I Miss Zantigo Chilitos!

LogoOnce upon a time, long,  long ago (actually, it was in the 70’s), in a galaxy (a city really, Norwood in fact), far, far away (250 miles to be specific) there was a Mexican fast food restaurant called Zantigo’s.   The Zantigo chain had a reputation for fresh, fast, simple, flavorful Tex-Mex at low prices.  Without a doubt, the most memorable item on their menu was an item known as the Chilito, a wonderful mixture of chili and cheese wrapped in a flour tortilla.  The Chilito was not merely a wonderful fast food product, but it was, beyond doubt, the perfect eating-while-driving entree.  The chili-cheese ratio was perfectly balanced to insure that after a minute or so of cooling off, the chilito simply would not drip, run, or drop into the lap of the unsuspecting driver.  Three chilitos was the minimum order for a real man (or woman), and to a Zantigo’s aficionado, there was simply no substitute.

Alas, Zantigo’s was a small operation, lacking the gargantuan funding of their primary competitor, Taco Bell (owned by the even more gargantuan PepsiCo), and as time went by, Pepsico took notice of Zantigo’s market penetration.  Eventually, PepsiCo bought Zantigo’s and folded their locations into the Taco Bell chain.  Some of us were aware of the acquisition, and took whatever measures we could to stave off the inevitable.  A friend of mine actually stockpiled Zantigo’s taco sauce packets in his freezer to ward off the day when he would no longer have access to its spicy goodness.  Even I was saddened when he informed me, about two and a half years later, that he had finally run out. 

When Taco Bell absorbed Zantigo’s, the Taco Bell menu took precedence.  Zantigo’s essentially disappeared.  But one small trace remained, a trace that still appears occasionally even today.  It’s called the chili-cheese burrito, and it’s pretty good, although Taco Bell simply can’t seem to get the proportions of chili and cheese right to make it a driving food.  You really don’t want to try eating a chili-cheese burrito in the car without a couple of napkins in your lap.  Nevertheless, it’s the only thing most of us have left by which to remember Zantigo’s (Ha! You thought I was going to end that sentence with a preposition, didn’t you?).

But this story has a (sort of) happy ending.  It seems that two brothers, Don and Kevin (no last names given on their website) have purchased the trademarks, recipes, and franchising rights to the Zantigo restaurants, and now have six locations in operation.  Unfortunately, all the locations are in Minnesota, so for the time being, I’m not likely to get a fix for my Zantigo jones any time soon.

So, today in Elyria, Ohio, I found a Taco Bell that was still serving the chili-cheese burrito, and consumed one reverently with a Diet Pepsi,  all the while silently praying for the success of a couple of fellows named Kevin and Don, somewhere in Minnesota….    http://www.zantigo.com/

Zantigo's menu - almost worth a drive to Minnesota!

Zantigo's menu - almost worth a drive to Minnesota!

Note: the parenthetical comment about ending a sentence with a preposition is inserted in honor of my high school English teacher, Sarah Kensinger, who is often in my thoughts as I compose this blog.

13 Responses to I Miss Zantigo Chilitos!

  1. Leah says:

    not worth a drive to the MN… LAME!!!!

  2. Jeanne says:

    I’m with you…I hope for their success. Zantigos was the bomb

  3. Matthew says:

    Growing up in Cincinnati zantigos was a mainstay. To this day the thought of those chilitos causes a homeresque-tongue dangling, drool drenched flash back that leaves me cursing taco bell for their inability to perfect that that perfect delictable.

  4. Keith says:

    I was in high school and I lived less than a block from a Zantigo’s. Whenever my folks would go out, Mom would leave me a couple bucks for dinner and I would walk over to Zantigo’s. After trying everything on the menu I, naturally, took to the Chilito. When I heard Taco Bell was taking over I became anxioius. What would happen to my Chiltos on Friday nights? The day came, Taco Bell moved in, and the Chilito as I knew it disappeared. I just finished some Taco Bell and, of course, I had a chili-cheese burrito. It’s just not the same. I may have to drive up to Minnesota tomorrow.

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  6. eric says:

    I live in MN and can tell you it would be worth the drive!

  7. Stacey says:

    Just having a flashback, I wish I had a chilito 😦

  8. Stef says:

    Is the taco burrito on the menu? That was my favorite!

  9. Don Nelson says:

    Cheese Chilito

    What you’ll need:
    I haven’t tried any other brands of the products, feel free to try your brand of choice

    1-jar of Pace Picante, your choice of heat level – liquify in a blender till sauce smooth & return to the jar (shake before using)

    1-jar of tabasco hot sauce

    1-bag of finely shredded sharp cheddar

    1-bag of Cruz burrito size flour tortillas

    1-bag of Nacho Doritos

    Cooking instructions :

    Place a wet paper towel in the corner of the microwave

    Place # of tortillas you want separated by paper plates & heat for 1 minute or less pending on your microwave to soften

    Spread 1 to 2 spoonfuls of your liquified sauce about 3/4 the length & 1/2 inch from one side of the tortilla, add cheese and hit it with your hot sauce
    (You can add diced pepperoni for a flavor change)

    Fold about 1/4 of the tortilla over the cheese/sauce then fold the top or bottom over about 1/4 and roll up from the cheese/ sauce side

    Place on a plate with loose edge of tortilla down and heat for 1 minute, lightly press each chilito and heat again for 1 more minute

    Let stand till cool enough to eat
    “They go great with the Doritos chips”

  10. Angela says:

    I miss this chain so much! Please expand your franchising!!! So happy the two brothers are bringing the original back! Saint Joseph, Michigan misses you very much Zantigos!!

  11. Steve Williamson says:

    Are you referring to Norwood , Ohio, and Zantigos in front of Surrey square on Montgomery Rd? That’s was my Zantigos. Early eighties.

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