The first time I made the pilgrimage to a Chipotle (this was circa 2005; they were not as omnipresent as they are today), I looked at the mound of guacamole being heaped upon my forearm-sized burrito, gasped aloud, and asked, “Is this the promised land?”
But now Chipotle has even surpassed my initial impression, because they have added another vegan protein option to the menu.
You may feel you are experiencing déjà vu as you read this. Hasn’t Chipotle offered faux meat in the past? Yep. Your memory doesn’t deceive you: it was a seasoned Gardein, and it made a fine taco. But this option was never actually featured on the menu, so those not tapped in to the vegan hivemind didn’t know it existed. After a few short months, it was pulled entirely due to “lack of interest.” (Otherwise known as: “No one ordered this secret menu item that we never actually told anyone about.”) I will always remember that summer of (Gardein-)lovin’ fondly. It was beautiful, but it was never meant to be.
This time, the protein is a braised tofu that Chipotle is calling “sofritas.” (I’m guessing this is some derivation of sofrito? Silly honkeys and their misguided attempts at appropriation.) And it is on the signage in the restaurant, so consumers are actually aware of its existence.
It’s currently being tested in a handful of San Francisco bay area locations, and as fate would have it, one of these locations is practically adjacent to my office. I had my gentleman procure some for us while I was working on Saturday in the hope that it would dull the pain that accompanies being an empty office because it’s Saturday.
It did! The only pain I felt after lunch was a gluttony-induced stomachache. The tofu is extra-firm and cooked in a tangy, semi-spicy sauce. Imagine if barbacoa and a block of tofu had a lovechild: barbacoa called tofu (okay, actually he texted, and it was at 1:00am) to “hang out.” He poured a couple glasses of red wine, put on an Otis Redding record, and, well…you can imagine the results—or taste them firsthand, if you happen to be in the bay area.
I had a generous portion of the tofu on tacos with black beans, fajita vegetables, salsa (“Uh, the spicy one,” is typically how I distinguish it) and guac. Other than a serious oozing problem (this is not a dish I would advise shoveling into your mouth as you handle important documents), I have no complaints. I ate two of the three tacos, and then almost died from a combination of gluttony and pure happiness.
The mister, on the other hand, had his tofu served in a burrito. This burrito easily weighed more than the dumbbells I use when I do bicep curls: it was Man-vs.-Food, seriously-do-I-get-a-plaque-for-finishing-this sized, and I’m proud to say that my svelte gentleman took it down.
The only real drawback to this option is that, since we now have a vegan “meat,” guacamole costs extra. But come on: it’s like twelve ounces of guac. It’s worth the $1.50.
While he was buying the food, my fiancé asked the Chipotle employee how the tofu was selling (I think to gauge the regularity with which we will have to buy it in order to ensure its permanent presence on the menu; three times a day? Five?). She responded, “Oh, great! It tastes just like meat!” Sigh. Nevertheless, I hereby pledge to eat as much Chipotle as necessary to keep this option alive and well. It’s a big commitment, but I’ll do it for our future. And for all of you.