What a treat! My first overnight visit to NYC since before 9/11 and well before I started eating at Chipotle 12.5 years ago. So rather than walking over to see the neighborhood where I lived from July 1981 to December 1985, I took a Lyft down to 6th avenue and 13th street to visit the Chipotle test kitchen.
Greg Small (@shinyboy88), Area Manager was there to welcome me along with an I love Burritos t-shirt with the CMG logo.
While the restaurant serves the same menu items as a traditional CMG, the menu board is different. They’re currently testing quesadillas and nachos. My wife has been eating, and loving, CMG quesadillas for several years. Greg explained they have a new press (it’s in the photo above in between the server and the kitchen) which toasts the quesadilla warmer and more quickly than the current press and that it will produce a more toasted, crispy, and rigid quesadilla that’s easier to eat (i.e., no knife and fork required).
They’re also testing nachos, a staple when I travel to user conferences. Since I’m allergic to wheat, I decided I’d have the nachos for burrito bowl #3,432. It even looks like a burrito bowl with chips rather than rice.
Greg and I talked about all things Chipotle while I ate and then he asked me what I thought of the nacho. I never get chips because of the calories and carbs but the nacho reminded me just how good CMG’s chips are. And as the base of my nacho, it’s certainly the highest quality nacho I’ve ever had. Reflecting back, it was like having a small version of my burrito bowl served on top of CMG’s great chips. Relative to a bowl, it’s a pain to eat. It’d be great as a more relaxed meal to capture the goodness of all of the toppings. It is the best nacho I’ve ever had – hands down, I just wish I could have savored it but the New York traffic and a pending flight from LGA did not allow.
CMG is featuring new drinks on the second menu board – frozen margaritas and frozen hibiscus lemonade. Since it was 11:00 am I didn’t try the ‘Rita and I decided I’d stick to my iced tea rather than the hibiscus lemonade but they look great and frozen margaritas out of milkshake/Icee machines are usually damn good! I had the opportunity to eat at a CMG on 48th street on Monday night and noticed a margarita and chocolate milkshake dispenser. Greg explained they had tested chocolate milkshakes with a hint of cinnamon but they were not being continued. He speculated the restaurant I visited was finishing up unused inventory. Perhaps they’ll have the hibiscus lemonade before summer ends.
I learned from Greg, and one of the guys working the line at the 13th Street CMG kitchen that they had tested ribeye steak versus the flank steak they’ve been using for years. The employees loved the ribeye, but lo and behold, it was too chewy for customers so we will not be seeing ribeye rolled out.
Greg told me Steve Ells lives in the neighborhood and he drops by frequently to see how things are going. It’s great to hear that Steve is still involved even after turning the reins over to Brian Niccol. Even though Brian is from “Taco Hell, ” Greg said he’s very good about listening to CMG employees and not changing everything for the sake of change as Greg has seen over the course of his career working with other restaurants.
Greg assures me CMG will not go the route of other QSRs and fast food restaurants that inundate their customers and their menu with new products.
I look forward to more trips to NYC, where there are 52 restaurants in Manhattan, and other opportunities to see Greg, what’s up in the kitchen, and in location design and build out.
Thanks for having me CMG!