Take a bite of Chuy’s

It’s been a while since a new restaurant opened with a big splash in south Charlotte. In this case, with salsa.

If you haven’t visited Chuy’s yet, our culinary expert said you ought to get down there as soon as possible. The new restaurant is located near SouthPark Mall.

If you haven’t visited Chuy’s yet, our culinary expert said you ought to get down there as soon as possible. The new restaurant is located near SouthPark Mall.

The tables are filling up every evening day after day at SouthPark’s Chuy’s, so that even on a Tuesday evening at 6 p.m. you may find a 20-minute wait. You can wait with a margarita by the free ‘fully-loaded nacho car’ buffet during weekday happy hours. And on the weekend at prime time, just maybe, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch a bar stool or two and dine at the bar. That’s actually a pretty good option. The well-padded seats and backs create some of the most comfortable bar stools around. I’m talking about a place that is hoppin’! What was M5, then Zink American Kitchen, is now Chuy’s.

The Sharon Road, SouthPark location’s décor is based on the company philosophy: “If you’ve seen one Chuy’s, you’ve seen one Chuy’s!” The restaurant’s eclectic atmosphere offers your eyes a lot, including a school of hand-carved wooden fish; there’s the often-seen antique hubcaps hanging from the ceiling (OK, not so often); and a Chihuahua Bar featuring framed pictures of local dogs (bring in a photo; who knows…). Just don’t ask why. It just is. Fun, casual, visually exciting and it all somehow comes together. And if you have been in this spot from previous venues, you know there is a large expansive dining patio out back.

Are you a fan of good Mexican and Tex-Mex food? You’re in the right place. The tortillas are hand rolled behind the glass all day long; feel free to watch and learn. The Salsa Fresca is made by the hour, and you can taste the freshness of both the salsa and the tortilla chips. The in-house roasted chickens yield tender and juicy hand-pulled meat. Fresh fire-roasted peppers are for yummy Chile Rellenos. Now add seven tasty, homemade daily sauces to choose from.

Let’s discuss the menu and I’ll highlight some personal favorites. A classic offering is the tortilla soup – homemade chicken broth with freshly-roasted, hand-pulled chicken, avocado, roasted corn, green chiles, tomatoes and cilantro, then topped with cheese and tortilla strips. The chile con queso blends melted cheese, green chile sauce and ranchero sauce. Queso compuesto is chile con queso with seasoned ground sirloin, guacamole and pico de gallo. And the quesadillas are handmade before-your-eyes flour tortillas stuffed with cheese, green chiles and onion and arrive with guacamole, sour cream and pico de gallo. Very fresh ingredients with flavors that pop. The guacamole as an appetizer was very good; ultra-fresh, just seasoned a touch and a nice texture, slightly chunky.

I am a big fan of chile rellenos: fresh Anaheim peppers filled with cheese and fried. What’s not to love? What’s not to love is making them yourself. I’ve tried making them at home and I’d rather come to Chuy’s. They take a fresh Anaheim pepper, fire-roast it and fill it with your choice of the following, then it’s battered and fried and finished with a drizzle of sour cream. You can get just cheese-filled chiles with ranchero sauce; or with seasoned ground sirloin with ranchero sauce. Other options are chicken and cheese or shrimp and cheese chile rellenos with deluxe tomatillo sauce. I found the chile rellenos to be very good and cooked just right. All the variations just add to the appeal.

Another option is the chicken flautas – homemade corn tortillas filled with freshly-roasted, hand-pulled chicken, rolled, fried and drizzled with a smoky, red chipotle sauce; served with guacamole and sour cream. The chuychanga was a favorite with guests as well – a fried flour tortilla filled with fresh, oven-roasted chicken, cheese, cilantro and green chiles, garnished with sour cream and your selected sauce. Fresh tasting, very flavorful and all the dishes arrived hot.

I really appreciate a restaurant that can offer up a unique offering or two. This one made it for me: the Elvis green chile fried chicken. It’s a Chuy’s original. A tender chicken breast is breaded with Lay’s potato chips. Then they quickly deep fry it and smother it in green chile sauce and cheddar cheese. It’s like Mexican chicken parmesan. (I have to try making this one at home; don’t tell them…) The chicken was cooked nicely, still tender and juicy; it comes with green chile rice and refried beans or charro bean, which were very tasty as well.

Combination plates are a popular choice at Mexican/Tex Mex eateries. The comida deluxe offers cheese Tex-Mex enchiladas, chicken flautas, a seasoned ground sirloin crispy taco, guacamole and homemade tostada chips dipped in chile con queso. Another is called the Elvis Presley memorial combo; with a beef Tex-Mex enchilada, cheese ranchero enchilada, chicken tomatillo enchilada, a seasoned ground sirloin crispy taco, with the dipped chips. So what’s with the Elvis stuff? Not sure; I just know that each Chuy’s has an Elvis Shrine to honor the original spot’s velvet Elvis painting.

I enjoyed the combo of a selection including a chile relleno and an enchilada. You can choose from any on each of the lists. I had the roasted chicken for the chile and the chicka-chicka-boom-boom for an enchilada; it has roasted chicken and cheese with boom-boom sauce, made with cheese, roasted New Mexican green chiles, tomatillos, green onions, cilantro and lime juice. All of the several enchiladas are rolled to order in the fresh, homemade corn tortillas and served with your choice of Mexican rice or green chile rice and refried or charro beans.

If you’re into burritos, check out the “Big as Yo’ Face” burritos. A homemade 12-inch flour tortilla is stuffed with refried beans, cheese and your choosing of ground sirloin, roasted chicken, fajita chicken or fajita beef. It arrives with your choice of rice. The fajitas are marinated for 24 hours in a blend of Shriner Bock beer, serrano peppers (hotter than jalapenos), lime juice and secret spices. You get beef, chicken or a combination, grilled with onions and peppers. It arrives with all the appropriate supplements and rice. There are a few tacos to choose from as well, including the Baja tacos with lightly battered and fried fish or shrimp with cilantro, red cabbage and creamy jalapeno.

The opening of this newest location in south Charlotte is the first in North Carolina. Chuy’s will be open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. As their website states, for more than 30 years Chuy’s has taken pride in providing homemade, authentic Mexican and Tex-Mex food using only the freshest ingredients. The Chuy’s menu features authentic family recipes from Texas, New Mexico and Mexico. It started in Austin, Texas, in 1982, and today Chuy’s owns and operates 44 full-service restaurants across 11 states.

This is a restaurant, in and of itself, that looks like and tastes like it has its act together from day one. Although each Chuy’s may be different, I feel, and taste, that the quality of the dishes maintain a high level of being consistently good in each location. We enjoyed very good service at a very good value for tasty food. I hope you enjoy Chuy’s as much as I and my guests have over several visits, be it for a margarita (made with fresh-squeezed lime juice) and nachos, or for lunch or dinner. Learn more at www.chuys.com.

For questions, comments, south Charlotte restaurant openings, closings and food news, email culinary@thecharlotteweekly.com.

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