Worth the Bite and the Bucks

Ten dollars is all you need—and you still might walk away with change.

If you’re like the rest of us, brown-bagging it to save a few bucks, here’s your reprieve: Chipotle. A new one went up in Ardmore last May and has been doing pretty well. I’ve been in to check out the space before, but failed to time my visit with mealtime. Finally, though, I got to sample the fare, and I’m happy to report that this is good stuff—well, at least what I had.

For $6.75, I scored three decently sized, crispy corn tortillas (you can get soft, but I was hankering for some texture) filled with braised pork carnitas, a kicky salsa (there are several kinds), and a handful of finely shredded cheese. The pork was shredded and full of flavor. The tender, juicy meat tasted great against the soft cheese and crunchy taco shell. My taste buds were impressed. Guacamole is extra (and very worth the unnoticeable up-charge), ripe and, according to Chipotle hype, hand-mashed three times a day. But the sides were part of the deal—I got a container of corn salad that had plump kernels, minced jalapeno and cilantro, all laced with a tangy dressing.

The overstuffed burritos were tempting, but also looked like they’d fill me up for at least a day and a half. Apparently, this wasn’t a deterrent for male customers, whom I saw gobbling them up alongside a side of chips and guacamole (the chips come in a paper bag). The space is minimalist urban, yet not shiny and tech’d out—very relaxing to the eye (and the nerves)—with a segregated, sunny space along the parking lot, plus a bunch of high-topped two-top tables and a couple of booths. It’s very definitely a place you can dine alone and not feel awkward. I equate the feeling I got amidst the high ceilings of exposed ductwork and the floor-to-ceiling glass windows to what I feel when I’m in Wayne’s Anthropologie.

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“Keep It Simple, Stupid” seems to be a business credo that’s working very well for this eco-conscious eatery, both in the design and the food. The meats are hormone and antibiotic free, and the produce is sourced from local growers. Two of its franchises are LEED certified, and all locations have sustainable practices in place and utilize recycled serving products, along with having recycling bins on the premises for customers. If you visit chipotle.com, you can learn about “Steve,” the company’s founder and a CIA-trained chef who began this endeavor many years ago in Denver.

It’s a cool concept, and I’m thrilled to report that the tacos were very good. Next time, I’ll try a fajita burrito, which has sautéed onions and peppers instead of beans. This is definitely fast food that I can get behind.

Check out the website, or hit the road right now and head to one of these three local outposts:

• Ardmore, 133 W. Lancaster Ave., (610) 649-3061
• Bala Cynwyd, 4030 City Ave., (215) 878-0452
• Plymouth Meeting, 500 W. Germantown Pike, Suite 2200, (610) 834-5795

In Season: Community Sustained Agriculture and Locally Grown Produce

I picked up my first ration of produce from the Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative this past Friday and, boy, was I excited. One bunch of radishes, two bunches of scallions, baby arugula, spinach, a gihugic bag of mixed greens, a typical-sized container of crimini mushrooms, and at least a dozen stalks of rhubarb. I knew what to do with the rest of my loot (share the generous portions was one thing), but the rhubarb was a little daunting. However, I had strawberries in the house and, thanks to our thoughtful CSA coordinator, a recipe for rhubarb cobbler. I was too lazy (truth) to make a full-fledged pie crust, so I only whipped up the filling, which had eggs, flour (very little) and sugar (a lot; I used a mix of brown and superfine, which worked out well). I was unsure of how my efforts had panned out when the morning after revealed a soggy crust rather than the nice, golden-brown, crispy topping I’d patted myself on the back for the night before, but co-workers gave me a thumbs-up. If you’re interested in the recipe, send me an e-mail and I’ll be happy to oblige.

Our Best of the Main Line Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!