Like many things, it seems that Austinites either like Chuy's or they don't. I fall into the latter category. I've lived in Austin since 1994, and I probably haven't been inside a Chuy's (and there are now several, even outside of Texas!) one since 1997. I just never thought it was all that great, and life's too short to eat bad food! So imagine my conundrum, when an old colleague is visiting town, several of us are slated to get together for a reunion, and all he wants is a Chuy's strawberry margarita. After all, they can't get good Tex Mex in Minnesota! (Sorry, John!) What's a highly opinionated food *reviewer* to do? Go in with an open mind. Yes, even me. And you know what? It really wasn't bad.
There were going to be seven of us, meeting at 6:30 on Sunday. I met the first couple of people in the bar/waiting area, and they already had a round of chips, salsa, and queso going. The tortilla chips are your standard thin, crispy chips, the salsa is also fairly staid, as is the queso. Once our whole group was there, we got moved to a round table in one of the dining rooms. The only downside is that it's LOUD. The decor is a bit garish, with faux car parts and parrots on the walls and ceiling. Our waiter came and got our drink order; they had just run out of Negro Modelo beer, which was the only beer on the list that really interested me, so I opted for sangria.I thought a combo plate would be the best way to try a couple of dishes, so I went with the #4, a chicken enchilada with queso, and a ground sirloin-stuffed chile relleno with ranchero sauce. Basically, you get your choices of enchilada and relleno. I asked our server for his opinion on which sauce to get on the enchilada, and he patiently walked me through the options (the menu also has good explanations). When we got the check, I learned his name was Clayton, and he was great. More on that in a sec.
The chile relleno was really good! The beef was seasoned well, it was a nice layer of fried-crispiness that was NOT a bit greasy, and the ranchero sauce, while mild (as advertised) complimented it all very well. I would eat this again. Now the chicken inside the enchilada was nice large pieces of white meat. The queso however, was kind of dried and rubbery. I think this plate sat under the lights for a few minutes, because the refried beans too, had a bit of a skin on them. In retrospect, I should have ordered the enchilada with one of the green chile sauces on it; they claim on their menu to be fairly spicy though, and I still wanted to taste my food, so I went with the processed cheese queso. No bueno.
Other people's food looked pretty tasty too. I believe this plate is the #2, Elvis Presley Memorial Combo, with three different types of enchiladas, and covered in the boom-boom sauce, which I believe is a creamy version of the green chile. Other dishes at our table included the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken, with a batter made from potato chips and the Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom, which are chicken enchiladas with the boom-boom sauce.
For the place being fairly packed on a Sunday evening, our food came out relatively quickly. Our waiter would swing by every now and then, checking on drinks, clearing the chip baskets to help make more room on the table, and was just really a friendly, patient, guy. The kicker for me was he automatically split our checks without us even asking. Good call, Clayton! So now when one of my close friend's craves Chuy's tortilla soup (which apparently many people rave about), I won't be so quick to shoot it down. This meal had some pros and cons, but probably the best pro was it opened my mind! :)