The Burrito Blog

April 2008

Chipotle Ignores Own Nutrition Information

I get furious when people give numbers a bad name. Read on and you'll agree, or skip to the chart.

From the Midtown Lunch post that inspired the analysis:

The law requiring all chain restaurants in New York City to post calorie information goes into effect today. And while it is still being fought by the New York State Restaurant Association, many have already complied, including Chipotle, which has already posted a Calorie Range for all of the items on their menu. There’s only one issue… somebody’s math sucks, because when you compare the ranges posted to the (very difficult to find) nutritional information on the Chipotle website, it doesn’t quite match up.

What's truly offensive is the deliberate misrepresentation of customer ordering habits. They state the caloric range of a burrito as 420-918. A range is low to high. All inclusive. We'll take a closer look in a moment, with the help of my beloved Excel 2007. Download the analysis.

First, let's get familiar with the Chipotle menu as concerns burritos. The Chipotle burrito and fajita-burrito variation have up to seventeen distinct ingredients, which can be broken up into three basic components: tortilla, filling, and topping. All caloric values are taken directly from the official nutrition information provided by Chipotle.

  • Tortilla, 290 Calories (Required)
  • Fillings (Minimum 1)
    • Rice, 160 Calories
    • Beans, Choice of
      • Black Beans, 130 Calories
      • Pinto Beans, 138 Calories
    • Meat, Choice of
      • Barbacoa, 170 Calories
      • Chicken, 200 Calories
      • Carnitas, 210 Calories
      • Steak, 190 Calories
  • Toppings (All Optional)
    • Fajita Vegetables, 70 Calories
    • Salsa, Choice of
      • Tomato, 20 Calories
      • Corn, 100 Calories
      • Red Tomatillo, 28 Calories
      • Green Tomatillo, 15 Calories
    • Cheese, 110 Calories
    • Sour Cream, 120 Calories
    • Guacamole, 140 Calories
    • Lettuce, 5 Calories

Of course, you can order a burrito consisting of only beans and a tortilla, so Chipotle indicated that as the low end of their caloric range: 420. Logically, the high end should consist of a burrito with the works. It doesn't. Not even close.

The burrito analysis team developed a list of the 4,640 ways you can order a burrito at Chipotle using the above criteria. Then we solved for calories in each burrito configuration and created a frequency distribution.

There are zero burrito configurations with fewer calories than Chipotle's lower bound value. There are 1,913 configurations with more calories than Chipotle's upper bound value. That's a bad start.

Having ordered and witnessed the orders of thousands of burritos, we created two subsets of burrito types, small and normal. A small burrito has 2 fillings and 1-3 toppings. A normal burrito has 3 fillings and 3 or more toppings. For example:

  • Pinto Beans, Rice, Cheese = Small
  • Rice, Steak, Fajita Vegetables, Tomato Salsa, Guacamole = Small
  • Pinto Beans, Rice, Chicken, Cheese, Tomato Salsa, Sour Cream = Normal
  • Black Beans, Rice, Carnitas, Cheese, Green Tomatillo Salsa, Guacamole, Lettuce = Normal
We plotted these frequency distributions over the set of all possible burrito variations. Think Venn diagram, but cooler.

Click for full size.

Most customers are likely to order small or normal burritos. The caloric range of these ordering configurations, according to Chipotle's own nutrition information, are way off from what they claim on their new menu.

Low High
Chipotle Claims 420 918
Actual Small Burrito 585 1030
Actual Normal Burrito 840 1343

What's really infuriating is that Chipotle has additional information with which to conduct this analysis; they can approximate the consumer's likelihood of ordering each option. If you combined the probabilistic order trend information with nutrition information, you'd get an even better estimate of the calories consumed per burrito. But they're not interested in that. They're interested in lying to you.

How many calories are in your Chipotle burrito of preference? Check out the calculator here.

See also: Behold the Possibilities and the original coverage.

This entry is filed in Chipotle.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008 by Jonah. Permalink for Chipotle Ignores Own Nutrition Information

Unheeded Anaheim Warning

Maybe it was the high expectations from email:

You have not tasted a Burrito until you have been to Alberto's in San Diego, CA for a carne asada burrito.
Face it pal, your blog site is incomplete, because you have not tasted the standard by which all others are measured.

Maybe it was that I didn't get the carne asada burrito. Or maybe it was that John and I went to an Anaheim location (Map), despite warnings that Alberto's is only to be consumed within the greater San Diego area.

Whatever the case, we were underwhelmed by Alberto's. The food was greasy in a bad way, and the establishment was empty and pretty filthy. After a trip to the bathroom to wash the manos, I decided they would be cleaner if I didn't touch anything.

Alberto's, I have not given up on you. San Diego or bust!

This Alberto's meal was rated: 2.1.

Friday, April 18, 2008 by Jonah. Permalink for Unheeded Anaheim Warning

Welcome To Alberto's

Burrito Blog has come under fire for inadequate coverage of the long standing Alberto's / Roberto's / Otherberto's feud. Extenuating circumstances have impeded our ability to visit the 'Berto's in question. Finally, we have reached Alberto's.

Recall San Diegan burrito expert Paco's explanation:

Since you are sort of a burrito historian, you'll appreciate the Roberto's / Alberto's longstanding blood feud and its subsequent cascading effect on 95% of the burrito purveyors of our fair city as witnessed by the fact that most taco shops in town are named with infinite variations of the suffix "berto" no matter how ridiculous.

The Roberto's / Alberto's rivalry started when two brothers by those names inherited the original "Roberto's" chain, the granddaddy of all taco shops, from their old man. The younger brother, Alberto took his share of Roberto's restaurants and renamed them after himself. As the older brother expanded his number of shops, the younger brother followed suit.

Soon, both shops could be seen all over San Diego County. As the expansion grew to the point of diminishing returns somewhere in the mid eighties, they both began to sell off their less popular shops. Not to lose the drawing power of the Roberto/Alberto name the new owners of these shops began renaming them in a similar fashion to the point of lunacy. It started innocently enough with Gilberto's and progressed to such ridiculous and obviously made up names such as Adalberto's, Filiberto's, Hilberto's, Ediberto's, and my personal favorite Ramberto's...etc, etc, you get the picture.

Founded in 1975, Alberto's now has over 50 locations, mostly in California. Check out the official site and menu.

This entry is filed in Alberto's.

Friday, April 18, 2008 by Jonah. Permalink for Welcome To Alberto's | Comments (4)

Let's Drive To Brighton For Tamales

As many may be aware, my favorite item at Boca Grande is the tomatillo chicken tamale.

I was craving a dose of monster tamale goodness last Sunday and with Cora hustled over to Boca Grande in Kendall Square, Cambridge. I'm supposed to be some sort of burrito expert right? Well I expertly forgot that Boca in Kendall is closed on Sundays.

To Brighton!

That hit the spot. As always, the tomatillo chicken tamale delivers the goods.

This Boca Grande Taqueria meal was rated: 8.0.

Monday, April 14, 2008 by Jonah. Permalink for Let's Drive To Brighton For Tamales

New Hours, Menu Item At Davis Sq. Anna's

The elusive breakfast burrito, formerly available only at Anna's MIT, is now on the menu at Davis. New hours accompany the change. Doors open at 8am.

Set that alarm clock.

Thanks to John Liu for the tip.

This entry is filed in Anna's Taqueria.

Saturday, April 05, 2008 by Jonah. Permalink for New Hours, Menu Item At Davis Sq. Anna's