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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Chuy's: Tex-Mex with a quirky twist at Springfield Town Center

The Elvis and Priscilla Presley booths. [Photos by Mark Heckathorn]
By Mark Heckathorn

Chuy’s, the quirky Tex-Mex restaurant from Austin opened at the new Springfield Town Center Oct. 28, joining Maggiano’s Little Italy on the mall’s restaurant row facing Loisdale Road.

It’s the 59th Chuy’s since the first one opened in August in 1982 and it’s the second Chuy’s  in the D.C. area; another one opened last month in Fairfax. Co-founders Mike Young and John Zapp plan to open additional restaurants in Sterling and Gainesville (and maybe Arlington) in 2015.

Chuy's offers outdoor dining.
If you’ve never been to Chuy’s, you should expect more rock-and-roll than mariachi. While the restaurant has a saying, “If you’ve seen one Chuy’s, you’ve seen one Chuy’s,” all are colorful with a “school” of more than 13,000 carved, wooden fish swimming from the entrance to the bar, a free nacho bar served out of the trunk of an old car 4-7 p.m. weekdays, and a room with hubcaps covering the ceiling.

Chili Rellenos with shrimp and cheese.
Each location also has a shrine to Elvis Presley, the restaurant’s patron saint, although in Springfield it has been expanded to a curtained Elvis booth. There’s also a booth next to it dedicated to Priscilla Presley. (If you go dressed as Elvis or Priscilla on Jan. 8, the King’s birthday, you’ll get a free entrée.)

There are also two dozen tiny animal figurines hidden throughout the restaurant. Fairfax has koala bears; Springfield has cats.

Fish "swim" over the bar. The "nacho car" is in the background.
If you’ve visited the 6,000-square foot Chuy’s in Fairfax – in a former Chili’s – you’ll be happy to hear the Springfield restaurant is 4,000 square feet larger and has two outdoor patios, including one outside the La Chihuahua Bar, which is decorated with portraits of local dogs. Bring a photo of your own pooch and get a free appetizer.

The restaurant’s freezer is only about the size of a home refrigerator, which means all the food,  including chips, salsa, and guacamole, is made from scratch daily from fresh ingredients delivered six days a week. In fact, the only food in the freezer are French fries for the kids’ meals and ice cream. The flour, corn, and blue corn tortillas are made by hand on a traditional comal in the dining room.

Beef and chicken fajitas with all the fixin's.
We got a sneak peak and taste over the weekend during the location’s Friends and Family trial run. My party of three found all our food to be fresh and tasty, especially the margaritas made with fresh-squeezed lime juice. The menu includes four varieties of “Big As Yo Face” burritos; soft and crispy tacos; four varieties of chile rellenos; the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken (a chicken breast breaded with Lay’s potato chips, deep fried, and smothered in green chile sauce and cheddar cheese); and, of course, fajitas.

The hubcap room.
When you visit, make sure to try the queso, which has a bit of a kick from green chiles; the smooth and creamy guacamole; and the frozen strawberry-mango-swirl margaritas.

My favorite dish so far is the Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom, which consists of two hand-pulled chicken and cheese enchiladas covered in spicy Boom-Boom sauce made with cheese, roasted New Mexican green chiles, tomatillos, green onions, cilantro, and lime juice. I also recommend skipping the traditional Mexican rice and ordering the green chile rice instead.

Chuy’s Springfield (6793 Springfield Mall) is open for lunch and dinner 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Happy hour drink specials along with the free nacho car with chips, salsa, queso, and ground sirloin are served 4-7 p.m. weekdays.

Mark Heckathorn is executive editor of DC on Heels.

Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom enchiladas.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this! At last, news we can use!