Monday, January 03, 2005


McDonald’s is gone from Porter Square, to be replaced by a Qdoba Mexican Grill franchise, another nudge from the invisible hand that wants the area to become a mecca for Mexican food as well as Asian cuisine.

Qdoba falls into the “fast casual” food category, which means it’s slightly fancier than its putative competition in Porter, Anna’s Taqueria (right across the street in the Galleria) and Tacos Lupita (a fair stretch down Elm Street in Somerville). Some Qdoba locations can serve alcoholic beverages. It’s also more expensive; while the highest-priced items on Anna’s menu are “Mexican plates” of rice, meat or vegetables, beans, corn tortillas, salsa and hot sauce, Qdoba passes that easily with just the price of a basic quesadilla — meaning just cheese, pica de gallo and possibly unwanted sides of guacamole, sour cream and salsa. The difference: $3.95 for a “plate” at Anna’s, $5.39 for a quesadilla at Qdoba.

For a quesadilla-to-quesadilla comparison, Anna’s charges $2.95 for a steak quesadilla and Qdoba charges $6.79. A side of guacamole at Anna’s is 55 cents, while Qdoba charges $1.19.

Qdoba is competitive on tacos, though. It charges $1.79 for a grilled veggies taco, while Anna’s charges $2.05. A steak taco at Qdoba is $2.19, or $2.05 at Anna’s.

The differences implies there needn’t necessarily be war between the restaurants. The presence of Qdoba may thin out the crowds at Anna’s slightly — not a bad thing from a customer’s perspective — but mainly by removing the element who’ll shrug off the doubling of the cost of a quesadilla.

That Qdoba boasts of having “vegetarian” fare may also finally convince Anna’s to move on from boiling its rice in chicken broth, when vegetable broth would do just as well.

It may also help the McDonald’s crowd. Those who come hoping to find McDonald’s may wind up eating healthier. Or maybe at least having to walk to Davis for their Big Mac and french fries.


Anonymous said...

I remember Qdoba Mexican Grill being the place where I first discovered burrito and Mexican food in general. It was just a block from where I used to work and my lunch there cost me what I was making an hour! But this was three years ago and in Denver. If I worked a block from Porter - today and in Cambridge - I would stick with local Anna's and what I would save I would put aside for Locke-Ober.

Scape7 said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I may try Qdoba, but Anna's has my heart. And gets my money.

Anonymous said...

Do you guys have "The Trucks"? THAT'S "fast casual." They just pull up every day. At lunchtime. And kick the hell out of everything else around from their former-bookmobile kitchens.


Scape7 said...

We have some trucks. But we tend to refer to classify them as "convenient awful."

Anonymous said...

I've heard that lunch trucks are controlled by the mob. Maybe not the felafel trucks at MIT, but the ones that sell snacks and coffee.

Scape7 said...

Emerson College had a truck that pulled out front of 130 Beacon St. every day. The proprietor, Joe, got in legal trouble and the truck disappeared. I think it was just permitting issues, but I could have sworn there were rumors of organized crime being involved. Or drug dealing. Or perhaps his alien masters called him back to his home planet. Whatever. It's a popular rumor.