Chuys was established in an abandoned Texas Barbeque restaurant on Barton Springs Road, Austin, Texas, on April 16, 1982. There were seating for approximately sixty people, a ladies’ restroom the size of an entire broom closet, and a men’s bathroom that was outside. John Zapp and Mike Young, the founders of Chuys, had a vision for a fun and lively Tex-Mex restaurant serving authentic and fresh Mexican food in an environment that was accessible to all. From humble beginnings, chuys was founded.
- “If you have seen one chuy,
- You’ve seen one chuys”
Mike and John made interesting decisions about restaurant decor due to a lack of money and the creativity of Jose Cuervo (their “decorator”) You love the chuy’s details like the “swimming” wooden fish suspended from the ceiling, the hubcaps shining brightly above your booth, and the Elvis shrine. These were all created by Mike and John. We still love to have a few of these unique touches in every restaurant, even though we often say “If you’ve ever seen one chuys… You’ve seen all of them.”
Except for our food, we don’t take any thing seriously
What is Tex? Although we call our food “Tex-Mex”, it is a mix of flavours. We use ingredients and recipes from New Mexico, Mexico border towns, Rio Grande Valley, deep South Texas and Austin. Our Green Chile sauce recipe came from Espanola in New Mexico. And our fajita marinade comes from an old South Texas family recipe that was used at “famous” South Padre Island beach parties. Mike and John wanted FRESH to Tex-Mex. That commitment to food is still at the heart of everything chuy’s does today.
Tex-Mex for the People
We decided to share our Tex-Mex secrets with the world in the late 2000’s when there were only 15 restaurants in Texas. We felt it was wrong to keep our homemade dishes, and the world-class service and atmosphere we provide, to ourselves. We opened our first chuy’s outside Texas in Franklin, TN in November 2009. Since then, we have spread our vision of fresh, authentic Tex-Mex all over the country. We hope to bring what began “Deep in the Heart of Tex-Mex”, to food and fun lovers everywhere.
More about the story behind Chuy’s Elvis shrine
After a fiery Wall Street debut with the initial public offering, Steve Hislop is determined to keep Austin-based Chuys Holdings Inc. in business.
Hislop stated that “Going public is the culmination of a lot effort.” However, he said that the only way to keep a public company going is to never lose sight of its roots or the work it took to get there.
The company hosts a culture club several times per year to keep employees acculturated. They learn about the history behind the restaurant’s decorations, concept, and mascot.
Have you ever wondered why there are Elvis shrines in restaurants or why the nacho bars are served from the trunk of a classic vehicle?
The Story Behind Chuys “Fish With Attitude”
Mike Quinn, a Houston artist, sculpted ceramic fish years ago for a class project. He submitted some of his work to a rotating art exhibit at a chuy’s Tex-Mex in Austin after he received an invitation from a Tex-Mex restaurant.
His hand-painted Fish With Attitude pieces were eventually sold by the restaurant chain for more than 17 year.
Quinn continues to make his signature fish along with other sea animals like turtles, sharks, and octopus. Quinn has also created other characters and creatures, such as a large razorbackhog and tribal mask planter.
Quinn now has a YouTube channel called “Have Fun Make Art with Mike Quinn” that is free and educational for children. Quinn says that he hopes it will help kids who don’t have access to an artist teacher or other resources for learning art.
Houston Matters hears from him about his outreach to education, his journey into art, and how his fish series came about.
The same goes for chuy’s Elvis-themed restaurant. Every Tex-Mex streethouse has an Elvis shrine. This quirk was inspired by the original chuys that opened on Barton Springs Road, Austin in 1982. The founders of the chain decorated their first restaurant with an Elvis-sized velvet painting. The $20 budget was used to purchase it.
Furthermore, Chuy is a shorthand for Jesus.
So it is very common for people named Jesus to be called by their families and friends Chucho, since it’s clearly not diminutive (being longer than the original name), it gets reduced to ‘Chuy’ for simplicity/friendliness. Note, sometimes the nicknames/diminutives of names have no relation at all