Peter Shipman was a couple of years ahead of the fresh-Mex curve when he opened his first Qdoba Mexican Grill on South Main in 2003. Today, Ann Arbor is awash in salsa as chains like Chipotle and Moe’s Southwest battle it out for a share of the fresh-Mex market, but Shipman’s still at the front of the pack—in December he planned to open his third Qdoba franchise, on Plymouth Road next to Panera Bread, before the end of the year.
Qdoba specializes in burritos assembled to order. Customers choose from a dozen different models, including chicken poblano pesto, grilled vegetable, and steak, and then move down the counter adding their choice of beans, salsas, and extras like cheese and sour cream. Qdoba also sells quesadillas, tacos, taco salads, nachos, and soups. “People like the freshness,” Shipman says. “The only things we fry in our restaurants are our chips and our taco shells and our bowls we use for taco salads. And we buy all our produce from [locally owned] Frog Holler Produce.”
Keeping a local focus is important to Shipman. A fifty-one-year-old Ann Arbor native, he started in the restaurant business at sixteen, washing dishes at the Hungry Tiger, now Holiday’s, on Stadium, and spent nearly two decades with Domino’s Pizza, where he worked his way up to regional vice-president. And to come full circle, he worked at the Shell station at Washtenaw and Huron Parkway in high school—right across the street from where he opened his second Qdoba in 2005.
Qdoba Mexican Grill, 1771 Plymouth Road, phone unavailable at press time. Mon.–Fri. 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.–10 p.m., Sun. 11 a.m.–9 p.m. qdoba.com.