For the second time in the past 12 months, a Texas-based Tex-Mex restaurant has set up shop in Northern Virginia. Cyclone Anaya was the first, opening in Mosaic District last October, and now the Austin-based chain Chuy’s has begun its infiltration into the area with locations now open in Fairfax and the new Springfield Town Center.
The first thing anyone will notice upon entering Chuy’s is the decor which is, to put it mildly, eclectic. It’s like a southwestern version of a 90s-era TGIFriday’s with a whole bunch of random stuff thrown in. The quirky decorations include a bar that features a portrait gallery of local dogs (appropriately called La Chihuahua Bar), schools of wooden fish flowing throughout the restaurant, tacos hanging from the rafters and metal palm trees in the dining room. The folks at Chuy’s also have an apparent obsession with Elvis as there’s a shrine to Presley next to the host stand and, not one, but two items paying homage to the King on the menu.
One of those dishes, the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken, takes a chicken breast and breads it with crushed potato chips before a deep-fry bath and smothering of green chili sauce and cheddar. We’re not sure if Elvis ever ate this but if the King did, it’s no wonder he died where he did.
Along with the Elvis plates, there’s tacos, chalupas, enchiladas, fajitas, “Big As Yo’ Face’” burritos– all the standard Tex-Mex fare. It may be hard to choose just one so combo entrees mix many of the popular items together. Just be prepared to take some of that food home. We enjoyed the gigantic burrito stuffed with refried beans, cheese and fajita beef but topping it with chile con queso (like we did) might have been a bit much.
Much more manageable – and smaller than your face – were the baja tacos which are available as fish, shrimp or a combo of the two. The flash-fried seafood comes wrapped in a pair of flour tortillas dressed with cilantro, a creamy jalapeno sauce and a nice and crunchy red cabbage slaw.
Just about everything on the menu has a kick to it but nothing so intense it’ll melt your face. There’s a lineup of salsas ranging from the mild ranchero and tomatillo to the spicy green chile with each available on the side of your meal. The hatch green chile was our favorite and a special, off-the-menu creamy jalapeno sauce (the same that comes on the baja tacos) is also worth sticking your complimentary chips into.
Portion sizes are generously huge and, while there are some lighter items on the menu like salads and “lite” combos, be prepared to let your belt out a few notches no matter what you end up ordering.
Because there’s nothing better than free food, during Chuy’s happy hour, the trunk of a Chevy* sticking out of the wall by the bar gets loaded up with chips, salsa, queso and ground sirloin for an all-you-can-eat nacho station from 4 – 7 p.m. on weekdays.
Chuy’s Fairfax opened its doors in August and its Springfield restaurant made its debut just this past Tuesday. The chain also has plans for Sterling and Gainesville locations in 2015.
* it’s a ‘59 Chevy at the Springfield spot, symbolizing Chuy’s 59th location
Chuy’s | 11219 Lee Highway | Fairfax | chuys.com