Friday, March 23, 2012

The Chipotle Burrito Test

Those of you who know me well have a sense of how fond I am of a Chipotle burrito. I believe it's likely the greatest food man has ever concocted, and I even say as much in my forthcoming book, a YA novel that is also a writing text.

Some of you even know about the formula I apply when assessing the quality of a restaurant's food. I ask myself two questions:

1. How close was the food to being as tasty as a Chipotle burrito?
2. How close was the price to the $7 I spend at Chipotle?

I assume, always, that the food at any other restaurant won't be as good as Chipotle's and that it will cost more. The questions, then, are how much worse is the food? and how much more will I spend?

I had a particularly awful food experience at a downtown (Minneapolis) bar and eatery, for instance. My wife and I ended up paying $90 for food that was pretty good but not extraordinary. (Our company committed the sin of ordering appetizers, as well--we must have spent $20 or so on pita bread and hummus--which didn't help things.) So we were paying to be downtown and in a trendy place--neither of which appeal to me as much as delicious food at a low cost.

Recently, I'd begun to lose hope that really terrific restaurants can be found all over.

But today, I found a winner. I'm in Crystal City, Virginia today and tomorrow with my wife. It's a tiny spot four miles south of Washington, D.C. Debbie's working a conference, and I'm writing, writing, writing in the hotel room. I have another week with my third novel (the one described earlier in this post) before I hand it over to the publisher. Needing a break--a time to leave the room, walk, be alone with my thoughts as they swam--and feeling a craving for a slice of pizza, I Googled and found a small Italian place 450 feet from our hotel. It's name? Bozzelli's.

When I got to Bozzelli's, I saw, written in chalk, that a slice of pizza would run me $2.25 cents. I asked for a recommendation, pepperoni or sausage, and the guy at the counter (on the phone and not paying much attention to me) said pepperoni. So I ordered a slice and he asked me for $3. That seemed a pretty steep tax, but then again the total cost was only $3 and he was clearly busy, so I accepted my slice in a box, paid the money, and stepped outside to a high table on the sidewalk. When I opened the box, I saw two slices, a pepperoni and a cheese. I stepped back into the establishment, caught the guy at the desk's eye, and said, "You gave me two slices?" He was still on the phone, not to mention helping another customer in front of him, but he cradled the phone on his shoulder long enough to give me a thumbs up and wave me back outside.

So, let's apply the formula:

1. How close was the food to being as tasty as a Chipotle burrito?
Very. Again, I'm not sure anything every quite gets there, but the pizza was floppy and cheesy, the sauce flavorful but not so much that it overwhelmed the other ingredients.

2. How close was the price to the $7 I spend at Chipotle?
Less than half the price! In 2012, I spent $3 on a meal!

Not only that, but the guy at Bozzelli's represented the best kind of service--the kind that looks out for me without trying to charm.

I wanted to share my excursion with you. If you're ever in Crystal City, stop over and grab a slice.

And now, back to my manuscript.


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