Last Saturday, we ate at a Chipotle for the first time. In its advertising, at least its billboards, the chain stresses the size of its burritos, and it’s truth in advertising. They come all wrapped in aluminum foil, big enough for notoriously large gringo appetites, though I’ve had as big in other Mexican restaurants, including one in Westmont—ah, Taco Express, I miss it—run by actual Mexicans. While not quite as good as Taco Express, Chipotle did a good job of it. Both Yuriko and I had a pork burrito, spicier than usual for formula Mexican fare, and very filling. So filling that dinner was hardly necessary. If we ever go again, we’ll buy one and split it. Lilly was less impressed with her tacos, which were too spicy for her, but she and Ann enjoyed their chips and guac completely.
The décor bothered me. In theory, it was up-to-date, stylish, smooth. In practice, the seats were hard and uncomfortable, and there was too much metal—metal walls, metal ceiling, metal tables. Add a little gray, plus a hatch that swings shut, and we could have been eating in a battleship. No cheesy black velvet or piñatas here, either, but works of art that vaguely evoked the kinds of pre-Columbian figures regularly featured in National Geographic. “This fresco, discovered by Swiss archaeologist Hans Lan in 1997, may depict the Aztec thunder god Uztctylpecticpotictyl apoplectic with wrath, as usual with Aztec gods.”
The hard seats reminded of the story I’d read (or heard) about Starbucks seats, which are (or were) infamously designed to be uncomfortable, the better to discourage lingering, and turn those tables. But I don’t go to Starbucks enough to testify about its seats. In fact, the last time I sat in a Starbucks was November 11, 2003; it may seem odd that I remember that, but it was Veteran’s Day, and I asked a young co-worker if she had ever heard it called Armistice Day (she hadn’t). Anyway, Chipotle’s seats, for all their sophisticated style, failed at providing a comfortable perch for the butts that Chipotle strives to enlarge with its mammoth burritos.