I love Mexican food.
I love burritos, fajitas, empanadas, churros, arroz con pollo, paella (I know that’s a Spanish dish, but how often does one write “paella?” Cut me some slack); I just love it all. But unlike a lot of people, I have absolutely no interest in eating in “authentic” Mexican restaurants. If one’s around, sure, I’ll give it a shot, but I actually prefer the cheap, quality-controlled, watered-down crap to the real thing. I’m not Anthony Bourdain- I could care less about eating al pastor tacos because “YOU CAN REALLY TASTE THE THIRD WORLD IN THEM!” Also, soft corn tortillas are an abomination against God. I don’t care if they make the dish more “real”- they taste like Tostito’s that were soaked in someone’s spit, and that sucks.
With that in mind, I decided to put together a comprehensive ranking of the major Mexican chain restaurants that I’m aware of (which means no Del Taco, no Rubio’s, and no Taco Cabana because those places sound completely made-up). Off we go.
Strengths: It’s cheap, which is always good. You can get a taco for, like, 14 cents and a hug there. Also, I know it’s nothing but glorified dog food inside those tacos, but there’s something comforting and familiar about shoving that dog food down one’s gullet.
Weaknesses: I mean…it’s glorified dog food. Their tacos are, objectively speaking, abhorrent, and even the value you get on those tacos usually doesn’t justify the havoc wreaked upon your innards as a result of eating Taco Bell. Plus, they only sell Pepsi products, and as we all know, Pepsi is the worst. I always associate Pepsi drinks with struggling restaurants, kinda like a diner selling Malt-o-Meal cereal instead of the normal stuff to keep overhead costs down.
Strengths: Better than Taco Bell. Baja Fresh strikes me as the kind of place Taco Bell patrons go when they want to inject a little class into their lives. The food is fine- a little on the bland side, but certainly nothing offensive. And the ingredients are usually fresh, which goes a long way in my book.
Weaknesses: By law, Baja Fresh is only allowed one location in a 500-mile radius. I live in Brooklyn and I think the nearest Baja Fresh is somewhere in New Rochelle.
Strengths: “WELCOME TO MOE’S!” God, that’s gotta be the worst job ever. You’re slinging shit burritos, AND you have to scream greetings to every mouth-breathing person who comes ambling in off the street? I wonder if there’s some sort of rubric for evaluating the volume of their voices and the frequency of their greetings. I bet there is, because places that put an emphasis on cheeriness are usually run by the most bland, humorless pricks on the planet. Oh, and they serve melted nacho cheese, which I guess qualifies as a positive.
Weaknesses: They don’t use good rice (it’s, like, yellow with cracked pepper. It looks like petrified larvae with mold growing on it), their ground beef is fucking gray, and their vegetables look like they were acquired from the back of a dead old woman’s fridge. Moe’s is fucking gross.
Strengths: Fresh ingredients (especially compared to Moe’s. I can’t get over how badly that place sucks); better-than-average-quality meat; Coca-Cola products.
Weaknesses: I got food poisoning from that place once. I had a chicken bowl, and 12 hours later I was shitting, vomiting and peeing. At the same time. I felt like an open fire hydrant. Other qualms I have with that place? Their bowls are just an inferior version of Chipotle’s, their lettuce is way too big (if I wanted a salad, I’d fucking order a salad), and their forks are surprisingly brittle. Those things can barely spear a piece of lettuce. ONE STAR WOULD NOT VISIT AGAIN.
Strengths: Oh my god, fucking everything. Their steak is delicious, their pico de gallo is always fresh, they have the best guacamole in the game, their sour cream is thick liquid gold, and they give you a TON of food. They also have a secret menu; essentially, if they have the ingredients for it, they’ll make it for you. Also: Coca-Cola products.
Weaknesses: They’re kinda pretentious (I don’t want to read a 2,000 word essay by Malcolm Gladwell on my soda), and they don’t have melted nacho cheese. (This, by the way, is not a grievance I share, but it’s a common complaint among Chipotle haters. Or, as I call them, “savages.”)
It’s Chipotle by a country mile. Which, I believe, is the same as a regular mile. Sure, you can (wrongheadedly) make the case that Qdoba has better food-poisoning potential or that Moe’s has that runny yellow goop that people seem to love, but in terms of both quality and price, you can’t beat Chipotle. I’m not even going to say something like “And if you disagree, I hope you get hit by a bus,” because if you do disagree, I’m going to find a bus and run you the fuck over because you don’t deserve to be on this planet anymore.
Here’s some music.