Chez José, the 35-Year-Old Mexican Eatery in the Burlingame Neighborhood, Is Closing

The owners had been looking for a buyer as they prepared to retire, but the search has been unsuccessful.

Chez José, the Mexican eatery that’s been feeding the Burlingame neighborhood for more than three decades, will serve its last fajitas next month.

Owners Howie Schechter and Tom Midrano Jr. announced in an email to subscribers that they would close the business Sept. 21. A notice also went up on the restaurant’s website.

The two shared that they had been in the process of transitioning to retirement for the past six months and had been actively looking for someone to purchase the restaurant, located at 8502-A SW Terwilliger Blvd., during that time. However, their search has not been successful. Schechter and Midrano also cited ongoing industry challenges.

“We have been operating with the bare minimum kitchen staffing for the last six months and chose to end the restaurant on our terms rather than an abrupt ending due to lack of staff,” the letter stated. “This affords us an opportunity to celebrate with our customers and staff, as is appropriate given our wonderful run of serving the city of Portland for the last 35 1/2 years.”

Schechter and Midrano opened Chez José in 1987 on what they described as a “shoestring budget.” Over the years, the restaurant built up a solid reputation in the neighborhood, which undoubtedly helped them survive a devastating fire in 2001 that began in neighboring Burlingame Grocery. The owner of that store, Tom Calkins, was convicted of arson two years later.

Decades later, Chez José survived yet another incredibly difficult challenge: COVID and the series of closures and service restrictions that followed. While the business made it through the worst of the pandemic, it’s ultimately going to be undone by the disruption to the hospitality industry that was triggered by the global health emergency as well as the upended labor market.

Longtime customers have until Oct. 8 to get their fill of enchiladas, burritos, chimichangas and flan.

“We have been blessed with an amazing staff over the years and have the honor of many employees who have been with us over 20 years,” Schechter and Midrano wrote. “That is something truly special in our business and the success we have had is due to the people who have worked so hard to put out the best food and make Chez José such a warm and friendly place to dine.”