• an open letter to chipotle

    December 30th, 2009quarrygirlchipotle, LA restaurants

    UPDATE 1/7/10: THANKS EVERYONE who read this and wrote in to chipotle!!!! they have CHANGED THEIR WAYS and now cook gardein separately! read the update!

    dear chipotle,

    thank you so much for being the only fast food chain where i can get a decent vegan burrito. i really appreciate you not using meat in your black beans, chicken stock in your rice, or lard in your tortillas.

    when i heard that you guys would be testing out gardein (one of the best vegan proteins EVER) re-branded as “garden blend” at some of your locations, i was overwhelmed with excitement.

    so much excitement, in fact, that on my first day of vacation in new york i hustled 3 miles to the chelsea chipotle eatery on 8th avenue (between 17th & 18th street)…the only storefront in the state to offer the coveted garden blend burrito. when i arrived, i was out of breath from hurrying through the manhattan streets and my nose was bright red from the below freezing temperature. no worries though, all would be worth it for a genuine fast food chipotle gardein burrito.

    i pushed my way up to the front of the line and asked for the “vegan garden blend burrito”. the nice chap behind the counter looked at me and smiled apologetically while explaining, “oh yes, that’s our new soy meat. we cook it on the same grill as the real meat though, so technically it’s not even vegetarian.” sure enough, he pointed at a super gnarly looking grill with chicken, beef, and mystery meat clumps piled atop it, with animal fluids oozing all over the place. he saw that i was clearly disappointed and offered, “our vegetarian burrito is completely vegan, without cheese. and it’s very popular!” i told him that i’d come special for the garden blend burrito, and he apologized again. needless to say, i left bummed and hungry.

    why, oh why, oh why, chipotle?!??!?!?!!? you are awesome. you already have the best vegan burrito in town (and that’s with just vegetables in it!), then you join forces with gardein (the best animal-free protein ever!), then you non-veganize the gardein by cooking it on the same grill in meat juice with all the other dead animals….and THEN you educate your dude-bro employees to warn me against ordering your otherwise vegan soy meat because you’ve contaminated it!!! i am epically confused, chipotle! what are you doing?!

    this is me asking you to, begging you to, and insisting that you please carry legitimate vegan gardein protein at all your locations. all it would take is a quick clean or a small separate section of the grill. and we would love you for it, more than we already do!

    gardein plus chipotle could change the world….if done right.

    i love you! xo

    PS: oh, and all vegans who read this, please bug chipotle about the same grill issue. if enough of us complain, we may get our way! yay!

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37 responses to “an open letter to chipotle” RSS icon

  • They will never do it. You have clearly never cleaned a grill. To do it properly (especially to vegan standards) would take hours. A separate grill is the only answer, and that would cost a fortune considering how many locations the have and how few of these they would sell.

  • Grace, you are wrong. I have worked in the restaurant industry and cleaning the grill for vegetarians is commonplace. Why Chipotle would pride themselves on their vegetarian burrito being vegan (they have done to me), then carry Gardein and cook it on the same grill is beyond me.

    This is Chipotle being stupid, lazy, or both.

  • Don’t they grill their fajita veggies? Are those not vegetarian either? Because if they ARE, then why would it be so hard to use the same grill for the faux meat stuff as the veggies?

  • Well said. I’m a huge Chipotle fan as well as a huge Gardein fan, but if the Gardein is marinated in meat juice then that totally defeats the purpose.

  • @McMama,

    I think they sautée the veggies in some kind of wok-like contraption (if memory serves). Maybe they could use a solution like that for the garden blend.

  • yeah this is really disheartening. it’s hard to encourage them because i’m probably gonna continue going there and getting a veggie fajita burrito (with no cheese or sour cream and with guacamole and corn salsa mmm) anyway, but holy crap a vegan “meat” option would be amazing! and then they could probably get away with charging as much for it as the chicken one or not giving away free guacamole ;D

  • Funny, I just wrote a letter just like this to Chipotle yesterday! Except it was mostly me pleaing for them to bring it to me, but to do it right, you know. I got a reply back, too. 🙂

  • You’ll definitely get a response. I requested that they bring the Gardein to NYC before they did and got a response within a few days saying they were considering it. (I like to believe i caused this whole issue).

  • *facepalm*

    That’s so stupid.

    Sounds like another case of a vegetarian item being present only for trendy dieters who want to be seen eating something “vegan”.

  • Fingers crossed they can fix this by next week!

  • why do you not write an open letter to them concerning the fact they refuse to pay their farmers above slave wages or allow them to unionize? i think that is a bigger issue than the surface they cook the “meat”. as a someone who is vegan, you should keep in mind the suffering of EVERYBODY and not just animals.

  • Are you in contact with Tal Ronnen at all? He was the one working with Gardein and Chipotle to create this. I wonder if he would be interested to hear this.
    It’s very easy to keep things separate on the grill or griddle for that matter. However chef’s in these places are lazy and/or have not been educated or trained on the importance of doing so.

  • Should’ve gone to DC instead!

  • I had an AMAZING burrito at Mary’s Secret Garden up in Ventura the other day. The best I ever had!

  • Up here in Canadaland Lick’s and Harvey’s have separate grills for their veggie burgers, so there is no reason why Chipotle can’t do it too.
    There is a new one here in downtown Toronto but I haven’t been yet, not sure if they’re offering gardein.

    Btw, love love love your blog! I can’t wait to go to LA and try all of the fantastic food that you’ve got me drooling over! xox

  • This is only a problem from a vegan purity standpoint. If you are vegan for the environment or animals, it being cooked on the same grill as meat isn’t a problem.

  • Well, that’s no fun.

    And yes, Veganopoly, Mary’s Secret Garden is damn good.

  • I’m done with Chipolte! I used to eat there 2 times a week religiously and also thought it had one of the best veg burritos. However, over the last few months their quality has gone WAY DOWN in all LA locations. So much so I’ve gotten sick 3 times! They preach about being kind to the animals they kill and grill and I don’t buy it. They also use the SAME utensils to dip into the pork beans and 3/4 of the staff don’t know which beans are supposedly vegan! It’s all very unkosher. True vegans should stay away.

  • Oh forgot to mention two great veg burrito alternatives:
    Terri’s on Melrose at Cahuenga – fresh vegetarian and vegan burritos – so good and cheap…and–
    Cafe Flourish – fresh, hearty and oh so delicious.

  • Damn them, it makes me so angry when businesses make a ”special effort” to stock something vegan and then go and ruin it by covering it in meat juice.

  • they can put tin foil on the grill section for veggie atop and make its own little section. that takes a few cents. switch the tin foil throughout the day and – viola, cheap, clean, easy.

  • Thank you for the heads up.

    Have a terrific New Year!

  • Oh nooooo! Bummer experience. But great letter! Thanks so much for the info, I will email them as well!

  • Haven’t seen the Gardein option yet in the San Jose area but I ate at one last weekend and got the usual veganized burrito. Always massive and towards the end it’s impossible to keep everything in tact(fucking messy). I prefer Baja Fresh if I’m going for a bean/griiled veggie burrito when it comes down to chain restaurants.

  • I don’t know about the rest of you, but I took one bite of my first Chipotle burrito at the Marina Del Ray location and spit it out and threw the whole thing in the trash and realized everyone around me was doing the same thing, but they mistook their bodies for garbage cans. Happy New Year 🙂 j/k

  • John, Baja Fresh tortillas unfortunately are not vegan (whey or some crap like that in it)

  • The Chipotle guy should sing about this!! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wdjo8WCjHek

  • i love me a chipotle veg burrito! that is sad about the gardein. i’ll email!

  • My fiance and I have been planning to get over there to try out the new “vegan” meat option – this revelation is disappointing but good to know. I think we’ll still head over there, but instead of ordering the new burrito we’ll be having a conversation with the management about what corporate might have in their silly little heads!

  • I bought a garden blend burrito from the Chelsea Chipoltle last week, and couldn’t eat it as it tasted very strange. I went back to the counter and asked the woman if I had been served chicken by mistake. She said that they cook everything together, and that “bits of chicken” might have got into the burrito.

    Fucking disgusting. The thing isn’t even vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination.

  • i just got this on a google alert. can’t understand how some people in this comment thread appear to be defending chipoltle!! i’m “only” a vegetarian, but the thought of eating this thing when it’s cooked on the same grill disgusts me. while eating in an omnivorous restaurant can be a gamble at the best of times, this is a game i wouldn’t want to play at all.

    i’m glad that the staff were honest with the author of this post, and it has so much attention.

  • Come on, Chipotle. Get off of your asses and cook the Gardein like you do the fajita veggies.

    (That said, I’m excited for when they figure out how to do it right AND THEN bring it to my local store.)

  • “This is only a problem from a vegan purity standpoint. If you are vegan for the environment or animals, it being cooked on the same grill as meat isn’t a problem.”

    Thanks, Nick J. I feel exactly the same way. There’s simply no way to completely omit all traces of animal products from one’s life. If one is truly doing it for the animals, the emphasis should be on ending/reducing suffering, not mincing about the ingestion of some minor amount of animal by-product. It makes you come across as unreasonable/fanatical.

    When I explain to omnis that I don’t care if something functionally vegan has come into contact with an animal product at some point, but that I absolutely refuse to pay for them or have anyone else pay for them, they GET it.

  • Not wanting meat chunks in my Gardein isn’t unreasonable.

    A moderately clean grill should be ok, but meat chunks isn’t.

  • This is why vegans should support vegan restaurants owned and operated by vegans!

  • I just called Chipotle on 8th and 18th where they use the vegan soy chicken. (1/06/10). I spoke to a manager and asked why they cook the vegan soy chicken on the same grill as the other real meat. He told me that they stopped doing that after people starting to complain. Now they cook the vegan soy chicken on the same pans they cook the veggies! All us Vegans won!

  • The ONLY fast food place you can get a decent vegan burrito? I think not. Go to taco bell, order the 7 layer burrito, hold the sour cream and the cheese. 100% vegan.

    oh wait, you said decent.

    I think chipotle is a weak burrito spot, but pretty cool they are listening to us. Freebirds is a better giant burrito place. But they are limited to Texas. (Well I think they have one in Santa Barbara for you So Cal folks.) I asked them about their rice and beans and it SHOULD be vegan.

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