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Tex-Mex titan Chuy's comes to Norman

Chuy's, based in Austin, Texas, brings fine Tex-Mex cuisine with a side of kitsch and a cold Margarita to Norman
by Dave Cathey Modified: May 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm •  Published: May 22, 2012

Before I reached the drinking age, I joined high school buddies Eric Layne and Matt Bickley on a race to Chuy's for a little cast-iron full of fajitas for $4.99 and then raced back just in time — usually — for Mr. Dunlap's shop class at least once a week.

The food and the fun were a hit, and copycats quickly followed. After years of local expansion, Chuy's began spreading throughout Texas in 2006 after Steve Hislop purchased the company. Hislop has opened Chuy's restaurants in Tennessee and Indiana before invading Oklahoma in February with a spot in Tulsa.

The new Norman store includes all the funk that made the original Chuy's such a hit: One dining room is decorated with original Hispanic-style paintings, another has the hubcap ceilings, and the main dining room contains plastic palm trees, an open view of the tortilla station and splashes of color rarely associated with Mexican food.

The Chihuahua Bar is a shrine to Mexico's favorite canine plus the salsa bar situated in the trunk of a classic car. One look at the covered patio, and you'll doubtlessly start planning one of those aforementioned lost afternoons.

I expect Chuy's will have a Whole Foods effect on local Mexican restaurants. Just as local grocers had to up their collective game when Whole Foods arrived, so, too, will local cafes specializing in Mexican or Tex-Mex fare. This is not to say Chuy's will serve the best Mexican food in town. But it will probably be the best Tex-Mex in town, and there are few enough folks who discern between the two that it will likely have a large ripple effect.

Chuy's officials told me additional sites in Oklahoma City are being sought, and we can expect to see the restaurant become entrenched around the market soon.

The menu hasn't changed much at Chuy's: Burritos, chimichangas, crispy tacos and sizzling fajitas are still at the center. Sauces come in tomatillo, creamy jalapeno, ranchero, Hatch Green Chile and classic chili con carne. The table salsa is an old-school mix of tomatoes and jalapenos with plenty of lime and salt. The queso isn't free, but it's worth the money.

Chuy's is open daily for lunch and dinner. Go online to chuys.com for more information.

by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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