The already hotly contested battle for best burrito on campus will heat up again next month with the opening of a new Chipotle restaurant on State Street.
Chipotle, a national burrito chain with more than 700 locations nationwide, plans to hold a “Free Burrito Day” Oct. 9. It joins a slew of Ann Arbor eateries offering affordable south-of-the-border-inspired cuisine, including Qdoba, BTB Burrito, The Burrito Joint, Panchero’s, Taco Bell, Tios and Rio Wraps.
Ann Arbor’s burgeoning burrito bull market, which has grown rapidly over the last five years, shows no signs of slowing.
“When we opened BTB in 2004, it was just us and Panchero’s,” said Adam Lowenstein, owner and founder of BTB. “Ever since, it’s just been new place after new place after new place. That’s been the trend across the country, I guess.”
Lowenstein said the new-found popularity of burrito restaurants stems largely from the public’s desire for a healthier type of fast food.
“It’s a lot better for you than pizza or a burger, and I think that’s kind of the direction the country has moved in — wanting fast food that’s also healthy,” Lowenstein said.
Megan McCully, a manager at The Burrito Joint, said the heightened demand might show that students want to break the monotony of fast food.
“It gives you a little variety,” she said. “I think people get tired of eating the same thing everyday. It’s something different.”
Ross School of Business senior Danny Leonard, a self-described burrito enthusiast, said he’s excited about Chipotle’s new location. Once it opens, no longer will he have to make his usual trek to the Chipotle on Washtenaw Avenue, farther off campus, for a burrito fix.
“It has the best ingredients and the best preparation,” he said. “I won’t go to Panchero’s or BTB for burritos.”
Any economic major will tell you that competition is a good thing for students who want a quesadilla or chips with queso. On campus, a chicken burrito consistently goes for about $5.50, with all restaurants promising theirs is the biggest and best.
In a crowded market with so many restaurants offering similar grub for similar prices, many places seek to expand or adopt a niche. BTB opened its cantina last year serving margaritas and Mexican beers in addition to burritos. The Burrito Joint, known to many as Mr. Pizza, stays competitive by offering a wider variety of options — a delivering. While the freshly-grilled tortillas at Panchero’s, on South University Avenue, have helped the joint build a following of its own.
As he was busy preparing for the upcoming opening with a handful of other employees, Brad Sadler, the general manager of the new Chipotle, said he was eager for the restaurant to open its doors.
“We’re expanding as a company, and it’s a great location,” Sadler said.
Correction appended: An earlier version of this story reported Chipotle would hold a “Free Burrito Day on Oct. 2. The restaurant will give away free burritos Oct. 9.