It took a trip to Virginia to finally get me to visit a Chipotle Mexican Grill, something I’ve been meaning to try for some time now. MNN named Chipotle one of the top 10 organic restaurants a while back, and I do like Mexican, but I never took the opportunity to eat at one.

While on vacation, we stopped at Chipotle at the Short Pump Town Center in Richmond. Chipotle is known for its motto “food with integrity.” The company sources sustainably when possible and organic and locally when practical. The terms “when possible” and “when practical” leave a lot of wiggle room for the sourcing of ingredients, but I understand that fast-food restaurants need to have consistency in product from store to store. To do that, I assume that sometimes they need to buy less than perfectly sustainable ingredients.

What did I think of the food with integrity and with the restaurant itself? Here’s a pro/con list to make it easy.

Pros of Chipotle Mexican Grill

  • Sustainably sourced food. Even if it’s not always sourced sustainably, they do so often. And, according to the menu board, they even source locally when possible.
  • Control over what goes in your tortilla. The employees build your taco or burrito or bowl right in front of you. You can look at the ingredients, ask questions and decide what you want.
  • Flexibility in the menu. I didn’t want a whole meal or even a two taco meal. All I wanted was one small, soft taco. I was able to get that even though it wasn’t an option on the menu.
  • Knowledgeable employees. Since it was our first time there, I asked a lot of questions. The girl behind the counter making our food answered them all. Once in a while, she was reading off of a paper taped in front of her, but I was impressed that someone made sure the paper was there.
  • The kids menu is a smaller portion of the adult menu. Chipotle didn’t feel the need to add sugary treats or toys to entice the kids.
  • Good beverage choices. Yes, there was a traditional soda fountain, but there were organic milk options and bottled sparkling fruit juice with no added sugar, too. They also had a selection of beers.
  • The food tasted good. There were eight of us eating, and everyone liked what they ordered.
  • The bowl used for rice and bean bowls and the tray that my son’s kids meal came on (pictured at right) were made from material that looked to be easily biodegradable or compostable under the right conditions.
Cons of Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • The food was very salty. I’m someone who likes salt so I was surprised at that I noticed it. Several of us mentioned that the food seemed overly salted. However, my friend who doesn’t use a lot of salt didn’t seem to think so.
  • There were three trash cans in the store that I saw, and each one had a sign that said to place bottles (plastic and glass) in the receptacle next to them so they could be recycled. However, the entire time we were there, there were no receptacles next to them. The trash cans were full of bottles as well as the other trash, and when the workers emptied them, the bottles went out with the trash.
There you have it, my first impressions of Chipotle. The pros outweigh the cons, but the recycling problem (especially when there are signs about the importance of recycling in the store) is a bothersome one. It could be easily fixed by actually placing recycling bins next to the trash cans, and hopefully it is done at many of their other locations.

Do you eat at Chipotle? What is your impression? 

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Chipotle Mexican Grill's pros and cons
Our food blogger shares her thoughts after visiting the sustainable chain restaurant for the first time.