Salsa on a table at a California Mexican restaurant.
Salsa on a table at a California Mexican restaurant. - 
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Earlier this month, the owner of the restaurant chains El Torito, Chevys Fresh Mex, and Acapulco
filed for bankruptcy, citing falling sales and customers with less disposable income on their hands.

The news seemed to fly a bit under the radar -- perhaps because of the flood of big businesses going under in recent years; or maybe because tastes for Mexican food have steadily drifted towards trendy food trucks and taquerias serving up ice cold horchata.

But the end of this chain of restaurants also marks the end of an interesting slice of American culinary history. Without El Torito and its sister restaurants, a plate of refried beans smothered with cheese, a "wet burrito," or even a margarita, might never have found their way to your table (or stomach).

To hear about why this chain matters for the rest of us, we went to commentator Gustavo Arellano, who is also managing editor at OC Weekly.

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