Good news: Chipotle got their E. coli outbreak under control. Bad news: Today CEO Steve Ells is closing all stores nationwide, nearly 2,000 locations, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to go over an improved “farm-to-fork” food safety program and answer questions from employees.
The upside for all the Chipotle-heads out there seeking to satisfy “quesarito” and tofu sofritas cravings (at least until the late afternoon) is that NYC is full of other options for quick, tasty Mexi-Asian meals served cafeteria style. And most of them are better than Chipotle, if you can believe it. Here are five NYC alternatives to keep any taco-induced tremors at bay:
5. Oxido (18 West 23rd Street, 212-256-1072)
San Antonio chef Jesse Perez is the driving force behind this earth-toned modern Mexican spot, where he gives the Chipotle formula an extra dose of Latin flair with more-aggressive seasonings and seven salsa options. There’s grilled chicken or grass-fed beef for your tacos, burritos, and bowls, but Perez’s Southwest-inspired dishes set Oxido apart. Pinto beans come “cowboy style” with bacon, and a New Mexican beef curry finds shreds of shoulder brightened by pasilla chiles and tomatillo.
4. Korilla BBQ (23 Third Avenue, 646-823-9423)
The facade of the apartment building that houses Edward Song’s Korean-Mexican restaurant is emblazoned in his company’s signature orange and black tiger stripes. It’s a bold statement for the food truck operator’s bold kitchen, which traffics in gochujang-spiced meats and tofu, rice options that include forbidden purple and fried rice with bacon and kimchi, and more than a dozen pickled vegetables and condiments.
3. Dos Toros (multiple locations)
The excellent San Francisco–style burritos at this growing chain come courtesy of California natives, brothers, and bros Oliver and Leo Kremer. Sticking to the Bay Area model, Dos Toros’s tortillas get some one-on-one time with the griddle, which adds a great toasted flavor to the equation. Their carnitas, while not as heavily spiced as some, revels in porky unctuousness, which you can subsequently bury under cheese, sour cream, beans, and a bevy of salsas. Tacos are fine, but that griddle works wonders on what must surely be the best fast-food quesadilla in town.
2. Inday (1133 Broadway, 917-521-5012)
Basu Ratnam introduced this stylish Indian canteen last summer, with Jean-Georges restaurateur Phil Suarez and natural foods magnate Irwin Simon of Hain Celestial Group backing the project. This may be the most aesthetically pleasing fast-casual restaurant in the city, and the room’s artful aesthetics translate to the plate — or bowls, in this case. They start with a base of grains (red quinoa with lentils; tamarind wild rice) or vegetables (shredded cauliflower and brussels sprouts), and diners choose ground turkey, simmered tofu, or grilled chicken, steak, or salmon to accompany. Condiments and further additions like pickled raisins, coconut chutney, and sesame beets up the flavor ante. No, it’s not a Mexican restaurant, but it still out-Chipotles Chipotle.
1. Tres Carnes (multiple locations)
Pit master Mike Rodriguez, an alum of the revered Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas, smokes the brisket at this fast-casual mini-chain for a minimum of sixteen hours. The other meats — pork shoulder, chicken thighs, and a weekly changing special that might feature leg of lamb or house-made chorizo — get nearly as much wood-fired love. The deeply flavored meats find their way into tortillas or bowls, which diners run through the toppings gauntlet: crema, green and red salsas, radishes, chipotle-spiced roasted squash, and elote-style corn mixed with lime mayo and cilantro. NYC’s barbecue renaissance might be tapering off, but the city’s penchant for fast-casual restaurants doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Tres Carnes does both pursuits proud.