The Ancient Ruins of Chi-Chi’s

June 26, 2019
Alex Tsironis
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Photos courtesy of Jeff Melia

Some of my fondest MoCo memories took place at Chi-Chi’s. Growing up in Gaithersburg, we would frequently go to the Lakeforest location for dinner– it was the restaurant that introduced me to fried ice cream!

Chi-Chi’s also had a Rockville location in Wintergreen Plaza that later became Broadway/Ted’s 355 Diner and is currently Habit Burger and Jersey Mike’s.

They left town nearly two decades ago, but Lakeforest never replaced the restaurant (located across from the old Lakeforest Silver Diner). The vacant location was closed off, but recently the window covers were removed.

MoCo resident Jeff Melia noticed and took a few photos through the window. Inside were the ruins of days past. Below you’ll see a few photos that may drum up a few memories.

I remember the cigarette vending machine in front of the restaurant and how the smoking and non-smoking sections were separated by a few feet. I recall feeling grown up because I ordered a (virgin) piña colada. My first taste of chips and salsa at a restaurant…how could this be free???

Chi-Chi’s left the United States in 2004 when Outback Steakhouse purchased the 76 Chi-Chi’s properties for $42.5 million, but didn’t buy the name, operations, or recipes. They later sold to Kimco, the development company that is responsible for the changes currently occurring in the Kentlands.

Aside from the salsa being made available in grocery stores by Hormel, you can still eat at Chi-Chi’s restaurants in Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, and The United Arab Emirates.

I tried to make it in there for a video today, but was unable to find my way in. Below are a few more shots of what’s left of the Lakeforest Chi-Chi’s.

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