Sunday, May 19, 2024

The Chipotle in Davis Square, Somerville, is only one of five existing or proposed sites in the fast food chain north of Boston on the red line. (Photo: Eric Hatch)

Chipotle Mexican Grill really, really likes Cambridge.

The fast food restaurant chain already has locations at Alewife (227 Alewife Brook Parkway) and Harvard Square (1 Brattle Square), as well as one in Somerville’s Davis Square (276 Elm St.), probably close enough to Porter Square to make an actual Porter Square location unnecessary.

But a Kendall Square spot is well under way, with its signs already having replaced most of those for Champions bar and restaurant at 2 Cambridge Center, and as a March 22 hearing of the Board of Zoning Appeal cleared the way for one in Central Square at 600 Massachusetts Ave., replacing a Wendy’s.

That more or less covers every stop on the red line north of Boston.

Lechmere, Cambridge’s stop on the green line, also lacks a Chipotle. (One wonders for how long.) But it does have a locally owned Mexican eatery in Boca Grande, just as Harvard Square has Felipe’s and Central has Picante Mexican Restaurant. Alewife residents have farther to go for Mexican food — to Jose’s, which is nearly in Porter — but there are Anna’s Taqueria sites in Harvard, Porter and Davis squares and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Sometimes I have a burrito craving,” student Bonny Jain told Bruno B.F. Faviero, a reporter for the institute’s Tech newspaper. “Which an Anna’s burrito right in the middle of campus can satisfy.”

Chipotle, based in Denver, Colo., opened with a single restaurant in 1993 and has grown to more than 1,250 restaurants.

A representative of Chipotle was asked for comment Friday on Cambridge’s appeal to the chain — although what’s not to love? — but its website offers some clues. A section asking visitors “Want a Chipotle in your backyard?” has criteria that must be checked off for a site to be considered, including a strong residential and daytime population, as well as nearby office, retail, university, recreation or hospitals and “preferred site criteria” such as a size of 1,000 to 2,800 square feet with a a minimum 25-foot frontage; appropriate zoning for dining and a beer and margaritas liquor license and “excellent” visibility and access.

There’s been a push for sidewalk dining throughout the city, matching the company’s preference for having patio seating, and having beer and margaritas isn’t unimaginable. The only way the Kendall and Central sites could have disappointed is in their lack of obvious parking, which is another company preference.