Qdoba Craft Two

Qdoba Mexican Grill Marches Into The Fair Lawn Promenade

Qdoba LogoI know I might catch some flak for writing this review because it is on a chain restaurant, but as the Yolo generation says, Haters Gonna Hate! The truth of the matter is that I believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants, and as long as they are serving food that doesn’t look and taste like it fell out of an animal’s hind quarters, I am willing to pay them a visit, especially when one moves in down the street from my current homestead.

When the luxurious Fair Lawn Promenade was erected, not only did this new construction provide high end apartments located in the wonderful town of Fair Lawn, it also brought with it several dining establishments. If you follow my blog you probably noticed that I have already visited and reviewed the Habit Burger Grill which is located in the Promenade, and now I have decided to review Qdoba, in the same plaza. For all of you that are not familiar with Fair Lawn the actual address that can be placed into the googles is 23-31 Route 208, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410.

To clarify my aforementioned comment, I do sincerely believe that there is a time and a place for chain restaurants as they provide casual dining at an inexpensive price point in a quick and efficient manner. I am not talking about the McDonalds and Burger Kings of the food world, I only eat there when I have had a little bit too much to drink, and I assure you, I regret it more than most people regret their one night stands. I am speaking of franchises that still care about the quality of food they are providing to their customers, and I feel that Qdoba is truly one of those establishments.

First and foremost, what drew me into the Promenade to experience all that Qdoba had to offer actually had nothing to do with their food. If you are a Bergen County resident like me, you know that avoiding Route 4 and Route 17 is more important than eating, sleeping, and on Saturday you can add breathing to that list too. So the addition of a causal dining Mexican Grill like Qdoba moving into what is basically my backyard, thus allowing me circumventing the need to travel on those above-mentioned horrendous parking lots that Bergen County calls highways, was a gift from the Traffic Overlord ConeZilla!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Welcome To Qdoba!

Since my commute was five minutes, and I was only cut off once on my way to Qdoba, when I entered the restaurant with Kat, my foodie partner for the evening, I was much calmer than I have ever been at those Burrito shops located in the 7th ring of traffic hell known as Paramus. To add to my elation, as soon as I walked into the building, I noticed a sign that simply read, “Extras Aren’t Extra!”   Could this be true? Is this a Dream, I thought to myself. They can’t just give stuff away for free, right? Or could they?

Qdoba, Extras Aren't Extra!

If it is free, it is for me, I’ll take three!

Since Kat and I are experienced restaurant reviewers at this point, we knew to peruse the online menu prior to our arrival so we were prepared to order the perfect meal. Qdoba is set up like most of the Casual Dining Mexican Grills that are sprinkled throughout our fair land, so the actual procedure of ordering was simple. When you enter, you walk into the queue and wait for an employee to assist you in constructing your epic meal.

This is my favorite part of the experience people; you literally get to build a custom Burrito, Taco, Quesadilla, Burrito Bowl, or Taco Salad that is chock full of everything that makes you happy. I know this method of serving customers has been around for quite some time now, but every damn time I venture to an establishment that uses this system, I can’t help but smile like an infant that has just farted!

As you can see from the menu, Qdoba offers quite a few entree options that can be fully customized, but I decided to go big and order the Craft 2 which is two perfectly sized portions of Qdoba’s most popular dishes. My two choices were the Mexican Gumbo with chicken and a steak taco and a pulled pork taco, one hard and one soft. (TWSS) Kat on the other hand was trying to maintain her girlish figure and opted for the health conscious burrito bowl with shredded beef. Since we both love guacamole and Queso, we made the decision to both order chips with a side of each. We rounded out our order with two medium sodas and called it day.

Our creations were assembled by a very helpful and cheerful employee that explained each step in the process making sure we did not miss any of the delicious ingredients we could add to our dishes. I could list all of the yumminess that can be added to your meal, but it would be about as boring as watching Seabiscuit, a movie about a freaking horse that does not even talk!

Once our concoctions were finalized, we paid, filled our soda cups from the awesome Coca-Cola Freestyle machines which dispenses 146 different flavors of soda, and sat our keisters down in a nice comfy booth ready to begin our feast.

Qdoba Chips

I love Queso more than most people love their significant others!

In hindsight, we may have ordered with our eyes and not our stomachs. The amount of chips provided with a single order would have been more than enough for Kat and I to share, and we will remember that for next time. Although some establishments provide free chips with your entree, Qdoba’s chips do seem to be better than the free ones, and the Guacamole and the Queso were much better that the competition’s offerings. The Guacamole is bursting with flavor, and the hint of garlic makes it very pleasant on the palate. The Cheese Sauce is also flavorful, but unlike most Queso, there is not an abundance of salt, so when the chips come into play, it is the perfect marriage.   We had to muster up some serious willpower to stop dipping these crunchy bits of corn into these enjoyable sauces.

Qdoba Craft Two

A Mexican Food Marriage Made in heaven!

When I was finally able to force myself to stop demolishing the giant pile of chips that was in front of me, I turned my attention to my main course. The Mexican Gumbo, which is described as a unique dish that combines tortilla soup, cilantro-lime rice, beans, salsa, and cheese, intrigued me, so I tried this first. I fell in love with this cardboard cauldron of savory goodness at the moment that spoonful hit my mouth. I made Kat try this dish immediately, and she confirmed that it was rather amazing. The slight smokiness of the tortilla soup and chicken mixed with the heat from the salsa and the calming effect of the cheese and rice combined forces to create a depth of flavor that is hard to achieve.

Qdoba Gumbo

Gumbo is not just for swamp people anymore!

The tacos were on par with the rest of the Mexican Grills that I have visited with the added bonus of the Queso Diablo sauce, which I found extremely tasty. I do recommend eating the Hard Taco relatively quickly because the juicy awesomeness that the no cost extras provide is no match for the structural integrity of the shell. In other words, eat the hard taco first or it will crumble faster than a game of Jenga being played by a T-Rex, The Incredible Hulk, and Mike Tyson.

Qdoba Burrito Bowl

YAY!!!! It is Nakey Burrito time!

Weighing in at just under 700 Calories, Kat’s Burrito bowl was not only tasty but somewhat health conscious. Is it a side salad and a fruit cup? No, but this bowl O’ burrito was also much more filling than your common diet fare and tasted delicious to boot. The fajita vegetables were the star of this dish as they appeared to be fresh cut and sauteed in house and treated with a very pleasant spice profile.

I am not going to tell you that Qdoba is the next Orale in Jersey City, but as far as Casual Dining Mexican Grills are concerned, I feel they are a strong contender for the leader of the pack. I thoroughly enjoyed the plethora of choices Qdoba offered when I was creating my perfect meal. I also have to say I was very surprised that the Extras were actually not extra. I was almost sure that when I reached the cash register the receipt tape was going to start to fly as the cashier nickled and dimed my meal way up past the regular price, but they didn’t. Furthermore, the ingredients that were served to us seemed fresh and were seasoned quite well.

Qdoba Smothered Burritos

Smothered Burritos + The Blue Collar Foodie = One Happy Tummy!

If you need another reason to visit Qdoba, they just introduced their newest permanent menu item, The Smothered Burrito! These are dubbed, “Smothers,” and include one of three sauces that each offer their own unique flavor. The Tangy Verde is the Mild version, The Bold Red Chili is a robust toasted chile sauce with a dash of sweetness, and the Smoky Chipotle Cream is the hottest variety which is said to pack quite a wallop. I just missed the release of these alluring sauce covered bombshells and can’t wait to head back over to Qdoba to taste test these bad ass burritos.

Overall, I would recommend checking Qdoba out if you have not done so yet.   If you do plan to visit this location, I suggest signing up for their rewards program to earn free swag and coupons!

Qdoba Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

The Blue Collar Foodie goes South Of the Bergen County Border and visits Tito’s Burritos in Morristown, New Jersey

As a foodie blogger and all around food fanatic, when one of your friends says you need to try, fill in the blank food, at, fill in the blank restaurant, you only have one option.  That option is to plan a date, and make it happen.  If I did not listen to peoples suggestions I would be sitting at the same 15 restaurants all the time, scouring their menus for something that I have not yet tried.  So with that said, while out at a bar one night when my friends told me I had to try Tito’s Burritos located at 26 Washington St., in Morristown, NJ, without hesitation and much like a 1970’s movie star, I replied sure enuff’.

After talking about this establishment for damn near 30 minutes at the bar, making our entire group famished and craving Mexican Food, I could not resist doing some research on the internet when I got home.   The Googles informed me that not only was there a Tito’s in Morristown, NJ but another location just down the street from me in Ridgewood, NJ.  Once I found out this tidbit of information I knew I was going to have to attend Tito’s Burritos as my alter ego The Blue Collar Foodie and not as the mild manner Clark Kent, so I could inform my readers all about my gastronomic adventure.

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After planning a date that fit into both of our calendars, Kat and I met up with Brian and Kristen in downtown Morristown, New Jersey to check out this trendy burrito spot.  Unfortunately, dinner time in Morristown, NJ is as crowded as Times Square on a Saturday afternoon, when it comes to finding a parking spot.  After we completed our search for a parking spot and scored a decent one thanks to the eagle eyes of our friends, we proceeded to walk towards Tito’s Burritos which about a five minute walk from our car.

Upon approaching this establishment I got a vibe that I have not felt since I visited San Diego, California and ate at a local burrito joint that was highly recommended in the downtown area.  From a distance you can tell, that Tito’s Burrito’s is not all about flashy decorations and flair like other restaurants trying to lure you in with bling only to break your heart with sub-par sustenance.

When you enter Tito’s there is a small eating area and a counter that is designed to make ordering quick and easy.   There menu is posted on the wall in giant letters so everyone can read it while the wait on line.  Gracing that menu is a myriad of Mexican dishes that would make Speedy Gonzales’s grandmother drool, and from what I heard that lady can cook.  The menu is broken down into categories for ease of use, and lists Burritos, Tacos, Salads, Nachos, Quesadillas, Kids Dishes, Sides, Wings, Chicken Strips, and Desserts.

                 First and foremost, there is the Burrito list and considering that this spot is named Tito’s Burritos and not Tito’s Tacos I think Tito knows how to rock him some yumminess wrapped in a tortilla.  The highlights include the Mac Daddy described as being filled with grilled grade A steak with black beans, yellow rice, Tito’s cheeses, sour cream, pico de gallo salsa & fresh guacamole for $9.50, or for those looking for something slightly different they offer the Hang Five Shrimp Burrito which is chock full of Sautéed garlic shrimp, with shredded cabbage, yellow rice, pico de gallo salsa & cilantro/lime sauce for $9.25.  You can also find out the Special Burrito of the Day by calling, checking the chalkboard, or by checking out Tito’s Facebook & Twitter feed to be informed.  When I visited Tito’s the special of the day was a Jamaican Jerk Burrito with jerk flavored chop meat and all the fixings.

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The rest of the menu did seem intriguing and almost tempted away from the Burrito list with offerings such as the Steak Taco, the Classic Quesadilla, and a boastful statement next to the wings that reads “THE BEST IN NEW JERSEY.”  I was tempted to stray from my first instinct, but as in life decisions like that almost always end in heartbreak and despair.  So instead of wishing I stuck with my gut, when I reached the counter I ordered the Jamaican Jerk Burrito which set me back $9.50, while Kat went with the Mac Daddy, which as stated above was also $9.50.  As for Brian and Kristen, they ordered another Mac Daddy and two steak tacos respectively.

After we ordered, I wandered around the establishment to get a feel for the restaurant.  It was obvious by the décor that Tito is into long boarding, surfing, and hanging out hippie style.  All the Tito’s swag that is for sale has a retro southern California feel to it.  Even their slogan, which is, “It’s all good,” can’t be uttered without conjuring an image of a surfer giving you the hang ten sign.  Furthermore, in the back of the restaurant there is a wall of pictures submitted by loyal customers and famous people that have all, “Shown Them Their Tito’s,” which includes flicks of Tito’s favorite customers, exotic and interesting locations where Tito’s stickers have been sighted, special events, Tito’s staff and more!  The Tito’s stickers are free with any purchase by the way.

As our order came up, I ventured to the condiment cart to dress my burrito in style.  This cart is jam-packed with all of the necessities to make your burrito ready for the gala.  Fresh made Pico De Gallo, Pickled Jalapenos, Salsa Verde, and over a dozen different hot sauces are at your fingertips to garnish your selection however you please.

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At first glance I was slightly disappointed in the overall size of my Burrito which was defined as HUMONGOUS burritos.  Now if you follow my blog, you know I have already reviewed a spot  called Blue Moon which offers burritos the size of my forearm, so I was sad to see that Tito’s did not measure up to Blue Moon’s gargantuan fare.  But as many ladies have told many men, many many times size sometimes is not all that matters.  After the first bite of this large, but slightly not HUMONGOUS, burrito, size did not matter.  The flavor that was contained in this 12 inch tortilla was all that I cared about, and it was tremendous, especially when topped off with their fantastic Guacamole.  As Kat stated by the end of the meal, I just want it to last forever because it tastes so damn good.

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The Burritos seemed to have the right balance of ingredients swimming in the proper quantity of sauce and cheese, which is a hard thing to find in a world of mass produced burritos that are put together with caulk guns and ice cream scoops with about as much care as a third rate doctor at a clinic is Botswana. These Burritos seemed to be judiciously constructed by some sort of Zen burrito master with a fifth degree black belt in yummy.  My only complaint was that according to the menu, we were supposed to offered free homemade tortilla chips with the purchase of our burritos but we never received them, nor did we ask for them because I did not realize this menu side note until as we were about to leave.

While we were finishing up our meals Brian decided to order a classic Chicken Quesadilla for  all of us to share, which of course I did not complain about because then I would get to try one more item on the menu.  The Quesadilla came with Tito’s Guacamole and Sour cream and tasted so good that even though we were all filled almost to capacity, we did not waste one bite of it.  The chicken inside was plentiful and grilled just right and when combined with the sauce and cheese made for a gooey masterpiece.
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Thanks to Brian and Kristen, Tito’s Burritos has earned a coveted spot in my regular rotation of pseudo fast food joints, and I can’t wait to try the one located on East Ridgewood Ave, in Ridgewood, NJ.  From the relaxed bohemian atmosphere to the serious eats that are served, Monday – Saturday: 11:00am to 9pm and Sunday: noon to 8pm, Tito has made this Blue Collar Foodie very pleased.  As an added bonus, if you work in the area of Ridgewood or Morristown, both Tito’s Burritos locations offer to-go orders and delivery which can save you some valuable time on your lunch hour.

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Judgment:

Overall:                  3.5 out of 5

Taste:                    4.5 out of 5

Presentation:         3 out of 5

Value:                   3 out of 5

Tito's Burritos on Urbanspoon

Blue Collar Foodie Gets His BIG Burrito Fill at Blue Moon Cafe

Although I am actually an omnivore by definition, my true passion lies within the flesh of our animal brethren. With that said, I do have friends that dabble in the dark arts of, dare I say it, vegetarianism, and even more blasphemous vegan-ism.  Now, as a foodie, I do believe it is paramount to keep an open mind in regards to any and all foodstuffs, but no meat is hard for me to wrap my head around.

I would be remiss if I did not inform you, the readers, that I once tried to be a vegetarian, way back in the day. I lasted a total of two weeks in this endeavor and epically failed when I walked into a McDonald’s and succumbed to the temptation of the classic Big Mac. This adventure, although short lived, taught me an interesting lesson about being a vegetarian, vegan, or having any other dietary restriction that one must live with.  That lesson was and still is, unless you are preparing all your meals yourself, dietary constraints are tremendously inconvenient for everyone involved.  I always remember this factoid, when veggie heads roll through and join us for a meal.

Luckily for our friend Lorin, my wife Kat, and I happen to know a place that not only caters to the carnivores of foodie nation but makes equally delicious dishes for the foodies of the herbivore persuasion.  This establishment that I rate as the best Mexican joint around is known to the world as The Blue Moon Café.  Blue Moon offers more than a few selections for vegetarians, as well as a full menu of tantalizing fare for us “face eaters.”

There are a few different Blue Moon Café locations and a full list of them can be found on their website, as well as a full menu, and other pertinent information as well. Although we have been to other locations, on this occasion we decided to go to our regular Blue Moon Café in Woodcliff Lake. We did not have to wait for a table, but we did arrive slightly later than usual.  On a Friday or Saturday night a short wait is to be expected.  As soon as we took our seat a waiter brought over a basket of fresh tortilla chips and a bowl of some of the best salsa that I have ever eaten and took our drink order. The salsa is tangy but not too spicy, just the right amount to get your taste buds bouncing in preparation for the meal to come.  I know, most Mexican restaurants offer free chips and salsa as an appetizer, but this salsa is really spectacular and needs to be given the props that it deserves. Most places try to pass a bland, drab, soupy salsa that looks and tastes like it came right out of a five gallon bucket.  Blue Moon’s Salsa is anything but, with big chucks or vegetables and a taste that always has is asking for another serving.

Unfortunately, this is not a, “bring your own bottle establishment”, which hurts their value score a bit, but they do offer a full bar which will create any cocktail you could wish for. I suggest one of their many specialty margaritas, which are served in a large glass with a decent amount of alcohol and a large amount of flavor. The good news is that although they will charge you per alcoholic drink, the non-alcoholic beverages are endless, which comes in handy after you pour a bunch of hot sauce on your meal and dig in.

While chowing down on some tortilla chips, we perused the menu and after some group discussion we all decided on what we should order.  Lorin, went with a special from the Burritofest menu called the Santorini Burrito, which was described as a giant burrito stuffed with sautéed fresh spinach, black beans, rice and feta cheese served in a whole wheat tortilla with sour cream or guacamole for $13.95.  Ms. Kingsley, decided to dine on the Fajita Moon, which was described as marinated grilled strips of steak with sautéed peppers and onions, sliced avocado, refried beans and Mexican rice all wrapped in a flour tortilla then smothered in melted cheese all for just $16.95.  I ordered a burrito that seemed to be calling my name the second I opened the menu, the Triple Play, which was described as steak, shrimp, chicken, black beans, pepper jack cheese, tomatillo sauce, pico de gallo and flour tortillas for $16.95.  I could just not say no to the baseball word play as well as the fact that I would be enjoying three different types of protein in one giant burrito.

As you were reading the descriptions, I could hear your thoughts of disbelief.  As a foodie, I to have been lied to by a menu’s description that promises portions using adjectives that are not quantifiable such as giant, huge, gigantic, or massive, but this is not just another white lie by the Mad Men. I know this is a cliché, which I really try to use in my writing; The Blue Moon Café serves colossal burritos that are literally the size of my arm. (Seriously look at the attached picture, I am not joking.)  Due to this fact, it is very hard for me to order anything else when I eat here.  Occasionally, I force myself to switch it up, but if you are going to eat here for the first time, do yourself a favor and make the first thing you try one of their many different  burritos, I assure you, you will not be sorry.

Our food, took a bit to cook and we ordered more chips and salsa to pass the time, which are free and endless, which is awfully generous of them.  When our food arrived at our table, I was once again, taken aback by the girth of the burritos.  Some ladies may tell you that size does not matter, but gentlemen in the art of burrito making that simply is not the case.  These overstuffed behemoths were cooked just right and were giving off an aroma that a cartoon character would float through the air for.  Forkful, after forkful, after forkful seemed to merely put a dent in these delicious Mexican treats. All of the ingredients not only tasted fresh but they married perfectly in their flour tortilla beds. The addition of the house blended hot sauce that comes in four different flavors and the freshly prepared guacamole propels these burritos to the top of my list of Foodie Favorites.

Kat is a Mexican food addict, and she would be the first one to admit that.  We have Taco Bell at least once a week to quench her cravings in order to keep it economical.  For close to 7 years, we even had a set day of the week that we ate at Taco Bell, called Taco Bell Tuesday, which only ended recently due to other obligations.  Even though, we can quell Kat’s hunger by thinking outside the bun, what she really is longing for is a trip to the Blue Moon Café.

Lorin, requested that we hit this spot when he came to visit because of the large selection of tasty vegetarian options that Blue Moon Offers. Sure, there are a dozen places in Bergen County that I could take him to get some sprouts or tofu but none would compare to the satisfaction that one gets when you are so full that might burst, but you keep on eating because you just can’t say no.

We all got defeated by The Legendary Blue Moon Burritos that day, which is no small feat for any food going against my gullet.  With boxed leftovers in hand we left Blue Moon that day for a total of $58.42, which is just under my target price of $20.00 per plate. The Blue Moon Café is a must for any Mexican Food Junkie in Bergen County!

Judgement:

Overall:                       3.5 out of 5

Taste:                          4 out of 5

Presentation:             3 out of 5

Value:                          4 out of 5

Location:

Blue Moon Café

42 Kinderkamack Road

Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677

Phone: 201-782-9500

Hours:

Monday -Thursday 11:30AM – 10:00PM
Friday & Saturday 11:30AM-11:00PM
Sunday 11:00AM – 10:00PM

Blue Moon Mexican Cafe on Urbanspoon