Chimichangas, like El Charro Café’s version pictured here, originated in Tucson in the 1920s, or so the story goes. 

Mamta Popat / Arizona Daily Star

“Do you like chimichangas? I mean, do you really like chimichangas?”

If you were around Tucson in the 1980s, you no doubt remember that commercial from Gordo’s Mexicateria, then owned by Diego Alfonso Valenzuela, aka Gordo.

Everybody, everywhere likes chimichangas, but the deep-fried burritos didn’t exist before they were invented, right here, in the 1920s.


Like all great food stories, this one involves an accident. Monica Flin, one of the original owners of El Charro restaurant, dropped a burrito into a pan where she was frying ground-beef tacos. She began to utter a common Spanish epithet, but children were nearby, so she changed it to “chimichanga,” which means “thingamajig” or something like that.

There are claims from other restaurants in other cities, states and countries on the origin of the chimichanga, but Tucson has the best one. It’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Make mine “enchilada-style.”

Contact reporter Tom Beal at or 573-4158.