Since 1967, thousands and thousands of people have sat down for home-style Mexican meals and drinks at Chiquita’s Mexican Restaurant.
Now, though, after 55 years -- 36 of them on Home Avenue in the Fairmount Park neighborhood (that triangle between the 15, the 805 and state Route 94 to the south -- the owners made a surprising announcement on Wednesday.
"It is with heavy hearts we announce ... Chiquita’s Mexican Restaurant has permanently closed its doors," the restaurant posted on its Facebook Page. "We would like to express our immense apologies for the abrupt closure and our true appreciation for all the support over the last 55 years. To all who have walked [through] our doors and made forever memories, we are grateful to have been a part of them. Thank you, Chiquita’s family. We are thankful for all of you."
Like all restaurants, Chiquita's struggled to adapt during the pandemic, pivoting to a take-out business in 2020.
The restaurant's bright banquet room and outdoor patio with its "¡Salud!" mural will be missed by many but nobody more so, though, than the generations of the Rodriguez family who strived to make their customers feel like one of the family.
"We're the the Cheers of San Diego: Everyone at Chiquita's knows your name, and we welcome people from all walks of life to come share a beer and some tacos with us" it says right on Chiquita's website.
While you can no longer get a Chiquita’s Bowl, burrito or build you own quesadilla, there's still time to pick up a Chiquita’s shirt or etched Chiquita’s margarita glasses, the restaurant said on its Facebook page, adding that they are "creating a Chiquita’s yearbook of all the families, memories that made Chiquita’s your second home. Please email or direct message us [on Facebook] your favorite photo at Chiquita’s and memory. #ChiquitasOnHome"
The restaurant will be sorely missed, too, by its community. The business made it a point to let people know it had proudly provided "food for Cesar Chavez and his marchers during the United Farm Workers strike in the 1960s" and supported various local artists and organizations over the years, helped to restore Azaealea Park and contributed to organizations that benefited widows and orphans of local police officers and people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
"We practice what we preach with our incredible hospitality every single day," Chiquita’s states on its website.
San Diegans reacted to the news with sorrow on social media:
"Worst news ever 😞 my parents started coming here in the 70’s and we went practically every week while I was growing up! It’s the one place I always make sure to go when I visit home. 💔," posted Sharie H.
"I am so sorry to hear this. My heart is broken. Sending you so much love ," posted local radio personality Tori Peck.
"Thanks for the memories…" wrote Tim Pyles, no stranger to radio himslelf.
Sadly, you knew it was official when you saw a video of the closing bell rung for the last time: