Chipotle is a reliable old friend.  The cashiers know your order, they give you a little extra and try to remember your name.  But every once in a while seeing what lies on the other side can be relaxing.  Is the guac really greener over there?

Qdoba - The Safe Choice

A photo posted by Qdoba (@qdoba) on

Qdoba is the entry on this list that is most easily dismissed as a "Chipotle knockoff".  It has the same standard options of bowl, burrito, taco, and uses an identical assembly line system.  As a first affair against your committed relationship with Chipotle you'll be retreading familiar ground.  You might even start to notice some of the greener grass.

First of all, guacamole is free.  One trip to Qdoba and you'll be wondering why it ever cost extra in the first place.  The basic burrito isn't going to taste exactly like Chipotle but that allows it to shine in other ways.  Notably in toppings, as no amount of Chipotle's "hot" sauce matches up to Qdoba's haberno.  For cheese overload Qdoba offers queso, a genuine bad word over in Chiptopia.

Expanding beyond burritos and tacos is Qdoba's secret weapon: gumbo. It may not seem the most authentic.  But let's be honest, none of these options are authentic, and taste trumps all.  Pour gumbo over a rice bowl and unite the meal's flavor profile. 

Baja Fresh - The Cheap Choice

Fish tacos @ Baja Fresh

vidalia_11 on Flickr

Baja Fresh doesn't have the same crazed fans or obsessive culture that Chipotle does, but it stands as a cost conscious way to get the fix.  Inexpensive prices to begin with are usually multiplied by student discounts and if you're really desperate - kid's meals.

The best way to get a hearty meal at the lower price is to order Fajitas or individual tacos.  The fajitas give you sheer quantity of food, and tacos are customizable and oddly more fulfilling than the burrito options.  The burrito options are solid, but lack in subsistence.  If Chopotle leaves you too full Baja Fresh can leave you wanting just that little bit more.  But you won't ever feel ripped off.

Whole Foods - The Lazy Choice

Whole Foods is first and foremost a grocery store, and there is no escaping that reality.  But it is a grocer that has fresh organic ingredients on hand and chefs to whip them together for you. When in a rush, or maybe already in the area shopping, their burritos stand in for a meal.  

With computer ordering systems many whole foods don't even require human interaction.  If you've had a rough day or have other things to worry about beyond what's for lunch Whole Foods is the perfect easy choice

Any Actual Mexican Restaurant - The Right Choice

Perhaps the definition of easier said than done, finding an authentic restaurant can be difficult, and tipping can be hard to adjust to for college students.  But at the end of the day nothing is going to taste better than your favorite place.   Find one, get territorial - it really is worth it.