On Monday night we got the opportunity to try out Chuy’s Tex-Mex during their soft opening. In case you’re new here, I’m a HUGE fan of tacos so I jumped at the opportunity to be one of the firsts to try out Jacksonville’s newest taco joint. But as I quickly learned, Chuy’s is so much more than tacos.
The first Chuy’s opened in Austin, Texas in the Spring of 1982. Mike Young and John Zapp wanted to open a Tex-Mex restaurant that served authentic and fresh food in an atmosphere that didn’t take itself too seriously. The Chuy’s decor is bright and eclectic with features like brightly painted wooden fish and shiny hubcaps hanging from the ceiling, framed dog photos lining the walls in the Chihuahua Bar, and a tacky-on-purpose shrine to Elvis Presley.
We asked manager Bobby about the fascination with Elvis (there are multiple dishes named after The King as well like Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken) and he shared with us the story of how the shrines came to be. When it came time for owners Mike and John to decorate the first Chuy’s, they were short on funds. They ran into a street vendor who had a velvet painting of Elvis so they purchased the “artwork” and hung it on the restaurant wall. And since then, every Chuy’s location features the King of Rock and Roll. (You can see the shrine above Adam’s head in the photo.)
Now that you’ve got a feel for Chuy’s atmosphere, let’s talk about what we’re really here for – the food.
Every meal at Chuy’s starts off with housemade corn tortilla chips and salsa. The chips are light and crunchy and pair nicely with the fresh and moderately spicy salsa.
We ordered some Queso Compuesto to go along with our chips and salsa and it did not disappoint. Their homemade chile con queso is taken up a notch with ground sirloin, a dollop of guacamole, and pico de gallo. We also had the opportunity to try out the creamy jalapeño sauce (not pictured) which was like Ranch dressing with a kick and would be a perfect addition to any of the salads.
I also started with The Perfect Margarita which was… well, perfect. You can tell by just looking at the margarita that it was going to be good. No fake green food coloring in this drink! Only fresh ingredients and strong tequila.
For entrees, Adam went with the soft tacos. Handmade flour tortillas with ground sirloin, lettuce, cheese, pico de gallo, and guacamole as well as a side of Mexican rice and refried beans.
Dad and I both ordered fajitas. He went with steak, I had chicken. The fajita portions are huge! Your choice of meat is grilled with onions and peppers and served with handmade flour tortillas, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and pico de gallo as well as a side of rice and beans. We both went home with leftovers.
Side note: when they say “handmade” tortillas, they mean it. There is a tortilla station where you can watch the tortillas being made.
And last but not least, Sara out ordered all of us with the #1 combination – Comida Deluxe. Cheese Tex-Mex enchiladas, chicken flautas, a ground sirloin crispy taco, guacamole, and tostada chips dipped in chile con queso. I told her she wasn’t allowed to leave until she had cleaned her plate but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen.
We finished off dinner with an order of tres leches cake which was a sweet way to end our Tex-Mex fiesta.
If I had anything negative to say, I would mention that the restaurant is LOUD. We sat in the middle dining area and had a difficult time conversing. But when I walked into one of the adjoining rooms I realized the volume was a lot lower. So, if you’re sensitive to noise like Adam is, request to sit in the back room.
Chuy’s Tex-Mex is now open in The Strand at the St. John’s Town Center. They feature a Happy Hour Monday through Friday with appetizer and drink specials. In a hurry? Order curbside to-go and have Chuy’s do the cooking for you.