I’d heard of the Churkeychanga from friends living in Wilmington, North Carolina. Each November, my Facebook feed is filled with photos of a burrito smothered in a creamy sauce and complimented with a bright blob of cranberry salsa. It didn’t look special, but the seasonal delicacy spawned memes, photo competitions, and wild reviews.
I needed to try it.
So, I left on a four-hour road trip to the southeastern North Carolina city. Of course, I couldn’t simply drive straight there – I took a long scenic route. Two days later, I sat at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn.
I took my first bite of a Churkeychanga. It was the most wonderfully ridiculous thing I’d ever eaten.
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Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn
In 2000, Amy and Jay Muxworthy opened Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn on Oleander Drive. The new Wilmington residents wanted to create a fun dining atmosphere in a restaurant that treated employees like family. The eatery was an instant success with the locals.
It’s hard to remember what I noticed first about the restaurant’s interior. It might’ve been the dark blue ceiling and mismatched floor tiles. It could’ve been the eclectic décor like flying pigs and painted metal lunch boxes.
But I think it was the list of rules.
“Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn Rules,” the wall-mounted sign read. Thirteen rules perfectly foreshadowed my first experience at the restaurant. The first rule was easy enough to follow, “Lighten up!” Other rules warned not to act like you were raised in a barn, food is made to order, and tips are not required.
I think #11 was my favorite, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”
In 2018, Casey Webb, host of the Cooking Channel show Man v. Food, visited three area restaurants. He sampled some of their popular made-to-order burritos at Flaming Amy’s. That’s what the restaurant is known for – giant burritos stuffed with delicious local ingredients.
But the restaurant is known for something else for three weeks each year. And that is why I traveled 200 miles to Wilmington.
In 2012, Jay Muxworthy invented the Churkeychanga as Flaming Amy’s take on a Thanksgiving dinner. He’s not shy about revealing the ingredients: roasted turkey breast, mashed garlic red skin potatoes, and jalapeno cornbread stuffing rolled inside a flour tortilla. The tortilla is deep-fried, smothered in a jalapeno cream gravy, and served with cranberry salsa.
Close your mouth; you’re drooling.
Every bite was like an explosion of flavor. The spiciness of the jalapeno cornbread stuffing and jalapenos cream gravy was countered by the cool cranberry salsa. The crunchy deep-fried tortilla melted in your mouth with the roasted turkey breast. If it were possible to eat a yin and yang, this would be it.
Save the Date
The Churckeychanga is available from November 1 until November 22, 2023.
The seasonal delicacy is only offered for a few weeks each year, from November 1 until the day before Thanksgiving. Although the locals have pleaded for an extension to “Churkeychanga Season,” Muxworthy notes that creating 300 Churkeychangas a day is incredibly labor-intensive.
And they sell out fast. Half an after I arrived at 2 p.m., the staff announced, “We’re sold out for the day, folks!”
I pushed the empty plate away and laughed. It was the most wonderfully ridiculous thing I’d ever eaten. But just like that time I drove the scariest road of my life and wanted to do it again the next day, I wanted another Churkeychanga.
I might turn this into an annual road trip tradition. I’ll eat one fresh at Flaming Amy’s and take a few to go. I might share – but it’s just as likely I won’t.
Things to Do in Wilmington
Wilmington’s downtown is one of the most vibrant of any small city in the country. It’s enormous, gorgeous, and effortless to explore on foot. And you can stroll along the river across from a WWII battleship.
The Wilmington Riverwalk is the most scenic place in the city and a great way to explore downtown. The waterfront boardwalk stretches from the Isabel Holmes Bridge to Nun Street. Several restaurants, retail shops, and hotels directly access the Riverwalk. Across the river, the Battleship North Carolina is great to visit in the cooler November weather.
The Cotton Exchange is a collection of buildings strung together with passageways. Exploring all the boutique retail shops and eateries in the menagerie of buildings is fascinating- and somewhat of a challenge. The Burgin-Wright House and Bellamy Mansion are two downtown house museums worthy of a visit during your trip.
The best way to start your day in Wilmington is one of the charming local coffee shops. And the best way to end the day is one of the craft breweries – the Cape Fear region is one of the largest brewery destinations in North Carolina outside Asheville.
Getting to Wilmington
Part of the fun – or maybe the best part of the fun – of getting a Churkeychanga is the road trip to Wilmington. It’s an easy place to reach at the terminus of Interstate 40 and several U.S. Highways.
From Charleston, take U.S. Highway 17 and then detour through Southport. Take the 30-minute car ferry to Kure Beach and drive along the island into Wilmington. This route takes about 4 hours.
Take U.S. Highway 378 to Conway from Columbia and then the two-lane SC-90 into North Carolina. This route takes about 3.5 hours.
Take U.S. Highway 74 from Charlotte, which transitions into Interstate 74 in several sections. This route takes about 3 hours.
From Fayetteville, take several two-lane and four-lane highways that parallel the Cape Fear River into Wilmington. This route takes about 2 hours.
From Raleigh, take Interstate 40 directly into Wilmington. This route takes 2 hours.
Take U.S. Highway 17 from Virginia Beach through several charming towns in eastern North Carolina. This is the longest but prettiest route, taking about 4.5 hours.
Where to Stay in Wilmington
The University of North Carolina at Wilmington and local industries provide a need for dozens of great hotels throughout the city. For this trip, I recommend staying downtown for convenience. But you might also consider hotels on Market Street near the university.
Best Western is a delightful waterfront hotel at a modest price. The motel makes up for a lack of amenities with comfortable guest rooms and great views of the Cape Fear River. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com
Embassy Suites is a riverfront hotel, but the angle of the building doesn’t allow for the best views from the guest rooms. You may not notice the on-site bar and excellent bedding. Book now with Booking.com or Expedia.com
Frequently Asked Questions
The Churkeychanga is a deep-fried flour tortilla filled with roasted turkey breast, mashed garlic red skin potatoes, and jalapeno cornbread stuffing served with cranberry salsa.
The Churkeychanga is available from November 1 until November 22, 2023.
The Churkeychanga is exclusively available at Flaming Amy’s Burrito Barn in Wilmington, North Carolina.