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The merits of chain dining in the Heartland


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You guys are freaking me out. It is just way too cutsey. This could even drive me back to the Evil Garden or even Applebee's. At least the wait for a table would get me seated sometime before the end of time.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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Just read on the Channel 5 website that the Jazz District development group is going to start courting national companies in an attempt to revitalize the area around 18th and Vine. Housing has already begun to pick up a little, but there are still too many empty retail spaces. Mixed feelings here...I realize that there aren't many locally owned business willing to roll the dice and open up shop in the area (or they would have done it by now), but at the same time the thought of relying on national chains to breath life into the district is depressing. Looks as though the Power and Light District (a.k.a. downtown Kansas City's salvation) will have many of the heavy hitter chains like Chipotle....guess it's not completely ridiculous to imagine an Applebee's or Ruby Tuesday's wedged somewhere between the Peach Tree and the Negro League Baseball Museum.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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I thought of this thread while reading my Chipotle cup from lunch today, with the title CHIPOTLE, UNCHAINED:

According to various media reports, Chipotle is now a "chain."  (We thought we were just a restaurant joint.)  It simply means we have a lot of restaurants.  But we're aware of the negative connotation of that word (we won't say it), and we're intent on disproving it by acting un-chain-like.  Because big can be good.

Take Food With Integrity, for example.  that's our ongoing commitment to finding the very best raw ingredients from the very best sources.  Because of our size, we can influence for the better how livestock is raised.  In fact, Chipotle is now the largest restaurant seller of naturally raised beef, chicken and pork - animals that are raised humanely, eat an all-vegetarian diet free of animal byproducts, and are never given antibiotics or added growth hormones.

We also buy organic pinto and black beans.  No enough, yet, to offer you only organic beans.  But because we buy so many, we're helping to increase supply.

All that means better food for you.  So, size does matter.  Chain shmane.

I love Chipotle. (Particularly since I work in the culinary wasteland of the I-29 corridor south of the airport.) And, this back-of-the-cup literature raises a couple of good points, not necassarily negated by the "Chipotle is owned by McDonald's" arguments. If I accept the gist of the argument that a large chain actually has power to influence profitability and hence availability of quality products, then my dining dollar is potentially well spent at Chipotle.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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For a chain, Chipotle is pretty good. From what I can tell, a lot of fresh food being prepared. You can see them grilling the chicken, then chopping it up. You can see them make quacamole from avacado, and a few other fresh ingredients. Don't see where the rest of the meat comes from, but I'll assume it's made on the premises.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Though I love Chipotle too, "organic" and "fresh" doesn't necessarily equal "healthy." [rant] Did you know, for example, that one of its one-pound-plus burriots (does anyone really need that much food at one sitting?) has over 1,300 calories? Are they trying to make us feel better about eating "natural" ingredients? Sure, it's easy to eat healthy there (just omit the flour tortilla, sour cream, and cheese), but are they trying to lull us into complacency by making us think that anything we eat there is good for us? [/rant]

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Though I love Chipotle too, "organic" and "fresh" doesn't necessarily equal "healthy."  [rant] Did you know, for example, that one of its one-pound-plus burriots (does anyone really need that much food at one sitting?) has over 1,300 calories?  Are they trying to make us feel better about eating "natural" ingredients?  Sure, it's easy to eat healthy there (just omit the flour tortilla, sour cream, and cheese), but are they trying to lull us into complacency by making us think that anything we eat there is good for us?  [/rant]

I suppose this would be an inappropriate time/place to mention that in college, I used to eat 2 Chipotle burritos - with all the fixin's - for dinner? :huh:

I suppose I shouldn't mention the tub of popcorn and ice cream I'd have right before bed either...

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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Though I love Chipotle too, "organic" and "fresh" doesn't necessarily equal "healthy."  [rant] Did you know, for example, that one of its one-pound-plus burriots (does anyone really need that much food at one sitting?) has over 1,300 calories?  Are they trying to make us feel better about eating "natural" ingredients?  Sure, it's easy to eat healthy there (just omit the flour tortilla, sour cream, and cheese), but are they trying to lull us into complacency by making us think that anything we eat there is good for us?  [/rant]

I think that what's in the calories we're consuming is just as important as how many. I've started ordering 2 chicken soft tacos (instead of the standard 3), with all the fixins, and it's a pretty moderate 650 calories, even with the added sour cream and cheese. I feel better not leaving stuffed to the gills. And I would tend to think that it's better for me that those calories come from minimally processed, "naturally raised" animals and organic beans than from a mystery meat burger and fries. In other words, all calories are not created equal.[/derail]

Back to my original point - this thread has focused a lot on the negative aspects of chain restaurants, and this is an example where a large chain has the potential to be a force for good. I wish more chain restaurants followed the made-in-house fresh, fast model, instead of sacrificing quality for speed, because it's obviously not a zero-sum game.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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I wish more chain restaurants followed the made-in-house fresh, fast model, instead of sacrificing quality for speed

This concept is ideal for the those of us who care, but that would sacrifice the standard of commonality that chains like to focus on. It is the same in Seattle and in Kansas City and in Miami or pick the city of your choice. If something was different, then people who like to eat at chains would be less likely to patronize the chain as a whole. What would Cheesecake Factory do if their cheesecakes came out different in Overland Park than they did at the one in Coconut Grove?

As for the idea of fast, isn't that one of the prime driving factors of chains? The faster they take care of the customer, the happier the customer is with their dining experience. The faster they put out the meals, the more meals they can sell in a given dining period, in other words how many times can they reseat that same chair to maximize their return on that chair.

I went to the Chipotle web site and read the manifesto, my question is who do they get their raw products from? Do they come from local suppliers or from the McDonald's (the owner) commissarys? Are they returning to the local community the dollar value they take in or are those dollars going back to some home office in another city? Do they get their produce from local suppliers or does that come in on the same commisary truck that brings the tortillas and the meats and the spices and the paper goods? Just curiosity on my part.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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I'd imagine if you had two people with the same workout routine but one was on a chipotle diet and the other was on a McDonald's diet that the Chipotle eater would be a healthier person in the long run. Also, even with 1300 calories, don't you think you really don't need to eat very much in the rest of the day if you ate a whole burrito from Chipotle?

Depending on the person but that still leaves 1200 calories to be consumed in a day, maybe those 1200 can be spent on other types of food groups like fruits and vegetables. For me, I don't go eating a large breakfast and think "hmmm lets go get chipotle for lunch!" usually its when I'm starving for a delicious barbacoa burrito with cilantro scented rice, black beans, mild & hot salsa, creamy sour cream, and cheese piled in a large warm tortilla. I'd hardly count that as an "empty calorie" such as soda, beer, and hard liqour.

btw, the 2 salsa selection is the key...sometimes I'll go for a trio of salsas if my day is just that good! but yeah.. the mild fresh tomato and spicy saucy salsa is an amazing combination with any kind of meat.

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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For me,  I don't go eating a large breakfast and think "hmmm lets go get chipotle for lunch!" usually its when I'm  starving for a delicious barbacoa burrito with cilantro scented rice, black beans, mild & hot salsa, creamy sour cream, and cheese piled in a large warm tortilla.
I don't know why, but I've never enjoyed the barbacoa as much as the chicken... and the steak is usually dry.
I'd hardly count that as an "empty calorie" such as soda, beer, and hard liqour.
A bonus for teetotalers! :wink:
btw, the 2 salsa selection is the key...sometimes I'll go for a trio of salsas if my day is just that good! but yeah.. the mild fresh tomato and spicy saucy salsa is an amazing combination with any kind of meat.

Agreed - always two salsas - but I go for the spicy corn relish. :raz:

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

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A quick nutrition analysis of your order

total calories calorie from fat total fat grams sodium%

barbacoa 245 143 16 28%

rice 240 60 7 25%

black beans 130 9 1 13%

tomato salsa, 2 portions 50 0 0 46%

sour cream 120 90 10 2%

cheese 110 80 9 8%

flour tortilla 330 70 8 30%

------ ---- ---- -----

1225 452 51g 152%

I guess if you have a very rigious workout regimen, which a lot of people do not, then your calorie intake is okay, that 51g of fat is pretty much a full days recommended intake and the sodium is way off the scale, no more salt the rest of the day.

If this type of dining is what you enjoy, then enjoy it. Myself, I think I will try to balance my diet in a different way with less calories from fat.

This is like the places that serve those salads that they promote as healthy but once the 4 oz of ranch dressing is added, it blows everything out of proportion. Those huge ceasar salads are not all that healthy either.

Ultimately though it is the persons perceptions of the value for their dining dollar, do they enjoy dining at that particular place. If you enjoy Chipotle, then have enjoy it. Just be aware of the nutrition of what you are eating.

As a quailfier, I personally have never dined at Chipotle and might if I come across one, none in my area. But it is not high on my list of places to try. My impression is they are trying to sell the bigger is better and we are healthy because we use fresh vegies ideas. Not a new idea, remember when McDonald's did that with one of their burgers? I don't remember the name of it but it seemed to have a bit more lettuce and a tomato slice on it so therefore it was healthier.

Thank you for making me make myself more aware of the concept of Chipotle and what they are selling. Maybe when I do get there, I will do the two small chicken crispy tacos.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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If this type of dining is what you enjoy, then enjoy it.  Myself, I think I will try to balance my diet in a different way with less calories from fat. 

I enjoy all types of dining, Im not closed minded. Sometimes when you're working 70 hours a week for a 4star/diamond restaurant and going to college 30 hours a week, you've gotta do what you gotta do. :wacko:

As a quailfier, I personally have never dined at Chipotle and might if I come across one, none in my area.  But it is not high on my list of places to try.  My impression is they are trying to sell the bigger is better and we are healthy because we use fresh vegies ideas. 

I think they are more focused on the fact that they get their meat from the same site that Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and other nation-wide chefs used to get there meat from (maybe still do).

A quick nutrition analysis of your order

I guess if you have a very rigious workout regimen, which a lot of people do not

Well they better get on it! :cool:

Well I might as well stop eating my chili cheese fries at Arrowhead from now on... don't want to over consume that salt! :raz:

Edited by JWest (log)

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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For me,  I don't go eating a large breakfast and think "hmmm lets go get chipotle for lunch!" usually its when I'm  starving for a delicious barbacoa burrito with cilantro scented rice, black beans, mild & hot salsa, creamy sour cream, and cheese piled in a large warm tortilla.
I don't know why, but I've never enjoyed the barbacoa as much as the chicken... and the steak is usually dry.

Agreed, I had steak the first time having a chipotle burrito.. it was dry too. Never had it again, Chicken is always the safe bet though. Im not a big fan of the carnitas as well but Chicken and Barbacoa are my two favorites.

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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I'd imagine if you had two people with the same workout routine but one was on a chipotle diet and the other was on a McDonald's diet that the Chipotle eater would be a healthier person in the long run. Also, even with 1300 calories, don't you think you really don't need to eat very much in the rest of the day if you ate a whole burrito from Chipotle?

Perhaps not, with regards to calories. But it is generally considered wise to spread your calories out over the day (i.e., smaller meals more frequently) to maintain blood sugar levels.

I wish Chipotle would give us a chance to have a half-sized burrito. And offer brown rice instead of white, would considerably boost the "healthy" quotient. Still, it is possible to eat healthy there, so I am grateful.

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Um, maybe someone has mentioned this - but they do have the "Naked Burrito" - you know, taking away that larger-than-life tortilla cuts the calories by a gazillion... and surprisingly, some of the fattiest ingredients are the ones that sound the healthiest (ie. vegetables).

u.e.

“Watermelon - it’s a good fruit. You eat, you drink, you wash your face.”

Italian tenor Enrico Caruso (1873-1921)

ulteriorepicure.com

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As we eat out with the kids, it can be difficult. Due to Heidi's disabilities, chains are out. Just flat out. Due to oral motor limitations and the inability to make her eat what is available, we look for alternatives. Ask a chain restaurant or a fast food joint to make accommodations? Let's just say that the one time we asked at Mickey D's for a cheeseburger sans burger met with a "we can't do that." (Let's face it, they can eliminate the pickles, or the mustard, or the ketchup, or the onions; all we asked was that they held the burger). Ask at a place like TGIF's for scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, and we are met with an "it's not on the menu." (so, do they not have cheese and bread?)

However, at a non-chain restaurant, you ask for it, and they can usually do it, and they do it kindly, and, quite frankly, fawn over the one who needs her food cut up. Want a scrambled egg at a mom and pop joint when breakfast isn't an all day affair? Just ask. Want a grilled cheese or simply cheese between bread when it isn't on the menu? A simple bowl of cottage cheese? Want ranch dressing with something like french friesl than normally doesn't come with ranch dressing? "You got it. Hon." Heck, they'll even put their beverages in the preferred cup that you provide.

Would Meg Ryan in "When Harry Met Sally" have been satisfied at a chain?

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Ask a chain restaurant or a fast food joint to make accommodations?  Let's just say that the one time we asked at Mickey D's for a cheeseburger sans burger met with a "we can't do that."  (Let's face it, they can eliminate the pickles, or the mustard, or the ketchup, or the onions; all we asked was that they held the burger).  Ask at a place like TGIF's for scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, and we are met with an "it's not on the menu."  (so, do they not have cheese and bread?)

Whoa-- it really makes me angry to hear that those chains won't accomodate a child with disabilities.

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Let's just say that the one time we asked at Mickey D's for a cheeseburger sans burger met with a "we can't do that." (Let's face it, they can eliminate the pickles, or the mustard, or the ketchup, or the onions; all we asked was that they held the burger).

Shame they don't do that anymore -- years ago, when I was in high school and working my first job at McD's, although it wasn't listed on the menu, we DID have a grilled cheese -- we just reversed the bun, stuck 2 slices of cheese between the bun, and put the whole shebang in the regular bun toaster. Really good sandwich, and we charged $0.35 for it. But now, something like that would probably be too complicated for the kitchen staff -- they often can't comprehend simple directions like "NO KETCHUP, PLEASE!".

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

“A favorite dish in Kansas is creamed corn on a stick.”

-Jeff Harms, actor, comedian.

>Enjoying every bite, because I don't know any better...

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As we eat out with the kids, it can be difficult.  Due to Heidi's disabilities, chains are out.  Just flat out.  Due to oral motor limitations and the inability to make her eat what is available, we look for alternatives.  Ask a chain restaurant or a fast food joint to make accommodations?  Let's just say that the one time we asked at Mickey D's for a cheeseburger sans burger met with a "we can't do that."  (Let's face it, they can eliminate the pickles, or the mustard, or the ketchup, or the onions; all we asked was that they held the burger).  Ask at a place like TGIF's for scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, and we are met with an "it's not on the menu."  (so, do they not have cheese and bread?)

Scrambled eggs cooked in a microwave doesn't sound pleasing to me :laugh:

They probably have some sort of corporate regulation on what they send out from the kitchen. Someone would probably get in real trouble if you were to get sick from the grilled cheese. Since it's not on the menu, the company probably doesn't want to make a habit of that because they have food costs budgets to meet every month. That's my guess anyways.

"cuisine is the greatest form of art to touch a human's instinct" - chairman kaga

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I can get a BLT at Sonic and it isn't on the menu. Diverging from the set menu creates chaos, it is not part of the program and corporate hasn't given the okay to stray from the menu. I just finished reading this months issue of Restaurants and Institutions, a magazine focused on chain dining. They talk a lot about the culture of chains.

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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As we eat out with the kids, it can be difficult.  Due to Heidi's disabilities, chains are out.  Just flat out.  Due to oral motor limitations and the inability to make her eat what is available, we look for alternatives.  Ask a chain restaurant or a fast food joint to make accommodations?  Let's just say that the one time we asked at Mickey D's for a cheeseburger sans burger met with a "we can't do that."  (Let's face it, they can eliminate the pickles, or the mustard, or the ketchup, or the onions; all we asked was that they held the burger).  Ask at a place like TGIF's for scrambled eggs or a grilled cheese sandwich, and we are met with an "it's not on the menu."  (so, do they not have cheese and bread?)

Scrambled eggs cooked in a microwave doesn't sound pleasing to me :laugh:

They probably have some sort of corporate regulation on what they send out from the kitchen. Someone would probably get in real trouble if you were to get sick from the grilled cheese. Since it's not on the menu, the company probably doesn't want to make a habit of that because they have food costs budgets to meet every month. That's my guess anyways.

I think what did it for us was the refusal of a chain to eliminate the chicken from a quesidilla. Which led me to believe that this was some frozen product. The waitress checked with the kitchen who checked with the manager who was unrelenting. So, we left without eating (but we did leave a tip for the waitress who really tried to make it happen for us) and found a mom and pop diner where they were more than happy to accommodate us. The diner didn't have crayons, but then again, that's not why we went out to eat!

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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Bakers Square has a soup-and-half-sandwich item on their menu. One of the half sandwiches is a plain turkey sandwich. I ordered a whole turkey sandwich, and they charged me for soup-and-whole-sandwich. When I brought this to their attention, they said it was "impossible" to order just a sandwich and no soup, but that one could have soup and a whole sandwich. The manager ended up charging me only for the soup-and-half-sandwich, even though I had the full sandwich and no soup.

::Hangs head in shame and waits for eGullet Police to confiscate eGullet card::

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I was reading a local blog for Tulsa today and they were all excited to the possibility of getting an upscale chain like Cheesecake factory into a new developement that is going in here. I don't think we are a large enough market for that company, hopefully. Then they also wanted a large outlet mall developement to happen. Do those two things go together?

It is good to be a BBQ Judge.  And now it is even gooder to be a Steak Cookoff Association Judge.  Life just got even better.  Woo Hoo!!!

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