Beloved restaurant Chicken Itza closes in Cowan

By Fleming Smith and Barton Perkins

Staff Writers

During the summer, Chicken Itza closed its doors and has an uncertain future. Located in Cowan just down the mountain, the Mexican restaurant only recently opened last semester under the ownership of Julio Hernandez, who hails from Peru.

“Our main problem has been getting the right help and it got to the point where I had to go and start working shifts in other places I’m involved with, since those places are my bread and butter,” Hernandez told The Purple. Chicken Itza is closed indefinitely and will not reopen under Hernandez’s leadership.

“I love Chicken Itza and I always tried to do my best, offering good quality tasty food for a fair price. But for a burrito joint, the market was too small and I was having trouble breaking even,” Hernandez explained as the reason behind his restaurant’s closing.

He hopes that Chicken Itza might have a future under another owner. “We have a friend who is trying to put his own crew together and do something with that place. Hopefully it will reopen in the near future,” Hernandez commented.

Students have missed Chicken Itza’s food this semester. “I have always loved the burrito places from back home, so I was super excited when Chicken Itza opened, and it became a place I went regularly,” says Addie Tyler (C’18). “The food was also delicious and the staff was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Now that it’s closed, I find myself constantly wanting a burrito and wishing I could go enjoy Chicken Itza with friends.”

Initially, questions about Chicken Itza’s first arose on July 24, when the restaurant’s Facebook page announced that Chicken Itza would close for a week for a vacation. On July 31, Chicken Itza’s Facebook announced that the restaurant would remain closed indefinitely, without offering much explanation. More than 50 community members commented on the thread, expressing their dismay about the restaurant’s closing and their hopes for news that it will return soon.

Chicken Itza, whose name is a play on words of the world-famous complex of Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula called “Chichen Itza,” offered relatively inexpensive, tasty food with many similarities to a Moe’s or Chipotle. Students can often feel that their options for eating off campus are limited, and Chicken Itza provided a welcome alternative.

“I’m very thankful for all the support from the University and Sewanee in general,” said Hernandez. “Thank you again for everything!”