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THE EATBEAT: Design your own taco, burrito or salad in Qdoba's

If you are watching your carbs, cutting calories or trimming fat, the people in Qdoba's have literature that says they can help. You can, for instance, cut carbohydrates by ordering a Naked Burrito. That is all the innards served in a bowl withou...

If you are watching your carbs, cutting calories or trimming fat, the people in Qdoba's have literature that says they can help.

You can, for instance, cut carbohydrates by ordering a Naked Burrito. That is all the innards served in a bowl without the tortilla wrapping or with it on the side. You can cut fat by having a Naked Taco without the shell. And you can trim some fat by skipping the shell and having a Garlic Herb Grilled Veggie Naked Taco Salad.

And you wonder could that be any good? After three trips over to the shop just off 32nd Avenue South, I decided it is very good. One day, I tried a couple of Shredded Beef Tacos with a bowl of Tortilla Soup. The next trip over, I ordered a Naked Burrito. And on my third trip, I tried Mexican Gumbo, listed on the menu board as a new item.

This food has plenty of personality. You can move down the line and create your own order from fresh ingredients. You can make it as mild or as hot as you like it.

The Naked Burrito was a new concept for me when I went there with Daughter Gail (DG), who was hurrying back to Bismarck after a quick trip to Grand Forks. You end up with a plastic bowl full of ingredients for $5.79. And anyone who has eaten a burrito in Qdoba's knows there is a lot of taste and texture involved. To me, a carbonated drink tastes good with it. Drinks range from $1.29 soft drinks to $1.79 for tea and juices and $2.50 to $3 for beer.

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In the interest of research, I went back to Qdoba's a second time to try a Naked Burrito. I had beans, rice, corn, salsa, shredded beef; and I enjoyed every bite. It was a lot to eat, but then I am not a bird, and I don't eat like one.

On the way out, I stopped by a table where Arlyce Gibbs (AG) was eating Mexican Gumbo, and Lisa Hoplin (LH) was having a Naked Burrito with chicken. AG says she dreams about the gumbo.

So, I went back a third time and ordered Mexican Gumbo ($5.99). It is, indeed, an interesting concoction topped with tortilla soup and tortilla strips.

I sat near the window on a rainy Saturday afternoon and watched people stream in and out of Qdoba's. It seems to have a fairly steady business instead of a well-defined lunch and dinner period. There's a variety of music and a variety of ages of customers. Some families. Some students. Some older folks.

I dawdled, and I analyzed my Mexican Gumbo. I had half pinto and half black beans over my rice, some corn, some salsa, steak, hot sauce. Another time, I would order shredded beef or chicken instead of steak. I found the steak pieces to be too large and not too tasty.

Here's the drill in Qdoba's: Come in. Place your order at the counter. Move along and choose the ingredients you want. Pay up. Get a container for a drink, if you want one.

There is seating for about 80 in booths, at tables and along a high counter near the front of the shop. The place is quite attractive with walls painted in pleasing tones of orange, blue, lime green and beige. On one wall, there is a large mural of people preparing Mexican food the same mural you find in all Qdoba shops across the country.

The local shop, which has been open for 2 years, is franchised by Grant Hensrud of Grand Forks and Todd Fisher of Fargo. They also operate Qdoba shops in Bismarck, Fargo and Moorhead.

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Qdoba's is a cheery place to eat. Sometimes, it is hard to hear the voices of the people behind the counter because of the music. Until you have been there a few times, you are not sure of all the choices available. On a recent busy Saturday, the place was slightly messy until a staff member had time to come out and do a quick cleanup. The steel-topped tables seem sanitary. There are tables and chairs out in front awaiting the warm weather. And coming in May is a new mango salad.

If you like tailoring your order to suit your tastes, Qdoba's is a good choice. But don't delude yourself into believing you are eating light when, for instance, you leave off a tortilla shell. A Naked Burrito still can run you 600 calories.

People counting carbs, calories or fat intake can pick up Qdoba's nutritional facts folder at the entry.

Reach Hagerty at mhagerty@gfherald.com or (701) 772-1055.

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