacos), 5.00 (Chips and Queso Dip)

48 comments on “Review: Steak Soft Tacos from Qdoba

  1. COBRA says:

    Looks good! For those who dont know, chipoyle is owned by mcdonalds.

  2. COBRA says:

    Looks good! For those who dont know, chipotle is owned by mcdonalds.

  3. Roger says:

    Hate to be “that guy” but McDonald’s sold off Chipolte in 2006. Standing on their own two feet for a while now.

  4. Marie says:

    I have never eaten at Qdoba’s, but have to say that the food in the pics looks awful. I will stick to Chipotle where I know they strive to keep the food as all natural as possible, authentic, and tasty.

  5. Kevin says:

    Lol the first guy = total troll. Regardless chipotle is great but I am only a fan of their burrito bowls myself.

  6. Chris says:

    The score seems high for such poor food.

  7. ChrisLad says:

    The location I visited in Silver Springs was far superior to the location you tried. At the very least things were made with care and put together well. Like you said they are operated by different people thus will vary a lot in quality.

    The price is not entirely the same though. For example you want green peppers and onions? They charge extra for that Qdoba.

    The steak at Qdoba is always terrible, chicken is by far their strongest meat.

    Overall Chipotle is just superior. The complainers love to criticize Chipotle for various reasons, yet clearly Chiptole sets the standard that everyone else gets compared to.

  8. TonyJaguar says:

    As long as we are mentioning, what’s the Qdoba JITB connect?

  9. Crysta says:

    The guac even LOOKS gritty in the picture. Gross!

    I’ve never eaten at Qdoba. If it’s as bland as you say, I have no reason to now.

    Also, charging extra for peppers and onions is silly.

  10. Chris says:

    The Qdoba in my town is amazing. The owner and staff are super friendly, the meat and toppings are always super fresh, and they give out a free drink to students that show ID.

    It sucks to hear they aren’t all held to the same standard of quality.

  11. Ryan says:

    Ive never been to Qdoba but I like that some locations serve breakfast. Chorizo quesadilla has been on my to do list.

  12. Will says:

    What are “mission” burritos?

    • Chefprotoss says:

      A burrito the size of a football, stuffed with beans, rice, meats, salsas, cheese etc… and it originated in the Mission district in San Fransico.

    • PDG says:

      Mission burritos are an abomination that the folks of SF have foisted upon the world. Tons of cheap filler (i.e. rice and beans) with a smattering of meat sold at prices as if it were a proper meat only burrito. Diabetes in a tortilla.

  13. Tony says:

    I’m not a huge fan of Mexican food in general, but Qdoba always looked so sad at the food court in the mall.

  14. Josh Christopherson says:

    To Ryan ^: some Chipotle locations have breakfast hours too.

    I can’t believe that no one has mentioned Freebirds in this conversation yet. They beat the CRAP out of both Chipotle and Qdoba in terms of taste, quality of ingredients and the options that they have.

  15. bob in texas says:

    Do they make this front of you like at Chipotle? If soI would have said stop.
    This brings me to another topic….why can’t a majority of these fast food places train the people to give a crap? When I was 16 and worked at a Burger King the manager made sure we put a pickle in each quadrant of the burger. He would do QC and if he found one done wrong you were told to leave. He was not mean, he just told us if you are going to make the burger….do it right or don’t do it it all. Very simple. Every now and then you come across a FF place that does it right and its like heaven and your so happy, but most time you get your crap sandwich and just live it. My 2 cents and sorry about the off subject rant.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      In all honesty, I don’t expect anyone who makes min wage to give a crap. Pay more and your employees will care more. I speak from experience on this issue.

  16. Katie says:

    I had Qdoba for the first time a few weeks ago. I had been warned that it was NOT Chipotle, and was like the Arby’s or Burger King of the Mexican fast food world.

    I had a steak and a chicken taco, one hard shell and one soft shell. It was bland, the steak was chewy/rubbery, and overall, it was just…blah. It’s where I would take someone who claims that they don’t really like Mexican food. It’s the McDonald’s version of Chipotle.

  17. Natalie says:

    I’ve never eaten Chipotle. My hometown only had Moe’s and my college in Atlanta had a Moe’s next to it so we never took the trip down the road to Chipotle.
    Living in Alaska now, Qdoba and Taco del Mar at the only options for this style of food. I’ve never had an issue with any of the food at Qdoba, it always hits the spot when I’m craving a giant burrito.

  18. hello says:

    lol at all the people preaching about chipotle as if it’s good

  19. Rachel says:

    Having eaten at both, I favor Qdoba by a huge margin, mainly because my favorite thing to have there is not offered at Chipotle. I passionately adore/dream about Qdoba’s tortilla soup, and my main disappointment there is that they don’t make an XL size of tortilla soup.
    I had my first experience with Qdoba’s steak taco last week and agree with the reviewer that the steak wasn’t particularly tasty – definitely some buyer’s remorse on that decision. The chicken and pork are my favorites out of Qdoba’s options.
    I’ve found at both restaurants that you either luck out or lose depending upon which worker makes your tacos or burritos. Sometimes you get a teeny scoop of meat, sometimes they add extra meat because they remember you. I am completely guilty of strategically placing myself in line to avoid this problem.
    I also favor Qdoba’s dressing over Chipotle’s dressing when ordering a salad, but that’s just splitting hairs.
    Other than those factors, I find them fairly similar. Lucky for me, since I have friends who are die-hard fans of either one or the other. 🙂

  20. Brad says:

    Sounds to me like you just have a bad Qdoba in your area. I wouldn’t pick any of the other fast casual Mexican places over my Qdoba in my area.

  21. ArrowSmith says:

    I have to agree, Chipotle rocks. I always get the barbacoa plate. Really hits the spot.

  22. Matt says:

    Really gotta disagree with you there chef…if you are paid a wage (any wage) then you should be expected to perform your duties in an acceptable manner. Food service is customer service and to act like you care should be a minimum requirement.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      You can’t squeeze water from a rock and you can’t pay your bills with a pat on the back. Of course they don’t care if you are happy.

  23. Lancaster says:

    It’s funny – people always give Chipotle crap for having once been owned by McDonald’s, but Qdoba is basically what you’d get if you indeed applied McDonald’s-ness to Chipotle. Flat, safe, uninspiring burritos.

  24. Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

    Chipotle used to be my go-to burrito place, but a locally-owned joint called Mr. Burrito’s recently opened up. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mr-Burritos/203300359708176

    We also have a Wisconsin-based Chipotle clone called Burracho’s. I’ve heard they are decent but I haven’t tried them out yet. I still get a kick out of their name though. http://www.burrachos.com/

    When I’m traveling, I’ll go to Chipotle over Qdoba anyday. I like my food to have flavor.

    • Zachary Jacob Zblewski says:

      I also forgot to ask what people think of Panchero’s. Personally, I hate the place.

      • jesika lin says:

        i used to go to Pancheros late night in Iowa for drunk food. their quesadillas were pretty good… they’d put lots of onions and peppers in them, making it more interesting than your average quesadilla. never had a burrito or anything else there. we had a Pancheros here, but it closed a year or so ago. too much competition with Chipotle, Qdoba and local Bravo Burritos.

  25. SPM says:

    Chipotle is bottom of the barrel as far as I am concerned, I will take La Salsa over most of these fast casual whitewashed Burrito places with Baja Fresh coming in second. Baja Fresh has fallen off bad in the past ten years but I still think it is cut and dry ahead of Chipotle, Moes, Salsaritas and Qdoba.

    • Chefprotoss says:

      I had La Salsa in Vegas a few years ago. I thought it was awesome. Wish we had some here on the east coast. It’s way closer to Baja Fresh than Chipotle though, just to be fair.

  26. jesika lin says:

    im usually a Chipotle girl [after living in the boonies all summer, i swore id never live more than 20 minutes from a Chipotle again], but a few weeks ago i found a terrible giant chunk of what was either skin or intestines in my barbacoa, and i dont know if i can eat there again. this is utterly tragic to me. id forgotten about Qdoba though, maybe ill give that another shot… ive only eaten there once, and it was alright. i had a BBQ pork burrito that was pretty delicious, not to mention a little different from the typical burrito fare.

  27. […] says, you don’t need a coupon, just a kiss.  But if you take the advice of Chefprotoss, avoid the Steak Soft Tacos.Tags: Q'doba, Qdoba Buy one get one free, Qdoba Free Valentine's Day, Qdoba Kiss, Qdoba Valentine's […]

  28. matt in the hatt says:

    Qdoba’s bbq chicken burrito is nothing short of amazing

  29. Kristel says:

    Aw, that sucks that you had a bad experience 🙁 Where I live, the Qdoba franchise is EXCELLENT! And, the caps is necessary. They blow Chipotle out of the water here. Too bad there aren’t 3 locations in every city like Chipotle.

  30. David says:

    Honestly, the Qdoba near me is awesome. I understand you had a bad experience there, but the overall love for Chipotle is a little bias. Chipotle is not overall better than Qdoba IMO. They both can be inconsistent at times but Chipotle is not something to write home about for the most part. I do like what Chipotle has to offer though, just saying…