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I'm a Canadian who tried Chipotle for the first time. There were some definite misses, but I understand the hype.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

  • As a Canadian, I decided to try out some of the food at Chipotle Mexican Grill for the first time. 
  • I ordered a burrito, tacos, and a bowl, but I really regret getting hard shells for my tacos.
  • I loved the burrito and the bowl, and my husband and I appreciated how fresh and light the food was.

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food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

Canada’s first Chipotle opened in 2008, but I’ve never eaten at the chain.

Chipotle is a fast-casual Mexican chain that offers customizable burritos, bowls, tacos, and sides.

The chain opened in 1993 and has over 3,000 locations across the United States. The first non-US location opened in Toronto in 2008, and today there are 28 restaurants across Canada.

I’ve never eaten there, so I decided to finally take the plunge and taste a few dishes to see what all the hype is about.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

The restaurant wasn’t too busy, but it also didn’t have the most welcoming layout.

I visited the Queen Street West location in Toronto with my husband and baby around 4:30 p.m. on a Thursday.

It wasn’t busy or crowded at any point, but there was a consistent trickle of people coming through the doors.

The design of the restaurant was a bit eclectic, with its elongated rectangular shape. It felt a bit like stepping into a warehouse, especially with all the industrial design touches.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

The restaurant was pretty dark.

In addition to the warehouse feel, it was also dark inside — save for the seating facing the window looking out onto the street.

Meanwhile, the high-top seating in the center of the restaurant looked a bit like an indoor greenhouse because of the static overhead light fixtures.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

The till and kitchen were at the back of the restaurant.

Once we made our way through the different seating areas, we found the kitchen and register in the back.

We also found the menu there. At first glance, it looked pretty straightforward.

There weren’t a lot of choices, just four mains: burrito, bowl, tacos, and salad. But all of the toppings were on display on the hot and cold tables behind the counter.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

I could see and smell what the chefs were cooking in the kitchen.

To my right was the kitchen where a large flat top was sizzling with steak, which smelled delicious.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

I tried to research beforehand, but I ended up winging my order a little.

In preparation for my visit, I did some research about what Chipotle fans and chefs like to order at the chain. But I ultimately decided to wing it and have fun.

I ordered a carnitas bowl with guacamole, hard-shell garlic-guajillo steak tacos, a chicken burrito with guacamole, and a side of chips and queso blanco.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

Labels would’ve been helpful — I wasn’t familiar with some of the toppings.

Since I was new to Chipotle, I observed how customers in front of me ordered.

The only thing that was predetermined was the protein amounts, so essentially, they just verbally guided staff and pointed out which and how much of the ingredients and sauces they wanted.

With all the ingredients in front of me, it was a bit of a guessing game. Some things were visually obvious, like lettuce, but some of the sauces weren’t.

I wish there were labels in front of ingredients like you’d see at a buffet. The overhead menu didn’t even list every ingredient offered.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

When it was my turn, I noticed that I was being helped by a new trainee.

The trainee seemed to assume I knew what everything was (I did not).

As a result, I almost made the grave mistake of asking for two hot sauces without realizing it.

Thankfully, the manager (who was overseeing the trainee) stepped in and asked me if I was certain I wanted this — it was a hard “nope” for me.

The service was otherwise friendly and efficient.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

Ordering my toppings was mostly straightforward once I got the hang of things.

For my first dish, the carnitas bowl, I decided to go for cilantro-lime rice, black beans, tomatillo-green-chili salsa, sour cream, roasted-chili-corn salsa, cheese, guacamole, and lettuce.

It cost 11.75 Canadian dollars, or about $8.55, plus CA$2.95 for the guacamole.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

I got a slightly different combo of toppings on my tacos.

For the hard-shell tacos, I got pinto beans, cilantro-lime rice, fresh tomato salsa, roasted-chili-corn salsa, tomatillo-green-chili salsa, sour cream, cheese, and guacamole.

It cost CA$14.60, plus CA$2.95 for the guacamole.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

Finally, I filled up my burrito.

For the chicken burrito, I got the same toppings as the tacos but with extra guacamole and brown rice instead.

It cost CA$11.75, plus CA$2.95 for the guacamole.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

The dishes looked massive.

I laid out all my food on the table, and the first thing that struck me was just how massive the portion sizes were.

The burrito alone felt like it weighed 5 pounds.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

I was most excited to try the burrito.

I first dove into the burrito because it looked like a little parcel waiting to be opened. I cut it in half and shared it with my husband.

Despite my desire to share, I think cutting it was a rookie mistake. All the fillings came tumbling out as I attempted to take a bite.

Aside from being very messy, the chicken was tender and tasty, and it mixed nicely with the creaminess of the guacamole and the heartiness of the rice. The tomatoes offered a welcome tang, and the fresh bite of corn rounded it off with just the slightest spicy sting.

Temperature-wise, I think I was expecting the dish to be a bit warmer, but I didn’t mind it being on the colder side.

My only real criticism is that the filling wasn’t evenly distributed — sometimes one mouthful was rice and another was just salsa and guacamole.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

The steak tacos were a big disappointment.

Next I attempted to take a bite out of the hard-shell tacos, which proved challenging because the sour cream and guacamole were cascading down my fingers.

Surprisingly, the steak was a major disappointment. Although the slices were cut nice and thick, it was bland, dry, and stringy in texture.

The taco shell had a wonderfully crispy texture, but ultimately, I think I made a bad choice in choosing hard shells over soft ones.

Soft tacos would’ve been more pliable to hold in all the fillings. With the hard shells, most of the filling ended up falling onto the plate.

It was the least impressive dish so far, and neither my husband nor I picked it up again.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

We took a break from the mains and tasted the chips and queso next.

I made an interesting discovery while trying the chips and dip: Both components were fantastic by themselves, but when eaten together, they did not work.

The lime finish on the chips and the delicate saltiness made them very addictive and munchable.

The queso was warm, gooey, and very cheesy — it reminded me of Cheese Whiz in a good way.

But somehow, once the chip was dipped into the warm cheese, the crispy texture was ruined (it reminded me of soft cardboard). I’ve never run into this problem before.

The chips tasted as if they’d gone stale, but the cheese overpowered the flavor anyway.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

Finally, eating the bowl felt like a choose-your-own-adventure game.

We moved on to the mammoth-sized carnitas bowl.

It looked like a lettuce mountain with the tomato, sour cream, and corn peeking out of the rim of the bowl. I took my fork and used it like a spear, jabbing different areas in hopes of getting an array of ingredients for my first bite.

I’m not sure if I was supposed to mix it around, but it wasn’t logistically possible because there was no room in my bowl to do so.

I nabbed a huge chunk of pork and downed it with great satisfaction. In between bites of the meat, I refreshed my palate by eating the lettuce, sour cream, corn, and other ingredients.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

The food tasted fresh and didn’t make us feel weighed down.

When we were done eating, my husband and I noted that while we were full, we didn’t feel as though the food was heavy or “stuck to our ribs.”

We had a ton of leftovers, and I was excited at the prospect of using them for an egg fry-up for brunch the next day.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

Even though Chipotle is on the pricier side, I thought it was a good value.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I enjoyed the majority of the food.

The prices were a bit high — our total was CA$56.40. But I think there was value for the money, especially with how much food we got and how fresh it tasted.

food, i'm a canadian who tried chipotle for the first time. there were some definite misses, but i understand the hype.

I was pleasantly surprised with my overall experience.

There were some hiccups, but I’d return to try a few more menu items and play around with the ingredients and ratios. I’d also be curious to try the kids’ menu with my daughter.

Although it’s not a place I’d go for a date night (the design isn’t conducive to lingering and hanging out), Chipotle is the perfect spot for a quick bite before a night out, a concert, or a sports game.

If I had to rate my experience out of 10, it would hover around a seven.

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