The Pursuit of Tex-Mex
“Do you want chips with that?”
I hesitate. Why would the Chipotle employee ask me such an obvious question? Her oily, flaxen hair is pulled into a tight ponytail, and she wears dark purple eyeshadow that reminds me of an eggplant that’s not quite ripe. She looks at me and seems confused by my confusion.
She pulls a paper bag from the shelf behind her and places it with my order. I proceed to checkout and realize that the chips were extra. Not wanting to be rude, I pay for my chips and burrito and leave.
Paying for chips at a Tex-Mex joint is like paying for toilet paper in a restroom. It seems like a superfluous transaction, especially when compared to the common business courtesy of always having it available for free.
Sitting in my car in the Chipotle parking lot, I open the paper bag and produce a single epochal chip whose brethren had cost me $1.30 plus tax. I chow down, thinking that for extra money, these chips had better be worth it. They’re not. The taste of lime is overwhelming and not at all the way a chip should taste. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t good enough for $1.30.
My Chipotle experience was the pivotal moment in my journey through the realm of southwestern food. For the first time in my otherwise-innocent existence, I was forced to ask myself: Does the perfect Tex-Mex joint exist?
I decided to find out.
The four eateries to endure my scrutiny were to be Moe’s, Chipotle, Charleston’s Juanita Greenberg’s, and Summerville’s Tijuana Flats.
As a vegetarian, I ordered a tofu burrito from each restaurant. By ordering the same type of burrito, I held each restaurant to the same standard. They were then judged on a scale from one to ten (ten being the best) in five categories: atmosphere, service, chips, queso, and burritos. Once I reached a decision for each category, their scores were averaged together for a final rating. I named my system The Tex-Mex Index.