Chipotle has been adding new items to its national menu at a furious pace — by the Tex-Mex chain’s standards, anyway. It has added braised tofu and chorizo as protein options in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Now, though, the chain has opened a new restaurant, Chipotle NEXT Kitchen, in New York City where you can try the company’s newest offerings before they go nationwide.
What’s being tested there now? Most of Chipotle’s competitors sell some form of queso, the melted cheese dipping sauce that improves anything you slather it on. It’s never been on the menu at Chipotle, though.
According to Eater, CEO Steve Ells explained to employees in a memo today that the sauce isn’t served there because the chain couldn’t find a version that was up to its standards until now.
“Because we refuse to use industrial additives, added colors, flavors or preservatives in our food, it’s very difficult to make queso that meets our standards,” he explained. The sauce usually has, at minimum, some stabilizers in it that make it unsuitable for Chipotle.
Queso is just one of the items available at the test restaurant. You can also try salads topped with avocado-citrus dressing instead of burrito ingredients, and frozen margaritas. Yes, the kind that come out of a perpetually-mixing machine: Chipotle has found a version of those that’s up to its standards, and is testing frozen classic margaritas with tequila, and frozen strawberry margaritas without.
The chain’s first dessert is still in a testing phase too. It’s a tortilla-based take on the fried dough dessert buñuelos, and reviews have compared it to Cinnamon Toast Crunch, with apple or chocolate dipping sauce.
Experimental items that get a good reception at the test restaurant may then go to test sites at around twenty restaurants, then a few hundred more if they’re successful in the first test markets. The company says that the location will be used to train employees on new items and procedures, too.
If you’re in Manhattan and want to check it out, you can find the test kitchen in what used to be a regular Chipotle at 504 6th Avenue.