Qdoba
Qdoba makes a tasty burrito.
Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

Chipotle isn’t the shining star it used to be.

Its founder and CEO, Steve Ells, was officially replaced by former Taco Bell CEO Brian Niccol in March. Niccol has his work cut out for him as he aims to recover Chipotle’s bruised reputation in the wake of its 2015 E.coli outbreak, and many predict big changes could be on the way.

Yet in spite of its numerous struggles, Chipotle has lingered in the public consciousness and maintained its grip on the Tex-Mex fast-casual market.

Merely two years after Chipotle was founded in Denver, Colorado, in 1993, another Tex-Mex chain, called Qdoba, sprung up in the same city.

While it has labored more or less in Chipotle’s shadow, Qdoba is, without a doubt, superior in nearly every way. It has a more interesting menu, less fuss, and a sterling reputation — not to mention free guac.

Having recently revisited Chipotle to see how the chain is doing, I decided to go back to my one true Tex-Mex chain love to compare:

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Qdoba is a national chain with over 700 locations — a far cry from Chipotle’s 2,200-plus restaurants, but nothing to sniff at. It’s the same idea as Chipotle: fast-casual assembly line with burritos, burrito bowls, tacos, and the like. Qdoba also has taco salads, quesadillas, and soups, though — a key difference.

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Source: Qdoba

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I decided to get a simple chicken burrito to compare to my recent Chipotle burrito review. Nothing fancy, and almost exactly the same ingredients: chicken, cilantro rice, black beans, pico de gallo, salsa verde, guac, queso, cheese, and lettuce.

Hollis Johnson/Business Insider

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But before even tasting the burrito, I noted that Qdoba already has a huge advantage over Chipotle: the guac and queso are free add-ons. That’s right, free. Chipotle’s guac can cost over $2 as an add-on, and so does the queso. Tacking nearly $4 on to your burrito, just for some delicious cheese and…