As some of you may know, my version of Heaven is a place where kitties frolic in abundance, stilettos never hurt your feet, JK Rowling never stops writing about Harry Potter and I can eat as much Tex Mex as I want (particularly Chuy’s and plantains) without ever gaining a pound. In fact, I get skinnier with every cheesy, crunchy, oily bite.
But alas, this is reality, and this week KnightlyBoyfriend and I are fortunate enough to be in my earth-bound slice of Heaven.
Maverick may be thousands of miles away, my feet are aching (albeit looking fabulous) in these high-heel boots, Harry Potter has been completed for over two (three?) years and this Mexican food will undoubtedly travel straight to the hips, but you know what? Things couldn’t be peachier.
(Speaking of peachy, Texas peaches are far superior to all other forms of fruit. FYI.)
As per usual, the wheels of the plane barely had the chance to flirt with the idea of touching the ground before KnightlyBoyfriend and I made a beeline for Chuy’s.
What I may not have explained fully is that when we go to Chuy’s, we experience a rather strange phenomenon. Upon sitting down at the table, the gracious waiter set down our waters, the basket of edible gold, and the beautiful sauces to accompany said gold. Stuffing our mouths with chips, we ordered the queso and our Texas martinis.
Side note: when ordering at Chuy’s during off-hours, never order your meal right away. It will be there within 5 milliseconds of receiving your queso, leaving you little time to savor the cheese ganache in its glory.
The next thing we knew…dinner was over. POOF! Where the hell did all that food go??? OH MY GOD I CAN’T MOVE MY BODY! TOO FULL!!
Although the severely distended abdomens and 43947828 pound bellies clearly prove that we did, in fact, eat the entire restaurant, we don’t remember.
We call this the Chuy’s Blackout. Since KnightlyBoyfriend and I are deprived of the world’s best Tex-Mex all but two weeks or so per year, we pretty much black out upon stuffing that first cheesy chip in our mouths. The Id explodes from our psyches and awakens our animal instincts, and all of a sudden, we’re starving wolves in the forest who have just been given a never ending supply of fresh carcass. We eat with reckless abandon, unbutton the jeans, shift in our seats, and continue eating. The eating is punctuated with sips (gulps) of Texas Martini and a few random words about nothing, said for the sole purpose of appearing normal. But it is not normal. It’s pure savagery, and it’s wonderful.
I knew KnightlyBoyfriend was the guy for me when I realized he loves Chuy’s as much as me.
We just experienced the first Chuy’s Blackout of the trip. Welcome to Texas.
This post has been a long time coming.
Speaking of a long time, this is a LONG post. Brace yourself.
As you may or may not know, I traveled to the magical land of Texas recently to visit my beloved friends and family. KnightlyBoyfriend and I spent three and a half years flying back and forth to one another in college, and now that we’re in Boston together, we make it a point to visit Houston at least a couple times per year. During the nearly six years of traveling, we have carved out certain traditions and checkpoints we HAVE to hit every time we go to Houston. However, there is one tradition that has been with us since KnightlyBoyfriend’s first visit to Texas in 2005: Chuy’s.
It’s our “thing.” During college, I would collect Ryan from the airport and we would immediately high tail it to Chuy’s. Today, the first thing we do after we land, before we visit friends or family, is eat our weight at Chuy’s. Since I moved to Boston, we have made it a point to go to Chuy’s on the day we leave, too. It’s kind of gross, actually. But nevertheless, Chuy’s puts the DIE in diet. It’s a summer camp for calories. It’s an ocean of greasy goodness. And cheese. Lots and LOTS of cheese. For all those things, I say BRING IT.
2706 Westheimer Road
Chuy’s Comida Deluxe
The History – A Walk Down Mexican Food Memory Lane
I have added this section about Chuy’s history, because my love affair with this wonderous cantina extends as far back as my high school years. I have many a great picture, and even more great memories.
Here’s a snapshot of some friends and me back in high school. Chuy’s is open until midnight, and we would make late night chip-and-queso runs.
When I went to college at UMass, my family got together the night before I left to say our goodbyes. The choice for my last supper? Chuy’s. Here’s my precious niece/God-daughter “reading” the menu, like she saw all the grown-ups doing.
Yeah, she’s in first grade now.
We had another get-together four months later during my first visit home from UMass.
May I just say…I’ve got the cutest nieces in the entire universe.
When I visited, my good friend would drive into Houston from Austin to see me (because she’s awesome). We made a bit of a tradition out of getting all gussied up, going to dinner, drinking coffee until 2am, taking photo booth pictures and eating dessert at House of Pies. It was always an amazing time. This particular evening, it appears we dined at Chuy’s.
At this point, KnightlyBoyfriend and I already knew each other. About six months or so later, Ryan and I made a pilgrimage to the original Chuy’s in Austin during one of his visits. I think we had been dating somewhere between 6 and 8 months when this picture was taken.
I wanna pinch those wittle cheeks.
Anyway, at that point, there were only about 4 or 5 locations, so going to the original was pretty much the best thing ever.
Ahhh, good times. Now, onto the review.
Chuy’s is, how should I say, eclectic. But that is kind of its schtick. I mean, look at the sign. Then, imagine that sign blown up and vomited all over the walls and ceilings of a small interior, and you pretty much have Chuy’s. But the thing that’s different about Chuy’s, is that, somehow, it actually works for them. What would be cheesy and off-putting anywhere else just looks delightfully tacky at Chuy’s. They stick to their theme so well that it makes sense. The multi-colored, wooden painted fish hanging from the ceiling in one room, the shiny Cadillac hub caps papering the walls of another room, the Elvis theme, the diner furniture, the makings for nachos shoved into the front end of a car sticking out from the wall – it’s outrageous in the best way possible. It’s a place where you walk in and just know that it is going to be irreverent and, above all, FUN.
Why yes, that is in fact an Elvis impersonator. They have Elvis week from time to time and he shows up, sings and embarrasses the hell out of some unsuspecting patron (yes, he has done it to me in the past). They also have an Elvis platter on the menu that is delicious and absolutely packed with yummy Tex-Mex fare.
So, once you get past Chuy’s outrageous decor, you must realize that this place is always packed. Lunchtime? Packed. 4:30 PM? Packed (people start showing up before happy hour so that they get a seat…but they won’t, because it’s already packed). 7:00 PM? HAH! FORGET IT! 11:00 PM? Still (say it with me, ladies and gentlemen) packed. Think you want to go to Chuy’s on the weekends? Well, so does everyone else. Go with really great company and be prepared to drink your face off during the hour and a half you wait for a table. It is important to note that the sheer volume of laughing, smiling people is one of the reasons Chuy’s has such an amazing atmosphere.
Oh, and they don’t take reservations. You can’t even call ahead. In fact, if you get dropped off while your date circles the parking lot to find a spot, you still won’t get seated because your entire party has to be present and in front of the hostess stand. Why? Because it’s always so busy they can’t handle the volume. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. People will wait, because Chuy’s is just that spectacular. Heck, I’ve waited. One time, I ran errands while waiting.
So how do you get in? Well, if you’re certifiably insane, like me, and go to Chuy’s more times than any human being should ever admit to going, you learn the routine. If you want to eat lunch at Chuy’s, you might not have a long wait, but you might also end up waiting for an hour. However, if you go from 1:30-4:00 PM, you will see this:
We left around 3:30, and it already started to fill out a bit.
Make the pilgrimage. It’s worth it.
Ummm, let’s put it this way – if I could bathe in Chuy’s food, I just might. It makes me feel invincible, like I can fly, or eat 470934720342 calories and still have a beating heart.
If you’ve never had Tex-Mex before, you’re really missing out. It takes authentic-ish Mexican dishes and spices them up with local flavor. I’m not 100% sure that I’m right about this, but my understanding is that, what we deem “Mexican food” is usually Tex-Mex (so fajitas, enchiladas, rice and beans, chimichangas, flautas, etc.). This means that you will find the very best in Texas. It may look like it’s food unceremoniously slopped onto a plate, but every place does it differently, every place has a special dish, and every Texan has a favorite Mexican food restaurant . Mine is split between Chuy’s and another hole-in-the-wall place called Tia Maria’s (but that’s another post).
Upon being seated, you are greeted with this delightful assortment of Heaven:
I’m sorry, did you get that?
Just so we’re all on the same page – you can’t find this in MA. I’m not convinced you can find this outside of Texas. I haven’t. Those chips arrive warm and fresh from the fryer. These golden brown beauties are corn tortilla chips, and they are delicate and thin and so satisfyingly crispy and crunchy. The thinness of the chips is what really contributes to the crunch factor, and oh dear GOD they are SO good.
Chips are bottomless, and at Chuy’s they know the drill. Some places make you ask for a refill, but not here. The servers know to just keep ‘em coming. And not when the basket is empty, but when you get to all the annoying tiny broken pieces hanging around about halfway through the basket. Chips are served with a pico / salsa fresca-type something that includes tomatoes, red onions, jalepenos, cilantro and lime juice. It’s chopped (or more likely, food processed) into tiny bits and made to sit in its own juices. IT IS ADDICTIVE. And spicy. And oh-so-yummy on the perfect chips.
The white sauce is Chuy’s famous Creamy Jalepeno. (Please excuse the lack of “~” over the “n”,” I’m way too lazy to figure out how to do it.) Creamy Jalepeno is basically what would happen if homemade ranch dressing (Texas ranch dressing…not that crap they serve everywhere else) and jalepenos fell in love, mated and had tasty children.
And, we’re in Texas, so OBVIOUSLY we ordered the queso. No, not cheese dip. Queso. That’s what it’s called.
Excuse me, please. I think I need a moment.
Chuy’s queso is partially so delicious because whatever blend of cheeses and spices they use is awe-inspiring. I honestly cannot even begin to figure out what’s in there. It’s savory and salty and cheesy, but there’s a nice spice running through it. I can’t pinpoint what it is.
The other reason Chuy’s queso is so delicious is because of the consistency. Quesos can be gritty (grated cheese) or chunk up when they start to cool, but not Chuy’s. The best textural comparison that comes to mind is chocolate ganache. It’s very smooth and creamy like that, and even when it cools and thickens it doesn’t get chunky or weird. It’s my favorite queso in the entire world. I could drink vats of that stuff and go back for round two the next day. Yes, I realize how revolting that sounds, but it’s just that good.
As per usual, lunch was kicked off with a cocktail: the Texas Martini. It is essentially a margarita on the rocks.
Oh, I’m sorry? Did you think that was the whole thing? Try again.
THAT, my friends, is a Texas Martini. They give you the whole shaker, which adds up to a little more than 4 glasses. It is delicious and potent and if you can drink more than one and still have your wits about you, you should probably talk to someone about Step 1.
Since Chuy’s is such a rare treat now, I get the same thing every time. A chicken taco salad with no tomatoes. It’s delicious! A huge mound of romaine, topped with white Mexican cheese, guacamole, carrots, red cabbage and deliriously flavorful grilled chicken (fresh and always hot) topped off with (are you ready for this) more Creamy Jalepeno. It’s a dip and a dressing! Genius!
I’m a little ashamed to admit that I pretty much polish off this sucker every time…3/4 of the shell will be left, but the rest is all me.
KnightlyBoyfriend has a “usual,” too. It took a few years of dabbling and trying new dishes, but he finally settled on the steak burrito.
The spicy (and very tender and flavorful) steak is wrapped in a flour tortilla that is absolutely swimming in hatch green chili sauce and topped with Mexican cheese. It is served with some spicy rice, pico and beans. I’m really happy KnightlyBoyfriend chose this dish as his usual, because that means I can always snag a bite or two. Of everything I’ve tried at Chuy’s, the burrito is probably my second favorite entree, next to the taco salad.
After dinner, we were off to see the Harry Potter midnight movie with one of my favorite couples in the whole world!
My favorite thing about Chuy’s? It’s cheap. Before we were of legal drinking age, KnightlyBoyfriend and I usually spent about $21 per meal. Now that we drink, it costs a little more. Our bill was around $40 (give or take), and that included:
- Bottomless chips and salsa (free)
- 2 Texas Martinis (between $6 and $7 apiece, affectively making the Texas Martini the alcoholic bargain of the century)
- Queso ($5)
- Chicken Taco Salad ($7)
- Steak Burrito ($8)
- Tip (a little over 20%)
Summary of this Knight at the Restaurant
- Fact: Chuy’s is one of my favorite Tex-Mex establishments, and has been for quite a long time.
- Fact: I am a glutton when I go there.
- Fact: The Texas Martini will f*ck you up for less than $7.
- The chips and salsa are the epitome of excellence. The Creamy Jalepeno and queso should be on your bucket list.
- No, it’s not gourmet. It’s sloppy, greasy Tex-Mex. But it’s highly flavorful and uses high quality ingredients, so the taste is outstanding, and very consistently so.
- I always get the chicken taco salad with Creamy Jalepeno dressing, and KnightlyBoyfriend gets the steak burrito – I would recommend both. The salad is ideal if you want to go “light” and the burrito fills you up and soothes your soul if you want something with more substance.
Final Rating: 4.0/5.0
A KNIGHTED MEMBER OF THE RESTAURANT ROUND TABLE
I need a moment to collect myself.
What’s your favorite Mexican food / Tex-Mex establishment?