On and off last semester Tuesday meant burritos at Qdoba with Di and Felecia; Miranda didn't make it most of the time and on November 14 Leslie joined us for burrito and post-burrito coffee fun. Last Saturday's burrito sandwich at Pasquel's, while supremely tasty and filling, was not quite the same as a Qdoba veggie burrito.
There are a handful of burrito options on State Street, but since I've lived here only one has maintained my interest, and that is Qdoba, although this brand loyalty is entirely arbitrary and not necessarily based upon an empirical study of the quality of their food compared to that of the competition. Such a study, I could claim, I have carried out with regard to the the State Street coffee venders. For selection and quality of baked goods one chooses Fair Trade or Michelangelo's (same source of baked goods); Steep & Brew, while my favorite, I must admit has the weakest selection and is primarily good for scones or early-morning morning buns (before they harden up).
When it comes to burritos I have tried the one place near Wasabi, but it was years ago, likely with Chris Williams and Laurie, or with Mike and Paul, but in any case, it was 1997 or 1998, it was late, empty, and I mostly remember the molded plastic booth seating. Chipotle recently became less evil, as they are no longer (so I hear) partly owned by McDonald's, but I've not eaten there, though Leslie recommended it. That leaves Taco Bell, just on the other side of Steep & Brew, really, and it is clear to all that one goes there for price and quantity, not quality. There was a time when I frequented that particular outlet, with its tubby but friendly manager, mostly complete collection of Big 10 school or team flags, and constant airing of ESPN.
Qdoba is, like all the other options, a chain. Burritos are not Madison's strong suit.
The Q's strength, however, is in producing a tasty, simple, filling vegetarian burrito with extra cheese. It starts with a steamed white tortilla, rice, and black beans. Add a little guac, and green salsa, hold the sour cream, and get extra cheese. That's the secret. Sure, there are chicken, steak, chicken or steak fajita, and other varieties of burrito to be made and purchased, but pour on a little hot sauce (or a lot) and you have a fulfilling meal to share with colleagues.
Qdoba does not, at this point, provide its own wireless access point. Next door one finds Steep & Brew, which has several: one for the front, one for the back, and one for Macs (which won't be able to do anything using the other two—I don't make the rules, I'm just a messenger), and accessing them from Qdoba is technically feasible.
I'm not part of the avant-garde.
And a quick aside regarding today's 419 (or Advance Fee Fraud) email, there is an old salon.com article from 2001 by Douglas Cruickshank entitled I crave your distinguished indulgence (and all your cash) that deals with my recent interest in such messages ... their literary merit, such as it is.
I've been beaten to the punch by half a decade.
And when one is done consuming burritos at Qdoba one can head next door to Steep & Brew for a tasty seasonal mocha or latté, or for a tall glass of cinnamon orange spice tea, or just for a big cup of coffee. The advantage to Steep & Brew, besides its nearness to burrito heaven, is its cast of colorful characters (the cops, the crazies, the ever-changing crew of baristas, and even the old drunk guy who falls up the steps), the rotating art display on the walls, the casual atmosphere, and the really good coffee.
Cafe noir Guatemalan ... my favorite dark roast so far, strong but subtle and smooth without any bitterness. If it were not already liquid it would melt in your mouth.
In November, after burritos at the Q, we opted for coffee and dessert (tasty cranberry cream cheese bars ... yummy and not good for me) at Starbucks, the State Street branch of which I had visited previously on three occasions (with Laura S. for a late night steamer, to meet up with Stephanie B. all those years ago, and to meet Mike and Rachel one afternoon), and the discussion of linguistics and anthropology, as well as the mocking of the poor literature student, continued.
Some of us used to live in the department, spending the daylight hours between classes and teaching in the local Tower of Babel. Age, the shifting demographics of the department, and other obligations change that to an extent. Now we see each other less regularly, we're more consumed with our own work and research, and sometimes we do not even come to campus. Tuesday Dissertator Burritos serve as a fine replacement for coffee dates and water cooler gossip.
—January 9 2007