Dueling Dishes: Battle Irvine Mexi-Chain Outposts!

Though Irvine has risen in the past decade as one of the county's best dining cities, chains still rule the land of Agran–and they propagate like Tribbles. Proof in point: Two Mexican chains opened their doors in the past month–Chipotle in Westpark and Chronic Taco in Woodbridge. Both offer made-to-order tacos and burritos. So which to choose? Let's discuss.

Until 2006, McDonald's Corporation owned a majority interest (they left to focus on nĂºmero uno) in Chipotle. Since that's no longer the case, we can't use the “but they're owned by McDonald's!” excuse to dislike them.


We're left to discussing the food. Except for the beans and carnitas, ingredients are prepared in-house. Locations do not have microwaves, can openers or freezers. Instead, there's more room for beer and margaritas. I prefer a crunchy carnitas taco or fajita bowl with guacamole. The typical Chipotle diner would rather build a dumbbell-sized, thousand-calorie burrito. A perfect one contains everything their eyes desire evenly distributed throughout.

Other things to consider:

  • An iPhone app that works like a charm.
  • A fair amount of seating.
  • Vegetarian and vegan options.
  • Tens of thousands of combinations.

In the opposite corner, the home team of Chronic Tacos is based in San Clemente. Promises of fresh salsa and quick service were made when the first location opened in Newport Beach in 2001. Third-generation recipes for making fatty tacos and monster burritos are just a sampling of its offerings. How about the fact it offers brekkie items with chorizo and machaca options?! Lack of dining space in some locations is expected, but I think Chronic more than compensate for it with Tecate beer-battered shrimp and fish. Seeking a burrito diversion? Order tortilla soup and a torta.

Other things to consider:

  • Say it with me: potato taco and horchata. If there was ever a marriage of salty and sweet, this is it.
  • Supporting local athletes.
  • Having Wee Man from Jackass (part-Mexi!) as an investor.

I am a fan of the underdog, so Chronic is my choice. Besides being a local business, it has a sizable menu and a loyalty-card program that isn't matched by other big Mexi chains.

Chronic Tacos, 5365D Alton Pkwy., Irvine, (949) 653-8226; www.eatchronictacos.com.
Chipotle, 3966 B Barranca Pkwy., Irvine, (949) 390-8276; www.chipotle.com.

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