It’s an age-old debate. Is Chipotle Mexican Grill or Qdoba Mexican Eats the superior restaurant when it comes to Mexican fast food? (Sorry, Moe’s Southwest Grill.)
As someone who previously preferred Qdoba, but now will excitedly eat Chipotle at any place and time, I decided to sit down and really think about what makes both of these restaurants worthy of the title. Ultimately, readers will have to decide for themselves, but I am here to get people thinking about what influences their preferences for either establishment.
I compared my typical order from both restaurants: A chicken burrito bowl. That is, a bowl with white rice, black beans, chicken, mild salsa, corn, sour cream, cheese, guacamole and lettuce.
For college students, focusing on the more cost-effective option seems like the way to go. In this instance — the same order for both places — Qdoba wins out at $7.95 without tax, while Chipotle weighs in at $9 without tax.
I’m sure we all know why: Qdoba does not charge for its guacamole — or its queso, which I find to be better than Chipotle’s. However, I decided not to include this ingredient in my analysis, as Qdoba’s queso has been around longer, meaning more time to perfect the recipe. Chipotle only introduced the cheesy topping in 2017.
But don’t take it from me. Take it from another fellow Buckeye.
“I like Qdoba because you don’t pay for guac or queso separately, and the portions are bigger,” Alex Roldan, a fifth-year in economics, said. “The seasoning for Chipotle is slightly tastier, but overall, Qdoba is just more bang for your buck.”
I initially gravitated toward Qdoba for similar reasons, and it was more accessible from where I used to live. It always tasted good, so I never felt the need to stray.
Then, I got to know Chipotle. Its freshness and the fact that it was always busy swayed me. I would turn back to Qdoba every once in a while, only to realize that the ingredients in my bowl didn’t make me feel as clean or healthy as I felt while eating Chipotle. Today, for that reason, I am a strong Chipotle advocate, but that does not mean I turn my nose up at an occasional Qdoba bowl.
For some, the choice is a little less nuanced.
“I hate Qdoba, so [I obviously] choose Chipotle,” Nadia Musleh, a fifth-year in psychology, said. “I had Qdoba, and I just felt like the flavors didn’t work well together.”
While Qdoba’s quality might be in question, it feels like more food in general, even disregarding the variety of options on the menu. Maybe it’s the shape of the burrito bowl — a circle compared to Chipotle’s oval. Maybe I’m imagining it, but at first glance, Qdoba seems to offer a larger amount of food in general when it comes to the bowl.
That’s not to say Chipotle is hesitant to throw on the toppings you desire to perfect your burrito bowl. I’m basing this strictly on what I see when I order a bowl from both establishments. Either way, I am left extremely full and perhaps with leftovers depending on the kind of day I’m having.
One student I talked to opted out of the debate of which was better almost entirely.
“I don’t have much of an opinion about Qdoba,” Summer McLain, a graduate student in agricultural communication, education and leadership, said. “I have only eaten their food when it was available for free at functions during my undergrad. I prefer the taste of Chipotle, but [as] a member of the agricultural industry, I hate how they portray the American farmer with their anti-GMO, antibiotic-free propaganda. They use the scare tactic to sell their food, so I don’t eat there.”
When choosing a favorite Mexican chain, it really depends on what people consider the deciding factor. Whether you try your hardest to save money, prefer what generally tastes better, enjoy a larger serving size or opt out of the debate completely, one thing is for certain: Chipotle and Qdoba are here to stay.