The case of Natural Light behind the bar should have been my first indication that this was not the same Chuy’s that used to occupy that cramped storefront on Clayton Avenue in Dogtown. Once a kitschy local dive that was one of the culinary anchors along Dogtown’s main drag, the new Chuy’s has moved to more urbane digs in the first floor of the Coronado across Lindell from SLU in the space that was originally home to an outpost of Joe Boccardi’s. The new restaurant is bright, airy, and considerably larger than the old place, and, like the decor, the menu has changed quite a bit, too.
As evidenced by the prominently-displayed case of Natty Light I spied, this new incarnation of Chuy’s is attempting to please its new collegiate customers. The menu has been pared down substantially and now resembles that of a Casa Gallardo or other Mexican chain. Giving a nod to the university-goers who are conveniently housed upstairs, Chuy’s now offers a Tex-Mex brunch to help cure those Natty Light-induced hangovers.
Service was good. The hostess was friendly and seated us promptly. She also personally escorted me through the Coronado’s circuitous maze to the ladies room. Our server was equally accommodating and helpful. After we were settled at our table, we were given the ubiquitous chips and salsa. Chuy’s salsa seemed to be close to the original — a smooth, unchunky red sauce with a good dose of heat in the background. Served with generous baskets of sturdy corn chips, they were a pleasant accompaniment to a run-of-the-mill pitcher of margaritas ($25.00).
My server steered me to the enchiladas carnitas ($9.25), three tortillas well-stuffed with spicy shredded pork. Covered with chile sauce and white cheese, the enchiladas were quite good, and fortunately filling because the traditional sides of beans and rice were not up to par. The beans looked and tasted suspiciously like mud, and they had developed that unattractive dry crust on the top. The rice, though properly cooked, had no discernible flavor.
One dining companion tried a Mexican staple, fish tacos ($8.95). For a person who hadn’t eaten all day, she didn’t find them good enough to finish. Though dressed with a spicy tartar sauce, the fish was unseasoned and bland. Her assessment of the sides mirrored mine.
Another guest ordered plain-Jane cheese enchiladas ($8.95), and they were passable, but certainly not noteworthy, considering Chuy’s culinary pedigree.
For those of us who frequented the old Chuy’s, the new version is a disappointment. Lacking the quality and flavor of the original, the new place is only good for hanging out with the students to down a Natural Light.
Chuy Arzola’s 3701 Lindell Boulevard, St. Louis, MO 63108 314/644-4430