Written by Michelle Taupier
I live in Shrewsbury and work in Nashua, NH. When I see a sign pop up more than once between these two points, I tend to get a little suspicious. My cynical side assumes an invasion of a(nother) corporate conglomerate – and usually I am right. By way of example, there are 4 Targets, 3 Michael’s Crafts and 4 Panera Breads between Shrewsbury and Nashua. So naturally I noticed that within a short timeframe, I was passing 4 Chipotle Mexican Grille and 3 Five Guys Burger signs on my familiar drive. I resisted going to either at first, but as the weeks and months went by, co-workers and friends alike persuaded me to both.
I am generally ambivalent about Mexican food, but I appreciate that it’s usually prepared quickly; and once in a great while some salty, crispy chips and a cold margarita really hit the spot. Chipotle is doing some clever advertising so I had picked up some random tidbits about them without really trying. Their motto is “Food With Integrity” and includes the use of unprocessed, local ingredients and naturally raised meats as much as possible. The chain was started in California in 1993 by Chef Steve Ells who still runs the company today, even though the company has since gone public.
The menu is refreshingly simple. In fact, there has been only one single change to the menu in the 17 year history of Chipotle, and that was to add salads to the lineup. There are five meal options: burrito, fajita burrito, burrito bowl, taco and salad; five main filling options: chicken, steak, carnitas/pork, barbacoa/shredded beef, and vegetarian ; and then your choice of veggie and side ingredients to go inside. I have eaten Chipotle five times and thoroughly enjoyed four burritos. I was disappointed when I veered away from the burrito and tried a burrito bowl. The ingredients were the same and therefore equally delicious, but I admit that I just didn’t enjoy eating out of a cardboard bowl. Each item is made to order in a line that reminded me of Subway – you just point to whatever item you’d like and they add a spoonful as you walk on down the line.
I take a pass on guacamole, but my guac-loving husband swears that the Chipotle guacamole rivals any other. As an accompaniment to your meal choice you can order bags of freshly prepared warm tortilla chips, salsas and guacamole. They also have a kids menu of quesadillas and tacos.
As much as I like the food, I have to say I like it to-go. The dining room of Chipotle is all stainless steel, and it made me feel like I was eating in an operating room. I know this is California style, a signature of where the restaurant originated….but I’m still not a fan. All in all I give Chipotle a delicious thumbs up for taste, efficiency and all around good practices. It’s also inexpensive given the ingredients they use, with each menu item below $7.
The second restaurant sign I have seen pop up in multiple on my commute is Five Guys. I didn’t even know what the name represented, but when a restaurant opened up near my office the water cooler talk informed me. Five Guys also has a simple menu – fresh made burgers and hand cut fries. They offer an inferior grilled hot dog as well, but that’s it aside from drinks and their signature free peanuts while you wait. No chips, no desserts, no sides.
I have also been to Five Guys about five times, and as a creature of habit have gotten the same thing every time. I like the little hamburger with grilled mushrooms and onions, and of course a side of fries. You can order a burger which is actually two patties, or a little burger which is one patty. Then there is a menu with a wide variety of grilled or cold toppings from which you can pick as many as you wish, all free. The fries come in small and regular, but a small is easily enough for two people. The restaurant is outfitted in red and white check and plays lively music, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s “loud” in both décor and volume. My 3 year old daughter thought it was too loud, but the tweens and teens dining with their parents seemed to think it was just right. Their numerous accolades on the wall show that their food is popular and well-liked all across the country. Five Guys was started in 1986 in Arlington, VA and as of today has 625 restaurants. It’s hard to elaborate on an American original like a burger and fries, but I assure you this one is excellent. The burgers are fresh and tasty, as are the buns and toppings. The fries are thick, rustic-looking versions that come out piping hot with a crispy touch of salt. Way better than the fast food chains and way quicker than any casual restaurant with table service.
We are fortunate to have Chipotle Mexican Grill right here on Rt. 9 in Shrewsbury, and Five Guys just a hop, skip and a jump over on Lincoln Street in Worcester. The next time you are looking for a tasty, fresh and casual lunch, stop in and visit these new neighbors for pleasant surprise!