By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer
Northborough??”At the brand new Qdoba Mexican Grill, you can order your burrito, tacos, quesadilla or nachos just about any way you want.
At first glance, the menu board looks confusing, and the restaurant provides written menus if you need a minute to decide. But the friendly folks behind the serving counter will walk you through the process and make sure you come out with exactly what you want from the large variety of tempting fillings and toppings.
The Northborough Qdoba opened in May, the 18th restaurant in suburban Boston for the Colorado-based chain. It's easy to spot, perched high on the hill at the Northborough Crossing shopping complex. An outdoor seating area takes advantage of the view.
A friend and I met Jana Baseel, regional marketing specialist, at the restaurant recently to talk about Qdoba and sample the cuisine.
Baseel noted that the New England restaurants are owned by the company, rather than franchised, and Qdoba is moving into Maine soon with a restaurant in South Portland.
The Northborough restaurant will be closely involved with its community, including participating in Applefest in September, donating to community charities and hosting high school teams. It sponsors cooking events periodically for children, such as a recent class on how to make guacamole. Nearby offices can enter the office-of-the-month drawing, making all employees eligible for a $5.99 meal deal for the month.
The menu features burritos priced from $6.59 to $7.29 with a choice of chicken, pork, shredded beef, ground beef, grilled steak or vegetarian fillings. The meat options are available for tacos, quesadillas and nachos. Choose the chicken or steak to top a taco salad. For a lighter option, pick a “naked” burrito or salad, with the fillings in a bowl instead of a tortilla shell. Except for the flour tortillas and queso sauce, menu items are gluten-free.
Tortilla chips are made fresh daily right in the store, and a generous side order comes with one of five salsas for $1.59 or $1.99, or with guacamole for $3.19 or the chain's signature three-cheese warm queso sauce, laced with tomatoes and poblano peppers, for $3.99.
My friend and I decided to take advantage of Qdoba's Craft 2 option with slightly smaller portions of two entrees for $6.69.
I started down the ordering line a little unsure how to proceed, and was immediately put at ease. First pick the tortillas??”flour or crisp corn??”for the tacos. I picked one of each. Decide what filling goes in each??”pulled pork and seasoned ground beef for me. Then add toppings and salsa, so I selected tomatoes, lettuce, cheese and hot salsa for the pork, guacamole and salsa verde for the beef. My second option was a cup of the tortilla soup, topped with crispy tortilla strips.
My more adventurous friend chose the naked burrito, layering seasoned brown rice, pinto beans, grilled vegetables and Qdoba's signature ancho chili barbecue sauce for a spicy, smoky taste. Then she chose the Mexican gumbo, a bowl of the tortilla soup to which she added rice and black beans, topping it with guacamole and roja sauce. We added a side of chips and warm queso sauce.
We had a great time sampling our own dishes and each other's. They were all extremely tasty, with very fresh ingredients. The guacamole, for example, still had chunks of avocado, a sign it is hand-made, not pulverized in a blender or scooped out of a plastic tub. The ancho chili sauce is outstanding, and would be great on a pork or chicken burrito. It's hard to stop eating the chips and queso.
The restaurant's kid's meals, at $4.19, include a naked chicken burrito, chicken quesadilla, cheese quesadilla (for $3.49), chicken nachos or a single taco.
You can even customize your beverage at a self-serve dispenser where you first choose a base from soft drinks, water or tea, then add the flavors you's like.
Qdoba offers takeout and has an extensive catering menu.
The Northborough Qdoba is open Sunday through Thursday 10:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. and stays open until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It's located at 4104 Shops Way next to Dick's Sporting Goods, 508-936-1017. The menu and information on catering is available at www.qdoba.com.