With the temperature forecast to be on the decline, maybe you should be considering a trip to Orem’s newly opened Chipotle Mexican Grill, where you can turn up the heat without touching your thermostat.

The highly popular chain restaurant opened its doors to the public Aug. 27, and can be jokingly said to have had a line ever since, due to its wide following and high demand.

As a quick history lesson, the first Chipotle restaurant opened in 1993, quickly separating itself from typical fast food restaurants by boasting its use of high-quality, carefully sourced and GMO-free ingredients because, as it states on the restaurant’s website, “With every burrito we roll or bowl we fill, we’re working to cultivate a better world.”

With just under 2,000 restaurants and some pretty dedicated fans, the fresh Mexican restaurant is definitely carving out its own path in the fast food industry, and has most certainly found a home here in Utah Valley.

Though at first thought the concept of Mexican fast food may stir up thoughts of Taco Bell or Del Taco, it’s safe to say that Chipotle is worlds away, genuinely providing a healthier option for fast food with a Mexican flair.

Stripped of the smothered, saucy, gooey burrito goodness that makes restaurants like Café Rio and Costa Vida a fast fan favorite for Mexican, Chipotle instead stands on a foundation of fresh, fast and fiery -- food with a kick that you can hold in your hand. It’s safe to say it’s in its own category when it comes to Mexican food, aligning more closely with the taste and style of the ever-popular street taco.

Zooming in on Orem’s Chipotle in particular, the restaurant definitely holds true to the company motto, and boasts an entire array of freshly cut and cooked ingredients, just waiting to be tossed into tacos, a salad, a bowl or a teeming burrito.

Walking into the restaurant, you can definitely feel a modern flair, well-matched to the fast-paced serving environment. Decked mostly in metallic silver and black, the real vibrancy of the joint comes straight from the impressive lineup of meal ingredients, including salsas and sour cream, lettuce, guacamole and cheese.

Toppings aren’t the only choice you’ll have to make at Chipotle, though. After picking a format for your ingredients (bowl, burrito, salad or tacos), you’ll also have to whittle down a choice from the restaurant’s impressive spread of seasoned meats, including steak, carnitas (pork), grilled chicken, beef barbacoa and organic sofritas (shredded tofu).

Wanting to be absolutely thorough in our assessment, our dinner team sampled literally every meat on the menu and were surprisingly impressed by the flavor and texture Chipotle managed to draw from the sofritas -- who knew tofu could taste so good? Our top marks went to the steak, however, with kudos to the barbacoa and chicken. Though tasty, the carnitas just didn’t quite have the flavor to make it really pop in our loaded tacos.

We also dutifully sampled each style of meal, and were beyond impressed with the mere size alone of Chipotle’s burritos -- if executed properly, the savory and stuffed goodness can possibly even give you leftovers. The bowls come in a little more conservative size, while the multiple stuffed tacos make for a really filling meal. If you’re looking for all the flavor with a little less overbearing execution, then the salad is definitely worth your time -- it takes all the great flavors Chipotle offers, and tempers it to perfection.

Each selection at Chipotle comes with a choice of cilantro-lime brown or white rice, black beans or pinto beans or a hearty stuffing of fajita veggies for those veggie lovers not quite daring enough to take on the sofritas. You can also add fresh tomato salsa (mild), roasted chili-corn salsa (medium) tomatillo green-chili salsa (medium hot), tomatillo red-chili salsa (hot), lettuce, sour cream, a deliciously blended guacamole or cheese.

Our key warning to Chipotle first-timers is to brace yourself for the heat. Though seasoned salsa-eaters across the board and fans of fine-tuned spiciness, we were all pretty taken-aback by the sheer heat provided by Chipotle’s less-tempered salsas, including the green-chili -- it packed a lot of heat without quite as much flavor, so if you shy away from sheer temperature, stick with the corn or tomato salsas. You’ll also need to be a fan of cilantro to enjoy your meal to its fullest -- Chipotle’s cilantro additions make for a very strong flavor that continues through each aspect of your meal.

Overall, our service was great, and we were able to get plenty of food for our money. If you’re looking for a customizable, more healthy option for a quick meal out that still gives you bang for your buck, consider a stop at Chipotle and see for yourself what the ruckus is all about.

Kari Kenner is the digital features editor at the Daily Herald. Contact her at (801) 344-2542, kkenner@heraldextra.com and on Twitter: @karijmk

Kari Kenner manages and creates digital features and niche content for the Daily Herald.

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