Chipotle vs. Baja Fresh

1837 M St. N.W.
On the corner of 19th and M streets

by Sarah Ransbottom

“Two things, thousands of ways.” But what exactly are these two things? Tacos and burritos. Where can you find them? On the corner of 19th and M streets, just a short stroll from campus. But these aren’t the burritos you find at Taco Bell. Chipotle serves huge burritos closer in size to a brick.

At Chipotle, your meal is made before your very eyes. With each step you take, you are asked your preferences, so no order will ever be messed up. Start with the huge flour tortilla. They warm it right in front of you and then start piling on the rice and your choice of beans or onions and peppers. Next comes the meat, then salsa, sour cream and cheese. The entire process usually takes less than five minutes, so, luckily, even with a line out the door it never takes patrons more than 20 minutes to get their meals.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Starting at the beginning, you must decide on a burrito or taco. If you choose the latter, you can get three soft or four hard tacos. The key difference between tacos and burritos is the rice – burritos have it, tacos don’t. If neither of these seems appetizing, go for a burrito bowl with no flour tortilla at all.

Then comes the rice, something that stands out at Chipotle. The white rice is seasoned with lime and cilantro and offers an unexpected texture in the burrito. Somehow very hard to replicate anywhere else, the rice is an essential and delicious part of your meal. Next come the beans, your choice of black or pinto. Vegetarians beware – the pinto beans are flavored with pork, so for safety’s sake, order your burrito with black beans or get it fajita-style with saut?ed onions and peppers instead.

Now scoot on down the line to the next section, the meat. Carnitas is free-range seasoned pork with a strong black pepper taste. The Barbacoa is spicy shredded beef. If it’s too spicy for your tastes, go for the chicken or steak – both are marinated and grilled. These are a little less spicy and a little more filling, so it’s no surprise that the chicken is the most popular choice.

Even though you’ll be breaching the order ing order, ask for cheese next so that it will be layered on top of the hot meat and melted when you bite into your burrito.

Then you need some more spice, and Chipotle gives it to you with four different kinds of salsa. If you choose the hot, ask for some mild, too, because it will give a nice tomato flavor to your burrito. With this combination or the two kinds of medium, your burrito will have just the right amount of kick in it.

Finally comes the corn salsa, sour cream, lettuce and optional guacamole, which costs an additional quarter. After you’ve completed your trip down the line, the Chipotle servers will fold up your burrito and wrap it in foil before passing it over to you. Don’t be afraid; everyone’s burrito is as big as a brick. Embrace it. Scarf it down. Enjoy the spicy bliss that is a meal at Chipotle.

The tacos come with all the same ingredients, minus the rice and beans. The four hard tacos or three soft will come lined up in a row in the restaurant’s signature red plastic baskets.

If all this just isn’t enough, get some chips and salsa or guacamole. Big enough to share with friends, this is a good appetizer to enjoy while the cheese melts on your burrito. But no other side dishes? It seems strange, until you remember that the geniuses at Chipotle layer the traditional sides of rice and beans right into the burrito, so every flavor is enjoyed simultaneously.

But what’s a burrito if you don’t have anything with which to wash it down? Chipotle offers the standard assortment of Coca-Cola products in bottles or by the fountain, as well as bottled water. Opt for the fountain drinks because each cup comes with its own Chipotle story or fact on the side. From the pepper rating scale to how the beans are cooked, these fun facts are great conversation starters. But the unexpected twist is the assortment of bottled beers, such as the authentically Mexican Corona, or a margarita. The assortment of alcohol allows you to relax with your friends or pre-game for that 2 p.m. class.

Chipotle is perfect for unwinding. The restaurant is designed for ultimate feng shui … Well, maybe not, but at least it’s aesthetically pleasing and functional. The line of patrons wraps around the restaurant but never disturbs diners. Each Chipotle location has brick walls that are offset with light wood and raw metal to give an industrial feel. Throw some metal artwork and black-and-white Chipotle pictures on the wall and you’ve got a low-key setting for your dining pleasure. The atmosphere is complete with music – sometimes Mexican, sometimes other eclectic varieties – free of distracting number-calling because of Chipotle’s efficient system. The setting is subtle, from the on-the-wall menus to the decorating scheme, so you can focus on what you came for – the food.

Why is Chipotle a GW favorite? It not only gets you off campus during the day (you’ll recognize Madhatters and Sign of the Whale on the same block and wonder why you always take a cab over there), but it also gives you a huge meal for a minimal price – for about eight dollars you can get a huge burrito and a drink. The menu may seem small, but the servers are eager to provide you with anything you like, and in the most timely manner.

Baja Fresh
1990 K St. N.W.
On the corner of 19th and I streets

by Shannon Derby

It’s the middle of the day. You have an hour in between classes and you’re hungry and just plain sick of eating Subway for lunch, day in and day out. Never fear, though – ecstasy is only a few blocks away. That’s right, Baja Fresh has opened up a new location at the corner of I and 19th streets.

Now, some may say Chipotle is the ultimate dining experience for beyond-the-border cravings, but those of us in the know understand that great, fast Mexican food can only come from Baja Fresh.

Aside from the obvious perk of its convenient location, Baja Fresh is the best Mexi-Cali dining experience this side of the Mississippi. Baja Fresh has moved beyond the basic burrito upon which other Mexican chains fixate and offers customers a wide variety of options. Its extensive menu has enough items to please even the pickiest eater, and nothing is more inviting than the aroma of fresh food and spices simmering together to make a mouthwatering meal.

Personally, I stick with the ever-popular taquito platter. Taquitos consist of either chicken or steak rolled up in a fried corn tortilla – sort of like a rolled-up, fried taco. I prefer the steak, but this simple order is just as tasty with the chicken. Taquitos, which come with rice and black beans, are covered in guacamole and grated cheese.

Another perk of dining at Baja Fresh is the salsa bar located in the middle of the restaurant, where you can find four varieties of salsa, including a mild pico de gallo, salsa verde (with green tomatoes), salsa Baja and spicy salsa roja. The pico de gallo and salsa verde are great accompaniments to any dish. I prefer the salsa verde for its mild and light taste, but for the more daring, pour a few cupfuls of the salsa roja over your meal and let the eye-watering commence. Also, to spice up your rice, pour a bit of either the salsa verde or the salsa roja over the top. It adds an extra kick to the mild flavor of Spanish rice.

But taquitos aren’t the only thing that Baja Fresh has going on – enchiladas, burritos, tacos, nachos and quesadillas are all on the menu. An excellent choice for vegetarians is the grilled vegetarian dish, a mixture of spicy grilled peppers, chilies and onions, black or pinto beans, cheese, lettuce, fresh pico de gallo salsa and sour cream. Other meatless choices include the Vegetarian Bare burrito and the classic choice of nachos, which are served with black or pinto beans, guacamole, sour cream and both cheddar and jack cheeses melted over the top.

Baja Fresh does have one drawback, though – it doesn’t serve Coca-Cola products. Nope, kids, it is all Pepsi products while dining at Baja Fresh. I suggest sticking with the Nestea Rasberry Iced tea because, let’s face it, Pepsi just doesn’t cut it.

When you place your order, you are assigned a number and must wait 10 to 20 minutes for your food to be ready. This is because Baja Fresh has no microwaves or can openers. Everything is cooked fresh upon your order. Instead of standing around the front counter waiting for you food to be ready, scope out a table and then jump on it; remember, this place is always crowded, and a table for two is hard to come by. A good strategy for finding a free table is to first survey the room. If there aren’t any open tables, look around to see if anyone is close to being finished. Now, this is the hard part: without completely hovering, stand around said table in order to claim it as your own. Most diners at this Baja Fresh location understand the severe shortage of tables and will probably even tell you if they are almost done eating, offering you the table as they get up to leave.

You can also utilize your wait time by loading up at the salsa bar so you can start to eat as soon as your food comes. Believe me, it will take every ounce of energy you possess to keep yourself from simply inhaling the entire plate within five seconds. Yes, it is that good.

Baja Fresh is a great place for a casual first date, meeting up with friends or even grabbing a quick order to go on your way to or from class.

Once you are finished basking in the delectable bliss that was your meal, go home and write a letter to GW requesting that Baja Fresh be added as an off-campus partner on Colonial Cash.

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