Chuy's Tex-Mex ~ Arlington, Texas

New review for Southlake location here

The RJG tries. He really does. He wants to fit in, and see things like everyone else. He doesn't get pleasure out of being a contrarian. But doggone it, here we are again - in the position of naysayer.

Normally I wouldn't even bother with a chain like Chuy's, but there were a few things about it that screamed "come visit us, you must." For one, they're still a small, regional chain. The RJG likes small regional chains. Then there's the slogan "If you've seen one Chuy's... you've seen one Chuy's". Oh, I like that! Non conformity. But most of all, it was the allure of green chile. Complete with a description that the recipe comes from their favorite restaurant in Espanola, New Mexico - and that it's really HOT. OK, sold, we're going!

So the Mrs. RJG and I wandered over to the Arlington Highlands a few Sundays ago for lunch. This was our first trip there, as SE Arlington is not exactly around the corner. I'd read about the Highlands for well over a year now, and was pretty excited to see what it looked like. I'll be honest, it's disappointing. A few big box stores that you all know about, a ton of chain restaurants, and a few independent restaurants. It's almost like an outdoor restaurant mall. I don't think that was the original intention, but that's its current state. Plus the RJG is getting more and more concerned that the only interesting new businesses are restaurants. That might be good for the RJG and his blog, but that can't be good for the overall economy.

In the restaurant we go, and it's packed to the rafters. Out comes the RJG's personal nightmare - the flashing ashtray and the 20 minute warning for a table. Fine, we'll make an exception. That green chile better be good. What is it with us Americans anyway? It seems we're not happy unless we're standing in a line waiting to eat. All of these great independent restaurants that are one quarter full on Friday night, and everyone else is in a line waiting to eat chain food. You won't see this behavior in Europe.... except when the American tourists arrive. Do we just not trust a restaurant to be good unless there are a ton of people there? Herd mentality I guess.

30 minutes later we get our table. Hey, neat place! We like the decor of license plates, hubcaps, Elvis, etc... So far, so OK. Now let's get to business. Or not... Why is it that the RJG always gets the table (at a chain restaurant of course) that management forgets to assign a waiter too. Finally we get someones attention "Oh you haven't been served?". 1 minute later, Slick appears and it seems we're ready to go. A couple of Bohemia beers please. I'm guessing then, after that, someone drove to the grocery store and bought a couple of Bohemia's. Everyone around us, who had been seated later, already were drinking away and munching on chips. We don't have chips yet. Finally we get a hold of someones attention "Oh you don't have chips yet?". One minute later an annoyed girl shows up with our chips. Hooray! "Slick is still at the store buying beer" we think we heard her say.

Ugh, the chips. Are you kidding? The chips themselves are the generic kind that you get at the most basic Tex-Mex restaurants. I can live with that, if the sauce is great. Oh no - it's just blended tomatoes and a little spice. THAT'S IT!!! Blended tomatoes. It is TERRIBLE. And it's not a salsa, it's pico de gallo. Do you have another salsa we ask? Well, no, but we have a jalapeno ranch dressing. Yea, this is worth waiting in line for.

Slick arrives with our beers. Two bottles only. Mrs. RJG asks for mugs for both of us. Slick comes back with one mug. "Uh... can I get one too?" Slick is now very annoyed with us at this point, and he makes it obvious. I mean, golly, we ask for chips and a beer. What next? Do they want lunch too?

A few minutes later we order. This green chile better be DAMN good. I order two enchiladas with it "smothered in green". The Mrs. went with the Veggie enchiladas and the Hatch Green chile sauce (slightly less hot supposedly). Since we passed "Strike 3" long ago, can I just say that by now they have "struck out the side" (the RJG loves sports metaphors in his leadership role, and you can hear my organization groan every time.) Why? Because the term "smothered" must mean "two small spoonfuls". Maybe they were out? There was so little chile on it, you'd think a plateful would put them out of business on the spot. Was it good? I think so... the little bit I could savor held promise. The Mrs. fared better. Hers did have more sauce, and it was quite good actually. Oh, and the rice. Not too bad, but the Mrs. had a big hole in the middle of her rice medley. As if someone took a huge spoon and ate from it. So she made just that comment. Slick sneered. Will these people go away please, he must have asked. The charro beans were the only thing that the wife and I agreed was uniformly good. Hooray, they got something right.

The RJG generally avoids bad service reviews, because I clearly understand that can vary from visit to visit. But this was so outrageous, I feel obligated to say something. Bottom line - this is a very poorly managed restaurant. It may have lines out the door now, but it won't be long before the fickle crowd migrates to the next hip chain, and leaving behind approximately zero loyal customers.

Chuy's, take notice, and get the top management out here pronto and fix your problems, or your investment will go down the drain in a year.

For us, we're obviously not going back. It was a typical "hip chain" experience for us I'm afraid. I felt guilty that the money I spent here could've been spent on two entire meals at Fernandez Cafe for example. I've been fleeced. I got suckered.

For Urbanspoon, I labeled all the local restaurants in the chain as "Chuy's (Austin based chain)" to distinguish from the unrelated locally owned Chuys around town.

Chuy's (Austin based chain) on Urbanspoon


Taco This said…
There are too many restaurants named "Chuy's" (and they all don't belong to the same concept), which makes it confusing.

I've been to Chuy's #4 in Hurst (Pipeline Rd), which seems more of a hole in the wall, and VERY good. I had breakfast there once and they serve chips and salsa with breakfast. How cool is that?
RJG said…
I agree, which is why I grouped them on Urbanspoon to distinguish. The other Chuy's I've been to is in Ft. Worth, which I think is related to the one in Hurst - but I haven't been to that one. I should try it. The Ft. Worth location was pretty greasy to be honest.

Yes, chips with breakfast rocks!
Francis Shivone said…
I like the breakfast at our Chuy's, too. Everything else is pretty unexceptional.

Other thoughts:
1. restaurant service can really ruin a meal and I am sorry to hear that you had one of those bad ones. Always disappointing even though it's not that out of the ordinary. I like the name Slick though.

2. I too wonder about the fact that over 50% of the new businesses in shopping areas are food related. It puzzles me.

3.Arlington Highlands makes me claustrophobic. Not sure why. Bad ingress/egress and traffic flow I think.

4. I always liked a mug with my beer as well. I see people drinking directly from the bottle, which is fine at a bar, but at a restaurant I think it's trashy.
KB said…
Few thoughts:

1) The jalapeno ranch dressing IS the best part of Chuy's. Seriously.
2) I did eat at Arlington Highlands Chuy's once and had a good experience. Granted we went on a Thursday at about 5 p.m. Chuychanga was good. Wife had veggie enchiladas and really liked them (prob the best item on menu).
Also I didn't think it was that expensive considering 1) it surrounded by overpriced chain restaurants (PF Changs, Blackfinn, etc) and 2) It's about the same price as the other Tex-Mex chains around here (OTB, Abeulos) AND it's in the Highlands.
3) Saying that: I'm from Austin and we openly mock visitors/transplants who talk how awesome the food is and inevitably the first two places they mention are Salt Lick and Chuy's. Granted, I don't think either are that bad, but, there are about 15-20 Mexican restaurants in South Austin that blow away Chuy's.
4) Best restaurant in Arlington Highlands: India Grill. How does Arlington have 5-6 really good Indian restaurants and maybe two good Tex-Mex?
5) Just stumbled on the blog. Really enjoy it!
RJG said…
Hi KB,

Excellent and thoughtful comments. Thank you!
Anonymous said…
ok visit and you will see the REAL chuys location all those other ones with breakfast is not the real chuys....chuys everytime i go is great awesome experience....people its a hippie restaurant from austin sometimes it is good to be different

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