Students and owner reflect on Chago's closure

Updated: Sep 9



Local staple Chago’s Cantina closed its doors for the final time in August after almost 12 years of serving students and residents of the Belmont-Hillsboro community.

Chago’s Cantina’s proximity to Belmont’s campus made it an important gathering place for many students, who will remember it fondly after the doors close for good.

“I don't think I really realized until we made an announcement that it had such a big impact on people,” said Chago’s owner Chad Head.

Head is grateful for the support and kind words offered by students, faculty and local customers as the announcement was made that Chago’s would be closing.

“The best memory is when we decided to close and the overwhelming just, like, outpour of the community and you know, whether it be Belmont or the neighborhood — just the support that kind of showed up,” Head said.

Head, acknowledging that many were saddened by the closure, wanted to ensure the community knew he was leaving on good terms.

“You know, I think my main objective is to tell people that it really didn't have to do with COVID. The restaurant business is really hard. Especially if you're going be successful, you're going have to live in the restaurant; I've been there every day,” said Head. “I really just wanted to spend time with my family and life's really short.”

Head originally opened the restaurant in 2011 as a place for people to come and enjoy great food together.

“I kind of wanted to reach out and do something on my own and create my own concept. Being from San Diego, I've always enjoyed Mexican food. That was a big factor on it. I wanted to create a cool vibe,” he said. “When I found the location on Belmont, we were able to buy the building. Being across the street from a school, it made sense.”

Head, with Chago’s Cantina in his rear-view mirror, plans to step back from working in general to enjoy a slower life. His plans?

“Play golf with my friends, read my kids books at night and put them to bed,” Head said.

Sophomore Addie Janowiak, a secondary education and mathematics double major, will miss Chago’s and her go-to order.

“It was the only place I could come and eat chicken quesadillas and guacamole,” Janowiak said, “It’s funny, one of the main things I remember from my freshman year was going to Chago’s when my parents came to visit me during fall break.”

It wasn’t just the restaurant that stuck with Janowiak, but the owner as well.

“My parents and I actually got a chance to meet the owner once, and every time we came back after, he would recognize us and talk to my parents,” said Janowiak.

Olivia Nievera, a junior early childhood education major, will miss the unique outings with friends.

“I feel like there's just so much love with sharing a cup of cheese dip with your friends,” Nievera said. “It sounds cheesy, but it was one of my favorite things.”

Nievera has high hopes for whoever decides to fill the void left by Chago’s.

“Whatever's there is going to impact Belmont in general, but especially the freshman experience,” Nievera said.

Even after closing its doors, Chago's Cantina will live on in the memories of a decade’s worth of Belmont students.

PHOTO : Chago's Cantina on Belmont Boulevard Isaac Wetzel/Belmont Vision

This article was written by Braden Simmons

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