Chipotle puts focus on health

Chipotle Mexican Grill sits just outside the north gates of LSU positioned perfectly to give students a healthy, delicious and filling meal for under $10. Everyone else should like it as well.

With a menu basically featuring four items with choices of fillings, you move from entering to eating in just a short time — which helps with a limited lunch or dinner break.

We went at night and the line of customers ahead of us moved quickly.

You choose from a burrito, burrito bowl (no tortilla), taco plate or salad and then pick your fillings as your meal moves down an assembly line of servers.

The restaurant seems to focus on healthy eating and signs note that Chipotle Mexican Grill strives to buy local and organic products and lists nutrition information (including calories) for each item on the menu.

There are some individual tables, but we carried our trays to one of the long metal topped diner-style tables with stools all around.

The restaurant is contemporarily decorated with lots of clean lines, metal and wood and one member of our party said they felt like they were eating in an Apple computer store.

We tried the steak ($6.65), marinated in a chipotle adobo then grilled, and barbacoa ($6.65) burritos which were so huge once all the meat and fillings were added it seemed the tortilla would never wrap around all that food (it did).

Both were good, but the braised and shredded beef barbacoa was our favorite of the beef choices.

We also tried the crispy corn, soft corn and the soft flour tortilla tacos ($6.65 for three with choice of shell) and preferred the crispy corn version because we liked the crunch and the lightness of the shell — it also had the fewest calories. We chose the carnitas, braised and shredded pork, for our tacos and found it well-seasoned, tender and delicious.

The juicy grilled chicken is also marinated in the smoky chipotle adobo and was perfect on the salad ($6.25).

The burritos come with a rice choice (they have cilantro-lime white or cilantro-lime brown rice — we couldn’t really taste the cilantro), choice of vegetarian black beans or pinto beans cooked with bacon, meat, salsa and cheese (a blend of pepper jack and white cheddar) or sour cream.

The tacos come with meat, salsa, cheese or sour cream and romaine lettuce (so glad not to see iceberg), and the salad comes with romaine lettuce, choice of beans, meat, salsa and cheese and a wonderful chipotle-honey vinaigrette.

Once we’d put brown rice, black beans, cheese, chicken, grilled bell peppers and onions, salsa and guacamole ($1.80 extra — if you like guacamole don’t skip this) on top of our greens we didn’t need the dressing but the sweet and smoky, fresh-tasting vinaigrette was great on a salad we made at home the next day.

Chipotle has four different salsas to choose from and we liked all we tried but especially liked the tomatillo-green chilli salsa. It’s flavorful with a small kick.

We also got a side order of chips and guacamole ($2.95) and really enjoyed the light, crispy chips and creamy rich and slightly spicy guacamole.

Chipotle doesn’t skimp on its servings and has very efficient service.

It’s good to know a place where you can eat a delicious fresh-tasting Mexican-style meal that shows you how to bring down the calories without the added cost.