Moe's Southwest Grill Vs. Qdoba: Who Has The Better Food?

There is no denying the popularity of quick-service Mexican restaurants like Chipotle, Qdoba, and Moe's Southwest Grill. These popular chains serve up southwestern-inspired eats in a convenient and affordable setting. These spots are different from authentic Mexican restaurants, instead offering Tex-Mex dishes that are inspired by the region.

When it comes to these chains Chipotle might have the most nationwide name recognition, but it's far from the best Mexican fast food option. That honor would have to go to either Qdoba or Moe's Southwest Grill. Both of these are great choices for a quick and filling lunch, but which of these Chipotle competitors actually has the best food? If you're stumped choosing between Moe's and Qdoba — or just want us to confirm your bias — look no further. By comparing the menus, ingredient lists, and loyalty rewards we have determined which of these chains reign supreme in the world of Tex-Mex fast food.

Both chains serve Tex-Mex options like burritos, bowls, tacos, and quesadillas

On the surface, the menus at Qdoba and Moe's Southwest Grill are very similar. Both chains specialize in southwestern and Tex-Mex dishes that are easy to chow down on the go. Burritos, burrito bowls, and quesadillas are staples on both menus. Both chains sport the same Subway-style of service that allows customers to customize their dishes as they go down the line to the register. So, as you can see, it makes a lot of sense to compare the two chains. They are direct competitors after all.

In addition to the standard burritos and bowls, both Qdoba and Moe's also serve tacos, nachos, and salads. Both chains are also known for their premium toppings, specifically the golden and delicious three-cheese queso sauce each establishment serves. Both Qdoba and Moe's have the option to add queso and guacamole to whichever item you've ordered. When it comes down to it, the cuisines, prices, and menus at these chains are comparable. The real difference between the two restaurants is in the specific details. 

Both chains have fans clamoring for the queso

If you ask a random person who has better queso between Moe's and Qdoba, you likely aren't going to get a wishy-washy answer. Each chain has its staunch defenders. If you're a queso person, which chain you end up frequenting may come down to a matter of personal preference.

The truth is you can't go wrong at either establishment. Both of these chains are known for their queso dips. Qdoba in particular has leaned into the customer devotion to their three-cheese dip by promoting special offerings and menus over the years. Even though they don't have as vocal of a fanbase, the chips and queso are hands down top of the list of best items on the Moe's menu.

Moe's regular queso includes diced jalapenos, which gives it an extra flair when compared to Qdoba's dip. This addition doesn't only add heat but an extra layer of flavor. However, Moe's only has one option for queso while Qdoba always has at least two, and sometimes more during special promotions. Regardless of if the Qdoba location you go to has any special queso, heat seekers will always be able to choose the option for the spicy Queso Diablo over the regular variety. When it comes down to it, picking a winner on the queso front is an impossible task. Each chain has its defenders who will swear up and down that their favorite is the one with the queso supreme.

Moe's Stack is a fresh take on a Taco Bell favorite

If you love Taco Bell's Crunchwrap Supreme and you haven't tried the signature dish at Moe's Southwest Grill, you haven't truly lived yet. The Moe's Stacks are the most outrageous and non-traditional item on both of these menus. Similar to a Taco Bell Crunchwrap, Moe's Stacks layer your choice of protein, beans, shredded cheese, salsa, and queso between two crunchy corn shells. Your delicious creation is then wrapped in a flour tortilla and grilled to hot, melty perfection.

The advantage the Stack has over the Taco Bell favorite is the variety of ingredients offered at Moe's. Starting off with proteins, you can get your choice of chicken, pork, tofu, or steak in a Stack. The rest of the fillings are entirely up to you. You can load it up with veggies and salsa or you can go wild and ask for rice — no one will judge you. Did we mention that the Stack includes Moe's Queso at no extra charge? Not only does the Stack put Taco Bell to shame, but it gives Moe's Southwest Grill a leg up over Qdoba in the form of an exclusive, signature item.

Qdoba lets you top your entrées with guac and queso at no extra charge

One major perk that gives Qdoba a leg up over Moe's is that Qdoba gives all guests the option for free guacamole and queso with any entree at no extra cost. Qdoba marketing has leveraged this policy as a way to get one up on Chipotle, the chain's biggest competitor, where the guac is always extra (via CNBC). If you're the kind of person who knows you'll always want guac and queso in your bowls, you'll find Qdoba winds up being the most affordable option among its competitors for this reason.

Moe's winds up not quite stacking up to Qdoba's laissez-faire guac policy, but the chain does manage to at least beat Chipotle too. The Homewrecker Burrito and Bowl options at Moe's include guac for only a slightly higher price point. All Moe's Stacks also come with queso inside if you would like — and we encourage it — at no extra charge. All these options are solid, but they fail to measure up to the gold standard Qdoba has set.

Moe's gives away free chips and salsa with every meal

A great perk that makes Moe's stand out to first-time customers is the salsa bar. If you visit a Moe's location in person and go through the order line, you will always be given a side of chips and free salsa. Once you've picked up your order, you will be encouraged to stop by the salsa bar, where there will be a variety of fresh salsas of varying heat levels for you to serve yourself. The vast offering of fresh salsas you can get at Moe's Southwest Grill gives the in-restaurant dining experience an edge over its competitors, including Qdoba. Trying each of the salsas that are being served each day is always a fun accompaniment to your meal. 

If you are picking up from Moe's or ordering online, don't worry, you will also be able to enjoy the chips and salsa. When ordering your item you will be able to select whether or not you want the free chips and salsa and you can pick a salsa option. You just won't be able to sample as many this way, but you will still get your free chips and dip regardless of how you order your Moe's.

Moe's offers a variety of veggies and toppings not sold at Qdoba

There are some toppings these Tex-Mex chains could never get away without serving. Sure there's queso and guac, but various salsas, sour cream, lettuce, and grilled veggies are all standard toppings at both Qdoba Mexican Eats and Moe's Southwest Grill. Each of the chains has toppings the other doesn't offer, but in the end, Moe's extra offerings wind up being more substantial.

In addition to grilled onions and peppers, Moe's offers grilled mushrooms as a veggie option as well. The chain also offers vegetables Qdoba doesn't, like black olives and cucumbers. While Qdoba offers pickled Jalapeños and pickled onions, Moe's gives the option for fresh or pickled Jalapeños. Customers can also add bacon to their items for an additional price at Moe's, a savory option Qdoba doesn't offer. This allows Moe's to offer specialty items like the Chicken Club Quesadilla.

Qdoba has a rotating special menu of seasonal items and ingredients

While Qdoba's menu lacks some of the best dishes and toppings you can get at Moe's, the competing chain makes up for it in other ways. While the main menu at Qdoba is available all year round, the company also makes an effort to usually have specialty or seasonal items on sale for a limited time only.

Over the years, Qdoba has experimented with many special ingredients and flavorful twists on its traditional Tex-Mex cuisine. Most recently, at the time of this writing, the chain added Birria-style brisket, gracing the menu alongside the specialty QuesaBirria Quesadilla and QuesaBirria Burritos. The chain also frequently attempts innovations based on its most popular items. The cheese-crusted quesadillas were added to the menu in 2022 at many participating locations. In comparison, the menu at Moe's is fairly stagnant, which might lead to patrons getting burnt out on the food quicker if you tend to make weekly trips to one of these chains. 

Both chains have kids menus, but one features healthier sides

Both Qdoba and Moe's Southwest Grill offer pretty substantial options for younger diners. One of them gives you more bang for your buck and won't leave your kid hungry. However, the other restaurant has healthier side and drink options for you to choose from.

At Moe's, all kids' meals come with an entree, chips and salsa, a drink, and a cookie. Kids have the choice of a single taco, a kid-sized quesadilla, or a burrito with any protein of their choosing. This is a lot of food for one youngster's meal, so that's a big plus value-wise. However, each meal does come with a soft drink and a cookie and no substitutions. This can definitely add to the sugar and calorie count of the meal. 

Qdoba has a slightly different kids' meal menu, letting you choose between a small quesadilla, a serving of nachos, or a two-taco meal. Qdoba offers more customization compared to Moe's, letting parents choose sides and drinks from a list. For sides, you can get rice, beans and cheese, chips, or applesauce. Unlike Moe's, Qdoba doesn't serve kid soft drinks. Instead, Qdoba kids' meals come with a choice of water, juice, or milk. However, if you do want a cookie in your Qdoba kids meal the chain offers desserts — it is just going to cost you a little bit extra.

Qdoba is open for breakfast

Who among us doesn't love a breakfast burrito on the weekend? These perfect creations are the ideal way to start the day and recover from the night before if need be. But between Qdoba and Moe's, you are only going to be lucky enough to find one place that offers fast food breakfast. That chain is Qdoba.

To make it perfectly clear, not all Qdoba locations are open for breakfast. However, according to the website, breakfast bowls, burritos, and quesadillas are available at select Qdoba locations. In addition to the classic eggs and breakfast potatoes in every dish, Qdoba also offers a special meat for breakfast. Ordering breakfast is the only way to get to try Qdoba's chorizo, a spicy smoked Spanish sausage that is ground up and cooked again. This protein is the perfect companion to the scrambled eggs, salsa, and sour cream in the breakfast burritos and bowls. Qdoba also offers coffee and juice drink selections in the morning. 

Both chains have different but equally tasty vegetarian options

Despite the widespread adoption of plant-based options offered everywhere from fine dining establishments to Burger King, many chains still struggle to offer satisfactory vegetarian and vegan options for diners. Qdoba and Moe's Southwest Grill have both attempted to tackle this with these additions to their menus over the years. Each chain has always offered the option to get your entree with just veggies as the main. However, they now each offer protein-based alternatives that give vegetarian and vegan customers an extra option.

Qdoba has recently taken the trendy route and added the plant-based Impossible Meat to its menu in 2019 (via Vox). Qdoba's meatless option meat is texturally similar to ground meat like beef or turkey so it goes really well inside a burrito, bowl, or as a filling in tacos. Moe's doesn't offer any plant-based meat options, but they do serve tofu. The organic tofu at Moe's is cubed, seasoned, and grilled. It's worth noting that Moe's notes on its website that all locations cook veggies and tofu on a separate grill from the meat, which is encouraging for those with allergies or severe dietary restrictions.

Both restaurants have mobile apps with rewards programs

Like many quick-service and fast-food chains, Qboda and Moe's both offer mobile apps that allow diners to cash in loyalty for rewards. Both chains have apps on iOS and Android that let you earn points you can eventually spend on free food. Here's how they work.

Moe's app is fairly straightforward. You can customize and order on your phone for pickup or delivery. The simple rewards system earns users one point for each dollar they spend at Moe's. Every 100 points you collect will earn you $10 in free food. You also can get a free cup of queso and a birthday meal just for downloading and signing up for Moe Rewards. Plus, app members can kick off the week with a special discounted meal when they eat there on Moe Mondays.

Qdoba offers a similar mobile experience that allows and rewards users for customizing and ordering online. Once you sign up for the Qdoba rewards you will automatically attain Foodie Status, which will earn you a free entree with every 125 points earned, or dollars spent. The special twist here is that after 12 visits in a calendar year, you will level up to Chef Status. This earns you the option for $2 chips and queso at every visit for the rest of the calendar year. For Qdoba queso heads, this is one heck of an incentive to use mobile ordering.

Both chains do catering for large parties

When it comes to catering, Moe's and Qdoba offer nearly identical services and menus. If you want your office party or next kid's birthday catered by one of these southwestern grills, you are going to have to base your choice on personal preference. Everything from local delivery options to hours of operation can also be decision-making factors. 

Both Qdoba catering and Moe's offer a variety of options and will deliver and set up the food by themselves. By and large, the two main options for feeding a large group are either a hot bar or individually boxed meals. Each establishment offers both options. In addition to taco and burrito bars and individually packaged entrees, both chains also offer to serve chips, dips, and desserts with their catering packages.

The one main category where Qdoba tops Moe's in this regard is the rewards. Qdoba allows you to earn rewards points for your catering orders, which Moe's catering does not. Although according to the FAQ, the chain is working on it. Qdoba also offers the option to cater breakfast with breakfast burritos while Moe's does not serve breakfast. It is worth reiterating that Qdoba only serves breakfast at select locations.

Moe's delivers family style build your own meal kits

As established, both chains will cater large events. But what about that smaller family get-together? What if you want a taco bar for movie night but don't need the exorbitant amount of food required for a catering order? Well, in that case, only one of these two chains has got you covered.

Moe's provides a menu option that fills this need and allows large groups to eat family-style meals while still enjoying the restaurant's ingredients. For the price of a handful of entrees, you can order a meal kit from Moe's that serves the whole family — either in the form of tacos, fajitas, or build-your-own nachos.

Each Moe's meal kit comes with your choice of two proteins, lettuce, shredded cheese, pico de gallo, rice, beans, and sour cream. The taco and fajita kits come with a stack of taco-sized flour tortillas, as well as a bowl of chips and queso. The nacho kit comes with extra chips and two bowls of queso, as well beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, jalapeños, and salsa. These options are perfect for feeding a family or any group of four to six hungry people.

So which one is better?

As you can see, despite seemingly similar menus and styles there are numerous subtle differences between the offerings at Moe's Southwest Grill and those at Qdoba Mexican Eats. Compared to one another they each have strengths and drawbacks. In the end, though, we had to side with Moe's Southwest Grill over Qdoba for the following reasons. 

Qdoba's biggest advantages are its freebies and constantly evolving menu. Being open for breakfast in some states doesn't hurt its chances either. While these factors make the competition pretty close, we still ultimately landed on Moe's as the winner. 

The decision comes down to the Moe's having a more diverse menu. Plus, we cannot deny the power of the Stack, Moe's finest achievement. You don't get free guac and queso with every entree, but the free chips and salsa more than make up for this. You might pay a similar price for a filling meal at both Qdoba and Moe's Southwest Grill, but Moe's will give you more options for fresh toppings and fillings while also giving away a side of chips and delicious salsa with each meal.