What happens when a Green Bay Packer starts a Mexican restaurant chain and it eventually grows to 210 locations? The answer: one of those locations finds its way to Schaumburg.
In 1975 former Packers great, Max McGee, started the restaurant chain, Chi Chi’s, in Richfield, Minnesota with restaurateur, Marno McDermott. The popularity of the eatery grew to the point that the chain decided to open a spot at 955 E. Golf Road in Schaumburg in 1984. [Classified ads began appearing in the Daily Herald in the summer of 1984 advertising for help wanted. This is also the first year Chi-Chi’s is listed in the local phone book.]
The building, as I recall, was a light tan stucco and served up standard Mexican fare of enchiladas, tacos and chimichangas. They had banquet facilities and offered carry-out service. Unfortunately, the restaurant that advertised itself in the 1986 phone book as “When You Feel A Little Mexican,” closed three years later in 1987.
The building and the spot did not languish for long. By November of the same year, an Italian chain by the name of Grisanti’s had remodeled and opened in the same building. According to a review in the December 18, 1987 issue of the Daily Herald, “the exterior has been totally redone with a Mediterranean accent.” The interior had a “an airy main room” that was terraced “with canopies and plants in large terra-cotta pots.”
It was a popular spot for many years with the highlights being the salad that was tossed tableside with fresh ground Romano cheese and the “warm, soft loaf of Tuscan bread brushed with garlic butter.” They served lunch and dinner every day as well as a brunch on Sunday. It was reasonably priced and endured a nine year run, closing in late 1996.
The following year, on November 17, 1997, Champps’ Restaurant & Bar opened in the newly renovated building that featured additional outdoor seating. [Daily Herald; November 5, 1997] They were part of the Champps Entertainment chain based in Minneapolis that caught the early curve of sports-themed restaurants and bars.
This restaurant too proved to be a hit, serving up a varied American-style menu and providing plenty of large screen TVs for lots of sports viewing. They lasted for nearly 18 years and recently closed their doors.
The building was scheduled to be demolished in August 2015 to prepare the site for another restaurant. This time it’s a brand new McDonalds. So, get ready for a new place to stop in or drive thru for your Big Mac and fries because this spot was obviously destined for restaurants!
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library