The opening Monday of Chipotle Mexican Grill in Santa Fe has reignited the habañero-hot debate about local versus chain restaurants in a city where peppery cuisine is king.

“Nope! So many authentic Mexican food choices,” Donna M. Simonetti opined on The New Mexican Facebook page.

“I’ll be eating at El Chile Toreado on Early Street,” Elaine Fattah wrote on the same page, garnering 15 likes.

From Drea Read on the Santa Fe Bulletin Board Facebook page: “If we want this to remain the City Different ... we should support local business ... otherwise Santa Fe will turn into everywhere USA.”

“I think it’ll be a refreshing change in Santa Fe to have some consistency in food and service and ingredients that are held to a standard,” Johnny James Gabaldon countered on The New Mexican page. “Seems like most of the local New Mexican places get greasier and greasier every year.”

And so it goes, with debate showing little signs of being doused anytime soon. But no matter how you slice it, Chipotle’s appearance will add to the competition for hungry mouths when it opens at at 10:45 a.m. Monday in the Crossroads Center at St. Francis Drive and Cerrillos Road.

The restaurant’s burritos are big and they come in chicken, steak, carne asada, barbacoa, carnitas, sofritas and veggie. The same choices apply to burrito bowls. There’s also no shortage of tacos and options that revolve around beans, veggies, rice and toppings. There’s also Mexican Coca-Cola.

“We serve responsibly sourced, classically-cooked, real food with real ingredients without added colors, flavors or other additives,” a Chipotle spokesman wrote in an email. “Chipotle has been committed to sourcing real ingredients from farmers who are aligned with our food with integrity principles. This includes working with local suppliers and farmers.”

Chipotle did not respond to a question about whether any New Mexico farmers supply the eight Chipotle restaurants in Albuquerque, Clovis, Farmington and Las Cruces, and now the first one in Santa Fe.

Chipotle did announce last week it would start offering three-year contracts to farmers under age 40 to supply beef, pork and dairy, to help build the next generation of farmers.

Chipotle also did not have a direct response as to why it took until 2019 for Santa Fe to get a Chipotle or 2011 for the first outlet to open in New Mexico, even though the restaurant was founded in Denver in 1993 and remained headquartered there until moving to Newport Beach, Calif., in 2018.

“There are a number of factors that go into these types of decisions including proximity to suppliers who have the same priorities that we do, staffing and others,” the spokesman wrote. “As Chipotle has grown over the last few years, we are able to expand our networks and come to exciting new places like New Mexico.”

Chipotle had only 14 stores in 1998 when McDonald’s Corp. bought a minority stake. The fast-food giant gained majority control of the company the next year. McDonald’s divested from Chipotle in 2006, by which time the chain had grown to 500 stores. The count now is more than 2,500, including expansions to Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

Some Santa Fe Facebook commenters mentioned Chipotle’s food poisoning episodes; the chain experienced an especially troublesome year in 2015. Four episodes of E. coli, norovirus and salmonella sickened some 250 diners in Oregon, Washington, Minnesota and California. Another round of norovirus in 2017 in Virginia affected more than 135 people, and a July 2018 Clostridium perfringens outbreak in Ohio sickened 647 people, according to the outbreakdatabase.com website.

Chipotle’s pride in using fresh ingredients was also a liability that set off the 2015 food safety crises.

The company improved cooking and safety procedures and closely monitored new restaurant openings. Chipotle also clamped down on making sure sick employees don’t come to work — which triggered some of the food poisoning episodes, Bloomberg reported.

As for what will happen when the chain’s first burritos are sold in Santa Fe, no one knows. But rest assured, people will talk.

“Let’s just be clear, Chipotle is not New Mexican food; it’s different in style and flavor,” Julian Kilkenny wrote on The New Mexican page. “With that said, comparing it to New Mexican food is apples to crabapples. I’m just happy to have another option that happens not to be the same as everything else we already have here.”

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(33) comments

Anya Marie

Wow I read this rag everyday—murders, rapes, robberies and the ever present and frankly boring and predictable drug overdoses. Yet no comments... but let a Mexican food chain open up in Santa Fe and comments galore. Glad you all have your priorities straight.

Evangeline Suazo

Chipotle may not know what they're serving - the fruit, chile is mis-spelled as chili you know a stew with beans and meat. At least it's that way, in Kansas and other ones, I've been to. That alone means no-go.

Richard Reinders

The picture in the article about Chipolte's opening showed eight employees. This business gave eight+ people work to feed their families.

Deelores Calhoon

Can't wait until Monday. It's a shame we don't have a cheesecake factory like for real. Why aren't all these people crying about supporting local business and whatever not showing up to Sunrise Family Restaurant?

Khal Spencer

My goodness. More comments here about a chain opening than for any real critical story. Shows you how shallow people are. If you don't like Chipotle, eat somewhere else.

Peter Neal

Agreed. Understaffed Police Dept, homelessness, overdevelopment, weedy medians, pothole filled roads, a run-down airport surrounded by junkyards.....yet Chipotle garners more comments than any other story in months. A disconnect here, for sure.

Khal Spencer

Hear, hear.

Anya Marie

Agreed!

Paula Lozar

I think it's hilarious that people are having hissy fits about Chipotle when there are long lines every day at every single one of the local Taco Bells.

Bonnie Cox

We have Kentucky Fried, Wendy's, McDonald's, WalMart, Sam's Club. All kinds of "anytown USA" franchises. Chipotle is just one more option. Wish we could get a Costco.

Khal Spencer

Yep. Need a Costco. I hate driving to Albuquerque to go to Costco.

Maria Wagner

Question is, When will we be welcoming In and Out Burger?!

Nora LYnn Flores

yes please. I've been waiting for years.

jan Brooks

Chipotle offers really good, clean food. I would dare say that the food sources they use are better than any number of our local fare. Since the day they opened, folks in the food scene have praised them for being concerned with the sources of their ingredients. I sincerely look forward to eating there. I hate McDonalds, Taco Bell, Burger King, Sonic because those businesses could care less where their food comes from. Chipotle is very different from these fast food joints. Try it and see if you agree.

Laurie Canepa

The rest of the nation is moving into the year 2150 while New Mexico is stuck in the 1500's.

Craig Gl

I'm moving to the Santa Fe area within a month. One of the main reasons I picked Santa Fe (I can live anywhere, remote worker) is because chain and fast food were not available. I currently live in St Louis which is a vast food desert due to these chain/fast food places everywhere. For such a big city there is maybe a handful of authentic local restaurants. I will never support a chain restaurant while in Santa Fe, I don't care what the extra cost will be to support local. Do not let this happen to your beautiful city Santa Fe!

Denise Jimenez

Sorry to disillusion you, but are are plenty of fast food and chain restaurants in Santa Fe. Taco Bell, Wendy's, Burger King, McDonalds, ChicFila, Outback Steakhouse...I could go on for days

Mark Ortiz

Craig welcome to the area. You are obviously not moving west of St. Michaels/Osage. If you were , your research would prove otherwise. This is in reference to fast food NOT being available.

Arnold Mayberg

Thank you!

Joanie Adams

Im from St Louis of the past and this is true. If you let big box builders in you get this junk in your wake. Stick to local. And there's not a darn thing wrong staying with a healthy cuisine even if it goes back to the 1500's!

Arlene D.Kock

If you love Taco Bell , you’ll love this! Run for the......

Andrew Gaspar

Chipotle competes with local New Mexican food in the same way any other restaurant that opens here does. It's a complete category error to say that somehow Chipotle is a competitor with Maria's or Tomasita's - beyond superficial comparisons, they're completely different cuisines and completely different dining experiences!

A better comparison would probably be Chipotle vs. El Parasol or Burrito Factory, and even then I don't think either's a real substitute for the other in the same way Burger King is a direct substitute for McDonald's. They each have their own distinct, excellent menus. Burrito Factory's biggest problem is their location isn't all that convenient unless you're near the plaza. I won't mention Burrito Spot in the same breath because... meh.

I've personally been waiting to get high quality mission-style burritos, and I'm glad that somebody's finally bringing a restaurant that fills that niche.

Gregory North

Andrew, I agree with your comment - I'm guessing a lot of people commenting haven't ever tried Chipotle. It is a Mission-style burrito, of which there are not a lot of options in Santa Fe, or even in New Mexico. I probably won't go there very often, I too like supporting local places, but you're right El Parasol or Burrito Factory's burritos (and Northern New Mexican cuisine as a whole) are a different style than what Chipotle is serving.

Mustafa Arikan

Why can't local businesses handle a little competition? Because of this absurd support to local businesses, the best Chinese food in town is Panda Express. Local businesses need to step up their game and offer something different for the right price just like Chipotle is doing here.

Deelores Calhoon

wrong Chow's is the best Chinese food in town.

Barry Rabkin

I have no intention of eating in Chipotle in Santa Fe or anywhere else. Personally, I think it is absurd for a restaurant like Chipotle to exist anywhere in New Mexico.

But, I also realize there will always be tourists who know the Chipotle name, have eaten at one of the Chipotle restaurants, and do not want to 'experiment' every day of their vacations. These would be the same types of people who go to Taco Bell (why does Taco Bell exist in Santa Fe).

Santa Fe is a small city but not so small that we can't accommodate some of the tourists' food expectations.

Deelores Calhoon

Lame you need to widen your horizons. If you have never tried Chipotle before you don't know what you are missing. Not to mention this is a great vegetarian / vegan place to eat.

Gretchen Baltuff

Agree, a former SIL and her sister spent about a day and a half in SF about 7 years ago, thought the city was beautiful and charming, and ended up at Applebee's for Dinner! When she told me that, I resisted the temptation to choke her! There was no reason for her to not contact me to offer recommendations.

Nicoletta Munroe

Chipotle in Santa Fe represents the commodification of Hispano cuisine. We the community shall reject the corporate attack on our local businesses. Near the new Chipotle is La Choza, Maria's, and Tomasitas. Boycott corporate fast food.

Supporting Chipotle is like supporting LANL, unjustifiable.

Maryann Palker

[thumbup] Nicoletta, I believe what you wrote is true

S. Ulrich

"Supporting Chipotle is like supporting LANL," -- I don't know about you, but when I'm shopping for nuclear weapons, I shop local.

Stefanie Beninato

Very funny! even though the comparison is weak. Yes, people who like the predictability of chain restaurants will go to Chipotle. However, the fierce debate reminds me of everyone's horror that the Gap was on the plaza--never mind that Woolworth's had been there for decades or Sears was down the street--and you could hardly find the Gap because its sign fit into the H District. It went out of business because locals did not come to the plaza to buy jeans and tourists generally are not shopping for this type of item.

Bonnie Cox

[innocent]

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