CITYSCAPE

Chuy’s Tex-Mex restaurant ready to open on the Plaza

Updated: 2013-10-08T18:03:25Z

By JOYCE SMITH

The Kansas City Star

Customers stepping into the foyer of the new Chuy’s on the Country Club Plaza will be surrounded by a wall of 1960s and 1970s era cameras.

This funky design is just a taste of what’s to come inside.

Chuy’s, a Tex-Mex chain based in Austin, Texas, is scheduled to open at 11 a.m. today on the Country Club Plaza, 209 W. 46th Terrace, the former spot of Figlio the Italian Restaurant & Bar.

Mike Young and John Zapp opened the first Chuy’s in 1982 in Texas. They had only a few dollars left to spend on decor. That went to a roadside vendor of velvet Stevie Wonder and Elvis paintings, and for old hubcaps to put on the ceiling. Early customers then brought them Elvis memorabilia, and they created an Elvis shrine.

So all the Chuy’s restaurants that have opened since play homage to the original with an Elvis shrine and hubcap room.

“They did what they loved and it worked,” said John Hodson, training coordinator for Chuy’s, who brought in his team to open the Plaza restaurant.

Chuy’s still uses many of the same artists it started out with. They hand-paint the windows and signs, make the towering metal palm trees in one room, the wooden fish hanging on fishing wire running from the hostess stand through the bar, and the colorful wall tiles.

One room also features photos from Mexican families, some dating back to the 1920s. The Chihuahua Bar features Chihuahuas doing everyday human activities such as lifting weights.

“So you come in the restaurant and you see the funky decor and you might not be expecting the level of food to be where it is,” Hodson said. “But we take our food very seriously. We make everything from scratch every single day.”

That includes tortillas made to order at a glass-enclosed stand in the dining room, rice-and-beans made in small batches throughout the day, and margaritas made with fresh-squeezed lime juice.

Signature dishes include the Chuy’s Special with house-made blue corn tortillas stacked with freshly roasted, hand-pulled chicken, cheese and tomatillo sauce and topped with sour cream. There’s also the Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken (chicken breast breaded with Lay’s potato chips), and veggie enchiladas (with such ingredients as spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, red bell peppers and roasted green chiles).

Chuy’s said it may open more than one restaurant in the Kansas City market.

Stroud’s partnership

Stroud’s South is teaming up with KC Hopps Ltd.

KC Hopps is now an equity partner in Stroud’s at 4200 Shawnee Mission Parkway, and in any new locations.

Mike Donegan, who will still be a partner in the restaurant and manage it, said, “They will come in and learn how we are doing it so someday they can open another one.”

KC Hopps does plan to expand but doesn’t have any deals signed. Ed Nelson, president of KC Hopps, said another location could open in 2014 in the metro or perhaps Topeka.

“I tried to talk Mike into this five years ago. It’s an opportunity to grow a legendary brand,” Nelson said.

Block & Co. Realtors will be the exclusive real estate broker for the new partnership.

Stroud’s has been serving its pan fried chicken since 1933. Jim Hogan and Mike Donegan bought the location at 85th and Troost in 1977. Donegan became the sole owner in the early 1990s and later moved the restaurant to Fairway.

He also owns a Northland Stroud’s that is not part of the deal with KC Hopps.

To reach Joyce Smith, call 816-234-4692 or send email to jsmith@kcstar.com. Follow her at Twitter.com/joycekc.

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