Located centrally in Fort Walton Beach on Eglin Parkway, this outpost of the popular restaurant chain Tijuana Flats sits in an unassuming building in a small parking lot. The exterior is tropically painted in bright colors, with an artistic mural advertising its name and location.
When you step through the front doors, you enter a different world, with an unmistakably eclectic and funky vibe. Yellow trim accents purple walls that are positively covered in pictures, murals, and assorted décor. Round and rectangular wooden tables and chairs fill the room, surrounded by large windows looking out to the street. The counter where you order is built from a wood countertop perched atop corrugated metal that is covered in bumper stickers. Even the ceiling panels are painted, like tiny, colorful murals. Boxes of beer are stacked near the counter, and one wall of the restaurant features a “hot bar” offering many choices of hot sauces to add to your meal, announced boldly by a large mural on the wall. This place is divey in the best, most comfortable way.
The menu offers a few starters, including atom bombs (Tijuana Flats’ Mexican take on jalapeno poppers), and chips with your choice of salsa, guac, and/or two kinds of queso. Their smack wings, available in orders of 6 or 10, are served with chips and ranch dressing, can be doused in half a dozen different sauces, arranged on the menu from mild to spicy, with between one and four pepper icons denoting the spice level of each. Under the “Flats’ Favorites” category are familiar Americanized Mexican dishes, like steak flautas, carnitas chimichangas, fish tacos, and chicken burritos. However, the bulk of the menu is a customizable classic entrees section, which offers guests the chance to choose between tacos, burritos, bowls, salads, nachos, flautas, quesadillas, and chimichangas. Each comes with similar base ingredients (cheese, queso, pico, guac, sour cream, jalapenos, and, in some cases, rice and beans) and allows the diner to choose their protein. Protein options include chicken, beef, steak, carnitas, and refried or black beans.
Items are further customizable by adding on the “Make it a Meal” (adds cilantro lime rice, beans, and a drink), “Make it a Megajuana” (doubles the amount of meat and cheese in selected dishes), and/or “Make it Wet” (tops a burrito or chimichanga with queso or spicy chipotle sauce) options.
They also offer soft drinks, sangria, White Claw, and an assortment of beers. Look, this isn’t a white tablecloth, fancy dining establishment. In fact, they serve their food on paper plates. But that’s part of the charm of Tijuana Flats. If you’re looking for an unfussy, solid meal of American Mexican food in a fun environment, this is the place for you.
Here are a few items we really enjoyed from the menu:
Chips and Queso Blanco
Tijuana Flats offers two kinds of queso – queso blanco and their signature gold queso. We are partial to the cool creaminess of the queso blanco, and it didn’t disappoint. Paired with the salty crispiness of the chips, it was heavenly.
Baja Fish Tacos
From Flats’ Favorites, we had to try these fish tacos. Crispy fried cod combined with cilantro cabbage, pickled onions, and pico, is stuffed into soft corn and flour tortillas, and then topped with avocado and garlic lime sauces. Adding a little bit of a mild sauce from the hot bar really took this one to the next level.
Dos Tacos with Steak
We opted for soft tortillas filled with a warm, juicy steak, and made it a meal, adding on cilantro lime rice, black beans, and a soft drink. This was a filling, tasty meal at Tijuana Flats where all the components came together harmoniously.
Bowl with Chicken
This customizable bowl is basically a burrito without the tortilla. It’s comprised of cilantro lime rice, cheese, pico, sour cream, guacamole, jalapeños, and a choice of beans and protein. We chose refried beans and chicken. Together, this dish was warm, savory, and had just the right amount of spice. It was Mexican comfort food in a bowl.
-This location can get busy at lunchtime. Either plan to spend a bit of time here or choose to come later in the day.
-Tijuana Flats in Fort Walton Beach offers a dog-friendly patio, so feel free to bring your furry friend along for the ride!
-They’re known to run different specials, depending on the day and time of year. Be sure to check the website to see what deals might be available when you visit.
-Leaving Fort Walton Beach, but craving more Tijuana Flats? This chain has many locations throughout Florida, as well as some in North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, and Illinois. Check the website to see if there are any near you.