On Meatless Monday, Defending Chipotle

Nearly every time I knock the food at a chain restaurant, a few commenters jump to and tell me why chains are great. Often those comments brand me as a chain-hating snob who only wants to eat trendy food, served by a waiter with bad facial hair and a fedora. But that's not true. Mostly I just want to eat food that's made well, and that tastes good. Or at least has some thought put into it.

Chipotle falls into this latter category. Its menu was designed by a classically trained chef, Steve Ells, who refused to use pork sourced from factory farms for his carnitas. It does some other cool stuff, too.

While the language that surrounds the rest of its meat sourcing is a little squishy -- the chicken and beef are sourced mostly from farms that meet or exceed some standards that the company doesn't really define on its website -- most of them aren't plugged full of hormones and antibiotics. I don't think these animals live lives as happy as the pigs in the video at the end of this post, but the chain is marketing it as a goal.

Sure, that marketing campaign is a gimmick to try to get you to eat more foil-wrapped gut bombs, but at least it's marketing the right things. And sure, not all of its ingredients are grown on a grassy knoll in the country by a lawyer who gave everything up to get back to his roots. But a significant portion of them are. And that's a decent start.

McDonald's, in comparison, uses "beef from real beef cattle to make their burger patties." Its chicken is "100% USDA-inspected real chicken." So, you know, at least it's "real."

Even if Chipotle didn't source with what it calls "integrity," its genial assembly lines still turn out decent food. The guacamole is made fresh on-site out of fresh avocados instead of using a gun to squirt it out of a pre-packaged tube like Taco Bell. They grill the fresh chicken they use in their burritos on-site as well. In comparison, Chick-fil-A and McDonald's uses pre-cooked chicken pieces with grill lines made of caramel color painted on them. They heat it up on site, call it "grilled" and then you eat it. Yum.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying I don't hate all chains. I just don't like shitty ones. And indulging in one of Chipotle's vegetable burritos with black beans, peppers and onions and a massive dollop of guac doesn't seem like a terrible idea, especially on a Meatless Monday.

In fact, I think I just came up with my lunch plans.