Fresh food, and fast
Qdoba offers healthy, quick Mexican meals
by Caren Matzner
Reporter Editor
Jul 11, 2010 | 9189 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HAVE IT YOUR WAY – Emilio Ortiz puts together a burrito with beans, corn, guacamole, and the hand-marinated chicken.
view slideshow (6 images)

It used to be hard to find a place to get a fast meal that still had fresh, healthy ingredients – but not so these days. Qdoba at 400 Washington St. in Hoboken is a great example of the fast-food alternatives that have cropped up over the last few years – and the Mexican meals are delicious, to boot. Loaded with everything from corn to guacamole to grilled veggies to shredded pork, the meals are made to order.


“Produce comes in every day except Sunday.” – Emilio Ortiz

While Qdoba is a chain, the Hoboken store was the first one to open in this area. Its success after it launched in 2001 led to a dozen more stores in New York City, New Jersey, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C., says local operations manager Emilio Ortiz.

Ortiz himself is a local success story. He grew up on Adams Street in Hoboken and attended the local Catholic schools. After he got married in 1988, he went to the Hispanic Affairs Office in City Hall to find out about jobs.

He ended up as the night manager of a Burger King in Plainfield, the beginning of his love affair with the restaurant business and customer service.

Ortiz met Robert Palmer, who owned several eateries in North Jersey and opened Johnny Rockets in Hoboken in the 1990s. Ortiz became a manager at Johnny Rockets.

When Palmer became interested in the national Qdoba chain, Ortiz was selected as operations manager of the new site in Hoboken – a job he clearly loves.

On a given day, Ortiz can be seen asking customers at the tables how they are doing, and smiling as he puts together a made-to-order burrito.

Ingredients can include beans, chicken, beef, pork, rice, salsa, fresh vegetables, grilled vegetables, guacamole, and cheese.

“You don’t ever want to run out of queso in Hoboken,” Ortiz said, smiling as he described the most popular orders. “It’s our own recipe. We hand-marinate our chicken. We have no freezers, no can openers, no trans fat, no MSG.”

Unique experience

Qdoba is a spacious corner eatery that looks out on Washington and Fourth streets. With ample space, it provides tables and chairs as well as a counter where lone diners can sit in front of the windows and watch Washington Street’s foot traffic. The menu behind the counter offers a selection of ingredients for burritos, tacos, quesadillas, salads, and nachos.

Ingredients can include black beans, pinto beans, shredded pork, chicken, beef, cheese, various kinds of salsa, fresh vegetables, grilled vegetables, guacamole, and cheese.

“Hoboken is a health conscious town,” Ortiz said. “I think once they gave us a try, we really took off. The food is grilled, not fried. People can order it the way they want. They may say, ‘I don’t want rice because of the carbs, but I want beans for the protein.’ We work with our guests. I think that’s what made us a success. It’s a fresh product.”

He noted, “Produce comes in every day except Sunday. Being creative helps a lot. Plus, it’s fun.”

He said that recently, the “craft two” deal has taken off, in which patrons can have a smaller portion of two things on the menu – such as a burrito (various ingredients wrapped in a soft tortilla) and a salad.

“It’s a nice, friendly environment in a fast, casual restaurant,” he said. “People have fun in line preparing their meal. This is my hometown. It’s my favorite store.”

Fresh Mexican

What’s special about Qdoba is the number of combinations of healthy food that can go into a real treat of a meal.

Upon my visit on a Tuesday for lunch, I enjoyed a burrito stuffed with pinto beans, corn, guacamole, rice, queso, sour cream, lettuce, tomatoes, and onions.

I also had nachos with beans, corn, guacamole, and mango salsa.

Other items on the menu include gumbo (soup), chile BBQ burritos, poblano petso burritos, and fajita burritos. Most items range from $5 to $7.

Qdoba at 400 Washington St. is open Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Yes, Ortiz said, people do come in as early as 10:30 a.m.!) On Friday and Saturday it’s open from 10:30 a.m. until 3 a.m.

For more information, call 201-386-8974.

Caren Matzner can be reached at or

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet