It is said that Macayo’s owner Woody Johnson invented the chimichanga in 1946 when he dropped a few burritos in a deep fryer at his original restaurant, Woody’s El Nido, at 37 West McDowell Road. His fried burritos were a hit, and when Woody’s El Nido evolved into Macayo’s a few years later, the chimichanga was one of the restaurant’s most requested menu items. It stayed on the menu ever since.
Fast-forward 75 years to September. The Macayo’s team assembled in Ahwatukee for an attempt at the Guinness World Record for the longest chimichanga. On September 26, the restaruarant's 75th anniversary, a massive concoction of flour tortillas, shredded chicken, refried beans, signature spices, sauce, and cheese was measured at a whopping 25 feet long – a new record.
“We’re extremely proud to be the original developer of the world’s first chimichanga — and to have it become our signature dish," says Nava Singam, owner of Kind Hospitality Inc., which owns and operates Macayo’s. “In fact, since it was first created, we’ve proudly served 5 million chimichangas.”
But the restaurant chain didn’t stop there. As part the anniversary festivities, the brand dropped another doozy: Polish off a five-pound chimichanga at a select location is less than 20 minutes and win free Macayo’s for a year.
The five-pound chimichanga is a Goliath. For starters, it’s comprised of three 13-inch tortillas. (The chimi on the menu at Macayo’s is made up of one 13-incher.) From there, it’s constructed just like the one on the menu. The tortillas, or tortillas, are stuffed with 40 ounces of protein – shredded beef, shredded chicken or carnitas – mixed with Mexican rice and refried beans, deep fried, and topped with red enchilada sauce, Macayo’s Baja sauce, fire-roasted tomatillo sauce, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, mixed cheese, and Jack cheese.
For those up to the challenge, the five-pound chimi is available at select Macayo’s locations around the valley. (See list below.) Although I don’t usually eat extra-large meals anymore, I figured I’d channel my inner Joey Chestnut and make a run at the five-pounder. I headed to the Macayo’s at 6012 West Bell Road with my “eating team” in tow – my 100-pound wife and six-year-old daughter.
Before we sat down, I met up with the restaurant’s general manager, Shane Weismann, and assistant manager Isabel Medina, who laid out the ground rules.
“You have 20 minutes to eat the chimi,” Medina said. “There’s a timer. If you eat it, then you do get free Macayo’s for a year. If you eat it all, then you do get it for free. If you don’t eat it, then you have to pay for it.”
Medina said the reward breaks down to one free meal per month for a year – 12 meals in total. The chimichanga challenge costs $30 and it’s not listed on the menu. But, according to Weismann, it is a permanent thing.
“I’ve seen one person, in Ahwatukee, actually finish – and he did it in 10 minutes,” Weismann said.
From there, the Macayo’s team retreated to the kitchen and began constructing the colossus. Staff started to gather near the kitchen. Was this for me? Or someone was celebrating a birthday? My wife got a little nervous, as she was once ambushed on her birthday during her formidable teen years and was made to wear a sombrero while family, friends and staff sang happy birthday at the top of their lungs. Such things can leave a mark on a teenage girl, apparently.
But yes – it was for me. And here it came in all its glory, an Andre-the-Giant-sized chimichanga, complete with clapping waitstaff and plenty of smiles, but sans sombrero. OMG, this is really happening.
An iPad was placed on our table and 20 minutes was put on the timer. The staff left and I dug in. Despite its massive size, it was crispy, fresh and seasoned just right. I went with the carnitas because I thought it would be less filling? Keep in mind, I had no aspirations of downing this leviathan.
For a fella in his mid-40s, I kept wondering how 20- or 25-year-old me would have fared. You know, the guy who once downed 23 tacos at the local taco shack back home. I don’t know if it was adrenaline, the tasty food, or the loving support of my family, but I impressed the hell out of myself and made a damn good run at the thing – for six and a half minutes.
At the seven-minute mark, I hit the wall. Rather, I was rapped over the head with a five-pound chimichanga. It was the titanic, three-ounce scoops of sour cream and guac on top of it that really did me in. The more I ate, the more sour cream and guac melted down into the meat. As tasty as it was, I couldn’t go on. In total, I knocked off about one-third of it. We took the rest home.
Feel up for it? The challenge is eligible for dine-in only at these Valley locations:
- Ahwatukee – 12637 South 48th Street
- ASU Tempe – 650 North Scottsdale Road
- Glendale – 6012 West Bell Road
- Goodyear – 1474 North Litchfield Road
- Mesa – 1920 South Dobson Road
- Scottsdale – 8608 East Shea Boulevard
- Superstition Springs – 6538 East Superstition Springs Boulevard
- Surprise – 15565 West Bell Road
- Coming Soon: Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport – 6033 South Sossaman Road