Chuy’s Does High-quality Mexican Chow Right

By on March 2, 2012

Around here, when most people say “Let’s go out for Mexican” they want just one thing. They don’t want rigorously prepared authentic Mexican moles, the seven fabled sauces of Oaxaca that take all day to prepare. They don’t want an elegant place serving upscale entrees like La Cocina. No they want a big loud happy brightly-colored joint that gives you monster plates full of cheesy gooey goodness. Until two weeks ago, that meant settling for indifferently prepared meat on factory-made tortillas covered with fatty viscous glop. You’d need a lot of margaritas to eat that. But now there’s Chuy’s, and they do it right.

You know you’re in for a good meal when you see this.

Yes, they are making your tortillas. You can watch them transform a ball of dough into a flat disc and slap it on the griddle. This is a rare sight even in Mexico, where, as here, machine-made tortillas are the norm. I had a lot of time to watch the tortillas. We arrived at 5:45 on a Monday evening and there was a 40 minute wait for tables. Chuy’s isn’t a secret anymore. The wait passed quickly — they have two nicely-decorated waiting areas by the door and a few benches outside — and then were led into one of the three gaily-decorated dining rooms.

It’s better lit than the photo shows. Chuy’s is not one of those places where they dim the lights at dinner and you need a flashlight to see what you’re eating.

Great prices! Almost every entree is under $10. I got one of the few exceptions, the “Elvis Presley Memorial Combo” ($10.49) I never knew Elvis favored Mexican food, but I read that a guy named Jimmy Denson, who grew up with him, said that Elvis grew up poor, so poor he was often hungry, and “his favorite food was anything he could get his hands on.” So he would have loved the sheer size of this.

You can tell just by looking that this is high-quality chow. Yes, it’s gooey and cheesy and gloppy, but look at those enchiladas. Each has its own sauce. There’s beef with a red sauce made with fresh red chilis, there’s a cheese enchilada with a red sauce made from fire-roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions and bell peppers, and there’s a chicken enchilada (the chicken is pulled from whole oven-roasted chickens) with Hatch Green Chile sauce (I requested this, the chicken normally comes with another sauce). This sauce is made with beef stock and fresh fire-roasted chilis from New Mexico and it’s a winner. Actually the sauces all blended together so I couldn’t taste them separately, but they gave the food a fine rich flavor. The rice, beans and salad with sliced peppers were fine too. But wait, there’s more! My Elvis combo couldn’t fit on one plate, and it also included this.

A nice taco with ground beef and some nachos. And it was all so good I ate every bit!

My friends got two of the Comida Deluxe platters ($10.49 each)

That has cheese enchiladas with a rich red sauce, a nice ground beef taco, two huge nacho chips, two tiny chicken flautas, beans and a scoop of guacamole. If I had the choice I’d go for the Elvis, but this is a fine choice too. My friends couldn’t finish it because they had loaded up on the free chips and chunky salsa (the salsa is made fresh every hour and it’s great). They were stuffed but I was already thinking of the next visit.

Chuy’s
10808 E 71st St (just east of Mingo Valley Expressway)
252-0405
open daily from 11 AM to 10 PM
www.chuys.com

Chuy's Fine Tex-Mex on Urbanspoon

Brian Schwartz:

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society.  www.theomegasociety.com

I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola.

“A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

Brian Schwartz

About Brian Schwartz

Born in NYC, age 0, on my birthday. College in Oxford at age 16. Law School in New Haven, Conn. 6 years travel in Africa and Asia. Haven’t done much lately. Still, I’m the only Tulsa member of the little-known Omega Society. www.theomegasociety.com I speak enough Chinese to order food not on any English menu. Spanish French Italian too (not fluently but food-ently) My favorite restaurant is Jean-Georges in New York. But those NYC chefs would sell their soul to get the produce available from the farms around Inola. “A writer writes alone. His words tumble forth from a magical inner void that is mysterious even to himself, and that no one else can enter.” And yet, the most important thing to me the writer is YOU. Without you to hear them, my words are worth less than silence.

16 Comments

  1. Paul

    March 2, 2012 at 11:06 am

    good review brian schwartz!

  2. MG

    March 2, 2012 at 11:09 am

    The Tulsa World sure didn’t like this place. That’s as negative of a review as I’ve read in the World in quite some time.

    • Brian Schwartz

      March 2, 2012 at 11:52 am

      I know and that worries me. I never thought I’d like a chain restaurant serving inauthentic Mexican food. So I keep thinking I’m wrong. Still, I loved the flavor. He found the food totally flavorless. I had good service. He had incredibly bad service. So perhaps the restaurant, which opened only two weeks ago, had a bad day and that’s when he came.

      One thing that the review points out that I didn’t know is that while you wait for a table, you are allowed to visit the bar and grab free chips and salsa from a serving station modelled to look like the back of a Cadillac.

    • Annie

      March 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm

      I can’t remember the last time I saw Scott Cherry dislike a restaurant so much, and he is right, there is NO excuse for the lewd way the two servers were behaving in front of guests. I am personally tired of all of the cookie-cutter TexMex chains popping up here. Everyone got so excited when Mi Cocina opened, and frankly I thought it was a waste of a meal. I have heard good things about the original Chuy’s, but it sounds as though they should have just stuck with the good thing they had rather than expand to the point of ruining their reputation. Until I hear consistent reports of MAJOR improvements (there are bad reports on UrbanSpoon as well)I’m not going to waste my time or the calories.

  3. Tulsa_ld

    March 2, 2012 at 3:43 pm

    -My wife loves the place down in Austin. She travels there more frequently than i, but each time we’re in town together she insists we eat there.

    I must confess she likes it more than i do. My two favorite items on each visit (i’ve only tried 3-4 different plates off their menu) were the aforementioned red sauce on my enchiladas and their queso. Nice flavors, a bit of heat, good stuff.

    It has been over 9 months since i was last at the austin location, will have to give the Tulsa version a try. Although, being south of 41st street, i’m not sure how many months it’ll be before i head that way.

    Happy hunting, thanks for the review.

    Tulsa_ld

  4. Judy

    March 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    We have eaten at Chuy’s in Dallas and loved it. Looking forward to our first visit here.

  5. Ben

    March 4, 2012 at 8:05 am

    It was good, but I think El Tequila on Harvard is slightly better tex mex.

  6. Jeremiah

    March 8, 2012 at 8:47 am

    Food looks awesome! Though, I would never review a new place until at least a month or two of business. Just my opinion. That’s probably why Tulsa World guy had a bad experience. Restaurants usually are working out the kinks the first month.

  7. George

    March 8, 2012 at 11:02 am

    We were excited about Chuy’s as well. There was so much hype and anticipation. Well, we went, and were deeply disappointed! For the quality of the food, it is overpriced. The service was not very good, either. Slow and impersonal. Drinks took forever to get refilled, etc. We would MUCH rather have driven a half block east to Mexico Lindo, where the food is always great, the service is friendly and fast, and the prices make the place a bargain.

  8. Joe

    March 11, 2012 at 8:45 pm

    Brian, you were spot on – Chuy’s ROCKS. Probably the best Chili Rellano I’ve had. Love the sauce selection also.

    • Joe

      March 11, 2012 at 8:47 pm

      Plus, I was really wanting to not like the place due to the 30min wait on a rainy Sunday at 3pm and making me drive way out south. But no, the food was too good.

  9. Johnny McClanahan

    March 13, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    I am looking forward to trying Chuy’s in Tulsa. The family and I ate at one of the Austin locations last summer. We all enjoyed it even if it was a chain. More of a regional chain than a national one. I remember that the boom boom sauce on my burrito was very tasty. Also the white salsa reminded me of favorite white Salsa at Hamilin’s in Muskogee. Thanks for the great review Brian!

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  11. Jackie

    April 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    We tried it two weeks ago. The beans and rice were flavorless. The cheese and onion enchiladas were good, as well as the steak burrito. I was disappointed in the salsa bar, since the name implied more than 2 salsas: a fresh salsa and a salsa that tasted like ketchup. Taco Bueno has more variety on their salsa bar! I’ll stick to El Fogon in Owasso!

    • Phil Harris

      July 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      There was only one salsa available this past Saturday…the same stuff the staff brings you. It was a fresh salsa with a bit of a kick. I was expecting more choices.

  12. seikel

    June 6, 2012 at 10:56 am

    I really liked it when I went, and my wait was only 5 minutes. Service was really good, prices were low, and the food was really decent. Just going and getting some queso with tortillas, and fried peppers and onions is a pretty good bet. yum!

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