By Tony Gentilcore
In the spring of 2021, the National Restaurant Association estimated that 90,000 restaurants and pubs had permanently closed in the United States due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pizza outlets increased by about 2,000 carryout establishments.
Why did Chido’s Tex-Mex Grill not only survive but thrive?
In 1995, the restaurant chain Texas Lone Star opened in a new eaterie overlooking Laurel Lake. A steakhouse serving Western hospitality along with several types of beer, the establishment played music and wooden floors that saw a lot of line dancing. It was not a typical restaurant. It was a Western saloon experience.
Late 2007 saw the start of the Great Recession, which led to the shuttering of the Texas Lone Star chain of restaurants, including the one in Laurel. The Don Pablo Tex-Mex chain took over the location, but two years later, the new owners closed the chain.
“Originally, Chido’s Tex-Mex Grill opened in Owings Mills, however, the timing was just slightly pre-pandemic; the lease was up, numbers were down and rumors of some mysterious virus were spreading,Chido’s Tex-Mex Gill decided not to renew their lease,” said General Manager Horacio Romero. “After scouting various locations and the virus situation settling down, Fidel Rincon chose the present site.”
Keeping some of the Don Pablo interior intact saved Chido’s Tex-Mex Grill thousands of dollars in renovating costs. The new owner, Rincon, president of the El Tenampa restaurant chain, remodeled the entire bar and kitchen areas for better flow to make dining an authentic culinary experience.
The business was thankful for its patio during the pandemic, as it could handle large groups of people for funerals, birthday parties and after-sports activities, Romero said. The restaurant’s indoor seating is limited, though, which can lead to long wait times, especially if the weather isn’t ideal for patio seating.
Not wanting to give outdoor seating up completely, the restaurant hired an architect to help bring outdoors elements indoors, Romero said. The city granted the restaurant’s request to enclose part of the current patio and build a new one. Construction is expected to be completed by late spring.
For Jack Lindsey, of Silver Spring, the ambiance, aroma and sizzling sounds of fajitas and oversized stuffed burritos — and portion sizes — have made him a loyal Chido’s customer. Jackie Young, who lives in West Laurel, threw down the gauntlet by declaring that Chido’s has the best frozen margarita in town.
“Fresh foods are delivered daily, and with authentic ingredients. We use our recipes in food preparation. Everyday chips are made in-house using natural ingredients of high quality,” Romero said. “Chido’s Tex-Mex Grill delivers a unique taste of sophisticated flavors that will make you travel to the origins of our cultures in all our recipes. They will make you want to come back. Our food is a culinary art. You will never see a truck unloading prepackaged food from some service industry.”
The restaurant is also proud of its staff.
“Every employee has a function of attentiveness to each customer. With such attentiveness, our table turnover is faster, and [there is] less of a waiting period for others to wait. We also have plenty of parking,” Romero said. “We take care of our staff. We also take care of our cutlery, and our knives glide while slicing, and people remember that.”
When asked about providing live entertainment on weekends, Romero said that it would be difficult to do so at the present time. The property is not zoned for live entertainment, and rezoning would be a complex and expensive venture calling for a number of special exceptions and fees required by the county.
A group of young adults on a recent weekday raved about Chido’s: “The staff is bilingual, so that you can order in English or Spanish. You can come in wearing any apparel without being looked down upon by others. Listen to the noise inside. It is laughing and a festive and positive atmosphere. We can walk here too. It is close and convenient for fresh, healthy food at an affordable price,” they said.