so torn: do i care that chipotle has a new vegan option?



From my personal Facebook page:

I just got back from a tasting event for an omni chain
restaurant rolling out a vegan option.

While I didn’t not like it, I’m pretty sure my write-up will ensure
I’m never invited to another tasting for an omni chain restaurant
rolling out a vegan option.

I had returned home from the Chipotle sofritas tasting, and while I did like it (more on that later, promise), I just kept thinking, “When the hell am I ever going to a Chipotle?” I don’t go out to eat very often, and my go-to gang consists of pizza, Thai, whatever my friend at The Cheese Plate puts together for me, and the single chain, fast-casual option—you guessed it—Veggie Grill. If I want a taco or burrito, I make it myself.

However, the comments from my friends, including three bigger-names-than-me vegan bloggers were pretty excited about this new option. One Portlander pointed out that when you’re traveling or with family, it’s nice to have the option. And two Californians reminded me that I do live in the vegan motherland and am super spoiled. Where they live, Chipotle is actually a go-to, because there is nothing else. Even before the sofritas option, they were able to get a vegan meal there…which dug up this memory for me, from when I worked in Orange County. I have, in fact, eaten at Chipotle. I was able to build a vegan burrito there and sit down to lunch with my coworkers. A rare occurrence indeed.

It’s just that whenever a big chain announces it’s trying a vegan option, there’s this Cabbage-Patch-Kids-in-the-’80s frenzy, and it super annoys me. Like, let me say this out loud: I have zero interest in TCBY’s almondmilk frozen yogurt. You never need frozen yogurt, and I’m not going out of my way to support TCBY or Silk. I’m much more excited to see a new vegan company emerge, where you know the money you give them is going to support things you’d likely support yourself. For example, I’m beyond thrilled (and biting my nails until I can visit) that Chicago’s Upton’s Naturals has opened its café. If I’m in Chicago and am looking for a nosh, how could I not go to the vegan joint owned and operated by some of the loveliest damn people in existence?!

I suppose the thing to keep in mind is this: Anytime a person chooses a vegan meal over one sourced from animals, we save some animals from suffering. Anytime a budding vegan kid is able to eat a meal out with his/her omnivore family, that veganism has a better chance of sticking. The vegans grow a little less weird.

So, back to the matter at hand: How was it? I liked it. I enjoyed eating it. I appreciate that it’s tofu (organic, non-GMO) rather than another highly processed fakey chicken, not that I don’t eat more than my share of fakey chicken.

The tofu is shredded and mixed with peppers and such, and isn’t crazy spicy but salty and all-around flavorful. And I don’t know if they just made mine extra huge or what, since I was with a special group, but this was way too much food for me. There was a good half cup of guacamole on top of rice, fajita-ready onions & peppers, sofritas tofu, and two salsas—that much food for just over $6 is pretty good.

Would I eat there again? Probably not in Portland, but honestly, once you leave the city, pickin’s do get slim and knowing a tofu burrito is within reach is a bit of a comfort. So it’s like Starbucks—I never step foot in a Portland Starbucks, but at an airport or on the road, it’s a friggin’ beacon.

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