Tucson: Dining: Chuy's Mesquite Grill

Chuy's Mesquite Grill = Good Food, Great Atmosphere

By Danielle Crounse
Tucson Entertainment Magazine

Going out for dinner is always a nice thought, but rarely do you expect it to seem like a party.

A recent trip to Tucson's Chuy's Mesquite Grill proved be like walking into a party and choosing a table. If you rather not stay, Chuy's has a popular restaurant for take out in Tucson for decades.

The moment you walk into Chuy's Mesquite Grill restaurant you know you are in for a good time. The atmosphere is purposely laid-back. Every inch of wall, ceiling and table space is covered with a wild decoration. The ceiling is painted with a sea motif. Hanging from the ceiling are "schools" of rubber chickens wearing wacky shorts, mermaids with pink hair, oversized Tecate beer cans and at least two Corona beer bottle chandeliers. This chain of restaurants has one person that works full-time locating decorations for each store. Every store has the same theme and general look, but each store operator adjusts it to their liking.

Chuy's cooks everything on a mesquite grill

Don't worry, the decor is not meant to cover the quality of the food. Chuy's cooks everything on a mesquite grill which is visible from the entrance. Mesquite grilled chicken is the specialty of Chuy's, but they also serve tri-tip beef and seafood such as fish and shrimp.

My roommate and I went to Chuy's for dinner on a Wednesday night in August at 6 P.M. A large amount of people were there, but no waiting was necessary. First, you need to read the menu which is a laminated piece of paper kept at the cash register. Then you order and pay there. After placing your order you will be given a stuffed animal rather than a number to mark your order (younger kids love this).

While waiting you can take a dip (or several) into the all-you-can-eat tortilla chip and salsa bin. The chips are dusted with a seasoning that seems to include paprika and garlic salt, but the owners aren't saying- it is Chuy's secret recipe. The salsa is not very spicy- it has a little zing, but there is only a trace of spice. The operators of Chuy's say nothing on their menu is too spicy so that there will be mass-appeal. Which they have appeared to have achieved.

I ordered the Chicken Burro ($3.69) which came with rice and salsa. The burro was stuffed with mostly white chicken meat, cheddar cheese, pinto beans and a light salsa. It was large and packed with meat, but was very juicy. The extra-moist burro is standared at Chuy's. It is too messy to eat with your hands, so a fork and knife are provided. After being soaked with salsa juice, the tortilla gets soggy, but to me this is just as tasty as the dry tortilla- just messier.

My roommate, Lara, ordered the Mesquite Shrimp Salad ($4.59). It arrived with six shrimp on a skewer on a bed of romaine lettuce and cabbage, cheese, tomato, avocado slices, ranch dressing and plate trimmings of tortilla chips and a lemon wedge. She enjoyed her meal and ate every last shrimp.

We split a cheese quesadilla ($2.99) that came with sour cream, bland guacamole and a "dry" salsa called pico de gallo which consists of onions, cilantro and tomato. The quesadilla was melted cheddar cheese between two flour tortillas. It was bland, and the tortillas were not crispy on the outside as they are in other restaurants. Chicken and cheese quesadillas are also available and they may offer a little more flavor.

We also split a pitcher of their "killer" margaritas ($4.00 happy hour). These drinks are "killer" because they are very flavorful and have just the right amount of tequila. Chuy's has a full bar and has happy hour twice daily from 3 - 6 P.M. and 9 - 11 P.M.

Chuy's opens for breakfast everyday at 8 A.M. Breakfast burritos featuring their mesquite grilled meats are served or your can try a Fajita and Eggs breakfast.

Chuy's has been in Tucson for the since 1994. It has had great success due to the consistantly low, cheap prices and large portions. The owners/operators had a concept of producing a fun atmosphere where families as well as those without kids could come enjoy themselves. They pride themselves on providing fast food with good quality.

The trip there was pleasurable and adventuresome.

The music is a little on the loud side, but is upbeat (it is a collection of 60's tunes). Televisions are also placed near the ceiling and are on sports events. This is not a place to take someone you are getting to know since talking and hearing each other can be an effort.

Chuy's is open from 8 A.M.-11 P.M. daily. Master Card, Visa and American Express are accepted. Checks are accepted with a guarantee card. Take-out is available. Some locations cater. There are six Tucson locations, three Phoenix locations with two more on the way, and twelve throughout California. You can call 1-800-34-C-H-U-Y-S for locations and more information.

Tucson, Arizona restaurant locations: Oracle & Orange Grove, Speedway & Wilmot, Grant Rd. & 6th Ave., 22nd & Kolb, Tanque Verde & Catalina Highway and 6th Ave. & I-10 (in the Southgate Plaza), and a new location at Speedway and Country Club. Phoenix, Arizona restaurant locations: Ahwatukee & Elliot, Indian School & 32nd Street.

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