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El Chico Mexican Restaurant, 1728 Bush River Road: Sept 2008 (closed for good)   31 comments

Posted at 11:05 pm in closing

Columbia has had trouble getting & keeping national brand Mexican restaurants. Garcias, Don Pablo's, and Cucos have all come and gone while Chevy's, Rio Bravo, On The Border and Chi-Chi's never made it here.

El Chico is the only one I can think of that has been here and stayed here, and I like it a good bit. I'll say, in fact, that once you add the crushed hot peppers, their salsa is the best in town, and chips & salsa are about 60% of what I grade a mexican meal on. (I also think that it's a very American story that an Indian family comes to America to open a restaurant -- a Mexican restaurant.)

I was disappointed last week when I made it to that side of town just in time (I thought) to scoot in before closing, and found the place shuttered due to a fire. I called this week to see if they were back and was told that it will be until about the end of the month (I think I was quoted a date of 27 Oct) before they will be open again.

UPDATE 7 Feb 09: I should mention that El Chico is now open again (and has been for a while).

UPDATE 24 July 2010 -- Not a good sign: The hours have been cut to close at 9pm Sun-Thur and 10pm Fri/Sat.

UPDATE 4 January 2012 -- As mentioned in the comments, El Chico has had another fire and is currently closed again. From the look-see I took just before Christmas, it does not seem to have been an especially bad fire, so I would not expect them to be closed for long:







UPDATE 14 March 2013 -- After a long while with no apparent activity, cleanup has started at El Chico, so it appears that they definitely will re-open:








UPDATE 18 September 2013 -- Still no sign of any rehabilition work at the place:


UPDATE 22 October 2013 -- As reported by several people, the end has come for El Chico and they will not be reopening:









































UPDATE 27 January 2016 -- It looks like we are finally getting near to an opening date for Persis Biryani Indo-Mexican Grill:


UPDATE 4 May 2016 -- As mentioned in the comments, now open as Persis Biryani Indian Grill:


Written by ted on October 5th, 2008

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31 Responses to 'El Chico Mexican Restaurant, 1728 Bush River Road: Sept 2008 (closed for good)'

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  1. I've lived in many cities where chain i.e. fake Mexican restaurants have thrived. Those same cities had a great shortage of authentic good Mexican cuisine. Fortunately for us, we don't need the chains because we have outstanding authentic restaurants like San Jose.


    6 Oct 08 at 9:30 pm

  2. It's an old arguement, and I tend to think it's sort of like Pizza. What we eat is much more an american creation than an Italian one. Same for burritos etc.

    But my biggest beef is the salsa. San Joes has gloppy, chracterless, spiceless salsa just like every other Mexican run Mexican restaurant in town. El Chico has better rice and chips too.


    6 Oct 08 at 10:01 pm

  3. Real Mexico across 20 from El Chico where the old Steak Out was is muy bueno. And it really is Real Mexican. It's worth the trip. You will like the salsa, and there is also the special batch that you have to request.


    7 Oct 08 at 8:02 am

  4. There is a place in the Seven Oaks shopping center that is run by the lady who used to be the hostess (and i always assumed the wife of the owner) at Little Mexico called Maria's (I think)
    That we've eaten at a couple of times that has excellent food.

    Little Mexico IMO, for along time was hands down the best mexican restaurant in the Columbia area.Great food and huge portions at reasonable prices. I love mexican food, and ive eaten at most of the restaurants that have been open for any length of time here.

    As for El Chico, we rode by there the other night to eat as well and were surprised to see it closed. I think their food is very good too, although a bit more expensive.

    Anyway my favorite place right now to get a burrito is Moe's. One Homewrecker and im in heaven. Im going to try to talk the wife into going to Yo Burrito this week. Ive heard good things about it.

    What does the sign over the door say, something about NorthLake? Are they opening a second location?


    7 Oct 08 at 10:42 am

  5. Moe's is great. I'm an Art Vandelay man, with fresh jalapenos, onions and hot sauce added. How come nobody else has fresh jalapenos? They're so much better than the pickled ones. And it's just a fast food joint, but it has four kinds of salsa, each of which is better han San Jose's! My only complaints are that they could be a bit more pro-active about wiping vacant tables and that the napkins are way too small (so I always take my own).

    Yo Burrito! is, frankly rather disappointing. Their burritos are very "dry" with none of them even approaching Moes, and they regularly "blow out". They have lots of different kinds of salsa, but somehow haven't hit on a good kind. (They do have the radioactive green bottles of habenero sauce though, so you can heat the salsa up pretty good.)

    The sign on El Chico is for the construction company repairing the fire damage:


    7 Oct 08 at 11:34 am

  6. Was in there today. Reconstruction is looking great. The owner, Mr. I, is a super guy.


    9 Oct 08 at 5:49 pm

  7. Mr. I is NOT a "super" guy. I worked there for three weeks and it was one of the worst working experiences I've had. When I was there 3 or 4 years ago he was running the place into the ground while attempting to hock bland, overpriced psuedo-Mexican food. He is a very shady business man with no managerial skills. I was slightly excited when I saw that El Chico was closed, but that feeling quickly subsided when I saw it was only temporary.


    10 Oct 08 at 12:55 pm

  8. My brother worked as a server at El Chico in the mid 90's over a couple years and always spoke well of how nice both Mr. and Mrs I were. If Mr. I was running the place into the ground 3 or 4 years ago, wouldn't it be on Columbia Closings as a permanent close instead of a temporary? The place has been around for a very, very long time with lots of competition and still persists. That kind of success usually doesn't happen in spite of bad managing, but because of at least competent-level management.


    10 Oct 08 at 2:55 pm

  9. The only thing that I will say is that I now work at DHEC and I wish I worked in the restaurant inspection division because a lot of his practices are shady and downright illegal.


    14 Oct 08 at 12:59 pm

  10. How can I post a comment on the Ted's rules for restuarants page?
    Email the answer for I am not sure when I will ever revisit this site, although I did appreciate it.


    15 Oct 08 at 1:12 pm

  11. I'll post in here, since I wanted to comment on Yo Burrito. I guess to each his own. I love the Rajun Cajun burrito (shrimp), but I guess if you don't like seafood, that it would not be your fitst choice. They also have mahi-mahi. Fact of the matter, though, both are good and cannot be excluded. A little more diverse offering. Moe's is great for what it is, but like El Burrito, there's only so much you can do with beef and chicken. I generally get the JC at Moe's, so maybe I'll try a burrito. The salsas at Yo Burrito, in my opinion, blow Moe's away, although I do like their smoky hot salsa, but it's more like a sauce. The pineapple habanero at Yo's is extra ordinary, and I like the mixed one with the corn as well. Just a little different, I guess.


    16 Oct 08 at 10:31 am

  12. I love pineapple salsa. I used to get Newman's Own Pineapple Salsa all the time, before my wife started all this financial responsibility crap :)

    That cements it...i'm going to Yo Burrito tomorrow.


    16 Oct 08 at 3:16 pm

  13. Somebody above mentioned Moe's. Anybody that says Moe's is great has obviously never had the pleasure of eating at a Chipotle (

    Plus having "Welcome to Moe's" yelled at you got old about 2nd time I went. That's sooooo funny and original.


    7 Feb 09 at 8:53 pm

  14. Actually, I have eaten at Chipolte and still prefer Moe's. Chipolte doesn't give you chips unless you pay, and has no salsa-bar. Also, at least in DC, their interiors are much more sterile and uncomfortable.

    (Though I did have the amusing experience of seeing senior citizens in Garden City interpret "Wecome to Moe's!" as "We're closed!")


    7 Feb 09 at 11:33 pm

  15. Chipotle is an overpriced, lesser quality version of Moe's.


    8 Feb 09 at 6:51 am

  16. Lesser quality? I missed the smiley.

    The meats at Chipotle -- better selection and quality. The chicken at Moe's is tasteless. The taco bell quality ground beef is the only thing with taste.

    Those black beans that Moe's serves... yet another tasteless concoction.

    Those salsas on the Moe's salsa bar are a total waste. The "hot" is just a bunch of cumin. Chipotle actually puts the salsa(s) in your burrito.

    To be honest, I've tried my best to like Moe's -- sampling every burrito combo on the menu, changing ingredients, salsas, etc.

    Atmosphere? I agree w/ you there. Moe's is much more pleasant. Chipotle's hard, industrial motif (lots of metal surfaces, no sound absorption at all) leaves a lot to be desired. And free chips would be nice, although Chipotle burritos seem more filling than Moe's; hence, I've never missed the chips.

    Other burrito places that smoke Moe's: Baja Fresh & Sharky's -- both primarily on the west coast. Juanita Greenbergs in Charleston is much better, too.


    8 Feb 09 at 11:38 am

  17. Well, to each his own and there is no "right" answer about taste.

    I love the Art Vandelay though, and while the "hot" salsa isn't that great, the medium is, and Moe's green is about the only green I really like. Baja Fresh has fountain ice tea instead of brewed (in DC at least) while Moes has really good, strong fresh-brewed. I'm blanking on the name, but the chain at "Woodhill Mall" by Starbucks & Panera has burittos that always fall apart. I liked Jaunita Greenberg's OK -- their place on Folly Road was much better than the same owner pizza joint it was replaced with.


    8 Feb 09 at 2:58 pm

  18. It appears to me as if this place has suffered, yet *another* fire


    20 Dec 12 at 7:03 pm

  19. I too hope the place re-opens. We were there Jan. 2 because we have a groupon-type coupon that expired on the 3rd. I have a lot of respect for this restaurant for being open so long. I think is is very underestimated due to typical snobbery over chain restaurants. We would eat there more often but Casa Linda, and Cecilia's in 7 oaks shopping center are so much more convenient.


    5 Jan 13 at 10:58 am

  20. ted's post regarding the temporary closing of McAlister's due to a fire, made me visit this page to see if anyone had posted when El Chico may reopen. It's been five months now and they don't seem to be any closer to reopening. The sign out front says that the are closed due to fire but alarm is on. Sounds like they have had some setbacks. I am not a big El Chico fan, but hate to see yet another restaurant on Bush River close.


    2 May 13 at 8:27 am

  21. and not only that, one that has successfully rebuilt following a fire before...


    2 May 13 at 3:20 pm

  22. I have noticed the following in recent days happening here:

    - real estate sign announcing this property for sale/lease
    - ductwork drains appear to be removed
    - other portions of the building being unloaded into construction dumpster

    Consequently, I'm suspecting that this closing has gone permanent (but can't confirm for sure)

    I have been to El Chico twice for a luncheon on two occasions and enjoyed it both times...


    1 Oct 13 at 11:48 pm

  23. Here's a wild thought: Since this is their second fire in just a couple of years, possibly their getting into a snag from the insurance company, and that's why they're closing? The last news reports on the Cribbs Bakery fire was about how the owner was having troubles with the insurance company.


    2 Oct 13 at 6:54 am

  24. When Hudson's Smokehouse burned on Bower Parkway in 2011, the insurance company was what put the brakes on their plan to reopen...perhaps that is what happened here...


    2 Oct 13 at 11:08 am

  25. I don't know, Little Pigs had two fires, but they are still a booming business.

    Miz Terry

    14 Apr 14 at 8:49 am

  26. Over the course of the last few weeks I've (at times) noticed a construction crew making me wonder if something might be on the horizon for this building...will advise if I can figure anything else out...


    2 Oct 14 at 9:44 pm

  27. Drove by here the other day and noticed the sign out front said it would reopen soon as Persis, an Indo-Mexican restaurant.

    James R

    6 Nov 15 at 12:55 am

  28. Ok folks, Persis Biryani Indian Grill has opened up here..

    Now that this is going, I hope something can be done with the former Key West Grill just across Independence Blvd....


    1 Mar 16 at 8:56 pm

  29. Does anyone know if Persis Biryani, the follow-up to El Chico, is still open? I drove by today and the sign out front advertised the availability of a banquet hall. Having eaten there when it was El Chico and being familiar with the inside, I took the notice of a banquet hall as meaning the restaurant had closed.

    When I went to their Facebook page, I noticed a review as late as October 23 of this year, but it looked like at least a couple of reviews were very critical of the service.

    James R

    21 Nov 16 at 2:32 pm

  30. That must have been their old page. Their current one is active as of today:


    22 Nov 16 at 1:55 pm

  31. Sad it closed! Such great memories there. I worked there for a couple years and was there for it’s grand opening. I loved Mr and Mrs I and the entire El Chico family. They certainly treated us like family, and I have always looked forward to stopping in and seeing them on my travels through town.


    4 Oct 18 at 9:30 am

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