Important Update, May 24, 2013: I removed Chipotle from the recommended restaurants list in September of 2012 because the chain was not providing important information about their ingredients; however, I have added them back to the list because the chain now provides an online Ingredients Statement that lists their ingredients and gives sourcing information with each one, such as L for local, O for organic, G for GMO, and R for responsibly raised meats. As far as I know this is far more information than any other restaurant chain provides. We need to encourage other restaurants to be open about their ingredients and to urge that Chipotle continue to remove GMO foods and other unhealthy ingredients from their menu. Until then, with careful choosing, it is possible to avoid most GMO foods and eat a reasonably healthy meal at Chipotle.
I’ve just added a new restaurant to the Real Food Restaurants page–Chipotle Mexican Grill. Yes, this is a first–a fast-food restaurant, but Chipotle doesn’t seem to be like other fast-food restaurants. They are committed to “Food With Integrity.” The website gives some impressive goals for a quick service restaurant. Admittedly they qualify their goals with “whenever possible,” but it can be difficult to find local, organic, sustainably raised food for a fixed menu. It does seem like they are trying, and I wanted to recognize that.
Here are some of the reasons I’ve added them to Real Food Restaurants. They look for pork from pigs that are raised humanely and never given antibiotics. They are increasing the percentage of their beef that is raised naturally. Their dairy is from cows never given rBGH. They look for poultry that has not been fed arsenic or given antibiotics. The website claims that 40% of their beans are organically grown. They have been increasing the percentage of organic produce, but they also look for local sustainably grown food that may not be certified organic. They pledge “to serve at least 50% of one produce item from local farms when it is seasonable available (more than 50% and more than one item any time we can).”
I’ve eaten at Chipotle several times, and I’ve always liked the way the food tastes. The beef does seem like real meat, and the guacamole is fresh and well seasoned. I think the salsa is just spicy enough to be satisfying. Another plus–you can have your burrito, bowl, or salad made just how you like, with or without beans, rice, corn, cheese, sour cream, etc., if you need to avoid grains or gluten.
Have you eaten at Chipotle Mexican Grill? What do you think about the food? Is it a Real Food Restaurant? Let us know.
BTW, here’s a news item that’s not exactly related to adding Chipotle to the restaurants page, but I found it interesting for several reasons–because I like Chipotle, because I was a French major, and one more thing! Here’s the story: Chipotle just recently opened its first restaurant in Paris, France. I was fascinated by a blogger who posted photos of people waiting in line at the opening of the new Paris Chipotle. The blogger said that the clientele seemed to be about 90% local. Take a look for yourself. Do you see what I find so amazing about these people? Let me know if you see what I see.
Update July 23, 2012: Time Magazine has published an interesting article about Chipotle restaurants and the founder Steve Ells. A subscription is required to view the entire article, but here are a few highlights: As of this year 100% of the sour cream and 65% of the cheese comes from pasture-raised cows; last year Chipotle used 10 million pounds of locally grown avocados and other produce; there are no freezers or microwaves in the restaurants; and Chipotle works to use organic beans that are also no-till which causes less soil damage. There are over 1,200 locations in the US, UK, Canada, and France. Ells has opened a new kind of restaurant in Washington, DC, called ShopHouse, which serves Vietnamese-type food with a limited menu like Chipotle.
Photo credit: Chipotle Mexican Grill