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Chain Chain Chain, Chain of Foods

Here in my little city of Richmond, VA, I’ve enjoyed watching (and tasting) the rise of a robust food scene. Nobody’s surprised anymore (though always grateful) to see our excellent restaurateurs, chefs, and bar programs written up in national publications. Fine food choices exist across a broad range of tastes, budgets, and cuisine, so finding a local option for your meal isn’t difficult.

But sometimes you’re out in the far, western exurbs visiting your mother-in-law, so you decide to try out a chain because it’s most of what’s out there. That’s how I recently ate at Chuy’s (ugh, site requires Flash…) in Short Pump. I had a steak burrito with a green chile sauce, and it blew my freaking mind. The beef was flavorful, perfectly medium rare skirt steak sliced the right way so it was tender. The chile sauce had a nice moderate heat. The tortilla, unbelievably, was delicious. Good enough that it held its own against steak. After talking to the waitress a bit, I found out they apparently make their tortillas fresh every day, and intentionally put some of the sauce on the ends of the burrito when they heat it up to keep the bunched ends from drying out. Worked like a tasty charm.

Chuy’s isn’t a chain on the scale of Chipotle, for sure. But 40 unremarkably-decorated theme restaurants around the country isn’t pretending to be local, either. But I can’t pretend that wasn’t a hell of a burrito.[1]

So I’m left with two questions:

  1. For my local peeps - is there any Mexican/Central/South American/Tex-Mex place in RVA that makes fresh tortillas to serve with their food?
  2. For anybody - are there any other chains that, despite a preference for local joints, are actually worth giving a shot?[2]

  1. Look, I’ve never eaten Tex-Mex in Texas, Mexas, or New Mexas. I don’t really wanna hear that Chuy’s is garbage compared to “the real thing”. I’ve just never had a burrito this good in RVA before.  ↩

  2. I realize this is a fuzzy line, but it should be pretty obvious that places like Panera or Bertucci’s don’t belong on this list while Bon Chon (ugh, ALSO requires Flash) certainly does.  ↩