Chipotle comes to the harbor

TABLE TALK

Eats: dining reviews, Table Talk

December 25, 2003|By Sloane Brown | Sloane Brown,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

So, by tomorrow you will be so over the thought of leftover turkey, roast beef, mashed potatoes and whatever. And you'd really like a little something totally different. Chipotle Mexican Grill to the rescue. The new "quick-gourmet" spot -- as the chain likes to refer to itself -- just opened Monday on the Inner Harbor's Pier 4.

It's the first Chipotle to hit Baltimore. The Washington area already has 22 of them -- the College Park location being the top-selling Chipotle Grill of the 300 or so across the United States.

The concept is fairly simple. You stand in line, order your food and work with your server/cook, building whatever it is you want as you proceed down the line. At the end of the line, both you and your food are ready to go. Or stay. There is seating in Chipotle Grill for 65.

The emphasis is on making something exactly how you want it, with fresh, Earth-friendly ingredients. All the pork is Niman Ranch free-range pork. The chicken is supplied by the chemical- and hormone-free Bell & Evans company.

The menu, too, is simple. There's the giant burrito -- rolled up in a flour tortilla, with cilantro-lime rice, your choice of pinto or vegetarian black beans, your choice of meat, choice of salsa, cheese or sour cream. There's the fajita burrito -- just like the other burrito, but with sauteed peppers and onions instead of beans. The burrito bol is all the ingredients for either of those burritos, but instead of being served in a tortilla, it's on top of romaine lettuce (perfect for no-carb fans). Or you can get three tacos -- made with either flour or corn tortillas, your choice of meat, salsa, cheese or sour cream, and romaine.

The carnitas -- seasoned pork, seared then braised -- are $5.50, as are the items made with barbacoa -- spicy shredded beef braised in adobo sauce. A chicken dish is $5.40, grilled steak, $5.35. And vegetarian -- made with guacamole and black beans -- goes for $4.95.

There are a few extras, like chips and guacamole ($1.95), and chips and salsa ($1.25). And then there are the drinks. You can choose imported or domestic beer ($2.50-$2.95) or a freshly made margarita ($3). That's it.

You'll find Chipotle Mexican Grill, 410-837-8353, right across the way from the entrance to the National Aquarium's Marine Mammal Pavilion, at 621 E. Pratt St.

Chipotle's hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

(Speaking of the aquarium, Chipotle is holding a fund-raiser for it on Jan. 8. From 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., a $5 donation at the door will get you a burrito and a soft drink, with all the money going to the aquarium.)

Donna's new chef

If you were a big fan of Mount Vernon's now defunct Ruby Lounge, you can catch its old owner, Mary Soto, at Donna's in Cross Keys. She's the chef there now. She and owner/chef Donna Crivello will be manning the kitchen for its New Year's Eve dinner. The five-course meal is $50 a person. Call 410-532-7611 for reservations.

New `grand cru'

If you're looking for a new place to toast the New Year, consider grand cru -- the new wine store/bar that recently opened in Belvedere Square.

General manager Otto Sheridan says that, as you walk in the door, you'll encounter a long zinc-topped curved bar on the left -- from which you can order 30 different wines by the glass, microbrew beers or cocktails. And grand cru has just introduced tequila and scotch flights.

There's seating at the bar for 11, plus several high-top tables, with a total seating for about 25. The walls and floor are purple and green -- reflecting the colors in a 1976 map of the Burgundy region in France, the area that inspired the place's name.

"Grand Cru is the highest designation of wines in that region," Sheridan says.

Food-wise, grand cru offers a sampler platter of four smoked salmons ($9) and a four-cheese platter ($8). But, if you're in the mood for sushi, bagels, soup or pizza -- from other take-out businesses in Belvedere Square -- Sheridan says you're welcome to "BYOF" (Bring Your Own Food) and enjoy it there along with a glass of wine.

grand cru, 410-464-1944, is at 527 E. Belvedere Ave. It's open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

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