Thursday, October 9, 2008

Freebirds Vs. Chipotle: In this Battle, Everyone Wins

Over the weekend, my husband and I ate at Freebirds, which was probably the first time I had done so in about a year. The trip got me thinking about a subject that I have discussed with many of my friends—which is better, Chipotle or Freebirds? While this is obviously a matter of opinion, I have done some serious thinking about it, and I have my answer. But before I get to my opinion, let me give you a little background on the extensive research I’ve done on this subject…

Me and Freebirds go way back. I first sampled their burritos back in 1996 when I was a senior in High School. I went down to College Station to visit a friend of mine who was a Freshman at Texas A&M, even though I already knew that I was Longhorn bound the next year. I figured it didn’t hurt to see where the enemy sleeps.

I wasn’t particularly impressed with College Station, but when it came to Freebirds, it was love at first sight. This whole build-your-own-burrito concept was completely new to me, but I knew immediately that I was totally into it. I am kind of picky, so being able to get something exactly the way I want it—and without the annoying, “I want the cheeseburger, but can you please make it with cheddar instead of American cheese and hold the tomatoes and mayo, please”—was (and still is) very appealing.

In 1999, when I was a Junior at UT Austin, Freebirds opened their first Austin outpost just a few blocks from my house. I was completely psyched. It became my Sunday hangover fix. Over the next two years I perfected my formula, and I still get exactly the same thing when I visit now. Freebirds Burrito with a spinach tortilla, steak, refried beans, Monterrey jack cheese, sour cream, red onion, cilantro, lime juice, and BBQ sauce. Heaven.

My love affair with Freebirds continued until I graduated from UT in 2001 and moved back to Dallas, which at the time was Freebirds-less. What Dallas did have, however, was Chipotle, and by that time, I was a burrito addict who needed her fix any way she could get it.

Oh, Chipotle. Like most great love affairs, although we hit it off right off the bat, it took a little work to get our chemistry just right. But once I worked up my standard formula (burrito with chicken or barbacoa with rice, fajita peppers and onions, medium salsa, extra corn salsa, sour cream, a little cheese and guacamole), I never looked back. And as those of you who have read our blog for awhile know, I consider Chipotle to be among the best restaurants in Dallas.

Freebirds, on the other hand, was just a distant memory for me until 2004, when they opened one in Addison, right down the street from where I was living at the time. I was excited, but it still took me a couple of weeks to get there when it opened. When I did finally go, the smell hit me as soon as I walked in the door—so familiar and so entrenched in my brain. Visions of my days in Austin started swimming through my head. I ordered my standard formula and sat down to enjoy. Of course, the burrito was delicious and certainly held a lot of nostalgia for me (as well as refried beans and BBQ sauce).

So, the question still remains...which is better, Freebirds or Chipotle? Frankly, as much as I love Freebirds, Chipotle is the clear winner for me. Better quality, better ingredients, better selection, and better presentation. Not to mention, the guacamole at Chipotle can stand up to any in Dallas, in my humble opinion. And I’m pretty sure the corn salsa contains crack cocaine or crystal meth or something else that is highly, highly addictive.

What do you think? Anyone out there want to defend Freebirds' honor?

28 comments:

Classy&Sassy said...

I'm totally in your camp, FP. Chipotle is tops in my book - not only for the reasons you mentioned, but also because of their position on meat. Check out the website and you'll see what I mean:
www.chipotle.com

Food Czar said...

FP, I so hate to burst your bubble, but I must inform you that your work is not complete until you sample two other burrito places. Qdoba is on Park just west of the Tollway, and Planet Burrito is just east of the Tollway, also on Park. You could hit them both in one fell swoop and save the leftovers for later!

Classy&Sassy said...

I can save at least one of those trips. I've been to Qdoba on multiple occasions, and it's only "ok" - just like Chipotle, but with the volume turned down.

FoodiePrincess said...

I'm with C&S. I've been to Qdoba several times (there's one in Richardson right down the street from UTD), but I've never been particularly impressed. As soon as they opened the Chipotle at Campbell and 75, I stopped going there :P

I will have to check out Planet Burrito, though. That's too close to my office not to!

Susie said...

I'm just shocked to learn that you were drinking in college. All that time we thought you were studying every night!

Food Czar said...

People study in college???

Jennifer said...

I completely agree, FoodiePrincess. I am 100% in Chipotle's corner. Their corn salsa alone is reason enough.

I've also discovered their soft tacos. I love them. They are filling enough and you don't feel like your stomach is going to burst after eating (which happens to me with the big burrito...why I can't just stop eating when I get full is another story).

Margie said...

I guess I just really don't care for those football-sized burritos. I want a little bit of everything in each bite. But, those monsters are so big I really don't even think of them as proper burritos. Of course, I graduated high school in 1981. What do I know?!

BryanSays said...

Gotta give it up for Chipotle as well! Food Quality tops Freebird's many choices and sour cream from a squirt-gun turns me off too.

Anonymous said...

FREEBIRDS, FREEBIRDS, FREEBIRDS!!! There's just no comparison for me - they are not in the same class. I get tacos if I am forced to go to Chipotle.

aps said...

Freebirds wraps their burrito better, the staff is friendlier and more knowledgeable, the selection is better (cyan pepper tortilla anyone?), there is cool foil art at each location, and most importantly Freebirds tastes significantly better.

Chipotle's ingredients are mostly bland (with the notable exception of the corn salsa), the burritos are never wrapped properly, and the staff looks at me funny when I say "pico de gallo" forcing me to point to what they call "mild tomato salsa".

I'm with Anonymous, there is simply no comparison. Every time I come back home to Texas Freebirds is one of my #1 stops.

Anonymous said...

FreeBirds: way bigger selection, legal citizens of the US staff, and laid back.

Chipotle: McDonalds owned, enough said.

Anonymous said...

FREEBIRDS ALL THE WAY!

The food is excellent. Of course not perfect just like any other place.. but freebirds does bring a sort of vibe you can't find anywhere else. Friendly staff, great atmosphere (John Lennon on the wall!! oh boy!!), HUGE burritos (how they fit so much in one tortilla-I'll never know) and the best damn hot sauce in town!!

I'm going for seconds...

:)

Xtina said...

Just found this post because I was currently writing about how much FB sucks and Chipotle is better. I think people like FB because it appears to be "different" "against the grain" with all them beardy hipsters working there. My bf used to go to FB at college station ALL THE TIME and so when I told him I liked Chipotle more, he was speechless. I just think Chipotle has ingredients that you are able to taste separately and FB's it all runs together

iandyli said...

Anonymous said...

FreeBirds: way bigger selection, legal citizens of the US staff, and laid back.

Chipotle: McDonalds owned, enough said.

October 14, 2009 12:24 AM

Just found this post and was having a discussion with my co-worker. Anyway, looks like "Anonymous" doesn't keep with the times. McDonald's sold off Chipotle in 2006:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chipotle_Mexican_Grill

FreeBirds may have size to their burritos, but anyone can just put mild ingredients together and wrap it up. I definitely agree with C&S.

Anish said...

I love both as well (just ate a Chipotle burrito) but I'd give a slight edge to Freebirds.

With Chipotle, most of the flavor comes from the salsa, as the meat/beans/rice are not exactly bursting with flavor. This is why I get the hot salsa with pico etc, so that my burrito will have some flavor.

With Freebirds, the meat (steak) actually tastes well-marinated. Also, from my experience, the other ingredients were more flavorful as well. Each bite has many strong flavors, which equals a great burrito.

Al Dente said...

So far I like Chipotle better but I don't feel like I've given Freebirds enough of a chance; I haven't tried enough combinations yet; I may find the magic combination at Freebirds that will make me change my burrito allegience.
As I see it Chipotle does a few things better. While sometimes Chipotle stuffs their burrito too full and the tortilla being too small to contain it overflows Freebirds uses too big a tortilla and you end up with a big wad of tortilla on both ends. Chipotle's rice is better than Freebirds cilantro rice though I haven't tried Freebirds Mexican rice. Chipotle's corn salsa and hot salsa are both delicious and better than any sauce I've tried at Freebirds (though I haven't tried them all yet). Chipotle's lime tortilla chips are much better than Freebirds. Haven't ordered Freebird's guacamole but so far Chipotle's is the best fast food guac I found. The only thing I like better at Freebirds is that they have chopped red onions on the line; wish Chipotle had them too.
Planet Burrito didn't impress me at all, Baja Fresh is far too bland for my tastes and I haven't tried Qdoba yet.

WesF said...

Freebirds is the clear winner in my book. The selection of ingredients is so broad, the meats taste better, the flavored tortillas are a big plus, and the staff is very friendly.

I get the Freebird size with cayenne tortilla, chicken, colby/jack cheese mix, regular rice (Chipotle only offers rice that has been smothered with cilantro) no beans, death sauce, roasted garlic, red onions, extra meat (steak) and sour cream. It's expensive ($9.35 because of the double meat and sour cream) but it beats any $10 mexican meal I've ever had anywhere else!

Chipotle is just too cookie-cutter. 1 type of tortilla, 2 types of beans, 1 type of cheese, etc...

dan said...

I like things better about both places. I like Chipotles roast meat better than FB steak chunks but I like FB tortillas and refried beans and grilled onions better. I like Chipotle value better with a good size burrito for $5.50 where as you have to get FB's super $8.00 plus to get a man size burrito. Both are good only once in Arlington TX I thought FB wasn't very good. I like that Qdoba has queso cheese for theirs but they are still 3rd choice to me..

Santi said...

Omg is this even a comparison? Have y'all ever heard of quality vs quantity? The quality of a chipotle burrito are like none other! The ingredients are so fresh, the rice is on a class of it's own, the chicken kills any meat freebirds has. When you bite into a chipotle burrito they're so many incredible different taste from fresh ingredients! I get insulted when someone compares chipotle to freebirds. I feel like people who think freebirds is better literally have a tasting disability, and if you base it on the fact that freebirds has more variety you're an idiot! When you base it on the actual quality of the food you're buying it isn't even a comparison! CHIPOTLE OR DIE!

Rod said...

Chipotle>FB

Melvin said...

Chipotle>FB

chipotle lover said...

I tried fb for the first time the other day because the kids on the campus said it was better than chipotle....I live for chipotle and I am a little crushed they don't have one in this area....every summer I go home to D.C I feel the need to eat chipotle almost every other day to make up for not having one in the Orange, lake Charles, port authur, beaumont area....the closet one you will find is two full hours away in Houston , Texas....screaming to the top of my lungs that sucks....my experience with fb was some what disappointing....I seriously question the sanitation of the place...before it was fb it was geo burritos and to be honest its the same funky , dark, dingy atmosphere....it you want quality ingredients like fresh veggies and quality meats step into the light and go to chipotle...clean environment outstanding taste. Another thing that bothered me about fb is there were no customers in the the store ...chipotle line is always out the door...one has no way of knowing how long that food has been sitting around at fb but you actually see the workers cooking fresh cilantro rice at chipotle and chopping more meat and fresh ingredients while you place your order....Chipotle rules.....enough said...

chipotle lover said...

Closest* if* my apologies for typos.

Anonymous said...

I have worked at both chipotle and freebirds and by all means i would go with freebirds hands down the food is fresh and made everyday no microwaves. The cooks come in at seven in the morning everyday ....freebirds has alot more options and is vegetarian friendly not to mention the grassfeed steak and horomone free chicken but you get a ton of options . Its alot more laid back and you dont have to get the same old same old stuff. Chipotle for me was short lived if you have seen how the food is before its out in the line you wouldn't return....not fresh or sanitary.....i do not work at these corporations anymore but from an inside view i will always get my food at freebirds

giantslor said...

"Chipotle is the clear winner for me. Better quality, better ingredients, better selection, and better presentation."

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I'm totally baffled how you could say that Chipotle has better selection. In what respect? Chipotle does a few things and does them well, whereas Freebirds assaults you with a mind-boggling assortment of ingredients. How is this a worse selection?

Chris Hickman said...

I love the Freebirds vs Chipotle debate. My wife and I are equally baffled by it.

I had a similar experience to the writer -- had Freebirds when I was in high school when visiting A&M -- moved to Austin in college, had it there -- thought it was amazing - and then moved back to DFW and found Chipotle.

In the past few years, I went back to an Austin Freebirds, and even tried it up here.

What I found is that no matter how many ingredients they have (and having a wife who loves to share means I could try more) -- none of the ingredients 'sang'. It was extremely bland in comparison to the bright notes in Chipotle's food. The selection is overrated because the ingredients are just not great.

On a sidenote -- qdoba as someone else mentioned is alright. They just closed our location (Southlake) and I had the exact same opinion as Classy & Sassy -- it was like Chipotle but with the volume turned down. Exactly. Less flavor... less energy...

Chipotle's 'new' corn tortillas are amazing ... and Freebirds claim to fame -is- variety. It's important to not get variety confused with quality.

I can't figure out the Fuzzy Taco's thing though ... I have eaten there far too many times and while it's different than Chipotle/Freebirds/qdoba -- the food is stupidly bland and inconsistent...

If anyone reading ever has the pleasure of visiting Costa Vida in Colleyville -- they have meat that literally sings... similar in some ways to Planet Burrito (which this article reminds me I need to go out and try again).

Anonymous said...

you are clearly blind if you think chipotle has more choices, lol