Brick-sized burritos pick up popularity

Brenna McNamara

Junior nursing major Sean Thornton dives into his Chipotle burrito while his friend, Kent State alum Joe Orlando, savors his last bite. CAITLIN PRARAT | SUMMER KENT STATER

Credit: DKS Editors

When Bobby Monteith of Silver Lake tried his first burrito at Chipotle, he was hooked on the “best burrito and best steak” he’s ever had.

Now Monteith eats there an average of three times a week.

But he’s not the only one who’s addicted to the brick-sized burritos.

Chipotle Mexican Grill has been spicing up the restaurant business with its naturally raised, unprocessed ingredients since 1993. Gradually gaining popularity over the past few years, Chipotle is a favorite among college students because of its cheap prices and hearty servings.

The restaurant prepares food in front of its customers, giving them the option of making a burrito, taco, burrito bowl or salad. The lineup of ingredients includes pork, steak, chicken, beans, rice, guacamole, veggies and salsas, amounting to 65,000 ingredient combinations.

According to Chipotle’s Web site, Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle Mexican Grill at the University of Denver in 1993.

The restaurant continues to draw college-aged customers like bees to honey.

James Fernandez, junior political science major, has nothing but good things to say about Chipotle.

“I bought stock there and have made over $60 a share,” he said. “I have $200 in my pocket easily.”

Because of their huge size, the burritos have become famous to some, Fernandez said. They are more than enough for a meal.

But they also have more than 1,000 calories per burrito, and David Braver, sophomore aeronautical studies major, said he feels so heavy after eating one burrito he goes home to take a nap.

Although there are alternatives to the burrito, such as the burrito bowl, which is a bowl with all the contents of the burrito except the tortilla, Braver says anything but the burrito is for wussies.

Kate Blech, who has worked at the Macedonia Chipotle for three years, said part of the appeal is that nothing is taken out of a bag and warmed up. The employees arrive three hours before opening time to cut lettuce, prepare the guacamole and salsas and slice the beef.

According to its Web site, Chipotle’s slogan “Food with Integrity” refers to its attention to food sources that are better for the environment, animals and farmers. The animals are never given antibiotics or growth hormones.

“The service is so quick, so I would consider it fast food,” Fernandez said. “But fast food like McDonald’s is greasy and unhealthy and Chipotle is good and not terrible for you either.”

Blech said although she eats Chipotle every time she works, she still isn’t sick of it. Blech said she knows Chipotle serves customers well because most who enter the store look excited and walk away with a smile.

Blech has noticed the store has been bringing in a wider variety of people than it used to. During the week, the lunch hours are packed with adults in business attire on their lunch breaks. But the weekends draw more of a teen and college-aged population.

With recent store openings in Highland Square and on Howe Avenue in Akron, Chipotle’s business has been expanding.

“It’s cool, I guess, that Chipotle is becoming more popular; but I’m also mad because it’s not such an underground little shop anymore,” Braver said. “I liked being part of the small group of people that were regulars. But now fifth-graders think it’s their hangout and that’s just weird.”

Even so, the restaurant still relies on the college population.

Kent store manager Tom Shaffe said it’s obvious there’s a decrease in business when school is out.

Contact features correspondent Brenna McNamara at [email protected].