Vegan Options at Chipotle
If you know me, you know I eat at one place more than any other restaurant. That magical place is called Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Just about everyone I personally know has eaten there, basically because I’ve either taken them there, or I kept nagging them to go try it. “Come on, you owe it to yourself to sample this Mexican delicacy. Don’t make me show up to your house and drag you there. That’s it… I’m on my way…”
How long have you been eating there?
I don’t remember the exact date of my first encounter, but I think it was in early 2001. I was in art school and a bunch of us would all pile in someone’s car and head to a lunch spot. One day we went to this placed called Chipotle. I probably drove past it many times and just never paid attention to it. I liked Mexican food, so I was down.
Back then they used to only have burritos and tacos, no bowls or salads. They appeared to be known for their burritos, and my friend suggested that as well, so that’s what I ordered. I’m sure I got chicken or steak back then.
Once we sat down to eat, I grabbed a bottle of hot sauce (hot sauce forever, especially the Chipotle Tabasco sauce). I unwrapped the foil wrapping paper like it was a Christmas gift, and then I completely unwrapped the soft, thin tortilla shell to expose all of the ingredients. I doused it in hot sauce and was so excited to eat this masterpiece. Except there was one problem: how the hell to I wrap this thing back up?
Chipotle Pro Tip #1: Don’t completely unwrap the burrito.
It was a mess. It tasted great, but I quickly learned that you just peel off part of the foil, while the rest keeps the burrito together.
Crazy to think that I’ve been eating at this company’s restaurants for almost 20 years!
So where do you find this damn place?
All over the damn world. Seriously, in 2017, there were over 2,250 locations. Almost all of them are in the US, but you can also find them in a handful of other countries (there are six locations in Paris, and I went to the same one three times in a week).
Here in Dayton, Ohio, there are about 15 locations. If I jump in my car, I can be at almost all of them in less than 15 minutes. I’ve lost count of all the locations I’ve been to, but here are just a few of the other states I’ve had Chipotle in: Florida, Nevada, Alabama, Colorado, Texas, New Jersey, Montana, and everywhere in between.
The company started in Denver back in ’93 in a small building near the University of Denver campus. In the fall of 2016, I randomly flew to Los Angeles to buy a truck and then drove it all the way back to Ohio. On that long journey, I passed through Denver. I knew I had to visit the OG location. I wish the founder Steve Ells was there so I could shake his hand. Maybe one day I can get him on my podcast for an interview.
I already ate before I went there, as I didn’t even think about going there til the last minute. So I just got a bag of chips (with either guac or hot salsa, I forget) and hung out there for a bit. Out of all the locations I’ve been, that one is by far the smallest. Like crazy tiny. I’ve always seen the iconic photo in other locations that depicts this location, so it was a little surreal to be standing there taking a similar photo.
To find a location near you, you can obviously use your GPS, or Yelp, or Google. I have the Chipotle app on my phone or you can use the location finder on their website.
What do you eat there?
I usually get a bowl every time. Occasionally I’ll get a burrito. I rarely get the tacos or a salad anymore.
Nothing wrong with the salad, I just prefer to eat something other than a big bowl of lettuce. Even though most non-vegans think that all vegans do is eat heads of lettuce all day long.
The tacos are cool, but you get far less food if you order those. I like to eat, so I’d rather get a burrito or a bowl. Although I think most people should be limiting their calorie intake. Myself included. I don’t need five pounds of food in one sitting.
Chipotle Pro Tip #2: If you want tacos, ask for the shells on the side. They will fill up a bowl with all the ingredients, and you’ll get more food this way.
Also with the tacos, you can choose from soft flour tortillas or crispy hard shells. I used to always get the hard shell tacos at any Mexican place. Then I started eating at more authentic places and was introduced to soft corn shells. And that’s all I wanted. Chipotle offered these for awhile and they were great, but unfortunately they got rid of them. I used to always get a bowl with those soft corn shells on the side.
A burrito is awesome, but I don’t need the big flour tortilla. At least not every time I go there. Sometimes I’ll get the tortilla on the side.
But as I said, a bowl by itself is my typical order. Here’s my most common configuration: bowl, both rices, extra pinto beans, sofritas, mild, corn, and hot salsas. That’s it. Pretty simple. If you don’t know, the sofritas is essentially ground up tofu. But it is cooked in a sauce with a bunch of spices and it tastes awesome. Seriously, give it a try if you’ve never had it. I was always scared of the word “tofu” before I was vegan, but I forced myself to get it before I went vegan and I was definitely surprised.
Sometimes I get black beans in addition to pinto beans. Sometimes I don’t get the hot salsa, sometimes I get the medium green salsa, and sometimes I get neither. Sometimes I get guac instead of sofritas, sometimes I get both, and sometimes I get neither. I don’t get lettuce that often.
Just make sure you avoid all the meat options, sour cream (gross), cheese, and the queso. Everything else is all vegan though. You can check out these three pages on their website for more detailed information:
I love their chips, but eating an entire bowl plus a bag of chips plus a side of guac is a lot of food for one person. Like too much. Sometimes I’ll get them to go, whether that’s a bag of chips and guac, or chips and salsa, or just chips.
Chipotle Pro Tip #3: When they’re filling up your bowl, tell that person you want a side of hot. A lot of times a side of salsa will be free. Then when the person at the register asks if need anything else, you can say you want a bag of chips. Sometimes they’ll just charge you for the chips. Sometimes they’ll play by the rules and charge you for chips and salsa. I’m not condoning the act of stealing, but it’s like a free bonus here and there.
99% of the time, I will get a water to drink. I’ve been known to get a lemonade from time to time. One thing that annoys me is when I decide to pay for a lemonade, then head over to the drink fountain and realize the lemonade is out of order. Ugh! In this scenario, I might get a Root Beer or Dr. Pepper, but I hate drinking pop/soda, even though their lemonade is essentially artificially-flavored sugar water too. Sometimes I’ll just cut my losses and get a water. I’m pretty frugal and hate wasting money, so sometimes I’ll take the cup back up to the register and ask for a refund. I’m that guy.
Speaking of drinks, never ask for a free water and fill it up with soda. That’s just bad karma. You’re better than that. If you want soda, pay for it. If you’re like me, just get water.
How much does it cost? I heard it’s expensive.
I don’t think it’s expensive at all. It’s essentially close to most fast food prices. I think they label it as fast casual, which is slightly fancier. It’s not $1 burgers, but it’s also not a $50 a plate restaurant where you have to make reservations weeks in advance.
My bill there is usually around $7. For that amount of food (that tastes great, and is vegan), that seems like normal/fair pricing to me. That’s for a bowl and a water to go. That’s also here in Dayton. I’ve seen slightly higher prices in major cities.
If I want sofritas and guac on my bowl, and I get a bag of chips and guac on the side, and I buy a lemonade, my total is gonna be around $15. If you eat that way every time, ya it might seem a little pricey.
Also, when you get a bowl, there’s really enough food there for two meals. If you are on a budget, and you have willpower, you should split your bowl into two meals. Then it’s a super deal. A $7 bowl with water, to go, is only $3.50 per meal. You can’t get vegan food like this too many places for that cheap.
Side note, how amazing is this Chipotle shirt? Haha
Fine, you’ve sold me, how do I order this?
You can walk in and stand in line like most people. Or you can order it off their website. I used to do this back when I had a regular job forever ago. I’d order it online, take my lunch break, drive 15 minutes to pick it up, then eat it while driving back to work, then rush inside to clock back in. (Side note: Fuck the standard 9-5 rat race and their 30 minute lunch breaks!)
You can also order it right from their iPhone app (I’m sure they have one for Androids too, but nobody should be concerned with those green text devices). A lot of times I’ll order it from my phone, then drive there and pick it up without waiting in line.
However, I don’t mind standing in line. It goes pretty fast, plus I like to examine the ingredients before deciding what I want.
When you order it through their app, it utilizes the Door Dash service (use that link and get $7 off your next order, which is basically a free meal at Chipotle). Or you can use the actual Door Dash app if you’d like, but the Chipotle app has a better user experience. There might be other food delivery apps but these are what I’ve used and they work just fine.
Chipotle Pro Tip #4: Once you save your payment info to your Chipotle app, you can always eat here even if you forget your wallet at home. I’ve done this so many times. I leave the house and I’m starved, and I forgot my wallet, so I just place my order through the app with my stored credit card, then go in and pick it up. Simple! One time their computer system was down, and all the other customers were just leaving, but I placed my order on the app and was able to get my food like normal. Nothing gets in the way of me and Chipotle!
What else should I know?
Just like every other restaurant that isn’t 100% vegan, you have to worry about cross-contamination. I notice things here and there at various locations. Sometimes the sofritas container has no lid, and it’s in the front, and there are other meats behind it, so when someone gets steak for example, a piece or two might fall into the sofritas container. So just pay attention.
The thing I notice most often is sour cream and/or cheese falling into the guac or salsa containers. If I’m in line and I see sour cream in any other container, I just don’t get those ingredients on that occasion. If I see like one piece of cheese in the guac, and I get guac, and I unluckily get that piece of cheese in my bowl, I just pick that strand of cheese out. Obviously if you’re vegetarian, this doesn’t matter.
They usually cook the fajitas (peppers and onions) in a separate pan. But I’ve seen a location that cooked their peppers and onions on the main grill where they cook the meat.
Of course, you can ask them how things are prepared or just omit them from your meal if you aren’t sure. That’s how I usually do things. If I can’t get an answer or there’s too much uncertainty or I just want to avoid the awkwardness, I just skip those items.
If you’re in Paris, they won’t let you just order margaritas. They made us buy food too. I’m currently not drinking any alcohol (might do that forever, who knows), but I can vouch that their margaritas are pretty tasty. Even just the cheap one, you don’t have to splurge on the Patron ones. Also, not all of the locations have a beer/liquor license, so you’ll have to stay sober or get your food to go.
I could literally eat this every single day. The most I’ve had it in one week is eight times. People think I’m crazy. They might be right, but I think they are crazy too. Haha
There has only been one time in my entire history of Chipotle where I walked in and left because the line was too long. I’m usually never in such a rush that I won’t wait in line, no matter how long it is. The one exception was in May of 2016 (don’t you love how I remember the most random shit) when I was rushing to Columbus for this poker tournament. I walked in and the line was to the door. I didn’t have time to wait. So I left and went through some random drive-thru place instead. But… the poker tournament turned out to be epic, me and one other guy split the first and second prizes evenly, so I snagged a check for over $4k. Yes, I will skip Chipotle for a day in exchange for several thousands of dollars.
Some people will still talk about getting food poisoning at Chipotle. First off, I’ve never been sick after eating at Chipotle. And I’ve eaten there at least once a week for almost 20 years. If I’m safe, I think you’ll be fine. Any huge chain restaurant has the chance of having accidents. And in my opinion, I bet the people that got sick had meat and/or dairy. I highly doubt the beans or rice made them sick. Be aware of your environment and surroundings when eating food. If something seems contaminated or if the workers appear to be doing things in an unclean fashion, go somewhere else. Just use your best judgement.
They also offer catering if you’re having a huge party. They don’t have any rewards programs, but during the summer of 2016 they did. If you ate Chipotle at least 11 times per month for 3 straight months, they would give you a catering party for 20 for free. Well that was simple, and I easily succeeded. So in the spring of 2017, I picked up a huge spread of food for my family one night, and then I had leftovers for a week. Epic!
I know plenty of people who share my love for Chipotle, and I hope you become one of those people too. It’s rare, but I’ve met some people that hate it or just don’t care for it. I don’t get it, but to each their own.
Whenever I’m having a bad day or an amazing day or when things fall apart or when I want to celebrate, this is my “vice” that I run to. When I think about a lot of memories, plenty of those times included Chipotle. I even tried to get a part-time job at the new location that was opening up near me after I lost my last full-time job (I guess I didn’t make the cut). This place is basically a part of me. I should have invested all the money I had back in the day!
Anyways, are their healthier options out there? Of course. But for the most part, I think this is a healthier option than most places. Plus it tastes amazing all the time, and it’s cheap, and it’s convenient.
Some people meet others for coffee, I prefer to meet people for Chipotle. Maybe you’ll join me soon!
Did this article help you? I hope it did. Or at the very least I hope you were entertained and maybe you laughed. I don’t ever tell anyone to buy me gifts, but I always have people that insist on paying me back for helping them. Feel free to send me a Chipotle Gift Card if you insist on saying thank you with a gift (my email is email@example.com). It is much appreciated and I guarantee it will always get used!