Flamin' Hot Rollies: beef rolled tacos topped by melted cheese, sour cream, and loads of crush Flamin' Hot Cheetos dust
When a friend of mine started working as an eighth grade teacher, he reported a wave of addiction sweeping through his classroom. The kids, as he told it, were hooked on Flamin Hot Cheetos.
The red and spicy version of the crunchy corn puff snack was so common, he had to reinforce the classroom’s no-eating rule to include a no Cheetos clause. Still, whenever he turned his back to write on the chalkboard, he’d hear tell-tale crunching behind him. Not that the kids could ever get away with it. All he had to do to find the rule-breaker was ask for a show of hands. Cheeto’s dust, especially the flamin’ hot variety, sticks to the fingers, and there’s no way around it. Every day, he was catching Cheetos eaters red handed.
1419 Hilltop Drive Unit D, Chula Vista
Since he told me that story, I’ve noticed how widespread and unrelenting Flamin’ Hot Cheetos has become in America. Take a look in the munchies aisle of a grocery store, and you’ll usually find that Flamin’ Hot shelves outnumber the original flavor. The brand has added an Extra Flamin’ Hot flavor, and another boasting a hint of lemon. That red Flamin’ Hot powder has been applied to other munchie brands as well. Last week, I found a bag of Flamin’ Hot Funyuns.
If you’re part of the Flamin’ Hot fanbase, you doubtlessly know the phenomenon has seeped into the restaurant world, too. I’ve spotted Flamin’ Hot dust added to everything from fried chicken tenders to poke bowls. So, it wasn’t terribly surprising to learn that a local taco shop has gone full bore Flamin’ Hot.
Chula Vista's little Tu Taco Taco Shop, established 2016
The redundantly named Tu Taco Taco Shop might otherwise have remained somewhat anonymous since opening in 2016. Its small storefront sits in an unremarkable shopping strip on a relatively untrafficked road in south central Chula Vista. Mostly, its menu hewed pretty close to the taco shop standard: burritos, tacos, a few breakfast items, carne asada fries, and tortas.
But the idea to add Flamin’ Hot Cheeto dust to burritos in 2017 has proven so popular, there’s now a dedicated Flamin’ Hot menu. Photos of these red-dust coated items now cover the shop’s windows:, including Flamin’ Hot Fries, Flamin’ Hot Mozarella Sticks, and a Flamin’ Hot Torta. Inside, there’s a painting of the Cheetos mascot — Chester Cheetah — and a neon sign reading “Made by the hot Cheeto king.”
A mural of Chester Cheetah and and a Cheetos-centric neon sign decorate the shop's interior.
And when I walked into the place to pick up my own Flamin’ Hot Burrito ($8.99), I spotted a massive plastic bag in the kitchen, filled with dozens of party size Cheetos, to fuel this madness.
That Flamin’ Hot burrito that started it all is an interesting beast. It’s similar to a California burrito, being that it rolls up a pile of carne asada fries. It features a healthy dose of chipotle salsa. But instead of being wrapped in a basic flour tortilla, it’s actually rolled up inside a large quesadilla: two tortillas pressed together with a center of melted cheese and that signature red dust.
The Flamin Hot Burrito, wrapped in a Flamin' Hot Cheetos quesadilla
The burrito’s served chopped in half to show off the flamin’ hot red ring around its saucy interior. People have started visiting from around the county to taste (and Instagram) the thing. May have noticed the other Flamin’ Hot menu items tend to feature the red crumble a little better: for example, the fully red coated serving of rolled tacos, dubbed Rollies ($7.25).
What I’ve come to realize it that Flamin’ Hot Cheetos have always been Mexican food. The corn-based snack jibes with masa and chili spice, to the point that, even though my Rollies were coated with the stuff, they didn’t taste all that different from a spicy set of rolled tacos. Perhaps next time, I’ll gird my stomach for something stronger: the Flamin’ Hot chimichanga!