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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.

“Um… yes?”

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.

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Juanita Greenberg’s
Tijuana Flats

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