Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Chuy's Rockville review (Photos)

Chuy's, opening today at 11:00 AM at 12226 Rockville Pike in Federal Plaza, enters a crowded market of Tex-Mex chains and mom-and-pops in Montgomery County. What the Austin-based newcomer hopes will set it apart are its over-the-top interior decor, and - most importantly - an emphasis on fresh ingredients.
Red-shirted "lifeguards"
are veteran Chuy's employees
who help get new locations
up and running
"If you've seen one Chuy's, you've seen one Chuy's," is one mantra among long-time employees of the chain. So while you'll find the standard cacophony of hubcaps and handmade wooden fish, and a shrine to Elvis, you'll also notice some of the fish hanging in the bar are uniquely hand-decorated by employees of this location. You'll realize that the fake palm trees in the main dining room aren't all the same. And you might spend a few days trying to find all two dozen tiny whales that are hidden throughout the restaurant.
In the comfortable bar area, you'll encounter the ubiquitous flatscreen TVs, but also the rear of a vintage Chrysler doubling as a nacho bar. Here, I started off with their classic margarita with fresh-squeezed lime juice. Very refreshing, but I found their frozen strawberry margarita to be even better. Another stand-out is the Texas Martini, which has jalapeno-stuffed olives, and you can actually detect their presence in the flavor.
Chuy's famous
Made with fresh-squeezed lime juice
The Dog Wall, where
you can bring a framed
photo of your mutt to
add to the collection
This appears to be
your typical nacho bar...
...except it has
Chuy's famous sauces...
...and is in the trunk
of a Chrysler...
...and perhaps most
importantly, is free from
4-7 PM Monday-Friday
One man in Mexico
makes thousands of
these for Chuy's all
these years later (the
first Chuy's opened
in Austin in 1982)
Step up to the bar
Some of these fish are
not like the others
Artificial palm trees
in the main dining room
Each one is distinctive -
this one is bearing
And this one sports
a dying, yellow leaf
Seating is vintage
Neon? Check
Hubcaps? Check
Automotive wall decor
graces the Hubcap Room

The glass-enclosed tortilla
station may be the most
important spot in the
All the decor in the world won't help if the food disappoints, though. A team of employees mans a tortilla-making station, where balls of freshly-made dough of flour or corn are rolled and cooked on the traditional comal. As Chuy's likes to say, it's likely your tortilla hasn't been made yet when you walk in the door.

Each Chuy's has a "Pride Wall"
featuring what employees are
most proud of, including
staff members and charity work
Chicken roasting oven

Spices and seasonings
custom-made for Chuy's

Chuy's combs yard
and estate sales on both
sides of the border to
find unique artworks...
...and vintage photos
The entry foyer
I started off with an appetizer of fresh tortilla chips, piping hot, and a selection of Chuy's famous sauces. My favorite was the Hatch Green Chile, the hottest of the lineup. Close behind were the Deluxe Tomatillo and Boom Boom sauces. None of the sauces had heat so extreme that they overwhelmed the fresh ingredients.
Chuy's famous sauces
Classic Tex-Mex Enchiladas
plate with refried beans and
Mexican rice
Standout favorites among the entrees are the 12" Steak Burrito, a hefty cylinder packed with chopped steak that has been marinated in Texas-appropriate Shiner Bock beer and secret spices for 24 hours. Stuffed with melted cheese, and topped with the Hatch Green Chili sauce, the burrito is bursting with flavor despite having only 2 main ingredients.

Tough, dry rubbery steak is my pet peeve in steak burritos. This steak was the best-ever; tender, juicy, and flavorful thanks to quality meat and that marinade. Where I often avoid steak burritos because of the chance of finding a Goodyear tire playing the role of steak, here I will seek this Steak Burrito out, and recommend you do as well. A side of charro beans plays like a chili without beef, and goes well with the other side on the platter, green chile rice. I prefer the green chile rice to the Mexican rice here.
Get a load of that
melted cheese
Pause for a sip
of the Texas Martini
Another dish where the quality of the meat stands out is the Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom Enchiladas. There's plenty of scrumptious Boom-Boom sauce ladled over these enchiladas, but the real flavor surprise is the chicken inside. It tastes like you roasted a high-quality chicken good enough to serve on its own, and then pulled the meat and stuffed it into these tortillas. This is not the dry, shredded and stringy chicken you might find in a lesser restaurant. Cilantro adds a nice accent to the dish, another must-try.
Chicka-Chicka Boom-Boom
chicken enchiladas with refried
beans and green chile rice
The best chicken you'll
find in an enchilada
Want Tex-Mex flavor without meat inside the tortilla? I recommend the Classic Tex-Mex Enchiladas, with melted cheese and onion, and chili-con-carne Tex-Mex sauce. The flavor is everything that is right about Mexican food.
Strawberry Frozen Margarita
Fresh tostada chips, crunchy
and piping hot
The Steak Burrito is a
A side of charro beans is
great on a fall evening
Look at that steak
and melted cheese
I made a point of testing the tortillas by themselves without the filling, and they taste great on their own. Like the meats and sauces, the freshness makes all the difference in the world. The arrival of Chuy's sets the bar higher for Tex-Mex and Mexican food in Montgomery County. Is there radical culinary adventure taking place in the kitchen here? No. But attention to detail and execution on every ingredient and process is. And the effort shows in the final product.

I'm looking forward to trying the two Elvis items on the menu on future visits - Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken, and the Elvis Presley Memorial Combo. Any place that has a shrine to Elvis is my kind of place. The good news is that I'm pretty sure The King would approve of the food, as well. If you know Elvis, you know he had high standards when it came to food. Fortunately, so does Chuy's. This is the way Tex-Mex should be made. Five stars.
I need one of these
A great American
"Get me one of those
Elvis Memorial Combos"
"Have you seen my
TV glasses?"
"Psst. Ask your server
about Creamy Jalapeno Sauce"


  1. The way the review is worded, it rings of paid endorsement. (for example. calling them "chuy's famous sauces" instead of just describing it as a nacho bar with various sauces. or "chuy's famous margarita". You worked extraordinarily hard to find unique aspects of a chain restaurant. Anyway, paid endorsement (by gift certificates?) or not, I do plan on visiting.

    Not to be mean, just a little constructive criticism - maybe make reviews seem a little more natural and omit the corporate lingo they try to use? Love your blog!

  2. Bob, you kinda went overboard on this one.

  3. Sorry, there was no "payment" or "gift certificate." Just an honest review. I've given ratings to restaurants and products ranging from one star to five stars. In the case of one company, Taco Bell, which sent me one of a thousand "Breakfast Phones" it mailed to influential YouTube creators, I did not hesitate to blast their Quesalupa later when it failed to live up to the hype.

    I welcome any constructive criticism, but also face similar types of comments from a troll on my Bethesda blog, who is frustrated that his bosses' floundering website has fallen behind mine in the restaurant review business. I understand his frustration.

    Meanwhile, what I would consider odd, would be someone posting a negative review of Chuy's - what grounds would there be to do so? It's also a fact that their margaritas and sauces are "famous" - they are two things, among others, the chain is known for doing well.

    Of course there are hipsters who will rip any chain restaurant. I'm not one of them, and I don't think the majority of my readers are either. They just want to know if Chuy's is worth their dining dollars, and that is my job as critic.

    1. Bob, chill... I don't think that you're in anyone's pocket. And, I'll probably try Chuy's at some point (based on your review. I just thought that a 1,000 word, 52 photo, FULL page (i.e. one post filling the space that would normally have 4 or 5 posts), was over the top. Apparently, you really loved the place. Keep up the good work. Notatroll :-)

  4. I wrote the comment. I don't own a restaurant, nor am I trolling. I'm sorry that you're unable to take constructive criticism. I was simply pointing out that your phrasing and attention to (in my opinion) insignificant details seemed biased. I'm glad to hear that it isn't.

    RE: "Meanwhile, what I would consider odd, would be someone posting a negative review of Chuy's - what grounds would there be to do so?" - I don't know. I haven't eaten there yet. I'll post a yelp review like everyone else when I do. It may very well be a 5-star place, but you don't have to get so defensive. Not everyone has the same taste or will get the same experience you did.

  5. Chuy's is tourist trap food. No self respecting Texan would eat this crap. If you've been to a Chuy's then you have not had real Tex-Mex food. If you like Chuy's food, then you have no taste or class and need to go eat the real thing so you understand how terrible Chuy's food really is.