New York Vegans Have a New Reason to Go to Chipotle
In the two decades since Steve Ells opened the first Chipotle in Denver, Colorado, the menu has changed very little. Early on, the chain added bowls and salads; brown rice made an appearance next to white rice a few years ago; and last year, the restaurants rolled out Patrón margaritas, which are shaken to order. "The menu is very, very focused," says communications director Chris Arnold. "That allows us to do the items we have better than anyone else does them. That's been the cornerstone since the beginning."
But on Monday, the burrito-monger will introduce its most substantive addition to date: Sofritas -- an organic shredded tofu braised with chipotle chiles, roasted poblano peppers, and a blend of spices -- will be on offer here in New York City and up in Boston, heralding the national launch of a vegan option that the company has been testing for more than a year.
The launch is the culmination of a two-year-long development process that happened organically and deliberately, says culinary manager Nate Appleman. "When I started, we were testing out a thing called Garden Blend. It was good, but it wasn't great. We kept trying it and thinking it serves a purpose, but we've never been a company that just serves a purpose."
"What we were ultimately wanting was something that would provide another option for vegetarian and vegans but would be delicious enough for people who wanted to eat less meat and wanted to eat something lighter," adds Arnold.
Once Appleman, who is New York City-based, got his feet wet, he started thinking about developing the protein side of the menu, and he created a chicken and pork chorizo intended to use more of the animal on the line. That item did well in the Big Apple, but the company kept returning to vegetarian options. So the chef created a vegan sausage with gardein, the base of Garden Blend, only to find it didn't hold up well on the line. Tofu sausage, he soon learned, was even worse. "It was disheartening," he says.