Chimi Challenge: Macayo's vs. El Molino
Everybody tells the same story about how the chimichanga was invented: somebody accidentally dropped a meat-filled burrito into a fryer. And according to the publicity machine for Macayo's Mexican Kitchen, that somebody was its founder Woody Johnson, who opened his first restaurant here in Phoenix in 1946 and made serendipitous chimi magic . . . when? No one gives a date. Wouldn't someone remember?
--Chimichangas as Arizona's State Food? Five Foods to Put Up Against the Chimi
-- Macayo's and Others Make Deep-Fried Push for Chimichanga as State Food
I don't buy that story for a minute -- not from Macayo's or any other Mexican restaurant in Arizona (El Charro in Tucson also lays claim to the chimi's invention). And I'll tell you why.
Diana Kennedy -- the "Julia Child of Mexican Cuisine" who spent 45 years traveling through Mexico researching history, ingredients and technique -- the due-diligent person who spoke to grandmas all over the country and recorded their recipes, mentions "chivichangas" in one (if not more) of her nine cookbooks. So chimis aren't quite as gringo as people think.
What's so incredibly novel about deep-frying a burrito anyway? You think it took hundreds of years and a cook in the US to figure that out? The chimi was probably born in the cattle country of Sonora, where beef and flour tortillas are staples -- just as beef and white bread rule in the American Midwest.
But I digress. We are here today to determine who makes the better chimichanga -- Macayo's or El Molino -- two of the longest operating Mexican restaurants in Phoenix.