Florida-based Tijuana Flats opens first Illinois restaurant in Oakbrook Terrace.

This article was published on DailyHerald on 5/30/22.

A DuPage County family had to wait 15 years to open the first Illinois location of Tijuana Flats. The popular Florida-based Tex-Mex restaurant chain has set a local opening date of June 6 at 17W615 Butterfield Road in Oakbrook Terrace.

“My wife is from Florida, and she said ‘You have to check this place out,'” Tijuana Flats franchise partner Animesh “Andy” Kumar said about his first time trying the Tex-Mex restaurant in 2007.

Kumar was so enamored of the Mexican-American fusion food that he immediately started looking at ways to bring Tijuana Flats back home. But the owners of Tijuana Flats at the time did not want to expand beyond their home state, where the chain originated in 1995 and has since grown to more than 100 locations.

“Finally in 2019, the owners had changed, and they started looking to franchise it out,” said Kumar, noting that North Carolina now has four locations, Indiana has two and Virginia has one. “In 2021, they said they were ready to come to the Chicago market.”

Kumar and his family ultimately settled on an Oakbrook Terrace location totaling nearly 2,200 square feet (it was to have been a wine-tasting place, but that never opened due to the pandemic). The venue allows 64 indoor diners and 12 outside on a patio.

Offering outdoor dining as an option was key for Kumar, just in case another COVID-19 strain brought back indoor dining restrictions again.

Kumar is pleased with all the support his family has received from Tijuana Flats corporate officials, especially with a budget for opening-week specials and discounts. He hopes customers will be attracted by promotions, including free tacos for the first 50 indoor customers on June 6.

“We pride ourselves on being a strong part of every community that we serve, and we look forward to doing the same here,” Tijuana Flats CEO Brian Wright said in a statement. “We can’t wait to see our guests during opening week and beyond.”

Like Chipotle, Tijuana Flats is considered a fast casual restaurant. But Kumar insists that Tijuana Flats stands out due to its tasty menu, hot sauce bar filled with spicy choices and comical iguana-filled murals.

“The food is completely fresh, and nothing is frozen. We prepare everything from scratch,” Kumar said. “And the cost is not that high. You are enjoying fine dining with a casual approach.”

Tijuana Flats Illinois Hot Sauce Bar

The first Illinois location of the Tex-Mex eatery Tijuana Flats is set to open in Oakbrook Terrace in early June. Franchisee Animesh “Andy” Kumar says its hot sauce bar helps the fast casual chain stand out.

Tijuana Flats Illinois Food Shot

Some of the menu items at Tijuana Flats include hot wings, chimichangas, crispy shrimp and corn tacos.