Chipotle Mexican Grill on Price's Fork Road, April. 6, 2019.

Qdoba, Chipotle and Moe’s each serve an assortment of delicious Mexican fast food, but despite the similar cuisine, each restaurant has its perks and deficits. The real question is which Mexican takeout restaurant is truly the best in Blacksburg? As far as determining the winner, there are three categories to be considered: food, prices and service, and location.

Food is the biggest category, and there are several factors including ingredients used and menu quality. In terms of ingredients, Chipotle has continuously advertised its use of raw ingredients with no artificial coloring, flavors or preservatives; the only preservatives are lemon or lime juice, which are used for flavor. The restaurant typically gets fresh produce from farms.

Neither Moe’s nor Qdoba state where exactly their ingredients come from. However, they do explain the nutritional value of each of the ingredients, as does Chipotle. So, as far as ingredients go, Chipotle is the clear winner.

As far as protein options go, all the restaurants offer black or pinto beans as well as chicken, steak, pork, brisket and ground beef. However, only Moe’s and Chipotle offer a tofu option for vegetarians.  

Moe’s takes the lead on menu options with a wide variety including quesadillas, burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, nachos, salads and even a Stack, their version of a Taco Bell crunchwrap supreme. It also has a Coca-Cola freestyle machine with tons of drink options.

Moe’s  also has toppings not offered at other restaurants including olives, grilled mushrooms and onions, diced tomatoes, fresh jalapenos, diced onions and cucumbers. It also has a variety of sauces including southwest vinaigrette dressing, hard rock and roll sauce and southwest ranch dressing. Moe’s also has two chicken options, dark meat and light meat, and the chicken has the best flavor in my personal opinion.

The only downside is that Moe’s does not offer a brown rice option, served at both Chipotle and Qdoba, and instead has seasoned rice. Additionally, traditional red chili and green tomatillo salsas available at Chipotle and Qdoba are not sauces that can be put on a burrito, taco, etc. However, these salsas are offered as a dip for tortilla chips.

Chipotle is quite simple as far as the menu goes: burritos, burrito bowls and tacos. It does not have many toppings either, limited to fajita veggies, sour cream, lettuce and cheese. The restaurant began serving queso; unfortunately, comparatively, it is not as tasty as the queso at Moe’s or Qdoba.

Qdoba, unlike Chipotle, also serves nachos and quesadillas, and it also has other options not available at Chipotle or Moe’s, specifically the tortilla soup. It also has several unique sauces like queso diablo (spicy queso), Ancho Chile BBQ sauce, habanero salsa and mango salsa, a recent addition.

While Qdoba has better menu quality than Chipotle, Moe’s still takes first place in terms of menu quality. So, as far as food quality goes, Chipotle and Moe’s are tied for first.

In terms of prices, the average cost of a burrito or bowl at Chipotle is the cheapest. A burrito or bowl is the most expensive at Qdoba, and a burrito or bowl at Moe’s is cheaper than Qdoba but more expensive than Chipotle. However, there is a also a junior option, which is smaller and cheaper.

Both Qdoba and Chipotle sell tacos in three pieces. Tacos at Chipotle are less expensive than those at Qdoba. Moe’s, on the other hand, sells their tacos as singles. Overall, they are much more expensive than those at Qdoba and Chipotle.

Nachos and quesadillas, not available at Chipotle, are cheaper at Moe’s in comparison to Qdoba. Qdoba, which is overall more expensive, has two advantages. Unlike Chipotle and Moe’s, Qdoba does not charge extra for guacamole on a meal. Additionally, it is offered at a significant discount for anyone with a meal plan.

Of course, service is as important as prices if not more, and Moe’s definitely takes the lead. When the employees greet customers yelling, “Welcome to Moe’s,” it creates a welcoming atmosphere; plus, free chips and salsa are provided.

The atmospheres at Chipotle and Qdoba, while nice, are not as welcoming, and both charge for any form of chips and dip. All three have their benefits in terms of pricing and service, so they are ranked equal in this category.

In terms of location and proximity, Qdoba, located on the academic side of campus at one of the most popular dining halls, is the clear winner. Chipotle and Moe’s are located very close to Squires, but Chipotle does have another location on Prices Fork Road. Yet, Moe’s is technically closer and does not require crossing a busy street. Still, nothing beats an on-campus location.

All three restaurants have their ups and downs. Chipotle does not have the greatest menu options; however, its food is the most affordable. While Qdoba might be slightly expensive, it requires less travel and is great for anyone with a meal plan. Moe’s might not be the closest, but it has a wide variety of options to try.

Overall, they are all affordable, healthy and, most importantly, delicious options for the student population in Blacksburg. Still, with its delicious assortment of food, proximity to campus, excellent service and relatively cheap prices, Moe’s definitely takes the lead.

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