Chuy’s (http://www.chuys.com/) is a Tex-Mex chain that was founded in Austin, Texas, in 1982. I’ve been to three separate locations here in Orlando: multiple meals in Winter Park, a few times to Waterford Lakes (a location that has since closed), and down by the airport once with co-workers. Chuy’s has a fun, funky, kitschy, irreverent vibe, and the food is always prepared fresh, from scratch. Portions are huge, and prices are very fair.
What’s this? Fake palm trees… “growing” in the dining room? It’s crazy, I tell ya!
I know some people are really skeptical of chains, but Chuy’s is always solid. I can’t think of many other Mexican restaurants that make their corn AND flour tortillas from scratch, and you can really taste the difference. I am NOT a fan of shelf-stable grocery store tortillas! As far as I can tell, they make everything from scratch here. The thin, crispy tortilla chips they bring to your table for free are freshly fried from those corn tortillas, and they come with a chilled salsa that has more heat than most restaurant salsas. You can also request a creamy jalapeño sauce that is like a cool, slightly spicy ranch dip, but much better than ranch.
Here’s that overflowing complimentary basket of their light, thin, crispy tortilla chips, with the chilled salsa and creamy jalapeño sauce. I love both of these because they are obviously made fresh, actually spicy, and both served chilled. I am never as big a fan of room temperature salsa.
This is my wife’s favorite tortilla soup. It is chicken broth-based, with lots of shredded chicken, melty white cheese, tomatoes, carrots, celery, avocado, and crispy fried strips of fresh corn tortillas. Before Chuy’s opened a restaurant in Winter Park, sometimes she’d ask me to pick it up for her from the Waterford Lakes location. Despite how awful traffic gets heading east on Colonial Drive in the evening, I’d still run the errand, because I love her, and she loves that soup! (Of course, that location has since closed.) On this last trip from early 2020, we even ended up getting a second cup to go, and I returned a few days later to bring her home a larger order.
This was her taco and enchilada plate from that February 2020 visit. Knowing her, I’m guessing she got grilled steak in them, as opposed to chicken or seasoned ground beef. You get very generous portions at Chuy’s, including that mountain of Mexican rice and that sea of refried beans.
And this was my chile relleno and enchilada plate. The chile relleno is a batter-dipped and fried pepper stuffed with ground beef and covered in Tex-Mex sauce, kind of like a chili con carne. The enchilada is stuffed with shredded chicken and covered in spicy, tangy, creamy Boom-Boom sauce, a Chuy’s specialty. Chuy’s used to have my favorite chile relleno. A lot of Mexican restaurants use a batter that is too thick, heavy, and eggy, and it ends up soggy, greasy, and sloughing off the pepper. Not so here. This chile relleno batter always stayed crispy and didn’t disintegrate.
Unfortunately, starting around the time of the pandemic, Chuy’s cut its menu offerings back, removing many of the truly unique Tex-Mex dishes I had come to love. The chile relleno pictured above? GONE. The combo platters you just salivated over? GONE. The chili con carne Tex-Mex sauce? GONE. I always meant to order the green chile fried chicken, but too bad, so sad — it’s off the menu too. And so is the delicious carne guisada, a beef stew that was a lunch special one rare and lucky time I went, that I always hoped to get again.
We hadn’t been back in over a year, even though I’ve been ordering takeout all over town, mostly due to Chuy’s shrinking the menu. But we recently found ourselves near the Winter Park location after a doctor appointment. This was our first restaurant meal together in over a year — on the covered outdoor patio — since we were hungry and stressed, it was a beautiful day, and we had both been fully vaccinated.
We had never sprung for the guacamole ($7.59) before, but it was so good, and it complemented the freshly fried chips so well.
At least my wife was still able to get her favorite tortilla soup ($8.69 for a bowl, which is larger than the cup that was pictured above from our previous pre-pandemic visit):
I got the Chuychanga ($12.99), my favorite of the remaining entrees. This shredded chicken and cheese chimichanga (essentially a deep-fried burrito) has such an amazing texture, I would love the experience of eating it even if it wasn’t quite so tasty. But it is really damn delicious, so that makes it even better. I’m sorry I didn’t get an interior photo, but I really tore into the thing.
I think they upcharged me a dollar because I asked for a side of Boom-Boom sauce, the spicy queso sauce. It was great with the Chuychanga and the chips.
I have to give Chuy’s all the credit in the world for making their own flour and corn tortillas fresh and in-house. That really makes a huge difference for Mexican and Tex-Mex food. We even bought a dozen flour tortillas to take home ($3.25, a real steal) because they are so damn good. Now I’m just hoping they bring back all those much-missed menu options some day. Orlando has no shortage of fantastic Mexican restaurants, and I always prefer to eat local, but Chuy’s never disappointed — at least not until they cut the chile relleno and so much else from their menu.
9 thoughts on “Chain Reactions: Chuy’s”
We love Chuys as well. Been going there for quite a few years. Their new menu is so minimal now. The chile relleno and enchilada plate was our go to. I asked what they took it off the menu and I was told that it takes 1 person to just make the chile rellenos and with Covid they had to cut back on how many people were in the kitchen. “6 feet of space.” But things have been back to normal here in Texas for some time now. Makes us wonder if our loved rellenos will ever be back.
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That’s interesting! Thank you for sharing that insider info. I sure hope they return. If you’re in Texas, I imagine you have many other good chile relleno options, but here in Orlando, FL, there are only a few.
Abandoning the chili rellenos has kept me away from Chuy’s When are you getting back on your feet?
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Thank you! We are doing our best.
If you like chile rellenos, check out Las Carretas (I reviewed it at https://saboscrivner.com/2021/10/08/las-carretas-mexican-restaurant/) and Catrina’s Mexican Fusion (review coming some time soon).
Best Tex-Mex chain restaurant in the Country !!!
I can definitely think of better Tex-Mex restaurants (like the awe-inspiring Mi Tierra Cafe in San Antonio), but I think you’re probably right for Tex-Mex chains.
I love Chuys. Like you, the Chile Rellenos are my favorite thing there but since they got rid of them I haven’t been back. What is sad is that those peppers come directly from Hatch, NM. I don’t understand how they just take those off the menu. I have emailed them several times about this and the only response I get is that they are slowly bringing items back but somethings are not coming back. No explanation. The original owners are from New Mexico. Just makes me really angry with them from removing things and not bringing them back.
Karen, where do you live? If you are in the Orlando, FL area, you might enjoy the chile rellenos at Catrinas Mexican Fusion and Las Carretas, two locally owned Mexican restaurants I have reviewed on this blog in the past year. My father-in-law is a Texan who loves chile rellenos, and he has enjoyed both restaurants and their versions of the dish since Chuy’s pulled theirs.