Diving into spicy green chile pool for birthday dinner
Chuy's, well-received since crash-landing into the old TooJays location next to Butler Plaza, boasts everything from killer margaritas and a too-good-to-be-true nacho bar to portions so large and hearty they can sedate even the biggest, hungriest customer.
Thanks to Chuy's 25th Annual Green Chile Fest, the Green Chile has made its way from New Mexico to the stomping grounds of the Gators and points around it. From August 19 to September 8, the Tex-Mex restaurant is feverishly boasting an exclusive ingredient that — possibly unknown to Chuy's — is sure to burn your mouth off. Or maybe they do know and are finding humor in watching eaters squirm under the sheer power of the pepper's heat.
Tackling the Green Chile with ease, Chuy's incorporates the New Mexican treasure into various dishes for their special menu for the 3-week festival, from the Green Chile-infused Mexi-Cobb salad to the Tacos Al Pastor (last image at right). The uniquely rich soil and the climate in New Mexico's Hatch Valley have provided tons of the thick-skinned Green Chiles to celebrate another year and another harvest of over 1 million — yes, that's right — pounds of Hatch Green Chiles, and have done so each year since 1989, when Chuy's founders were on a quest for the perfect pepper. They found the motherland nestled in Hatch Valley and became the first restaurant in central Texas to offer these Green Chiles. Mouy caliente! The rest — as you can see — is history, as it has evolved into the Green Chile Fest of today.
I had heard much of the festival, and it was with great luck that a close friend's birthday dinner was to be held at the very beginnings of this green gala. And a visit to Chuy's is incomplete without ordering a frozen margarita to accompany the chips and salsa — or in my case, the magical creamy jalapeno sauce that I douse each chip into.
"Did you order the jalapeno sauce for the table, Melissa?" my friend asked, visiting Chuy's for her first time.
Yes birthday girl, I sure did.
I immediately skip over the typical menu, which lists my go-to Big-As-Yo-Face Burrito, for the special Green Chile Fest menu, with six remixed signature dishes. While my meat-craving tummy led my eyes to Mama's Stacked Enchiladas with ground sirloin, I settled for the menu item claimed by my boyfriend, the Fajita Beef Chuychanga, also boasting a plentiful serving of beef along with cheese and Hatch Green Chile sauce.
The meals lived up to the plate-covering, heaping helping goodness Chuy's always delivers. The crispy edges complementing the doughy covering of the Chuychanga created a satisfying coating and kept in the rich beef and cheese with a hint of cilantro and, of course, the Hatch Green Chiles. While the greenish-brown coloring of the combination of ingredients did not have the most appetizing appearance, each bite was a flavor explosion. The ingredients were enigmatic at first glance, but then combined into a glob of tastes and textures.
I got to steal a bite of the Mama's Stacked Enchiladas (right) from my ravenous companion. With basically the same ingredients as my Chuychanga, exceot for the red, spicy Green Chile ranchero sauce used instead of my dish's Hatch Green Chile sauce smothering the baked, rolled-up concoctions, it was heat at first bite. It wasn't until a glistening tear rolled from my eye that I realized the sheer magnitude of heat that the main-attraction Green Chile had induced.
The dinner took a turn for the increasingly spicy from then on.
It took all I had not to ask for a pitcher of water to be left at the table. The side dishes of Green Chile rice and refried beans were a joyous segue combating the intensity that is the Green Chile, from overpowering the tender beef and cheese inside the Chuychanga to filling a moat around the doughy concoction. The drizzle of sour cream atop the Chuychange teased me, giggling at the pink flush coming across my face with each bite of spice duking it out with my taste buds. Now I am typically a very enthusiastic spicy food taster, from wings to ethnic foods and beyond. However, it was when my Louisiana born-and-raised companion who lives for spicy food guzzled down three cups of water and two beers that I knew it was not that my taste buds had weakened but that the Green Chile heat was a force to be reckoned with.
"OK, I think this is a little spicy." My boyfriend said a mouthful with those words and said not much else after, his mouth and mine practically smoking.
Aside from the heat of the Green Chile, which I don't feel I was properly prepped for by the server who casually mentioned it was somewhat spicy, Chuy's is always a great dining experience. I still enjoyed the food, the company, and the timely service--especially considering the table of 10 that composed the birthday dinner party. The Green Chile Fest décor, including a map of the course of the Green Chile Fest road trip, was a colorful addition to the already colorful and cheerful decorations of the restaurant. However, if you are venturing into the exclusive Green Chile Fest menu, this is a formal warning to tread lightly if you are not a spicy food fan. Only dive into the Green Chile-filled pool if you are an experienced swimmer. Once again, Chuy's delivers a pleasant eating experience – only this time with an unexpectedly fiery twist. [Content Ed note: Farmer Bubba recommends peanut butter to counteract pepper heat, and it has worked for me everytime. LD].
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Bob Carroll Friday, 19 August 2016 09:53 Comment Link
I was really disappointed with my recent visit to Chuy's. Typically, I love this place, not this time. My friend ordered the Taco Salad and I ordered nachos. When the meals showed up, neither of them had any meat in them at all. The nachos had some burnt cheese, lots of jalapeños, a hint of retried beans, and some lettuce and tomato in the center. As a result nearly all of the chips had just cheese and jalapeños. My friend said the taco salad was not particularly fresh or tasty. He left most of it. Our waitress was delightful, but the food was below average.