Chi-Chi’s Fight Club

abandonedchichis2.jpgAt a potluck dinner almost a couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us were just sitting around afterwards, yakkin’ and snackin’ on cookies, fruit and other goodies, when for some reason the topic came up, of restaurants people went to for birthday parties as kids.

And for some reason, it reminded me of Chi’s-Chi’s Mexican restaurant. You remember Chi-Chi’s, right? “A Celebration of Food” (cha-cha-cha)? Fried ice cream?

Well, I do – kind of. 

I mean, we had a huu-uge one in Scarborough – just a six-minute drive away from my house – when I was a kid.

For fourteen years of my life, I was six gas-fueled minutes away from fried ice cream. But we never went. 

My dad just ended up occasionally taking my brother and I to the McDonald’s down the street instead. Usually all thoughts of Mexican food were silenced with a greasy, slimy cheeseburger or – as I got older and could handle it – a Big Mac.

But damn, how I secretly wanted some fried ice cream. So the mere mention of anyone saying how they remembered going to Chi-Chi’s as a kid, always makes me a little bitter.

So at the party, my friend, said, “Oh yeah, I remember Chi-Chi’s …”

And the 10-year-old in me immediately blurted out, “What? You went to Chi-Chi’s?! That’s it. I can’t talk to you anymore.”

He just looked at me like he’d caught me eating Elmer’s school glue. And really, I don’t blame him, ’cause honestly, I don’t know where that came from. Wait – I take that back. I do.

But I always counter my bitterness by recalling a story my friend Patty told me a while ago.  

Back in the day, when her older brother was in high school – and probably about the time I’d yearn for fried ice cream – he and some of his high-school football buds used to work in the kitchen at Chi-Chi’s. 

And how horrible they were! I’d have to double-check for sure, but I’m pretty sure she’d tell me about how one of his friends sometimes spit in the food.

And the fights! Oh, how they fought. It would be, like, one guy would have a beef with another, and then on meal break, it would be score-settlin’ time. I’m sure by the end of it, someone had lost a tooth or gained a shiner.

It was almost like they were members of Fight Club, Chi-Chi’s Scarborough Chapter. I can imagine it being a bit like cock-fighting, only minus the spurs and fight-to-the-death factor, ’cause they’re high-school football players. ‘And you know the boss would notice if someone was missing.

But I’m sure in recalling this, I was mentally exaggerating what my friend told me actually happened. But it always makes me feel better about not going there.

Since those Chi-Chi’s days, my family moved out of the area and that location, I believe, is now an enormous Chinese buffet restaurant. But I always wondered what happened to Chi-Chi’s. So one day I did a Google search.

And when I read the second sentence of this Wikipedia entry, I was like, “So that’s what happened … huh.” Maybe it’s a good thing I never ate there. I could have been a “citation needed” footnote in Wikipedia.

But at least I now know where to go, if ever I feel the need to combine my love of European travel with my quest to eat fried ice cream.

I just hope Belgian kids have Tektonic dance-offs on their meal breaks instead of sparring , when they want to settle scores.

(God, I love You Tube.)

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