Word of Mouth

The Toppings War: Qdoba Versus Chipotle

Qdoba recently announced that its restaurants would no longer be charging for add-on items like guacamole, fajita vegetables and queso -- both the three-cheese queso and the queso diablo. The new, simplified pricing structure features two price points based on the protein order: one for vegetables, ground beef and chicken, and a higher tier for pulled pork, steak and shredded beef. Chipotle, meanwhile, charges extra for guacamole and does not offer queso as an option. So which is the better deal? We purchased identical burritos from the two Denver-based, Mission-style chains to find out.

See also: Chipotle Raises Prices, but Only in Denver So Far

My standard Chipotle order consists of barbacoa (shredded beef, for the novices out there -- if there are any), pinto beans, guacamole, lettuce, cheese, sour cream and two kinds of salsa -- the hot and the mild corn versions. Fortunately, Qdoba carries all the same ingredients, so I was able exactly duplicate my burrito at both places.

The results?

Chipotle burrito:

Base price: $7.20 guacamole: $1.95 Total: $9.15 Weight: 1 pound, 9.9 ounces Price per ounce: 35.3 cents Calories: You really don't want to know.

Qdoba burrito:

Base price: $8.40 guacamole: no additional charge Total: $8.40 Weight: 1 pound, 7 ounces Price per ounce: 36.5 cents The amount of CrossFit you'll have to do to burn this baby off: don't bother.

Chipotle is a better deal -- but just barely -- by the ounce. Still, the competition is so close that it really comes down to personal taste. And if you don't happen to like guacamole (something I can't even fathom), Chipotle is by far the better deal, because whether you go with the guac or not at Qdoba, you'll still be paying the same $8.40.

So who really wins? Aside from the corporations that are getting nearly $10 of your hard-earned burrito bucks for something that's mostly beans, rice and flour, those who load up will come out ahead. So here's the challenge: Order your Qdoba burrito with guacamole, both kinds of molten cheese and a pile of fajita veggies. And then see if they'll top off a 32-ounce to-go cup with queso Diablo.

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Mark Antonation is the former Westword Food & Drink Editor. In 2018, he was named Outstanding Media Professional by the Colorado Restaurant Association; he's now with the Colorado Restaurant Foundation.
Contact: Mark Antonation