Tijuana Flats: A Florida Original

Although Tijuana Flats is now a chain restaurant, chains don’t just magically appear. Such is the case with Tijuana Flats. This taco joint is a favorite of college kids, young up and coming adults, and families alike.   It got its start right here in Orlando.

I will never forget my first visit to Tijuana Flats.  My junior year of college I lived right down the street from the very first location.  I sat outside with a cold beer in one hand and the most flavorful burrito to ever grace my tongue with its presence in the other.  College kid bliss.  To top it all off, I visited the hot sauce bar and experimented.  Years later, my husband bet me a round of sangria to taste the hottest sauce at the bar, stupidly I obliged.  It took a few seconds to come on, but when it did the heat was unbearable.  The always friendly staff immediately came to my aid with a huge cup of sour cream – fire extinguished.  But I digress.

Funky on the outside, super funky on the inside

In the late ’90’s a University of Central Florida student decided to open his own Tex-Mex restaurant / bar (thank goodness for a $20K loan from his dad).  The funky, comic book, alien takeover decor certainly set it apart, but the simply yet powerfully delicious Mexican style food made sparks fly. {I say Mexican style because this is not authentic Mexican cuisine that we are discussing here.  Nor does it try to be authentic.  It is just damn tasty food.}

Flash forward some roughly 15 years later and Tijuana Flats now has over 80 locations in five states. They have their own non-profit organization “Just in Queso“.  The menu has grown, but stayed within the comfy confines of simply delicious Mexican style food including big fat burritos, abnormally large crunchy tacos, loaded nachos, and more.  They also have fan favorite promotions like “taco Tuesday” offering two large tacos, chips, and drink for $4.99.

Recently, I tried what is now a new Florida favorite of mine.  Sure fish tacos may not be an original Florida recipe, but grouper is most definitely Florida’s fish.  If I wasn’t watching my weight, I would have happily had seconds or thirds of the delightful crunchy grouper taco. To add another notch of Florida food authenticity, I browsed the hot sauce bar and found many made in Florida sauces, including the beloved Ocean Deck Rasta Sauce from Daytona Beach.

One of the woes I hear most often from my transplant pals is how much they miss the food from back home.  Although, I certainly can empathize, there are plenty of Florida food treasures to uncover.  Florida may not have a staple like the Chicago dog or Philly cheesesteak, however, one need only to open their mind and look around to find Florida’s own original culinary delights.

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8 thoughts on “Tijuana Flats: A Florida Original

  1. It’s interesting to think about how some folks love independent restaurants but not chains and how that relates to a “hometown” one. This started as one restaurant and developed a loyal following because it was a unique concept at the time (one of the “fast casual” pioneers in this area). So now that’s it in five states, has it “sold out”? I still love it, but I wonder when chains reach that point of no return with some folks. Great post!

  2. Pingback: Rocco’s Tacos Rocks! « thisfloridalife

  3. Pingback: A Festive Friday at Food Truck Bazaar in Casselberry « thisfloridalife

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