Yesterday was one of those weird mornings when all the day’s plans were swept away with the first peek out the window. I didn’t actually have to look past the rain-soaked window pane to see that I wouldn’t be doing the outdoor painting to which my morning had been committed. For some reason that caught me off guard yesterday. Disoriented, with an uncommitted morning on my hands, things only got weirder as Elaine towed me out for breakfast at the new Qdoba Mexican Grill, which had opened earlier Sunday night at midnight.
It was weird enough that Elaine would go to breakfast because, even though it is both the kids’ and my favorite meal out, if she has the choice between sleeping in or going out for breakfast, she is fast asleep. Beyond that,it would have been weird enough to have breakfast at a Mexican fast food joint that does not serve breakfast. But yesterday morning all of that weirdness wasn’t enough. It turns out that Qdoba Mexican Grill openings are turned into a media event. For this one they hired 92.9 FM to do a blitz campaign on it and they were capping it off with a live remote which Elaine had been listening to all during the hour plus that she takes to prepare herself each morning.
I first wondered what the heck was going on the day or two before when I saw people camping in tents in the parking lot out near the southwest corner of Pines and Mission. I figure it must have had something to do with Qdoba’s eminent opening but I was baffled why anyone would find that worthy of parking-lot camping. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to sell Justin Bieber concert tickets.
According to my kids who had been hearing about it on the radio, Qdoba was giving away something like a one-year free pass to the first hundred or so patrons that showed up. The details don’t matter, the point is that we were talking about it and so were the thousands of people who drive through that intersection each day and the thousands who listen to 92.9. I have no idea if it is cost-effective or not but I believe it did a very good job of letting everybody know that the new Qdoba here in the Valley is open for and means business.
I’m sure the hyped-up hoopla is a tried and true recipe that has opened hundreds of bustling Qdoba’s across America, as is everything else about the new Qdoba. Even though I was having dinner for breakfast because of the unusual circumstances,I actually found the pulled pork burrito with their special Mexican bbq sauce to be very good and plenty to eat. Elaine’s grilled steak and cheese quesadia was good enough that she had to finally shoo my darting fingers away from her plate as I attempted to go beyond a few taste-testing nibbles.
The thing that impressed me was the way they took the Subway format and applied it to burritos and tacos. I liked that I was able to build my burrito just the way I wanted, though I was surprised they didn’t nuke it at the end. I like my salsa mildly hot, not my burrito. Even so, it was tasty and the wrap was the softest, chewiest and lightest I had ever had. The thing that I was not impressed with was the price. Every item is in the $7 price range and so with a drink and tax you might as well figure $9 a head. That is stretching it a bit in this neck of the woods for a fast food dinner let alone a breakfast.
But I don’t think company headquarters wants us to look at Qdoba as a fast food joint. While the ingredients are fresh and the decor and in-store marketing is designed in New York, the food prep and seating are fast food. The same prep can be had at Subway and better seating can be had at the Argonne McDonald’s.
To sway our minds to place them a notch above and so pay their price, Qdoba uses the Big Bang theory at store openings and then works all the angles to keep the hype hot.
I know the ads do a pretty good job because I had thought Qdoba Mexican Grill was a restaurant based on the media that I never paid a lot of attention to. It appears to be company policy for individual stores to also manipulate the social networking media from the get go with Twitter and the rest. After being open just one day, the Valley Qdoba is right on track with more than 1,100 friends on their Facebook page.
While all these thoughts were forming a blog post in my mind, Elaine was paying attention to not one detail of the new place. I doubt she could remember what she ordered, especially since she just glanced at the menu and quickly told me to get her a quesadia as she bee-lined it to the table right in front of Dave, Ken and Molly doing their popular morning radio show right there live in the Qdoba dining room. There they were, as Dave would say, transformed through the miracle of radio technology from voices over the airwaves in our bathroom to live people just a few blocks away.
There sat her favorite celebrity in the whole world. Elaine loves Molly not because she is the world’s biggest radio personality, but because she has listened to her every morning for years as she gets prepared for the day. Molly is her kind of gal. If you ask Elaine to give you the first and last name of any other local radio host she could not. The only two whose first names she could give you would be Dave and Ken. Until yesterday in fact, she had always put Ken’s voice with Dave’s face on the billboards and vise versa.
That amazed her and she was glad to get things straight because she does appreciate the guys and loves the chemistry between all three of them. But then Elaine would like anyone that Molly Allen liked. Through the years I have been a casual listener and I like them a lot as a team, all equal. Be that as it may, none of them, individually or collectively, could have gotten me in there to eat a pork burrito for breakfast.
But there I was right beside Elaine, eating Mexican food for breakfast and taking in this once-in-a-life time event. For both of us it was it was a Kodak moment. Elaine wanted to preserve the moment when Molly came to our neighborhood for breakfast. I wanted the picture to remind Elaine that she really can go out for breakfast as long as she loves the company enough.
As for Qdoba I am sure they won’t miss Elaine for breakfast, especially since they don’t serve it.
Look us up on Facebook, we are quite a distant third behind Qdoba and Molly, who has 4400 some friends.