Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Moe's Knows... Me?

Along with Trader Joe’s recent arrival came a whole host of national chains. Trees were razed, the earth was cleared, and up from it sprang Silver Dollar Diner, Red City Buffet, Panera Bread Company, Applebees/Ruby Tuesday’s (they both look the same to me, and I’m not sure which one is actually there), and inevitably, yet another Starbucks.

My husband and I had finished our T.J.’s shopping late one morning, and with tummies grumbling, found ourselves drawn to another recent arrival, “Moe’s Southwest Grill”. This place had chain written all over, but we were quite hungry and curious.
The menu board held a host of classic ‘southwestern’ cuisine choices; burritos, quesadillas, etc. Each meal selection could be beef, chicken, or tofu, and were accompanied by tortilla chips.

We spent several minutes studying the offerings on the menu, then gave it a go. We lined up and told the girl behind the sneeze guard our orders. I went with the Ugly Naked Guy, basically, a veggie soft-taco; Dave got the “John Coctostan” quesadilla. With steak, of course.

The girl began readying our orders, then asked us what additionals we’d like. The set-up is much like that of a sub shop, with little buckets of cheese, grilled and raw vegetables, salsas, and much to my pleasure, chopped fresh cilantro. A little labeling would make this part of the experience much more efficient.

We continued down the line, plucked a couple of icy-cold beers, and paid up. Our order would be a few minutes more, so we sat and waited with a bit of trepidation- my last fast food experience was in no way good.

The joint began to fill up rather quickly, and every time the door opened, patrons were greeted with “Welcome to Moe’s!” shouted in unison by the energetic employees. Shortly, another employee came by, and with a smile, dropped our order off at the table.

We both received overloaded baskets of chips. Much to my surprise, they were very fresh tasting and light, a far cry from the local norm. Dave's quesadilla was piping hot, and brimming full. The aroma alone was mouthwatering. My cold little veggie taco suddenly didn’t seem quite as appealing, but I sauced it up, and dug in. Again, a pleasant little thrill raced through my mouth. All the veggies were very fresh tasting; the lettuce had snap, and the tomatoes were flavourful. The cilantro sauce actually had an assertive cilantro taste, while the hot sauce managed to make my mouth tingle. Colour me impressed.

“You’ve got to try this!” Dave said, proffering a bite of his mighty John Coctostan. One bite, and my mouth was again happy with melted cheese, soft black beans, and most impressively, excellent-tasting beef . Succulent and satisfying.

Since that first visit, we’ve gone back several times for an inexpensive, quick and tasty lunch. The quality has been consistent, service quick and friendly. Decor is laid-back, seating is plentiful, tunes unobtrusively run the gamut from The Doors to The Dead, and enticingly, the wi-fi is strong and free.

This fast casual joint prides itself on delivering the best, without freezers, mircorwaves, or animal fats. I hate to say that a national chain has beaten the locals at their own game, but it's not far from the truth. On the flipside, this could spur improved offerings from long-standing establishments. Taco wars? I'm down. In the meantime, you can find me lunching at Moe's.

Additional photos may be found here.


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