FOR SAVANNAH folks, a trip to the wilds of Pooler may seem like a long ride, but with yet another wonderful offering now available to those who love good Tex-Mex, believe me when I tell you: Tijuana Flats makes it well worth the drive!
Not a Mexican restaurant in the traditional sense but a potent blend of Texas and Mexican cuisine served up as fresh as any foodie could want, they offer a great menu of delicious eats for lunch and dinner.
Founded in Winter Park, FL by Brian Wheeler in 1995, Tijuana Flats was created by a college kid who just loved good Tex-Mex and had a deep passion for hot sauces in general. He ended up creating his own line of hot sauces shortly thereafter—the “Smack My Ass & Call Me Sally” brand, which includes some of the hottest sauces in the world.
He made sure his restaurants had a fun, laid-back feel for not only guests but those work for him, and his insistence on absolutely fresh ingredients, as well as a willingness to take part in local community projects and worthy causes, pushed Tijuana Flats to the forefront of the new fast-casual dining scene.
Everything here is beautifully presented, exquisitely fresh-made to order and available with your choice of toppings, meats and sauces. If heat is what you’re after, be assured you will find a plethora of smokin’ sauces at their own Hot Bar, with a sign posted over it: “Use at your own risk!” and a Heat Scorecard for those who wish to approach with caution.
This is Fast Casual at its roaring good best. The servers are knowledgeable, friendly and will happily clue you in as to the most-favored dishes.
I am ready to confess, I’ll eat just about any dish if it’s liberally garnished with avocado, and any place even remotely associated with Mexican food better have a GREAT, not just decent, guacamole if they wanna see me again.
If guac is yer thing, take yourself to Tijuana Flats, y’all, ‘because the guac here is a luscious blend of chunky, super-fresh avocado, a little purple onion and fresh chopped cilantro and a blessing to anyone who loves that little bumpy fruit.
Keep in mind, this is fast-casual Tex-Mex, not a Mexican restaurant, so to those who may fret that the chips and salsa here are not free, consider this: You’re paying for truly fresh-made salsa, which can be created to your individual heat preference, and in the end you should know that your chips and salsa, even the magnificent guacamole, are refillable for free.
That’s correct, my friends, you don’t pay for every bowl of that great guac, and the servers will even bring you a bag stuffed full of fresh chips and a sizable container to take home with you.
Another perk, in my opinion, is the wonderful taco salad, which I usually avoid because of the greasy fried shell in which they’re served—not here!
I ordered the whole wheat tortilla shell, which was so delicate, so perfectly and quickly cooked, that I actually doubted the thing was fried at all—I had to ask the server just to make sure.
The texture of the tortilla was firm but dry on the outside, lacking even a gleam of oil, and a bit flaky on the inside, a beautiful bowl for the exquisitely fresh salad.
Having watched numerous corporate “Mexican” fast food joints over the years, one becomes accustomed to seeing large bags of pre-cooked meats, guac mixed from green powder, and barely recognizable ground beef taco filling coming in from the freezer in back.
At Tijuana Flats, the chicken and beef are marinated, freshly cooked on site, and never pre-made. The flavor of the beef on the huge pile of nachos and the grilled chicken on the salad was perfectly spiced and cooked to order.
Even as a readily admitted carnivore I still like to give vegetarian dishes their space on my personal menu, so I am very pleased to say that the vegetarian burritos here, filled with beans, rice, crisply fresh veggies , sour cream—and plenty of guac, at least for me!—are simply wonderful.
Huge, well-stuffed and sporting a layer of melted, mixed cheese and green onion, they are big enough to share. They are also so tasty you really don’t miss the meat, and the variety of hot sauces with which to enflame them just adds to their succulence.
I’ve only tried one of the desserts but it was awesome: two brown sugar ‘n’ cinnamon crusted empanadas stuffed with plenty of fresh banana. Taken home and served with whipped cream they make such a delicious dessert that you’ll wish you’d ordered more of them. For in-store dining, just dip them in the creamy caramel sauce for a super-sweet treat!