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5
Chi-Chi's

You wouldn't think that a Mexican restaurant chain's founders would be two guys from Minnesota with Scottish-sounding names. But that's exactly what happened in 1976, when restauranteur Marno McDermitt partnered with former Green Bay Packers star Max McGee to open the first Chi-Chi's, despite warnings that the largely Scandinavian-American population in the area would reject the unfamiliar cuisine. The restaurant chain helped launch the Mexican food boom in the 1970s and 1980s, serving gigantic portions of intensely flavored food such as its chili powder, jalapeno-and-onion-laden nachos grande, with the help of an innovative computerized kitchen capable of serving up orders in nine minutes or less [source: Wilbur]. As with Steak and Ale, Chi-Chi's success spawned scores of competitors, and in late 2003, the restaurant chain was forced to file for bankruptcy due to poor cash flow. Shortly after that, the Mexican green onions that helped make Chi-Chi's food so tangy became its undoing, when a batch tainted with Hepatitis A sickened 660 diners and killed three at a Chi-Chi's in Pennsylvania, leading to the chain's demise the following year [source: Lockyer].

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