Experiencing Chuy's culture first hand
By Terry Van Nortwick
Editor's Note: Chuy's Tex-Mex restaurant hired Gaineville's PRO iNK to help introduce this Austin-based restaurant to Gainesville and treated Elayna Rexrode, Pro iNK's Operations Director and Terry Van Nortwick, President, to two days in Austin to experience Chuy's culture and people as well as its food.
As somebody who has never been a big Tex-Mex fan, I quickly learned what "good" Tex-Mex is all about. Our Chuy-eatification began in downtown Austin with a three-hour Chuy's Tex-Mex food tasting. Mark Hernandez, Chuy's kitchen manager, started us out with all eight of Chuy's fresh made salsas and Chuy's chips. Of the Tex-Mex, Ranchero, Hatch Green Chile, Green Chile, Tomatillo, Deluxe Tomatillo, Boom-Boom and the popular Creamy Jalapeno salsa selections my personal favorite was the Deluxe Tomatillo that included cilantro, sour cream, herbs and Mexican spices..
Then we savored some 15 different entrees. My personal favorite was the chicken enchiladas. Typical of Mexican food, the sides consist of rice and beans, but there's two different choices for each: Mexican rice or green chile rice and refried beans or charro beans.
Entrees include the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo -- two plates of enchiladas, a taco and tostada chips in chile con queso. For $10.49, it's the highest priced item on the menu. Needless to say, two people could easily share this huge dish.
If you are wondering why an Elvis entrée, early on a few Chuy's patrons decided they should celebrate Elvis and his birthday and the celebration stuck and spread to all Chuy's. Now every Chuy's has its own Elvis shrine. As Elvis would say, "Thank you, thank you very much."
After Elayna and I thought we couldn't eat another bite, out came the Chuy's desserts: tres leches cake and flan. Now, I'll admit, having been brought up in Miami where these two desserts are favorites at most Cuban restaurants, I am a snob about flan and tres leches. But after one taste of each I thought, my first question was, "Can I buy a giant cake for my next party?"
Not to be outdone by our first Chuy's food sampling, we were invited to help celebrate the 30th birthday of the very first Chuy's restaurant, located just two blocks from the super funky Chuy's headquarters office -- an old potato chip factory complete with vintage furniture, Elvis memorabilia and a slot machine in the conference room (photo & link here).
At the birthday party, we sampled Chuy's margaritas made with freshly squeezed lime juice and got to see the Fully Loaded Nacho Car, which is open every weekday for happy hour from 4 to 7 pm. Every happy hour customer gets free chips, ground beef, salsa, queso and more. This will be a feature at the Gainesville Chuy's location, too.
After the first day of non-stop eating, we spent the next day visiting the other three Austin Chuy's. We toured the kitchens and met the Chuy's staffers who make Chuy's food from scratch every day in every restaurant.
Beyond the food, the thing that impressed Elayna and I most was the passion everyone at Chuy's has about the food and the company. These people truly are committed to good, fresh Tex-Mex, which, combined with Chuy's quirky atmosphere, creates a unique culture.
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