Chuy’s is a Tex-Mex Restaurant Chain that started in Austin. And I love supporting local business in any way possible. When I first saw a Chuy’s outside of Austin I thought that’s cool an Austin brand branching its wings and growing. Unfortunately after two not so great visits here I am telling you not to eat at Chuy’s. At least if you live a gluten free lifestyle. Otherwise you may choose not to eat there in solidarity with your gluten free friends/loved ones, but that is up to you.
My Most Recent Visit
Within the last couple of days I went to Chuy’s with my family. I remembered my bad experience from the first time I visited Chuy’s, but they wanted Chuy’s. And I utterly hate always choosing the restaurant, so I decided to just go with it.
We arrived around lunch time so understandably they were a bit busy. We waited and were finally shown to our table and I asked the hostess about a gluten free menu. Her response was that they did not have one, but that my waiter would know what my options were. This should have been a red flag from the beginning. They are investing their money in new locations, but cannot pay to update their menus or print a handful of gluten free menus. I mean come on people it is 2019, everyone knows about the gluten free lifestyle. And on top of that it is an Austin restaurant. Austinites usually are pretty on it when it comes to options for individuals with dietary restrictions.
Interaction with the Staff
So our waiter gets our drinks and everything is normal. At this time I feel overwhelmed by the menu, because there was no indication on the menu what might be a good option for me. He comes back ready to take our order and sits down with us. I know that some waiters do this sometimes, but it felt weird at that moment. And I ask him about the house made tortilla chips. I asked whether or not they use a dedicated fryer. I thought the nachos sounded good and potentially safe. He responded with a no, and that the fryer used was also used for a dish made with flour tortillas.
Then he continued on saying that they could not guarantee that cross contamination would not occur. I have recently learned this is not the correct term, but cross contact is. Anyways…the typical response. But then he did not make any suggestions, like people have eaten this before and not had any problems. He just continued sitting for a minute and then got up and left. I felt more confused than before and still did not know what I could eat.
So I continued to look over the menu, and saw a note somewhere that they use beer to marinate some of the meats. This obviously makes any of that meat not gluten free. At this point I was not feeling it and was ready to just say I would sit with my family members, but not eat. One of my family members was even more fired up than I was about the waiter’s response. And she was the one who suggested we leave. In that moment leaving felt like the right thing to do because I did not feel safe ordering off their menu. So she and I got up and left, and I will not try to eat there again.
After some discussion we decided to eat at Torchy’s Tacos instead. I had a great meal at Torchy’s and felt safe and welcomed the whole time.
My First Chuy’s Experience
My first Chuy’s experience was on one of my first visits to Austin in the summer of 2017. The same family members I went with this past weekend were the ones I was with this time as well. We imagined they would be able to accommodate for the gluten free diet because many tex-mex meals are naturally gluten free. Since this experience happened a while back my memory of it is a bit fuzzy.
Despite that, I remember sitting outside on the patio and ordering a margarita. I looked over the menu confused as to what my options were. The taco salad looked decent and I thought very little modifications would be needed. I talked to the waitress and she said they use wheat tortillas to make the tortilla shell, but that they could make it without the tortilla. So that is what I ordered. Now that I think back to that day I believe I was unable to get any meat on it either.
The waitress delivered the food and the salad looked pitiful. I remember eating it and not feeling enthusiastic about it. But I ate it, and do not remember feeling sick afterwards.
That was back at a time in my life when I thought it was ok for restaurants to only have salads for gluten free folk. I feel differently nowadays. There are too many of us for restaurants not to start training on Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and why offering gluten free options is important.
In the past I would have started this with something like ‘I do not like talking about the bad experiences’ or ‘I feel bad giving a poor review’ but not anymore. Us gluten free folk deserve to eat good food. We deserve respect just like everyone else and if we are not given the respect we deserve, our community will be told. Because honestly becoming part of the gluten free community has been one of the best things to happen to me recently. And I want all of my gluten free friends new and old to enjoy eating safely. And people need to understand that most of us do not eat this way because we want to, but because we have to. And I expect better from restaurants, especially ones that started in such an inclusive city like Austin, Tx.
In my opinion two chances are enough. And because of that I will not go to Chuy’s again. I do not think it is safe for anyone needing to be on a gluten free diet, I would not recommend this restaurant. In my opinion they need to change their practices to offer better options for us, and although I do not want to, I need to reach out to them about these experiences. I just need to figure out the best way to go about that. I will let ya’ll know how that goes. But for now, choose a different restaurant and stay safe out there my friends.