Refried Disaster

Dear Dara confronts the demise of a beloved underdog

Dear Dara, FYI, Chico's has changed! We read your review and were really excited for some Mexican food. The menu was completely different than the reviews, so I asked and the person behind the counter said the previous owners up and left. We were too embarrassed to leave, so we ordered. Bad call. It was the worst meal of our lives. We are both in the restaurant business and were horrified by what was served to us. My partner was convinced that cigarette butts had been part of the recipe for the refried beans. Please let your readers know. I would not want this to happen to any of your readers!

Stephanie of Minneapolis


Offering new hope for Minneapolis's Mexican food lovers: Pineda tacos 2
Sean Smuda
Offering new hope for Minneapolis's Mexican food lovers: Pineda tacos 2

Dear Stephanie,

La la la. I cannot hear you. La la la.




Dear Dara,

I went to Chico's based on your review, and I loved it! It was the best burrito I've had in the Twin Cities!

Unfortunately, I went back last week and found the place under sudden new ownership! The chefs are gone, and the food is absolutely not the same. In fact, it's quite avoidable.

Virtually everyone coming into Chico's asked, "Where did they go?" But the new owners just kept repeating, "We don't know. We don't know. We don't know."

Dara, do you know if the chefs are relocating/reopening under another name? Please let me know. Thank you!

Dan of Minneapolis


Dear Dan,

What's that out the window? Is that a bird?

Or what?




Dear Dara,

[insert 200 more of the same]

[Every vigilant citizen of the entire metro, growing increasingly angry]


Dear Everyone,

Fine! Fine already! Do you know what it does to me to contemplate the vanishing of the restaurant that will heretofore be known as The Good Chico's? Do you have any idea how many crappy, unpromising restaurants I went to before I found Chico's? Do you have any idea how many bouts of food poisoning I endured, how many wasted afternoons dumping plates of crud into yawning dumpsters, how many extra steps on the StairMaster endured for plates of refried beans that tasted like window caulk?

You, you might have liked The Good Chico's, but me? For me, the vanishing of Chico's represents a thousand levels of calculation that ultimately failed. Failed! The way an entire year's worth of Harvey Wallbangers have failed to erase the memory of that unfortunate incident in Karachi with the fan dancer and the locomotive. Failed!

Because every single week I sit here and try to do several things at once, not counting the fan dancer. I mean, I try to adhere to this rigorous, exhausting set of self-imposed criteria.

One, I try to review the prominent and important restaurants, good or bad. Except sometimes I skip the ones that are so predictably bad that visiting them would again result in all that blood in the drapery and being Medivacced to Happydale, which does terrible things to the health insurance premiums around here. Second, I try to find good things. Good things to eat, good stories to hear, good chefs to talk to. Because this is a harsh and forbidding land, and if I didn't, we'd all hack each other apart with sharpened soup ladles within a year--that much is clear. Then, I try to not to waste anybody's time: I'll write about something inconvenient to all you readers (whom I imagine all living somewhere where, if you could levitate six stories above your bedroom, you would see with the naked eye either the IDS Center or the state capitol) only if it's fantastic, and consistently so. Why would you care about a pretty-good place in the middle of nowhere? Why would you care about fantastic food that can be had in a repellent place, erratically? Of course, I try to write about only the places that I think are going to be around for a while. Because otherwise, why waste your time? Wouldn't you rather know about something you can use? And naturally, I never write negative reviews of little mom-and-pop shops in remote locations: Why would I warn you against doing something you'd never do anyway? (Don't chew on that fern over there! Don't cover your clothes with tapioca and bake them in a low oven overnight! Don't... Look, if I wanted to devote myself to dispensing patronizing bits of common sense, I'd go into public health.)

So now, now I'm screwed. I wasted all those days finding The Good Chico's. Now it is gone. Oh, there's still a Chico's there--but, as the new ownership informed me, this one is called Chico's Tecate Grill. Not Chico's Mexican Grill. (But my guess is it won't be called that for long--at least not once the news reaches corporate minders who control that name and who vacated their location in an Edina strip mall last summer, setting the stage for this mess, this endless string of no-money re-christenings, this shell game of Chico's Chico's Chico's--where's the pea? Double or nothing!) The Good Chico's changed hands January 31, I was told on a recent visit by a woman who claimed to be the new owner, and now I'm in a lose-lose situation. Because I don't write negative reviews of out-of-the-way mom-and-pop shops, remember? But I can't help feeling that people are having horrible times at the new and less-said-about-it-the-better Chico's because of me, and that your time is being wasted because of it--whereas if I had simply reviewed some medium-okay Italian place in Minnetonka, it would still be there, wouldn't it? Failure! How I hate it.

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