Do You Know The Green Bay Packers Connection To Beloved Chi-Chi’s Restaurants
Nothing about Chi-Chi's Restaurant makes much sense. Its origins are from that hotbed of Mexican cuisine - Minnesota. And, while many people make bodily function jokes about eating there, a simple post on Vanished Kalamazoo got over 400 comments in just a few hours this weekend. So it's time for a bit of a deep dive.
Chi-Chi's was a hot restaurant chain, started in the mid-1970's, but two businessmen, one named McDermott and the other McGee. That's the Green Bay Packers connection. Max McGee was a wide receiver and punter for the Green Bay Packers. He scored the first touchdown in Super Bowl history. In fact that day, he had two touchdowns and seven receptions in the first Super Bowl, which Green Bay won over Kansas City. (For you rock fans, Max also had a brother named Bobby McGee). After his playing days, he got into the restaurant business, first with some teammates, and then, with McDermott he co-founded Chi-Chi's.
And it was a hit. Chi-Chi's was one of the hottest restaurant chains in the 1980's. Most folks didn't care the food wasn't necessarily authentic Mexican. It was edible and the real draw was the pitchers of discounted Margaritas on Tuesdays. We called them "liquid lunches", others, as one VK poster said, referred to it as "Spanish Class". This Mashed.com story mentions the time before the drinking age changed, high school and college students would partake in those cheap margaritas. This helped with the bottom line. The same article explains why the chain failed. (Over expansion, not enough profit)
While Chi-Chi's ultimately failed, it did leave an impression. Many comments and memories about the chimichangas, seafood nachos and the fried ice cream. The comments section also mentioned the downside of the local restaurant, primarily a food poisoning incident.
After Chi-Chi's went belly up, Outback bought a bunch of the locations, and the one on West Main at US131 in Kalamazoo became a "Cheeseburger in Paradise." (The Battle Creek location was at Lakeview Square Mall) Cheeseburger In Paradise failed fairly quickly, and now the site is a Goodwill store. (The other Tex-Mex place across the street, Carlos Murphy's eventually closed, too, and eventually torn down.
One funny thing about the name. Apparently the term Chi-Chi's in Mexico means something a bit different (something that Hooters capitalized on). I wonder if the founders did it as an inside joke.