Sunday, May 20, 2007

Qdoba Mexican Grill

One thing that I find lacking here in the Baltimore suburbs is a place to get good, authentic Mexican cuisine. Hell, I'd take good Mexican cuisine, even if it isn't all that authentic. We've got enough sushi places that I could eat at a different one every night (Kyodai, San Sushi, San Sushi Too, Edo, Sushi Hanna), top notch BBQ and ribs (Andy Nelson's, Corner Stable), and a handful of perfectly adequate diners.

But good Mexican food is awfully hard to find and we're pretty much limited to the various levels of fast food and quasi-fast food, ie, Taco Bell (which I haven't had in probably more than a year), Baja Fresh (whose fish tacos are about the only item on the menu worth mentioning), Chipotle (which I've never been overly impressed with), and Qdoba Mexican Grill. (Another placed called Moe's opened up on York Road and is another establishment in the same vein.)

We've had take-out from Qdoba a few times and my reaction has been pretty much the same each time: good nachos, mediocre burritos. Last night's visit did nothing to change that opinion but it did add in the element of increased blood pressure and a sense of panic.

Having never been inside the restaurant before – Chris had always picked up our orders – I was unfamiliar with their ordering process and set up. Basically, it's designed like Chipotle where you place your order cafeteria style and the dishes are made in an assembly line. Unfortunately, I was used to the Baja Fresh-style takeout model where you place your order at the register (which is what you come upon first at Qdoba), pay and wait for your order.

While the setup would probably have made sense to me if I'd been taking my time, I'd spent the whole day removing and installing doors, drilling, painting and trying to keep Gorilla Glue and oil-based primer from getting all over my hands. Who knows? Maybe the mineral spirits that I'd liberally poured all over my hands in the Lowe's parking lot had seeped into my brain through my skin.

All I know is that if a customer makes a mistake, the proper response probably isn't to get indignant, take part of his order and then tell him – in exasperated fashion – to go to the start of the order area and place the rest of his order. On top of that, and I don't mean for this to come out the wrong way, because that's not how it's intended – if English is not your first language, is it possible to speak a little slower and more clearly, especially if it's obvious that somebody has never been in your establishment before?

Frankly, I could understand if you wanted me to hustle along if the restaurant was hopping and I was holding up the process. I wasn't. There were a half dozen people who already had their orders sitting at tables and two people came in the door after me. There was no reason to rush me along.

As for the food, again, good nachos (better than Baja Fresh), mediocre burritos. More than just mediocre, they're largely flavorless, big, doughy sacks of rice with a little chicken or whatever I agreed to have put in there as my heart was racing. But I did get a nice 90 minute postprandial nap before I settled in to watch PHANTASM 2.


Baltimore Snacker said...

I was planning to go there. I think I'll stay away now. Thanks for the warning.

It's sucky that, beyond the little hole in the wall tortillerĂ­as that ONLY serve tortillas and tacos, there really is nothing delicious in this city Mexican-wise. Baja Fresh is filling, but yeah, kind of boring. I did like Chipotle's burritos, but only because they're filling.

Anonymous said...

You must be retarded! Qdoba has the BEST flavor of all the Mexican places. Eat there all the time. Must have it 2 or 3 times a week.

Dan said...

LOL... not sure how to respond to such a pithy comment but I must admit that I've been there a couple times since and have actually grown to like Qdoba a bit. In fact, their quesadilla is quite good and very filling. Don't think I'd eat there "2 or 3 times a week" but that's just me.