"I usually avoid places like Chipotle Mexican Grill, which opened last month on 44th Street, near Third Avenue. It belongs to a chain partly owned by McDonald's. That places it squarely among the forces that are ironing the country's quirky regional wrinkles into a smooth national uniform in which Anchorage equals Akron. Each franchise, whether restaurant, coffee shop or drugstore, arrives with focus groups, market surveys and other tools of bureaucracy, relentlessly homogenizing flavor and creativity.
Regardless of how one feels about chains, this first Chipotle in New York City produces undeniably good food, including the last things I would expect: forceful spicing, fresh, good-quality ingredients and attention to details. What's more, while the components of Chipotle's burritos, fajitas and tacos are made in advance, they are assembled to order, a crucial element in the leap from sustenance to pleasure.
The chain trumpets its use of free-range pork, chicken and beef, from humanely raised animals that are not fed hormones or antibiotics. I can't help applauding, though Chipotle applauds itself enough without my help. Still, poor kitchen practices can overshadow even the best ingredients. What's most impressive is how carefully Chipotle controls its cooking and serving operation, a difference you can taste, not just between Chipotle and other fast-food places but also between Chipotle and independent burrito shops.
I am not actually partial to burritos."
".......and Little Ernie Hudson!"