Qdoba vs Chipotle: We Finally Tried Qdoba For The First Time

Both Qdoba and Chipotle have been in business near our house for years.  We don’t go all that often, maybe once every few months, but when we’ve wanted a big old burrito wrap (or bowl), we always ended up in the nearby Chipotle.  However, Qdoba recently moved about a quarter mile down the road on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the area.  The short move definitely seems to have helped business, as it’s always hopping.  It got us in the door, and we can now do a Qdoba vs Chipotle comparison.

Qdoba Vs Chipotle

OK, I’ll admit, part of what got us there was that we got a coupon in the mail.  A good ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ deal will work anytime.  But after we went, it made us realize that we’d been missing out!

It was pretty darn good!  It wasn’t perfect but it definitely made the list as far as places we’d visit now and then.

Here are some of the things we learned:

Qdoba has Queso

Chipotle is very well publicized for offering only fresh ingredients.  So they don’t offer anything the lines of gooey melted cheese.  Well, as much as I like fresh ingredients, I also like gooey melted cheese, so Qdoba gives you that option.  They have a couple of different varieties and they’ll put it on willingly for you.

Qdoba has free guacamole

I don’t like guacamole, not even a little bit, but my wife does, so regardless of my preference, it’s coming home with us.  Chipotle charges you a couple of bucks for a side of guac, where Qdoba feels that it’s part of the experience, so you get it at no extra charge.

Limit the rice

One thing that both my wife and I did was say ‘both’ when they asked what kind of rice we mb-2016-04-shellswanted.  They have two kinds.   I think that they basically doubled the amount of rice as both of ours seemed to have a LOT of rice.  Next time, we’ll either stick to one or ask for both but note that we don’t want as much.

Get some spice

I like a little spice but nothing overly spicy.  As such, I didn’t order anything that was spicy, and I probably should have.  You can get spicy queso, spicy salsa, and I think even one or two of the other things has some spice.  I got them all non-spicy and I realized that while what I had was tasty, it could have used a little bit of zip that would have come from getting something with a little extra spice.  Next time, I’ll order either the salsa or queso with spice.

Don’t forget the basics

There’s a lot to choose from when you get your burrito.  You can choose the type of meat, all the veggies, what kind of queso, salsa, etc.  I totally forgot to get sour cream, and realized it when I came home to eat.  Drat!  I love sour cream with my Mexican food.  Luckily we had some in the fridge, but considering it’s all included, I will make sure to get it next time.

So Which One Wins?

Quite honestly, the differences between Chipotle and Qdoba were so minimal that if you did a blind taste test, I would probably struggle to figure out which is which.  For us the determining factors are where we might have a coupon as well as which one is more accessible.  Believe it or not, the side of the road makes a big difference where both are located.

In the end, both can be considered, though we have been at Qdboa a lot more, as they’ve been more aggressive with coupons.

Readers, have you been to Qdoba?  What do you think?  Any ordering tips or secrets that I should know about for next time?  

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Book(s) Review: Last Hundred Year Trilogy by Jane Smiley

tI read a lot of books, as reading fiction is one of my favorite hobbies.  Every once in a while, one book hits me to where I want to share my thoughts.  The Last Hundred Year trilogy is actually three books that did just that!

I make great use of our public library, and I keep tabs on new books that they get through an RSS feed that gets updated whenever they get something in.  I’ll take a look, and will mark the book for a read if it looks interesting enough (and often, I’ll check Goodreads to see what other readers think).

mb-2016-02-booksAbout a year ago, a book appeared that I knew I’d like, called Some Luck by Jane Smiley.  It was the first book in a trilogy that she was releasing over the course of about a year that would chronicle a family over the course of 100 years, which happened to be 1920-2019.  Yes, the book goes ‘into the future’ but I’ll cover that at the proper time.

I was intrigued, the ratings for the book were good, and as she’s an accomplished author, it looked great.  I’ve recently completed the trilogy, and thought it was interesting enough to post a review, breaking down the review by each book.

Some Luck

The book starts off with Walter and Rosanna, the patriarch and matriarch of the Langdon family.  The story started with them  settling into their newly acquired farm in Iowa in 1920.  Every chapter covers one year, and each ‘year’ is told from the view of individual characters.  This early, many of the chapters are concentrated with just one person, but as the family tree expands, multiple perspectives can often be found within one chapter.

The bottom line is that I love this book.  The book talks about life on the farm, which is always of interest to me as I envision a ‘simpler time’, and keeps things interwoven with major events of the time, such as the Great Depression and World War II.

We’re introduced to their children as they are born, and we get to see them start to grow up and make their way in the world.  By the end of the book, which is now in the early 1950’s, most of the storytelling has shifted to the ‘2nd generation’ as many of them grow up and start to make their mark across the country.  This generation starts expanding the scope from beyond the farm and the town which it resides, which is very representative of the times.

This was a great book and I was extremely excited for more.

Early Warning

The second book opens after a major event took place at the end of the first book, which definitely puts the shift squarely on the 2nd generation.  The book focuses on Walter and Rosanna’s children, and of course, the next generation is introduced as the characters age.

The 2nd generation is probably the most impactful of the entire trilogy, since they’re the only generation that spans across all three novels.  You really feel that you’re getting to know these characters more so than any other ones, so this is a very enjoyable novel.

Most of the Langdon family turns out to be very successful, and again, the different events of the times are interwoven into the storyline, through the story is really very character driven.

By the time the third generation is fully ‘populated’, if you will, the number of characters to keep track of has grown substantially.  There is a family tree in the front of each book, and at about mid-way through the 2nd book, you often have to go back and reference what lineage a character might be part of, especially, as is often the case, several chapters might go by between having a character in focus.

At the end of the book, we’ve hit the late 1980’s and since that’s the time where I really became aware of the world from a ‘big picture’ perspective, it’s really cool to read this story and having a point of reference from the time and what was going on.

The storytelling was great, though with all the extra characters, it made it more difficult to ‘bond’ with the characters.  Still, I became very excited to see how things wrapped up.

Golden Age

This book wraps up the 100 years, going through present time (2015 as that’s when the book was released).  It even extended out four years into the future.

As I said before, I was really excited to see how things turned out.  I really wanted to like this book.  I wanted to love it.  But as you can maybe guess from me saying that, I didn’t.

I knew that the 2nd generation would be phased out and that the 3rd and even 4th generations would be the focus.  That happened, but the main problem is that the characters became even less relate able and more unlikeable.

The main bit of disappointment was that, as soon as the book moved into the 21st century, the family and their actions went from the primary focus to the secondary focus.  What became the primary focus, then?

Politics.

Around the turn of the century, every character became focused on politics, to the point where it was distracting.  The author obviously leans very much liberal.  While I have no problem with this, I found her insertion of her beliefs very distracting.  Up until this point, her characters were multi-dimensional.  You could have a character that did bad things but still be written as a ‘good’ person, or vice versa. Once Bush v. Gore took place, that went right out the window.  Characters were either good (Democrat) or bad (Republicans).

And, the level of this went to the point of absurdity.  At one point a couple was planning a winter vacation so that they could go somewhere warm.  The characters looked Florida as an option but they rejected it.  Why? Because Rick Scott was the governor.

Now, I’ve been politically minded about various things in the past.  I know people that are fiercely political.  Yet as cuckoo as I’ve seen people get about their politics, this was crazy.   I’ve never seen someone write off a potential trip because they don’t like the governor of the state.

Yet, this is how it is in this book.  And, it’s not just a couple of passionate characters.  Nope, it’s pretty much every one.

While reading through the first 80-85 years, I wondered why she wrote a few years of future time.  Once the book turned to politics, I suspected I had my answer.  I think she wanted a platform to stand up and preach her platform.  And that’s exactly what happened.

All in all, this was a very disappointing conclusion to the series, and the shift was unnecessary.

Rating Each Book In The Last Hundred Year Trilogy

Some Luck: 5 Stars (out of 5)
Early Warning: 4 Stars
Golden Age: 2 Stars

In summary, I would definitely recommend this series if you like fiction and the living history genre.  However, I would advise skipping anything past 1999.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Thoughts On Amazon Prime Benefits

We joined Amazon Prime last fall.  Tjey offered a $32 discount on their normal $99 price as a one-day promotion for new customers. Since we had considered it in the past, we decided to take the leap.  Now that we’ve had it for just over three months, I figured it would be a good opportunity to evaluate things.  There are a number of Amazon Prime benefits that we enjoy.

2-Day Shipping / Convenience

Having access to two-day shipping definitely opens worlds of opportunities.  I took a look at my account as well as mb-2016-01-boxesmy wife’s account.  Between October 1, 2015 and January 11, 2016 (when I started writing this article) we placed 23 orders from Amazon.  In the same period one year earlier, we placed 6 orders.  That’s nearly a 400% increase in the number of orders.  We definitely increased our cardboard recycling output!

Not all of these are directly attributed to having the two-day shipping, but I can tell you that quite a few of them definitely are.

One area to watch for is to make sure you look for deals.  It’s easy to just look at Amazon as the only option.  Remember, it’s not.

We recently realized that we needed a new car seat for one of our kids.  The old seat had ‘expired’ as it was past six years old.

I whipped out my phone and looked up booster seats.  I settled on one that we liked that was around $24.  My wife pointed out that I should look it up on Target.com.  I did and it was $20.  Plus, with our Target card, we save an extra 5%, which brought it to $19.  Plus, it was available for pick-up at our local store!

It just goes to show that Amazon makes it very convenient, to the point where you need to remind yourself to shop around.  Since then, I’ve made it a point to better pay attention before simply clicking the Purchase option at Amazon.

Movies and TV

With Prime membership, we get access to their video library.  We can rent or purchase movies, often at a discount, and they also have a rotating library of streaming content that is available at no charge.

My wife has been using the streaming option for awhile, having found a few things that she likes.  I just recently set it up on our Roku so that I could watch it on TV.  The only thing that I’ve gotten through actually watching is the 8th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm.  Outside of that, I’ve only browsed.  The content seems rather limited compared to Netflix, but the price is right, I suppose.

Bottom line, I wouldn’t sign up for Prime solely for their free watchable content, but as a side perk, it’s nice to have.

Music

Last year, I had a free three month subscription to Google’s streaming music service, and I fell in love with it.  However, the $10 per month charge was pretty steep, so I sadly let it expire.  They had a great selection of music that I could pull up and listen to, and the app was really easy to use on my mobile phone.

When I found that Amazon Prime included access to streaming music, I was pretty excited.  I downloaded and installed the app, and started using it pretty regularly.  My thought is along the same lines as the Movies and TV element, in that it’s nice to have as a free add-on, but it wouldn’t be worth paying for on its own.  In fact, it doesn’t really even compare to Google Music in terms of my experience so far.  Let me explain:

  • App Navigation – I really don’t care for the navigation of the app.  It’s just a little clunky.  Plus, whenever I open the app, I’m never where I want to be.
  • Basic Info – I like to see things like the album release date when I find an album I like.  Amazon simply doesn’t have this info at first glance.  I can’t find that you can customize it, either.
  • It’s Not Shared – Even though you can share many Prime benefits between people in your household, Music is not one of them.  My wife signed in and tried to use Music with her account, and no bueno.

Books

To be honest, I haven’t set up the Kindle app or even tried to see if I can use any type of e-reading benefits from being a Prime member.  I don’t have an actual Kindle, so I suspect that some of the benefits are limited or non-existent.

Storage

You get a few GB of cloud storage plus unlimited storage of photos, but we haven’t yet set this up.

Would We Pay Full Price?

At this point, we definitely enjoy the convenience.  As we get more used to using some of the features on the streaming music and video side, I think we’ll capture even more benefit.  It’s hard to say what we’ll do in the fall when our membership comes due, but I would lean toward us renewing the Prime membership if we had to decide today.

Readers, are you Prime members? What are your experiences with any of the items I’ve noted above or anything that I might not have mentioned?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Our Disney World Experience: Disney World Dining

This is the 4th post in my series on our recent trip (November 2015) to Disney World.  This was a huge trip for our family, one that we consider ‘once in a lifetime’ and that my wife planned out to give us the most magical and memorable experiences.  I’ve already talked about our visits to the parks as well as our hotel, so I wanted to concentrate on Disney World Dining.  It’s definitely worth a post of its own.

Meal Plan

We decided to dine at Disney with the standard meal plan.  With that plan, you get one full service meal, one quick service meal, and one snack per day.  You can divide how you use up your dining credits over the course of your trip. Our plan ended up technically being ‘free’ because we upgraded to a deluxe hotel during our stay, and Disney offered the ‘free dining’ option to entice visitors.  And, it did as things were hopping!

Tips On Planning

If you plan on eating at Disney, you will want to be prepared in order to really enjoy your experience.  Here are a few things we learned:

Know what you want

Disney has all sorts of options.  They have fancier options, things that lean toward kid friendly, and everything in between.  We wanted a few ‘character’ meals where the characters will walk around and pose for pictures, and knowing this type of preference up front helped us focus our list.

Plan your days in full

We set out a rough plan of what park we wanted to go to on what day.  In some cases, we planned the park around the dining options available, and in some cases it was the opposite.  Either way, you have to have a plan. However…

Be flexible

You can start booking your dining reservations (I think) 180 days out from the start of your trip. mb-2016-01-ears You want to have a list of places that you want to go, and have an idea, but be flexible.  You may see that a ‘must dine’ place is not available on your preferred day, but is available on a different day, and if that happens, you might have to act quickly.

Don’t lose hope

After you make all your plans, you may find that you’ve settled on some options but don’t lose hope.  There are apps you can download that will allow you to plug in where you want to go and when, and they’ll send you an alert if something opens up.  The problem is that there are probably others who are getting the same alert at the same time, so be prepared to act quickly.

Use resources and past experience

We had a great book we bought off Amazon, plus a plethora of web sites that we used to get our information.  Everybody will find what’s important to them (and hopefully this post helps some), but use the information that’s out there to make sure that you’re getting the best experience.

Our Favorite Disney World Dining Options

Now, onto some of the memorable dining experiences we had.  In each case, I outlined the name of the restaurant, where it was, the type of dining credit that was used, and some thoughts that I hope help.

1900 Park Fare

Grand Floridian Resort – Table Credit – We dined here on our arrival night, and it was a character dinner with Cinderella and some other characters.  It was a buffet and the food was good.  We had an awesome waitress, who was friendly, great with our kids, and gave us some tips that helped us not only at this meal but in just about every other character meal we had afterward.  One of our best Disney meals!

La Hacienda de San Angel

Epcot – Table Credit – We had a dinner reservation as we really enjoy Mexican food, and it’s one of our favorite dine-out options at home.  While there was nothing wrong with the meal, I think that we had higher expectations but it really wasn’t much above some of the options we have at home.  While we enjoyed it, there was nothing earth shattering and we’d probably skip it in the future.

Hollywood N Vine

Hollywood Studios – Table Credit – Another buffet meal that was character based.  It was a good time but the kids were tired, and the characters took quite a bit of time before they made their way to our table.  We actually had another reservation booked at this restaurant for later in the trip, but ended up cancelling it.

Be Our Guest (Breakfast)

Magic Kingdom – Quick Service – This was a really cool breakfast, as the experience of being in the Beast’s castle is the most memorable part, so much that we actually had a lunch and dinner here as well (the lunch was quick service and the dinner table service).  The food was good, and this was the only place where we were able to order in advance, which did make it nice in that the kids didn’t have to wait long to get their food once we arrived.

Tusker House (Breakfast)

Animal Kingdom – Quick Service (pretty sure) – This was another character meal and also a buffet, but had really good food.  In fact, all of the Animal Kingdom dining options seemed a step above most other parks.  We really enjoyed our location, the food, and the characters.  It was very relaxing but fun at the same time.

Sanna

Animal Kingdom Lodge – Table Service – Each deluxe resort has a full service restaurant, and this was a spur of the moment change that we made.  I am not really one to try ‘new things’, so the idea of eating traditional African food was a bit scary to me, but I went with it, and I am glad I did!  The food was really good.  Definitely get the add-on bread service as that’s a basis for the entire meal.  The wait staff was very friendly, the ambiance was great, and while the kids got a little bored by the end, they still enjoyed themselves and the food.

Cinderella’s Royal Table

Magic Kingdom – Table Service (2 credits) – This is the premier reservation, as you actually dine right inside Cinderlla’s Castle.  Pretty snazzy!  Expectations are high, and that’s actually why we dined there twice as our first experience was less than stellar.  We were very rushed and had less than accommodating wait staff, largely because we were the last lunchtime reservation and they were focused on turning things over for the upcoming dinner meal.  We spoke to the manager, and he apologized and offered for us to come back at no charge.  That experience was wonderful.  It was one of our best dining experiences!

In fact, when I e-mailed the manager later in the day to thank him, I said that the breakfast experience was exactly as our family had imagined that dining in ‘the castle’ would be, and thanked him for making sure that we had that.

Wolfgang Puck Express

Disney Springs – Quick Service – This was a spur of the moment decision for us to head to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) and we loved it.  We all got pasta and really enjoyed the quick and easy experience.  In an earlier post, I mentioned how the quick service restaurants at the resorts seem a bit lacking.  See, they might not offer as much because they know that they have a ‘captive audience’.  However, we quickly found that it’s not really that much difference.  In the 45 minutes we might have stood in line to get disappointing food at our hotel’s quick serve, we were able to get ready and take a bus over.  We ended up with much better food and a great family dinner.

Mickey Shaped Stuff

The great thing about Disney World is that Mickey is everywhere, including in the food options.  It’s all over the place.  From waffles to pretzels to ice cream (my favorite), you’ll get to take a ‘bite’ out of Mickey just about anywhere you look!

There Was More

This barely scratches the surface of all of the different places we went and the food we ate.  Still, I wanted to highlight a few options that stood out.  It’s been a little over a month between the time that we got back and when I wrote this. I’d say that food is probably the first memory that tends to fade on a trip like this.  So, that these stand out means they are remarkable in some way.

I hope you found this helpful.

Readers, I’d love to hear your experiences with Disney World dining.  Let me know if I can answer any questions (in which case, the true answer will probably come from my wife as she put all the legwork into getting us well fed!)

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.