When the Chi-Chi’s restaurant chain unceremoniously closed all its doors nationwide in 2004, it was like a roundhouse kick the gut for me. (Note to Self: Write a blog post about the ’90s Nickelodeon show Roundhouse.)
America, what could you possibly want more in a restaurant? That salsa was darn good, and to a high school students, free chips and salsa were the cornerstone of a night on the town. (If by “the town” one meant “the Applewood shopping complex just off of Scatterfield.”) The entrees were decently priced, so you wouldn’t have to sink too much of your babysitting, lifeguarding, or thankless restaurant working money into a Saturday night. To this day, the green sauce on top of their Grande Burritos is the green sauce to beat.
And talk about ambiance! So colorful…so friendly…so cheerful…so authentic!
That crispy, burnt-sugar-y crust. That impossibly intact ice cream center. That ring of whipped cream, and that little dollop with the cherry on top. That chocolate sauce pooling through every bite, making everything better. (If you were one of the nutjobs who got the honey topping, please exit stage right.) Fried ice cream will forever remain the world’s best mid-priced chain restaurant dessert…and with also-rans like Applebee’s Maple Walnut Blondie and Ruby Tuesday’s Chocolate Tallcake waiting in the wings, that’s saying a LOT!
Elsewhere in this blog, I’ve said that I’m glad some ’80s/’90s products, shows, and other bits of nostalgia are now defunct, as it makes them exclusively special to childhood. But believe me when I say that if I could serve Chi-Chi’s fried ice cream instead of cake or cupcakes or whatnot at my very own wedding, I would do it.
I love you, Chi-Chi’s. Gone, but not forgotten…