An unlikely contender beat out Chipotle and Taco Bell as America's favourite Mexican chain

Moe’s Southwest Grill has triumphed over Chipotle and Taco Bell in the battle of the Mexican fast-food chains.

The chain received the top spot in the fast-casual Mexican category in Harris Poll’s annual EquiTrend Study. This is the second year in a row Moe’s has been crowned the Mexican champion in the study, which asks respondents to rate brands based on familiarity, quality, and how likely they are to consider purchasing its items.

“Moe’s has a unique tie to pop culture and knack for engaging customers that’s appealing to its core consumer,” Joan Sinopoli, vice president of brand solutions at Harris Poll, said in a statement.

Moe’s beat out the one-time category favourite Chipotle, which led the Mexican sector from 2013 to 2015. The chain has struggled to make a comeback in the poll since its E. coli scandal in late 2015. 

Baja Fresh Mexican Grill and Taco Bell also beat out Chipotle, coming in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the category, respectively. 

Moe’s was founded in 2000, in Atlanta, Georgia.

The chain is known for its free chips and self-serve salsa bar. Moe’s menu is full of cultural references, like the “Art Vandalay” vegetarian burrito. 

The chain’s name isn’t an ode to a man called Moe — it’s an acronym for “Musicians, Outlaws and Entertainers,” Mental Floss reports.

In a review comparing Moe’s and Chipotle, Business Insider’s Hollis Johnson noted that there was one area where Moe’s easily defeated its rival: queso.

“It’s rich and savoury, and I have no idea what’s in it apart from cheese,” Johnson writes. 

Today, Moe’s has more than 600 locations worldwide.

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