The Chelsea location (on the right) wins this match up handily. Not only does the beef sport a deeper, darker char (the regular Chipotle beef may as well have been stewed), it's also trimmed better. No gristly bits or tough meat here.
Almost like night and day. Regular Chipotle's barbacoa made with shoulder clod is moist, but has a kind of pulpy texture. Chelsea's barbacoa, made with short rib, is tender and juicy, with significant chunks of beef that easily break down in your mouth. This is about as good as beef barbacoa gets.
The regular carnitas (left) reminds us of Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage in flavor, with a texture that's by no means dry, but a little cottony. The Chelsea carnitas are exploding with porkiness, with tender fatty meat and a good amount of tasty crisped bits.
Here it's a toss-up. The regular Chipotle's had a smokier grilled flavor, but was also drier than the Chelsea chicken. We wouldn't say no to either.
The experimental chorizo Nate had the day we visited. A combination of pork and chicken with excellent flavor and nice level of char. This is the kind of stuff you should keep an eye out for when you visit.
The Chelsea location offers a grilled faux-meat product. It's insidious and cardboardy. Don't bother with it.
The regular Chipotle beans (left) actually fare better than the beans at the Chelsea location. Smooth, tender and creamy, while those at Chelsea were a little undercooked and blown out.
Pink vs. Red Beans
There was an even bigger difference between the pink beans at the average Chipotle (left) and the way undercooked kidney beans at Chelsea.
Regular Chipotle offers cilantro-lime flavored white rice (left). Chelsea Chipotle subs out the white for brown. It's a good move, since brown rice tends to hold up better on a steam table—the white rice from regular Chipotle is often mushy or blown out.
At the regular Chipotle, their mild salsa is essentially a pico de gallo made with none-too-ripe tomatoes. Chelsea Chipotle instead roasts them and purees them into a smoky salsa.
The differences between the medium salsas are minor, but noticeable, the salsa at the Chelsea Chipotle (right) being brighter and tarter due to the use of tomatillos as well as tomatoes.
The soft flour tortillas used at the average Chipotle (left) are replaced with a whole wheat tortilla at Chelsea. Whole wheat haters, never fear—the wheat flavor is not detectable, and the tortillas actually sport nicer char marks.
Several Chipotle restaurants (including the one in Chelsea) stock soft corn tortillas which the'll use in place of flour tortillas upon request. Don't bother though—they're mealy, undercooked, and crumble as you eat them.
They've got a surprisingly good margarita, made with freshly squeezed citrus juice. Far better than you'd get in any of the fast-casual joints in the neighborhood.