Try bold and innovative flavors at Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen

Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen at The Market Place offers an exciting, modern take on Latin-inspired cuisine. The lively music heard throughout sets the tone for a fun and uplifting dining experience. Longtime business partners and co-founders Don Myers and Peter Serantoni combined their passion for Latin cuisine to open Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen in 2009. 

Myers has been a force throughout the Orange County culinary scene since he relocated from his hometown of Tucson, Arizona, over 40 years ago. Some of his previous restaurant endeavors include the opening of Scott’s Seafood and The Catch. We sat down with Myers to discuss the inspiration behind Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen and his vision for the future.

What inspired you and your co-founder Peter Serantoni to open Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen?

Peter and I worked together many years ago at another restaurant. We both went our separate ways until one day he called me wanting to do something new. Having fun was a big part of what we always wanted to do.

What does the decision-making process look like when updating or expanding your menu?

The menu is primarily the same as it was in 2009. The food was different from what was being offered to the Orange County market when we first opened, and everything sold. The food will stay on the menu until it stops selling. When you make a slight variation to the dishes, people notice. One dish we did update was our salmon entree, based on a suggestion from Joe Martinez, our executive chef. He came up with this chipotle honey glaze that is so good people just want to eat it again and again. 

Which menu items do you recommend for first-time visitors?

Our salmon is my number-one recommended dish if you have never been to Cha Cha’s. We also have carne asada with an Argentinian chimichurri that is one of our number-one sellers. We also take pride in our cocktails and signature margaritas. Our margarita was voted the Best Margarita in Orange County by the Orange County Register. We have a variety of flavors like mango habañero, watermelon and pineapple. 

When you decided to open a second location, what led you to the city of Irvine and The Market Place specifically?

I have spent the last 36 years opening restaurants in Orange County. I know the area very well. The Market Place is a vibrant center, and the location on the corner has everything we were looking for. It has been amazing to see its expansion over the 12 years we have been there. Now we just keep trying to grow and improve it. 

What do you want Cha Cha’s Latin Kitchen to be known for?

I would love Cha Cha’s to be known for its ambiance. We like our music in the foreground, not the background. It should be fun when you walk in. From the architecture to the food, cocktails and margaritas — it should be exciting. Fun is a big aspect of Cha Cha’s. That is why people keep coming back. We want to be a part of the community. I get to see families grow up. Kids that started as babies are now 13 and 14 years old, and they are taller than me! It is great to see our customers celebrating their birthdays and anniversaries with us each year. Family is what Cha Cha’s is all about.