Don’t let the recent negative press scare you off; this is still one of best places for a quick bite in Great Neck
In some ways it’s fitting that my first new review in a long time is for Chipolte, who as a national chain have been in need of a “reboot” lately.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’ll know that a few months ago a number of Chipolte franchises were responsible for outbreaks of several food-borne illnesses. I still have a sneaking suspicion that the media completely overhyped it–even if it was a few hundred people who got upset tummies from eating Chipolte, when you consider that millions upon millions of people ate their food the punishment didn’t really fit the crime; from a percentage basis, you’ll probably find just as many reports of food-borne illnesses in your typical restaurant on a given day (including my own personal experience with Chipolte’s neighbor next door).
But that didn’t stop Chipolte’s stock price from plummeting from a high of about $750 a share to about $413 a share, wiping out billions of dollars in their market capitalization. Granted, I’m also of the opinion that Chipolte was a bit too hyped up to begin with, so he who lives by the hype dies by the hype.
As far as the Great Neck Chipolte (some of you might remember this was a Cosi sandwich shop before) in the Best Market plaza (some of you might remember this was the Waldbaum’s plaza), I’ve been there a few times before and after the excitement, and the good news is that I’ve had the same, excellent, consistent experience each time.
My experience with Chipolte is mainly from the City, where if you show the slightest hesitation you’ll be punished with a smattering of passive aggressive sighs from the young urban types standing behind you. So I got to learn how to order pretty quickly.
You get on line and the first thing you do is choose your format.
- Burrito – A bunch of gunk wrapped in a soft tortilla.
- Bowl – Same bunch of gunk in a bowl instead of a tortilla
- Taco – Same bunch of gunk split among a couple taco shells, either soft flour, soft corn, or crispy corn
- Salad – Similar bunch of gunk with a lot more green
Once you choose that, you then choose your meat. This is where you either need to memorize the menu beforehand or learn Spanish.
Clockwise from the lower left, you have:
- Barbacoa – tender, braised beef. Spanish for “barbecue”
Carnitas – tender, braised pork. Essentially “pulled pork”
- Sofritas – meat-like substance made with tofu
- Your sixth option is Veggie – just the veggies, no meat, no imitation meat
Got it so far? Good. The next step is choosing what goes into your “gunk”.
Clockwise from the lower left again:
- Peppers and onions
- Pinto beans
- Black beans
- White rice
- Dirty rice
Somewhere along here they’ll hand off your burrito or bowl to someone else. And then you choose your salsa
Clockwise from the upper left:
- Sour Cream
- Tomatillo Red-Chili Salsa (Hot)
- Fresh Tomato Salsa (Mild)
- Tomatillo Green-Chili Salsa (Medium Hot)
- Roasted Chili-Corn Salsa (Medium)
And finally, you choose other stuff for them to throw on it, including (from left to right):
- Romaine lettuce
- Guacamole (comes at an additional price)
You got all that? Honestly, every time I go to Chipolte I just panic. What was Carnitas again? Do I like pinto beans or black beans better? What kind of salsa do I like? So I usually end up just panicking and blurting out the first thing I see so as to not hold up the line. But the good news is, it usually ends up pretty good.
Looking at the photos, you can kind of tell where Chipolte got itself into trouble, as a lot of this food will remain in those trays for hours at a time. If you look at the photo of the guacamole, for example, you notice some discoloration. Now as someone who eats a lot of guacamole, I understand that this discoloration is quite normal and in fact a testament to the fact that they don’t use artificial preservatives in their food. But it’s something that Chipolte seems to still need to get a handle on.
The day I went I got myself a bowl with pulled pork.
And the mandatory extreme close-up…
Overall, it was excellent. All of the ingredients seemed fresh enough to me. And neither my wife nor I got sick. In fact, she had the guacamole on her dish, and that tasted just fine as well.
When I first entered the Great Neck location it was pretty sparse.
But by the end I finished eating, it started to look like old times again with a long line of people.
Hopefully Chipolte as a chain gets their act together. I started noticing little changes, such as them not leaving lemons wedges out all day anymore (seriously, what were they thinking when they used to do that?).
Let’s hope they keep up these improvements and that CMG stock stays afloat. Great Neck restaurant prices are starting to climb as sky-high as prices in the City, so it’s nice to know there’s a decent fast food option.