The chimichanga, a crispy, deep-fried burrito filled with rice, meat, and beans topped with cheese, lettuce and sour cream has long been a popular Mexican dish. The origins of the dish have been hotly debated -- Phoenix or Tucson? -- but one thing that most everyone can agree on is that the chimichanga is definitely an Arizona specialty food; in fact, a petition was created to make it Arizona's offical state food.
In This Corner: Tee Pee Mexican Food
The Setup: Tee Pee Mexican Food is located in Arcadia, at Indian School Road and 42nd Street. The family-run restaurant opened its doors in 1958 and has since been serving up Mexican dishes to locals and visitors. In fact, Tee Pee has had many famous customers, including John McCain and the members of Pink Floyd and ZZ Top. The restaurant has a wall of fame with pictures of many well-known customers. The restaurant is split into three dining areas -- a small bar near the entrance, a main dining room with booths, and a patio. When we arrived around dinner time, the restaurant was extremely busy, so we chose to grab a seat at the bar area rather than a cramped booth in the dining room.
The Good: Although Tee Pee has a divey ambiance, the ceiling lights were a nice touch. Servers were friendly. As soon as we sat down, the server provided a big bowl of chips and salsa. The chicken chimichanga plate ($10.50) came out in about 10 minutes enchilada-style with warm melted cheese, sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and a side of rice and beans. Tee Pee has generous portions; we couldn't finish the whole plate so we took it to-go for later.
The Bad: The chimichanga lacked crispness on the outside and the restaurant was a little cramped, but no complaints other than those two things.
In The Other Corner: Carolina's
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The Setup: Carolina's, located at 1202 East Mohave Street, is a cinder block building that previously was a coin-op laundromat and a grocery store. It is a family-run hole-in-the-wall type of restaurant that has gained a huge following due to handmade tortillas and reasonably priced Mexican-American food. The interior of the restaurant is split into two rooms, a dining room similar to a cafeteria with bright yellow and red booths and a room with a window to order food.
The Good: We ordered a chicken chimichanga ($6.50) with sour cream and guacamole. Although the restaurant was packed during lunch time, our order was ready in under 10 minutes. The exterior of the chimichanga was crisp (like it should be) and was filled with shredded chicken and topped with lettuce and tomatoes.
The Bad: The chimichanga came in a to-go box and the restaurant had only plastic utensils, which made it difficult to cut the chimichanga. Although the chimichanga was hot, the cheese was not melted and just kind thrown on there. And the Winner Is . . . Tee Pee! While Carolina's chimichanga was fried to perfection, the restaurant is geared toward take-out food. Tee Pee wins based on portion size and dining experience.