Mexican food was not so popular in the Upper Midwest for years, and when Chi-Chi's started to spread, our Spanish class was taken there (and ordered to speak Spanish, I think, which was probably the most Spanish that chain has ever seen). We were thrilled -- a field trip that was really a trip to a restaurant, during the school day, with all our friends? Also, no matter how non-authentic the tacos and chimichangas were, you've got to think we were one up on the German and French classes -- and this comes from a lover of German food!
There's also a wonderful in-joke among my friends about Chi-Chi's. We used to organize big group trips to the one in Richfield, MN, and our friend Bob would always, always ask what pico de gallo was. He knew what it was -- we all did -- but it seemed apparent the wait staff had been taught a scripted answer to this, and they never failed to recite it exactly the same way: "It's a spicy Mexican relish! It means 'beak of the rooster'!"
This was just a fun in-friend joke until one day when I was working at my magazine job and a friend and co-worker dragged into my office. "Can I help you?" I asked. She must have been working on one of our food-supply company magazines, because she said -- and I SWEAR this happened -- "Only if you can tell me what pico de gallo (which she pronounced gal-o) is."
Never let it be said I passed up a free joke. I chirped "It's a spicy Mexican relish! It means 'beak of the rooster'!"
I think from then on she thought I was the smartest person ALIVE.