Billed as a “vegan blend of plant proteins, grains and vegetables marinated in our chipotle adobo, then grilled,” Chipotle’s Garden Blend burrito first appeared in Washington, D.C., last fall. When news surfaced that the Garden Blend had made its way to Chelsea, it inspired wary curiosity.
On the one hand, it’s great that a fast-food chain is acknowledging that vegans exist, and is attempting to accommodate them with something other than piles of flaccid steamed vegetables. On the other, the idea of another ersatz meat, particularly one bearing the Soylent Green-like name of Gardein (which is the brand that the Garden Blend uses), lends itself to a certain amount of skepticism.
But happily, Chipotle has done right by both vegans and those of us with functioning taste buds. The faux meat wasn’t nearly as chewy as seitan, nor as prone to gumminess. Neither did it have the creepy texture and weird soy aftertaste of texturized vegetable protein (TVP). It was moist, pliant, lightly seasoned, and paired very well with the other burrito ingredients, which in this case were pinto beans, grilled onions and green peppers, guacamole, and salsa. It wasn’t as gut-busting as a regular burrito, so could even be a feasible option for open-minded carnivores looking for a lighter but still protein-rich alternative to Chipotle’s meatier options.
The Garden Blend is $7.25 ($10.25 with guacamole), which is on par with the cost of its other burritos. Which isn’t cheap for a burrito, but at least is a much better deal that Chipotle’s veggie burrito, which charges as much for plain vegetables, beans, and rice. While the owners of Blossom, Chelsea’s reigning vegan destination, don’t exactly have to lose sleep over the competition, Chipotle does provide vegans with one more welcome addition to the neighborhood.
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