Freshly graduated in the early '90s from Hyde Park, N.Y.'s Culinary Institute of America, Steve Ellis landed a cook's dream job at the fabled Stars restaurant in San Francisco. There he was, with his foot in the door of leading-edge New World Cuisine. But he couldn't stop thinking about the tiny (and wildly popular) taquerias in the Mission District. In 1993, against the advice of pretty much everybody, he converted a former Dolly Madison ice cream store in Colorado into the very first Chipotle Mexican Grill. It was intended to be nothing more than a stepping-stone to his own sit-down eatery, but the popularity of the fresh and simple concept led to a second, and then a third store by 1995.
Ellis was fascinated by the idea of free-range and humanely raised pork, beef and chicken. So he militantly integrated these elements, along with 0-trans fat oils and rBGH-free cheese and sour cream, into his “fast-casual” restaurant model. As the chain increased in size and popularity, McDonald's Corporation took notice and added its name to Steve Ellis' list of savvy investors. When the chain topped 500 stores, McDonald's bowed out — shortly before Chipotle went public on the NYSE in '06. There are now more than 1200 Chipotle Mexican Grills. A fresh & healthy Southeast Asian spinoff called Shophouse is on the horizon, and is already gaining in popularity (one of the first is already open, just north of Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.).
Rehoboth Beach finally has its very own Chipotle Mexican Grill, and there has been a line since the moment they opened on Sept. 18th 2012. And it's no wonder. The simple, made-right-before-your-very-eyes concept is obviously fresh and relatively healthy. Their choice to include Tabasco Green Jalapeño sauce on the condiments table is a wise one — it blends perfectly with the adobo overtones of the chicken. It's not all that hot. Trust your Foodie: Try it.
The star item on the menu is, of course, the burrito. When you belly-up to the counter, stand tall, proud and alert. Clearly state, “A burrito, please.” Then, the meat you would like: braised carnitas (pork), adobo-marinated chicken, or barbacoa/steak (beef). Follow that with your choice of pinto or vegetarian-prepared black beans. Finally, state your desired rice component, brown, or their signature cilantro-lime. (When ordering, do not get on your tippy-toes and try to lean over the plastic sneeze guard. Nobody wants to share DNA with you.)
Your warm, partially filled flour tortilla is then handed off to another (hopefully) smiling employee armed with ladles, spoons and tongs, standing watch over 8 pansful of colorful goodies. Pico de gallo, perhaps? (They call it tomato salsa.) The hot (tomatillo red) salsa? The (not quite so hot, but great combined with the red tomatillo) green salsa? Ellis' signature roasted chili/corn salsa? Creamy white shredded cheese? Sautéed, but still crisp Fajita Veggies (sliced green bells and red onions with a little oregano)? And/or perhaps dark green romaine lettuce? Do not forget the brightly fresh (and accompanied by a moderate upcharge — and they always warn you) guacamole. The tortilla is then expertly rolled and quickly wrapped in foil before it explodes all over the place.
The Foodie Favorite: The burrito with chicken, the white cilantro rice, black beans, pico de gallo, the red sauce, cheese, guac and lettuce. Drizzle with green Tabasco as needed while eating. Govern yourself accordingly.
Hard & soft tacos and little foam bowls (sans tortillas for those who fear carbohydrates) can be decorated any way you like using the choices enumerated above. The various salsas and the guac can also be paired with a bag of chips for pre- or post-prandial munching.
It is a rare moment when 100% of my emails about anything are positive. Local feedback so far about the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Rehoboth Beach falls into that rare 100% category. In their first few days, there were apparently a few temperature issues as they worked out equipment/holding kinks, but our repeated visits indicate that those problems have been fully resolved. Even our resident Vegetarian Buzzlette, Muncher of Roots, Barks and Herbs, approves of the place.
Chipotle Mexican Grill1/7 The chicken burrito up close & personal2/7 Peel the foil for a surprise inside.3/7 Service is prompt and polite almost all the time.4/7 The menu5/7 Tacos6/7 The chicken burrito is perfect with green Tabasco7/7
Casual-fast dining is an up-and-coming concept as people attempt to simultaneously watch their dollars and their fat/carb intake (somewhat difficult to do up to now). But places like Chipotle Mexican Grill and our Panera Bread are testimony that you can do both, still have an actual “fast-casual” dining experience, and get tasty food that you couldn't whip up yourself for even near the price. Take a look at their cute menu here.
The Rehoboth Beach Chipotle is located at 36453 Seaside Outlet Drive, in the parking lot on the right (south) side of Tanger Seaside Outlets. Access by turning on Holland Glade Road then entering the shopping center to the left. Or use the main entrance, turning right, passing Harry & David and the Bose Outlet, and then turning right again. If you don't see it, you will crash into it. Don't do that. It will anger them and they won't like you. And you'll miss out.
Call them to order in advance at 302-260-7123, or order online using their iPhone app. Click here to download it.
The bathrooms get an extra half-star because of the fun, high-velocity hand dryers (Xlerator) and the hi-tech water-saving commodes. Even if you're not that much of a tree-hugger, you've got to appreciate the technology. An infrared beam times how long you spend in front of (or on) the device, and then, using that information, assumes the fairly obvious scenario. It then flushes accordingly. Y'gotta love it. I want one for my car.
Do note that the small, square interior with the hard ceiling can become quite noisy, even if the place isn't crowded. “Open plan” ceilings are stylish, but they can exacerbate that situation. But the outside dining area is cozy and surrounded by plants, so if the roar of interior activity gets to you, take it outside. The ratings reflect this one design problem with the building. If they do something about it (fairly easy when done by an expert) the noise rating will change.
Chipotle is open 11 'til 10, 7 days. Like most bigger chains, they will probably maintain those hours throughout the off-season. But ya never know, so give 'em a call. (L., D.) Price range: Inexpensive.
By the way, Chipotle has always been known for its sense of humor. Sign up for their emails for an occasional chuckle.
I was a Chipolte today to get a carry-out bowl. What a huge disappointment…there were tons of flies, tables were dirty with lots of spilled food, and much food was missing from their serving line. I wanted brown rice…none was available
I wanted black beans…none was available
I wanted vegetables (onions and green pepper)…none were available.
At that point, I quit. This has become standard at Chipolte’s to have so much missing food
and the server was surly and rude. I spoke with the manager who apologized for the lack of food options. Really decent of him but an apology does not show any management strategies for what is a recurrent pattern at Chipolte’s. What an on-going disappointment.
New Chipotle in Rehoboth! I study by accident in line. Up to Chipotle standards other than lettuce in wrong location, disorganized restocking, overcooked/oversalted chips.
Since our last visit, Chipotle has improved. The salsa quality is much better, the guacamole was fresher, and the meat was seasoned differently and what we expected. I like how they now offer whole grain rice which I enjoyed in my burrito bowl. The staff seemed like it expanded and they seemed better trained. Our last rating was a 5.5, this time we would give it a 7-7.5, but a good Chipotle should be between a 8-9.5.
Tried this new Chipotle to see how it stacked up to my favorite fast mexican place, Moe’s. Although Chipotle was a bit cheaper, you get what you pay for really rang true here. I find that Moe’s has many more choices of fillings and uses more of them, justifying the higher price. No complaints about the quality at Chipotle, but i much prefer Moe’s friendliness along with the assortment and quanity of food for the money
My boyfriend and I were very excited that Chipotle opened up in Rehoboth. We loved Chipotle back home in MD before we moved to DE. When we got to Chipotle, we were happy that we didn’t have to wait in a fifteen minute line like we were used to, but that should’ve been a red flag. The salsa tasted like canned tomatoes and canned corn were used, the meat was not seasoned like we expected. The typical freshness and crispness of a chipotle meal was lacking. It felt soggy and dull. However, if you want great service, people were friendly, but friendliness does not compensate for bad taste. I am hoping with time, Chipotle will get better.
My family and I went here last week – My husband loves Mexican food (raised in New Mexico) and was very excited about the opening of this restaurant. I wasn’t as anxious as he, but enjoyed the food much more than he did! He was not impressed with the Subway-type line and mentioned that it was hard to hear the employees and vice versa. I didn’t mind this feature and found it helpful to see all of the different options because at first I was going to choose the pork until I saw the succelent looking barbacoa (and my, oh my was it AMAZING!) I chose a Burrito Bowl with the barbacoa, cilantro lime rice (yum!), black beans, cheese, salsa and the guacamole for the addt’l charge – it all went so well together! I enjoyed every bite! My husband got three tacos (with 3 different meats) and they did charge extra for this (but they mentioned it when he requested it). The kids meals are adorable! They come on a separated cafeteria-like plate with a bag of chips, rice & beans.
LOVE the chicken tacos. and foodie we used the green tabasco for the first time. you are right. It’s like it was made for it.
3 Tacos – the perfect lunch.
Whenever my wife and I had to go back to Philadelphia, Chipotle was always on our list for a meal. It might be casual-fast as you say but the burrito is fresher and better tasting than any I’ve had at a Mexican restaurant, no matter the price.
This one still has some training kinks to work out (the girls have problems rolling the burritos) but they always handle it well, often replacing a torn tortilla with a new one without any fuss
We’ll be patient.
Hooray! Rehoboth has arrived now that it has Chipotle. I was suprised by the small size. But the outdoor seating is extensive. They will be very crowded in the summer, and also during Christmas shopping season.
I share the Foodie’s enthusiasm for Chipotle. The Rehoboth one is just as I have found them in the big cities and big suburbs, although there was one lapse with an untrained employee having difficulty putting the burrito together. (Handled it quickly and well. though.) Hopefully these opening issues will work out soon as Chipotle has a well-earned reputation for being frankly…perfect. Long live their Rehoboth store.