Chipotle Mexican Grill opens first Southwest Florida unit in Naples

The Chipotle Mexican Grill in Mercato in North Naples was the chain's first location in Southwest Florida when it opened in April 2011, above. Lee County gets its first location for the popular burrito restaurant on Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

Kelly Merritt/Special to the Daily News

The Chipotle Mexican Grill in Mercato in North Naples was the chain's first location in Southwest Florida when it opened in April 2011, above. Lee County gets its first location for the popular burrito restaurant on Wednesday, April 16, 2014.

Chipotle Comes to Naples

A large crowd of hungry fans gather ...

Chipotle Mexican Grill

9100 Strada Place Unit 2110, Naples, FL

— It wasn’t a rock concert or celebrity book signing. The paparazzi weren’t there to snap shots of the Jonas Brothers or Taylor Swift. But the line outside of Chipotle Mexican Grill on Monday night mimicked the crowds at those events.

Chipotle officially opened Tuesday at Mercato shopping center, but the res­taurant opened on Monday for a special preview party. Hundreds of people gath­ered along the front of the building and around the corner to wait in line to get in the doors and eat dinner.

Chipotle is a popular restaurant concept for its consistent menu and the fresh, health­ful culinary movement that’s skyrocketed in recent years. It has a following among fans who seek it out when they move or travel. The company’s highly publicized “food with integrity” philosophy, which the Naples restaurant will embrace, includes serving naturally raised chicken, pork and beef that is derived from animals raised in a humane way, with no added hormones or antibiotics, and are fed a pure vegetar­ian diet. The restaurant group specificies cheese and sour cream free of the synthetic hormone rBGH, and 40 percent organically grown black and pinto beans.

The restaurant menu follows the “do one thing and do it well” agenda, serv­ing burritos, tacos, bowls, which is a burrito without the tortilla, and salads. Once customers select one of these types of meals, they then select meats or Chipotle’s vegetarian option, which comes with black beans and homemade guacamole. The meal also includes steamed rice and a diner’s choice of mild, medium or hot salsas, sour cream, freshly grated cheese and romaine lettuce.

The “food integrity” approach Chipotle has employed in its operating philosophy attracted the Summerton family to the restaurant. Susan Summerton already had well-defined views of what they liked about the restaurant before she arrived and definitive designs on what they wanted to eat.

“I like the way they use the meat they serve, that it’s antibiotic-free and that they support that way of doing business,” said Summerton, who came to the preview party with her two children, MacKenzie and Michael.

The restaurant says it will serve select locally grown produce, such as jalapenos and green bell peppers, when seasonally available.

“At Chipotle we really pride ourselves on fresh ingredients and great food, but it’s consistent too, and our customers are people who like really great food,” said Kim Higgins, director of marketing for Chipotle. “That’s why our fans love us, because they know they can depend on the food at an affordable price where everybody can partake in a great meal.”

Along with the company’s sustainable food initiative, the new Naples restaurant features sustainable architecture that includes recycled drywall, low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and energy efficient appliances. The restaurant also serves food using bowls made from recycled newsprint and unbleached tray liners and napkins. Cups are made from post-consumer recycled products.

While many customers are fans of Chipotle because of its commitment to the environment, the Summerton children have their own reasons. Michael Summerton says he was excited to try the burritos, while MacKenzie Summerton was more pragmatic.

“When you can try something new and someplace new, it’s just really fun,” she said.

“Naples folks have been waiting for Chipotle for some time and we are so excited to be able to deliver really great burritos and the food integrity we’re known for,” said Higgins. “We have really great fans at Chipotle, but particularly in Naples, people have been peeking in the windows over the past several weeks to see our progress, and that made us feel very welcomed in the Naples community.”

“Chipotle was excited that Naples was our first location in Southwest Florida,” said Higgins. “Our grand opening day was very successful and we hope to serve our fans our burritos and tacos in the coming days and beyond.”

Chipotle is open Monday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 9100 Strada Place in the Mercato Shopping Center in Naples. For more information, go to www.chipotle.com.

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