Once known only to Austinites and tourists "in the know," Austin mini-chain, Chi'lantro, has been receiving quite a bit of national attention since landing a $600,000 deal on ABC's Shark Tank earlier this year. Chi'lantro, which serves Korean-Mexican fusion, started as a food truck in 2010 and has since grown into a local staple with five Austin-area locations and plans to expand to Houston and Dallas.

Following the trend of fast-casual dining, Chi'lantro serves its signature Korean-Mexican fusion "Chipotle-style" with customizable tacos, burritos, rice bowls, salads, and more. However, as much as I love Chipotle, Chi'lantro really is way, way better. Here's why.

Two Words: Kimchi Fries

Before I go any further, let's talk about Chilantro's infamous Kimchi Fries. If you didn't know, kimchi is a Korean fermented cabbage dish made with a mix of garlic, salt, vinegar, and other spices. In addition to being incredibly healthy due to its abundance of vitamins A, B, C and "healthy bacteria," kimchi is a delicious side dish with a briny, slightly sweet, umami flavor.

At Chi'lantro, you can have your fresh french fries topped with homemade kimchi that has been caramelized on the flattop along with a choice of meat, cheese, sriracha, magic sauce (think chipotle mayo), onions, cilantro, and sesame seeds. Basically, kimchi fries are the perfect combination—super delicious, cheesy fries that constitute a complete meal. 

They Have All The Choices

Ever noticed how every order kinda tastes the same at Chipotle? Sure, you can mix it up, but that usually comes down to something like getting tomatillo salsa instead of pico. You get my point.

At Chi'lantro, there really is no end to the different choices. In addition to incredible loaded fries, Chi'lantro serves build-your- own salads, rice bowls, tacos, burritos, plus wings and burgers at certain locations. The protein choices — beef ribeye (beef bulgogi), spicy pork, soy glazed chicken, and marinated tofu — really emphasizes the Korean barbecue flavor.

It's with the toppings, however, where things really get fun. First of all, you can load your salad, bowl, burrito, etc. with a huge variety of fresh vegetables including lettuce and cabbage, baby spinach, cucumber, carrots, onions, red cabbage, cilantro, corn, and, of course, homemade kimchi. If you're more into cooked veg, their roasted veggies also make an awesome topping.

 The vegetables don't stop there — my personal favorite topping (I ask for double) is the house pickled veggies that are sweet, tangy and full of flavor. Chilantro also offers toppings such as both guacamole AND sliced avocado, cheddar cheese, and tortilla strips. Certain locations offer the choice of a fried egg — yes, you can literally have a fried egg in your burrito. If that doesn't convince you, I don't know what will.

Finally, let's discuss sauces. Chi'lantro goes way beyond just three salsa choices (I'm lookin' at you Chipotle) so that your order can come drizzled with magic sauce, spicy ranch, sesame vinaigrette, sesame vinaigrette, carrot ginger dressing, Caribbean curry, kimchi sauce, and sriracha. My go-tos are Caribbean curry and kimchi sauce, but you really can't go wrong.

#Spoon tip: Word on the street is that you can actually get your kimchi fries in burrito. Seriously. So if you're really trying to carbo load, treat yourself to a deliciously cheesy, french-fry burrito

No Guilt Is Necessary 

So I've been talking up the french fries smothered in meat, cheese, and creamy sauce, but, really, that's not my day-to-day Chi'lantro order. As someone who tries to eat healthy most of the time, the abundance of healthy options available at Chi'lantro is what keeps me coming back.  

One of my biggest frustrations with Chipotle is that even when I order "healthy" (i.e brown rice, black beans, veggies, corn, salsa, lettuce, guac, etc.) I still end up feeling like I just consumed a sodium bomb and need to down a gallon of water. I love that Chi'lantro's rice, beans, and other components are less strongly seasoned so, not only are you able to better control the sodium level, but you can really customize the flavor based off of the sauces and condiments you choose. Plus, with the option to add a rainbow of different raw veggies, you come away with a lighter, fresher tasting meal.

It Looks As Good As It Tastes

If I haven't already given you enough reasons to head to your nearest Chi'lantro immediately, I'll leave with the fact that the restaurants are pretty nice, with a clean, streamlined look. While the individual locations vary in decor, their newest restaurants at the Domain and South Shore combine an industrial aesthetic with bright pops of color and a sense of whimsy.

Here's the takeaway: if you want some good Korean-Mexican fusion with flavors and tastes you can customize, located in a chic industrial setting, head to your nearest Chi'lantro as soon as you can.