I've got a habit of planning my trips around how many meals I can fit into a day. A single day in New York involves getting up early enough for a bagel and cream cheese, so I still have room throughout the day for a slice from Two Boots, a doughnut from Doughnut Plant, a falafel from Mamoun's ... and those are just the snacks. Another favorite food destination is Austin, Texas, where my stops always include Kerbey Lane Cafe (for queso and pancakes), Polvos (Mexican martini and tamales), Magnolia (for anything breakfast), and ... Chuy's. Chuy's for general, delicious Tex-Mex food. And especially for jalapeño ranch dressing dip and chips.
And now, I don't need to move to Austin, nor try to drive the 16 hours home before the jalapeño ranch to-go that I froze the night before the road trip defrosts. Louisville has arrived. We have a Chuy's of our own. And I got to go to the special VIP preview soft opening last night. Sometimes it's good to be me.
Mmmmmmm.... I can still taste the jalapeño ranch dip. You have to know to ask for it when you first sit down at Chuy's. In fact, I think that's how the servers can spot the Texans. And I suspect when the Louisville Chuy's opens today at 11:00 for lunch, I suspect there will be a lot of folks asking for a bowl of jalapeño ranch dressing with their deliciously thin and crispy (and free) tortilla chips. All the Six Flaggers I know have been drooling since the news was first announced.
The food was delicious, and there were Texas-size portions. I had the guacamole soft tacos, which were loaded with guac and came with fresh pico de gallo, rice, and vegetarian refried beans that were better than I remembered. I have to give Chuy's kudos for making their refried beans without lard, as that's my main complaint about most of the other Mexican restaurants in this town. FWT had the vegetarian combo, which included an amazing chili relleno and a veggie enchilada. Between chips and dip, and bites of FWT's meal, I could only finish one of my tacos -- and that was soldiering on through stomach distress towards stomach explosion. Of course, being the glutton I was, I had just enough margarita to forget my box of leftovers.
I know we're supposed to eat local and all, but Chuy's has this cool feeling of seeming local. Maybe it's that bizarro Austin-Louisville link. So before you start complaining about Chuy's being a chain, -- which it surely has now become -- consider this. If Lynn's Paradise Cafe suddenly decided to open a restaurant in Austin (and why haven't they, by the way?), wouldn't you be calling all your Austin friends with a penchant for ugly lamps and omelets? I mean, we stole "Keep Austin Weird," so the least we could do is support something of theirs. Besides, I saw a lot of folks working there last night who seemed really happy just to be employed.
My other favorite Mexican restaurant in Louisville seems to always refuse to seat me because they are "closing in half an hour," and even though I love their margaritas, I often find it frustrating to go there. I'll still go for their black beans and nachos, but Chuy's may be my new gotta-have-a-margarita stop. The place is 11,000 square feet inside, plus at 5000sq ft patio to hang out, eat, wait, drink, and be merry.
I'm going back tonight because my parents and I made plans to eat there on opening day, long before I got the special invite. They don't take reservations, but the waiting/bar area is huge and contains a trunk-full of chips -- literally. There's half a car poking out of the wall with its trunk wide open and full of nacho fixin's). Since I'm expecting there will be a crowd of Tex-pats and loads of folks who remember that jalapeño ranch dip from their vacations, I plan on camping out by the nacho car and gorging myself until I'm too full to eat, then once a table opens up, ordering a meal anyway. Let's hope that tonight, I don't forget my box full of leftovers.
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