Monday, October 17, 2011

First Bite: Chuy's in Midtown

Posted By on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 at 8:11 AM

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Chuy's restaurant officially opened their first Nashville location Tuesday at 1901 Broadway in Midtown, across the street from Broadway Brewhouse. (The Texas-based chain has had an outpost in Cool Springs for a couple years.)

The night before opening, Chuy's held a benefit preview with proceeds going to the W.O. Smith School (which provides music instruction to children from low-income families for the nominal cost of 50¢ per lesson). I was lucky enough to attend and saw many local luminaries also enjoying the opportunity to kick the tires and enjoy Chuy's brand of Tex-Mex cuisine. While the restaurant was crowded, service was fairly smooth for their first night of live bullets.

The exterior of the restaurant is delightfully garish with bright colors and neon signs drawing you in to the corner building. There is a small parking lot behind Chuy's, and valet parking will be available for both lunch and dinner, so don't be too frightened of Midtown traffic. An outdoor patio runs along Broadway and looks across the bar through garage doors at the barflies who aren't fans of fresh air.

Chuys nacho bar
  • Chuy's nacho bar
Inside the bar, there is Chuy's trademark free nacho buffet laid out in the back of a sawed-off automobile. The perfectly-fried light tortilla chips are accompanied by two types of salsa, queso, taco meat and beans. Add some excellent Happy Hour drink specials and you've got a great way to eat and drink cheap, providing that you're not too susceptible to acid reflux.

The entrance vestibule is the site of their Elvis shrine and the rest of the decor is equally gaudy. Metal palm trees divide up the main dining area and the ceiling of one room is completely covered with bright chrome hubcaps. There is definitely a festive feeling to the entire scene.

The menu features Chuy's special brand of border food, with hand-rolled tortillas, fresh salsa and a liberal use of New Mexico's Hatch green chiles. Nicki and Dana were kind enough to let me try some of their creamy jalapeño sauce which had a delightful zing of peppers in a garlicky ranch dressing base. None of the dishes at my table featured this sauce, but it's definitely worth asking for on the side of whatever you order.

Prices are reasonable with most entrees in the $7-10 range and combination platters available for a few dollars more. (Cue Sergio Leone music.) Expect big crowds at least during the first few months that the new location is open as Midtown residents and ex-pats from the Republic of Texas descend on the joint to try it out or remind themselves of their home state.

The staff seemed ready for the assault and well-trained, so hopefully they'll be able to keep up an acceptable level of service. If it does slow down, just remember that the Texas Martinis come served in a mini cocktail shaker so you can refill your own glass while you wait. That should at least make it a little more tolerable.

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