Mexican Food Chains are Becoming More Popular for High School Students

Chipotle burrito, chips and salsa rank above Pancheros items.

Chipotle burrito, chips and salsa rank above Pancheros items.

Grace Shallow, Columnist

As Cinnaminson High School students, something that everyone can agree to do is go out to eat. Whether it is after school, before supporting peers in sports games, or on a Saturday afternoon, chances are that high school kids will be seen waiting at local food chains, ready to be served. Recently, Mexican food chains, such as Chipotle, Qdoba, Moe’s, and Pancheros, have become more and more popular, leading to the ultimate question: Which is the best?

Many factors go into answering this question, such as price, distance from Cinnaminson, and of course, the quality and quantity of food. Moe’s, for example, has a special every Monday cleverly coined “Moe’s Monday” that allows customers to purchase a burrito, chips, and a drink for only $7.00. Moe’s also allows you to get a free side of guacamole with your burrito, increasing the value of your meal. Personally, I found the guacamole to be subpar and rather generic tasting. Overall, the burrito at Moe’s far surpasses the taste of the bowl, but was still slacking compared to other major competitors such as Chipotle. However, students are drawn to Moe’s any day of the week because of their option of free chips and salsa, something not many other chains have to offer. Location wise, Moe’s is an easy 10-15 minute ride away.

Chipotle is a mere 0.8 miles away from Moe’s, making it the next stop on my Mexican food eating binge. The décor of Chipotle is sleeker and more modern- the inside of the restaurant is filled with shiny metal tables and the set up is simple; a circle of chairs and tables in the center that the line wraps around, as well as tables set up on either side of the doors. Chipotle is also very well known for the superb and friendly service that customers receive while employees maintain a fast-paced work ethic- the overall time a customer spends in the restaurant from the initial greeting he receives from an employee at the beginning of the line to the customer’s checkout time is estimated to be 30 seconds.  In my opinion, the quality of the food at Chipotle seems to be the best, specifically the guacamole. Price-wise, it would be around $10-$12.00 to purchase a burrito and chips. It can become a little expensive once you add a side of guacamole; a way to avoid this extra cost is to purchase a bowl or burrito without meat, allowing you to get free guacamole. Chipotle lacks in the providing the option of queso, a popular choice at all other food chains.

Pancheros was the most disappointing chain that I visited; the prices matched up with Chipotle’s rather closely, but the rest of the experience did not.

Pancheros was the most disappointing chain that I visited; the prices matched up with Chipotle’s rather closely, but the rest of the experience did not. To begin, the quantity of the food was a huge lacking point. For example, at Chipotle, you receive three tacos, but at Pancheros, you only get two and pay right around the same price. Besides that, Pancheros seemed to provide less guacamole and rice than other food chains; another downfall was the nonexistence of the choice of white versus brown rice. Quality and taste wise, the corn offered at Pancheros did not match up well with any other food chains, lacking in the creamy taste other restaurants have perfected. However, Pancheros excels in its queso- whether you choose to have it on your burrito or with your chips, you should be extremely content with your decision to spend the extra couple dollars. Another appealing factor of Pancheros is their standard of mixing the ingredients of the burrito before wrapping it. Pancheros is a slightly longer ride from Cinnaminson compared to Moe’s and Chipolte, but it provides a great, close-by option for students at the BCC Mount Laurel campus who are looking to satisfy their cravings of melting cheese and meaty guacamole after class.

Qdoba, to my surprise, was absolutely the best tasting restaurant by far. The ride to Qdoba stretches out slightly longer than the others, but the quality of the food is something worth the drive. Although the price of a regular burrito and bowl are higher than the other chains, extras such as queso and guacamole come for free. Qdoba also has more variety with the choice of either a flour or whole wheat tortilla to start; the quantity of the food was greater than any other chain. Usually, the friend, who I brought along to sample Qdoba, and I can finish burritos at Chipotle, Moe’s, or Pancheros pretty easily. However, Qdoba’s food was so filling that it was very difficult to even think about finishing that burrito when we were only three quarters of the way done. The most dissatisfying aspect of Qdoba, however, was the timeliness of the service. On a Saturday night, the parking lot was packed and the lengthy waiting time in line did nothing to quench the hunger or growing agitations of customers. Two obviously overwhelmed employees manned the line of food but still managed to provide an extremely satisfying culinary machine. If my wallet, appetite, and gas tank allow for a ride out to Qdoba, I would not hesitate to take that opportunity.

With all the factors combined, Chipotle, to me, is the overall winner. The service is unbeatable, the food mouth-watering, the price manageable, and the drive is short enough to limit the amount of food-filled fantasies. However, taste is an entirely personal decision, making my opinion obsolete in the eyes of some others. Hence, all food chains mentioned have both their strengths and weaknesses, making it interesting to see how such closely competing chains have such different methods of business and food-making. Despite any differences, all chains provide an intriguing appeal to high school students.