Chuy's is nothing if not quirky.

Chuy's is nothing if not quirky.

The Austin-based Tex-Mex chain opened its second central Ohio location Oct. 8 in the former Smokey Bones Bar & Fire Grill location at 1481 Polaris Parkway in north Columbus.

The restaurant, which seats about 250, carries on the individualistic flair that started with the first location in 1982.

Tight on money, founders Mike Young and John Zapp outfitted the restaurant with mismatched bric-a-brac they found or customers brought in.

The new location pays homage to that concept by creating distinct dining rooms, such as the "hubcap room," where vintage hubcaps and license plates are attached to the ceiling and walls.

Another room features modern and folk Mexican art, reminiscent of the days when the owners would purchase roadside artwork for decoration. The new space is dominated by a stream of wooden fish carved in Mexico.

Another popular Chuy's feature is a shrine to Elvis.

"Elvis became the unofficial saint (of Chuy's)," general manager Phillip Kukucka said.

Behind the visual gags is a serious restaurant with a serious mission, Kukucka said, offering made-to-order dishes using the freshest ingredients and a budget-priced menu, with almost every individual item costing less than $12.

"It's just good food, and the service is quick," he said.

Tortillas are made in-house, as are eight signature sauces, ranging from mild to hot. Margaritas are made using fresh-squeezed juice. Produce trucks arrive almost daily.

"We do a lot of things in small batches," Kukucka said.

The menu is a familiar read: burritos, tacos, fajitas, chili rellenos and enchiladas, plus signature dishes, such as the "Elvis Presley Memorial Combo" -- seasoned ground beef, chicken and cheese enchiladas, all topped with individual sauces, plus a crispy taco and homemade tostada chips dipped in queso.

Enchiladas are rolled to order and served with Mexican or green-chili rice, as well as refried or charro beans.

Customers are welcome to mix and match ingredients, Kukucka said. Patrons also may ask to sample any of the house sauces before ordering them.

"We really do anything and everything we can for the guest," he said. "We find a way to say yes."

The menu includes options for both vegetarians and vegans, as well as the gluten-sensitive, but the kitchen is not gluten-free, Kukucka said.

Five years ago, Chuy's opened its first central Ohio location -- restaurant No. 66 -- at 4154 Seward St. in Easton Gateway. The Polaris Parkway restaurant is the 109th location.

Kukucka said there are plans for future growth in the region but nothing immediate.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, call 614-826-7676.


Cajun Boiled Seafood, representing a type of dining popular in Louisiana and growing locally, is expected to open Thursday, Nov. 14, at 2760 Brice Road near Reynoldsburg.

Joe Zhong, owner of Blue Ginger Asian Fusion Bistro at 6234 Sawmill Road in Dublin, is the managing partner of the venture, which seats about 100. Meals will include a choice of seafood, potatoes, corn and sausage boiled in a bag with Cajun spices and spread over a table so customers can dine picnic-style.

Similar Columbus restaurants are Lee's Seafood Boil, 1446 Bethel Road, and Kai's Crab Boil, 839 Bethel Road.

On a related note, Zhong has recently sold his interest in L. Ginger Asian Fusion & Hibachi, 65 E. State St. in Columbus' Capitol Square.

A franchise location of Jersey Mike's Subs opened Nov. 6 in Lewis Center.

The new restaurant, owned by Joseph and Jennifer Brake, is at 6464 Pullman Drive.