DINING: Newcomer Chuy’s stands out in crowded Tex-Mex field

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Dining - A&E

It’s difficult to imagine a chain Tex-Mex restaurant generating much excitement these days. After all, isn’t there already a no-surprises Don Pablo’s, On the Border, or Abuelo’s—or a Los Rancheros, La Hacienda or El Rodeo—within peso-tossing distance of just about every home in central Indiana?

ae-apb-chuys01-15col.jpg Tortillas are made in full patron view. (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

Yet crowds are flocking to Chuy’s (14150 Town Center Blvd., 773-7733), the newcomer to Hamilton Town Center. And after a hearty lunch visit—complete with a back seat full of leftovers—I get it. Kind of.

Brassy and boisterous, Austin, Texas-based Chuy’s (pronounced “chewy’s”) is anything but subtle. Salsa and chips are dispensed from a tailgate-ready car trunk. Tortilla-making is a spectator sport. Wacky T-shirts (for sale, of course) are prominently displayed. One room’s ceiling is covered in hub caps. Deliberately uneven tile in bold colors adorns the walls. Eclectically clad staff seem to be bumping into one another everywhere while reciting their faux-casual script. Kids yell. You get the idea.

But the food is abundant, attractive and, for the most part, at or above what I’d expect from Chuy’s chain brethren. Thin chips—and equally thin salsa—were unexceptional, but the Tortilla Soup ($4.29) was a surprising winner. What looked like an excess of broth actually turned out to be its strong suit. Unlike other restaurants that pile in shredded chicken and tortilla strips, then bury it all in sour cream, Chuy’s showed remarkable restraint. The result was worth savoring.

ae-apb-chuys03-15col.jpg Chuy’s Tortilla Soup isn’t overloaded, letting the broth rule (IBJ Photo/ Aaron P. Bernstein)

Shrimp & Cheese Chile Rellenos ($9.99) stuffed a fire-roasted—but mild to the point of invisibility—Anaheim pepper with the title ingredients and tomatillo sauce. Better was the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo ($10.89), tying together a beef enchilada, cheese enchilada, chicken tomatillo enchilada and a ground sirloin taco. For sides, green-chili rice is offered as an alternative to the standard Mexican rice, and charro beans can replace the usual refried. Six house-made sauces are available for dipping and dousing.

Speaking of Elvis, we also tried the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken ($9.79) and, surprise, there’s pleasure to be had in a tender chicken breast breaded with Lay’s potato chips. It somehow managed to stay crunchy and was nicely complemented by the chile sauce and cheddar cheese.

No, I didn’t know what the Elvis/Tex-Mex connection was, short of his appearance in the 1969 movie “Charro!” But a bit of homepage homework indicated that, while scrambling for cheap décor for their original location, Chuy’s founders covered a blank wall with velvet Elvis posters. Now you know.•

—Lou Harry


  • oops
  • does the writer know food
    The fact that you are comparing american chain restaurants to whole in the wall Mexican joints shows your lack of food knowledge and thats where I stopped reading. I will check out Chuy's

Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
Subscribe to IBJ