The original Chipotle restaurant at 1644 E. Evans Ave in Denver, shown here on Jauary 26, 2006.
Bad news, Dolly Madison fans: The summer-long closure of the Chipotle store at the corner of Evans Avenue and South Gilpin Street did not restore the space to it former ice-cream scooping glory.
Instead the closure accommodated a facelift of the original location of the burrito peddler that since opening for business at 1644 E. Evans in 1993, Chipotle Mexican Grill has exploded into one of the most recognizable fast casual dining chains in the U.S.
Thursday marks the first day the original store welcomed customers since renovations were completed this summer, according to a news release. The re-opening is right on schedule. Fall classes begin at nearby University of Denver on Monday.
On its first days of business 24 years ago, company founder, chairman and CEO Steve Ells was behind the counter wrapping silver foil around chicken fajita burritos for curious diners. A Culinary Institute of America graduate and fine dining industry veteran, Ells was inspired by burritos he noshed on in the Mission District of San Francisco, according to the company.
It didn’t take long for Ells and Co. to expand beyond their University neighborhood roots. He opened a second store in 1995 and a third in 1996. Today there are more than 2,300 Chipotles around the globe. The company employs more than 60,000 people.
“The Evans restaurant will always be special to me,” Ells said in a news release. “I opened that restaurant with the novel idea to show that food that was served fast didn’t have to be a typical fast food experience, and with the hope of financing a ‘real restaurant.’ Today, Chipotle has become plenty real and we are having a significant impact on the way people eat by making delicious food, made with whole, unprocessed ingredients available and affordable to everyone.”
The changes at the 850-square-foot Evans store were mostly behind the scenes. They included expanding the basement to accommodate more storage and food prep. The dining room received some style updates but in a way that preserved the “original charm” of the tiny spot, the company says.
More than two decades in, Chipotle’s menu remains much the same as it did in 1993. Burrito bowls came later, and remain a popular take on the company’s core product. Salads and vegetarian options have also been added.
The company has been dogged in recent years by a string of foodborne illness outbreaks at some of its restaurants, sickening patrons and hurting the company reputation and stock prices.
But Chipotle is soldiering on by providing customers with the thing they’ve most often requested over the years: queso.
After testing the coveted creamy cheese mixture in Califorina and right here in Colorado, the company announced this week that as of Sept. 12, it’s additive-free queso will be on menus nationwide.