We're not all that fond of chains, generally preferring locally owned independent restaurants because they typically offer better quality food, service and atmosphere. BUT there are always exceptions to every rule, and if you're looking for a quick-food option, Chipotle Mexican Grill is hard to beat. One opened up across from the Riverchase Galleria in Hoover about a year ago, and I decided it might be worth a try after reading a couple of articles about how the chain is committed to using fresh, natural, sustainably raised ingredients. (There's also a location in Inverness that opened recently on Hwy. 280.)
Here's how they explain it on their web site: " 'Food With Integrity' isn't a marketing slogan. ... It's a philosophy that we can always do better in terms of the food we buy. And when we say better, we mean better in every sense of the word -- better tasting, coming from better sources, better for the environment, better for the animals, and better for the farmers who raise the animals and grow the produce."
And the results are evident in the taste of the food. You choose a burrito, tacos, burrito bowl or salad, then go down the line and customize the ingredients, telling the person behind the counter what you want and how much. I chose a burrito with carnitas (pork) and pinto beans. All come with cilantro-lime rice, and I got just a little bit of cheese and sour cream, and the medium-spiced tomatillo-green chili salsa. The burrito was huge and delicious. The beans tasted like home-cooked pintos, the pork was as good or better as I've had at any local Mexican restaurants, and the whole thing had a fresh flavor you just won't find at other quick-food chains.