Eat! Lansing

May 12, 2008

Burrito Chain Blowout

Filed under: Best of, Burrito, East Lansing, Lansing, Mexican, Okemos — dkastner @ 8:28 pm

Once Chipotle stormed onto the American dining scene, many “me too” burrito joints joined into the fray.  Here we will determine, once and for all, who makes the supreme burrito!

Let’s have a look at the contestants:

Chipotle Mexican Grill
East Lansing and Lansing Mall
www.chipotle.com
 

No, it’s not pronounced, “chuh-poll-tay” but it is the joint that sets the standard.   Without any real advertising this Denver-based company threw up restaurants in every major city, focusing on trendy “town centers,” yuppie neighborhoods, and upscale malls.  The menu is simple and the ingredients are above-average.  Diners are presented with an array of Tobasco sauces (one of which is chipotle flavored (flavored like the smoked pepper, not the restaurant)) with which to smother their food.  The guacamole is above average and the chips suit it well.  The meats are spicy and, if eaten freshly off the griddle, are great.  I think what puts it over the top is the rice with a bit of cilantro mixed in.  They also serve beer!

The high quality food and simple, yet clean atmosphere raises the bar for fast Mexican food.  Be sure to find a Chipotle staffed with Central/South Americans, if you can, as they tend to spice up the meat a little more.

But, are you willing to sell your soul to a national chain brought to you by McDonald’s investment?

Qdoba Mexican Grill
Various locations
www.qdoba.com 

If Chipotle is the Mercedes W463 of burritos, then Qdoba is the Ford Festiva.  Pretty basic, and gets you where you want to go (face stuffed full of meat and spices).  No gimmicks, just meat, veggies and maybe some movie theater-quality nacho cheese thrown in.  The MSU Union location was recently closed, presumably due to its substandard fare.

Panchero’s Mexican… You Guessed It, Grill
Various locations
www.pancheros.com 

I can just imagine the marketing meeting.  “How can we compete against Chipotle?  I know!  Let’s make the tortillas right in front of the diner!  That’s so much more fresh! And fun!”  Well, sadly, the wait for a tortilla to finish frying is quite a negative experience.  Especially when the other ingredients lack in quality.  The Guacamole, while fresh, is uninspiring and the chips don’t do much to help it out.  The ingredients are slightly higher quality than Qdoba, but don’t match Chipotle.

BTB Burrito (formerly, Big Ten Burrito)
403 E. Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI
www.bigtenburrito.com 

A burrito joint started in Ann Arbor, located here in East Lansing.  Unique, modern atmosphere with basic seating at long picnic tables.  Skinny burritos.  Quite cheap.  A decent meal for the price.  There are also plenty of other offerings here, but I haven’t ventured beyond the burrito.

New York Burrito
216 S Washington Sq, Lansing, MI 
www.newyorkburrito.com 

New York City?  That really chaps my hide!  There is a New York Burrito combined in an unholy marriage with a sub shop in downtown Lansing.  Just finding the correct line to stand in is initially confusing.  The burritos here are comparable to Qdoba.  Don’t waste your time.  Oh wait, that’s easy because, like every other downtown business, it closes at 6pm, so you’ll never have a chance to visit!  Fun fact: New York Burrito is headquartered in Utah.

And the Winner Is…

As a Mac fan, I have to say that Chipotle is the Apple Computers of burritos.  They’ve set an innovative standard and have managed to keep the quality up.  In a strong second I would put Big Ten Burrito and Panchero’s in a distant third.

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Grand Traverse Pie Company

Filed under: American, Bakery, Desserts, East Lansing, Okemos, Uncategorized — dkastner @ 7:32 pm

Grand Traverse Pie Company – Okemos
http://www.gtpie.com
3536 Meridian Crossings, Okemos, MI 48864
Phone:
517-381-7437

Hours: M-Fri 6:30am-8:30pm, Sat 8:00-8:30, Sun 10:00-6:00

Grand Traverse Pie Company – East Lansing
1403 E Grand River Ave, East Lansing, MI 48823
Phone:
517-203-3304

Hours: M-Sat 6:30am-10:00pm, Sun 7:00-7:00

One thing you learn when you move to Michigan is that you must pronounce some town names incorrectly in order to blend in.  For instance:

Charlotte is “shar-lot” not “shar-lut” (don’t confuse it with that city in North Carolina!)
Delhi is “dell-high” not “deli” (they have to differentiate themselves, otherwise people might accidently fly half way around the world to India)
Grand Traverse is “grand trav-erse” not “grand truh-verse” (they must have meant to name it “Grand Travis”)
Traverse City is pronounced accordingly

One of the popular vacation spots in Michigan is Traverse City, the epicenter of Cherry production in the state.  Every year there is a cherry festival that draws a multitude of tourists.  The Grand Traverse bay area also features plenty of beaches and water sports.

A bakery cafe local to Traverse City decided to take their store and make it into a chain.  There are two GTPCs around Lansing and several others scattered around the state.  The stores are set up similar to Panera, et al.  The menu offers an array of sandwiches and salads that are adequate.  However, the store shines in its offering of baked goods, all of which are made fresh each morning.  The fruit pies are pretty good, but they won’t match your grandma’s (or my wife’s) homemade pies.  They just seem a bit too sugary and soft.  My favorite dessert there is the peanut butter cup.  A cup-shaped peanut butter cookie, the inside filled with peanut butter and chocolate frosting.  The fruit-filled turnovers are also delicious.

There’s also free wireless internet and the usual selection of coffee.  

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