By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 08, 2002 at 5:19 AM

Although they're already in about a dozen states, this diner never encountered a Chipotle restaurant until Milwaukee's first one opened at 600 E. Ogden Ave. a couple weeks ago. The only advance knowledge was that the chain of burrito eateries is owned in part by McDonald's (although it was founded nine years ago by Steve Ells) and that it's a lot like a Q-Doba.

Although the design of the space is a bit more outlandishly modern than Q-Doba, with galvanized wainscoting, exposed ducts and chrome frame chairs, belly up to the burrito bar -- cafeteria style -- and you'll be fairly hard-pressed to tell the difference between the two.

The menus are pretty nearly identical, with Chipotle offering four major choices: the burrito, a fajita burrito (which replaces the beans with sauteed green peppers and onions), the burrito bol, which eschews the tortilla in favor of a bowl and tacos (either three soft shell or four hard shell). Inside, you can have carnitas (seasoned and braised pork), barbacoa (braised spicy beef, shredded), marinated chicken or steak, or the vegetarian option.

There are also chips and salsa and/or guacamole on the menu. Although beer and margaritas are promised, a liquor licensing delay means those aren't on tap quite yet.

On a recent visit, we ordered a steak fajita burrito and the four hard shell vegetarian tacos, which were tasty enough, although to call the green tomatillo chili salsa medium, is to understate the heat. Other diners told us the hot red tomatillo salsa is also extremely hot (let the debate begin, dear readers). Otherwise, our sole disappointment came in the form of some excessively chilly guacamole which quickly sapped the entire dish of its warmth.

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Chipotle is new to Milwaukee, so we expect there will be some time needed to bring the staff up to snuff. At the moment, however, you may be frustrated as you watch the employees struggle to get the beans into those little shells with that big spoon and you may be tempted to hop the sneeze-guard and do it yourself.

But the staff was courteous, if not terribly outgoing (the competition is no better in this regard), and even at 12:30 p.m., there was no line and we were in and out of the place within a half-hour without feeling rushed. So, if time is of the essence, Chipotle gets high marks.

Word is that both Chipotle and Q-Doba are scouting more locations around town, so it will be interesting to see how many burritos Milwaukeeans can -- or are willing -- to eat.

In the meantime, I'm likely sticking to the Q, but will enjoy a Chipotle burrito (mild salsa, please!) when I'm in the neighborhood.

Chipotle is located at 600 E. Ogden Ave., at North Jackson Street. Call them at (414) 223-4710 or fax your order to (414) 223-4712.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.