Posts Tagged Chuy’s

Does Chuy’s Deliver on Good Tex-Mex?

chuy3

Guest Post by Jim Rassinier
Ah, Chuy’s. That amazing place we consistently go back to for… their creamy jalapeno sauce. My dining critic even posted the best response ever regarding such: “Best thing on the menu. Literally. The best thing in this place is literally on my menu.”

Alas, the Southwest is starving for anything Tex-Mex these days, so Chuy’s, which started in Austin in 1982 (Same place where Torchy’s started. Culinary folk … you’ve been warned.) has branched out to 12 States already, most in the past decade.

Now, my ex-wife being from Tennessee when we were together, I knew how desperate y’all were for any, literally, ANY kind of decent Tex-Mex. We went to a grand opening of what equated to a Chipotle and they were out the door. It was at least a 30 minute wait for a Chipotle wannabe. I knew then that Taco Cabana would go gangbusters in these areas. Unfortunately, Taco Cabana wasn’t willing to expand or franchise (I tried), so now you all are stuck with what people outside of Texas consider “Tex-Mex.”

Well, pardner, that’s like saying that Taco Bell is true “Cali-Mex” (Btw, it is, much like Chuy’s is true “Tex Mex.”)

Point is, you would have all been better represented by Taco Cabana being represented as your true Tex-Mex than Chuy’s; which nobody outside of Austin considers Tex-Mex at all.

That damn creamy jalapeno sauce…

You see, Chuy’s is far more about New Mexico food. Sure, they try to say they incorporate South Texas and Mexico flavors, but nobody outside of a true Texan buys it.

And the decor. Looks like Chili’s, Bennigan’s and Elvis paintings vomited on each other. Not exactly a Reese’s Peanut Butter cup moment.

But the worst part was that I had gone to a Chuy’s in Central Houston and had the chile relleno. It was one of the best I’d ever had, and I advised my dining partner about such.

And then when it came to the table on my recent visit to the Woodlands, Texas location, it didn’t taste remotely the same. It is nearly impossible to recommend something when it tastes so different at two separate locations. I totally understand that certain chefs are better than others, but at the end of the day, standards have to be met. Mine was lacking in flavor, and honest to Pete, do they have to pour sauce on everything?!? Kids! When you’re serving fried foods, sauce on the side!

My dining partner had to say this about her own meal: “The chicken got most of its flavor from the Boom Boom sauce. The breading and chicken was actually a bit bland, and of course everything is better with an over easy egg. This would have been just as good with just grilled chicken, but I’d order it again considering it’s one of the few things I’ve eaten from Chuy’s that I halfway liked.”

So… what am I to say to the Little Rock folk? I can say this: You are being denied of great Tex-Mex. Yes, Chuy’s is mildly good, and probably better than most out there, but anyone who has ventured into Texas knows there is not only better Tex-Mex. There is FAR better. And even if you only make your way to Dallas (ugh) you can enjoy a TRULY good Tex-Mex place: Pappasito’s.

Until then, enjoy the creamy jalapeno dip. It really is the shit.

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Pie Hole: Little Rock Food Scene Remains in a Holding Pattern

pieholeCommentary

A few weeks ago, I posed this question to readers: “How would you describe your local food scene in a couple words?” Personally, for Little Rock, I chose “getting there.”

For many restauranteurs, “getting there” generally takes about twice as long as originally anticipated–things go wrong, problems arise, inspections fail…and so on.

But there’s another side to a city’s food scene “getting there.” It’s about finding your identity, creating new and exciting dishes, and challenging the diners to step outside the proverbial box. To me, Little Rock’s future restaurant identity will lie in the farm-to-table concept, and how many more chefs decide to put their creative spin on these locally-sourced ingredients.

We’re surrounded by great farms, run by wonderful farmers–many of whom I’ve met in some form or fashion this year. We have amazing local ingredients at our fingertips and a segment of the population who is beginning to seek out these items. Don’t believe me? Just check out the crowded farmers markets on weekends.

Make no mistake, the Little Rock food scene is “getting there,” but it takes time, and for now…we’re left to ponder what the future may hold.

South on Main, a restaurant which could potentially change the entire landscape of Little Rock’s downtown food scene, as well as the SoMa neighborhood, is still not open. That could change, very soon, but as to when…your guess is as good as mine.

Creative young chefs and bakers search for elusive brick and mortar spots, yet still find their success at small farmer market stands and mobile food trucks. That could soon change, but as to when…your guess is as good as mine.

Two of our “top” chefs, Lee Richardson and Donnie Ferneau, currently do not reside in restaurant kitchens. Who knows if that could change, and if or when…your guess is as good as mine.

One definite is that we will continue to see the infiltration of mega-chains like Mellow Mushroom, Chuy’s, and Twin Peaks, especially in areas like West Little Rock, where large plots of land around Chenal Parkway remain undeveloped.

For better or worse, Little Rock’s food scene is going to look a lot different one year from now. With local talent, along with a growing foodie fan base, the potential is limitless. I have hopes that by next year, my words to describe the Little Rock food scene will be “progressive” and “innovative.”

We’ll get there…one of these days.

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Around Town: BBQ Cookouts, Chuy’s, and a Memphis Bro Trip

Chuy's Margarita

Chuy’s Margarita

A look back on what’s been going on around Little Rock.

A few weeks back, I checked out Chuy’s on a soft opening. We kicked off the complimentary dinner at the much ballyhooed restaurant with a small bowl of guacamole and a standard margarita on the rocks. The guac was smooth and creamy, not bogged down with too many ingredients, which I often like—yet something lacked with this version. I’m thinking a little cilantro and a squeeze of lemon would have done wonders for the appetizer. The margarita was fairly pedestrian, certainly not memorable, but a perfect libation to wash away the pains of any long work week. My Elvis Presley Memorial Combo entree was filled with enchiladas, all well-executed and tasty. I especially enjoyed the plate’s refried beans, which had a thicker consistency than most you’ll find in Little Rock. All and all, Chuy’s Little Rock is exactly how I remembered with my Texas experiences—very solid Tex-Mex food with a fun atmosphere. This West Little Rock location should do very well.

Here’s my latest stint on The Alice Stewart Show with Dan Walker and Michael Roberts.

I’ve been hitting up several of our wonderful farmers markets on the weekends. It’s really tough to beat a cup of Mylo’s coffee (and one of their pastries) on a Saturday morning at the Hillcrest Farmers Market. From there, I generally mosey over to The Southern Gourmasian food truck for the omelet with shiitakes and carmelized onions. Before heading out, I typically stop by the North Pulaski and Freckle Face Farm booths to stock up on meats and vegetables. Sunday’s Bernice Garden Farmers Market is just as good. I generally go to one farmers market or the other each weekend and encourage you to do the same. Support local.

Just get the shredded chicken salad bowl at Rock N’ Tacos and thank me later.

The Southern Gourmasian's Omelet

The Southern Gourmasian’s Omelet

We had a great LR Foodie Feed-Up at Baja Grill out in Benton last week. Our 16-person turnout included Twitterers: @jkeller459, @MosaicGrl, @KDReep, @Daniel_P_Walker, @hillbillypharma, and @alicetweet. Please go follow all of these accounts and really become an active part of the Little Rock social media food scene. It’s a growing community, filled with great people. Also, keep a lookout for our next gathering. We’ll try to do these informal meet-ups every few weeks. All are welcomed (kids included). Special thanks to Craig at Baja Grill for showing us a great time. He and his hospitable crew are churning out some delicious food.

A tip of the hat goes out to The Gees and The Shulers for making my family’s first Arkansas Memorial Day Weekend a truly memorable one. Their parties produced some of the best barbecue I’ve ever eaten as well as fantastic company. Kelly (and friends) did the whole damn hog and Steve smoked two pork butts and nine racks of baby back ribs. Insane! Thanks to you and your families.

I highly recommend the breakfast burrito (with grilled veggies) at Milford Track. The eggs inside are light and fluffy and the vegetables are cooked just right.

On Friday, I’ll be at the Southern Roots: An Evening of Local Food and Farmers. Won’t you join me?Finally…this Saturday, five super cool dudes will be heading to Memphis for an All Weekend Food Bro Trip. We plan to hit up 15 of the city’s top eating establishments and promise to tell the world our story if we make it back alive. I’m pretty sure nothing like this in the history of mankind has even been attempted.

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