Thursday, January 25, 2007

Dining critic candidate No. 31

Review of Chili's Bar & Grill, East Cheyenne Mountain Boulevard

Through cold and snow, the Chili's Bar & Grill's neon sign flashed greens and reds through grey flurries as we drove past. On impulse we decided to stop and eat but were not able to make a quick u-turn because of the cement barrier. That is the good thing about having a choice; we went to the next entrance.

I liked the waiting area separation which kept the worst of the weather from effecting the guests' comfort. I was charmed also that the hostess said 'three' after her welcome. My guest had brought her petite three-year old daughter, Sarah. The hostess inquired about a booster and engaged Sarah in friendly conversation at the same time.

After being given a booth, per our request, a pleasant server arrived and introduced herself. The server was attentive to the Sarah's needs...providing a child's menu and an activity to distract from wait time. This establishment definitely addresses families' needs which, in turn, encourages a quiet atmosphere.

Ordering began with drinks. The menu had been updated since my last visit. For example, tap varieties of beer currently offered are Fat Tire, Laughing Lab, Beehive, as well as a nice variety of domestic brands. We ordered drinks, noting that prices for these were not on the menu. Prices of beverages are sometimes exorbitant and always should be listed. I usually ask about prices before ordering but did not this time, however.

We also requested chips and salsa. The chips were pleasantly warm; the salsa was not too chunky but not smooth either. The degree of spiciness was very good without needing to grab my glass of water. What am I saying? I did not have a glass of water. It's understandable when one is traveling through areas with limited water resources, one has to plead for or buy water. Here, we live in an area of lush golf courses and see irrigation excesses streaming into gutters and we have to ask for water...but enough of that. This item, the chips and salsa (in case you've forgotten the subtopic) was the least expensive appetizer on the menu and could be refilled without additional cost. The next time I visit Chili's I want to try the eggrolls, not just for the veggies either -- the menu picture caught my attention. Additions of other attractive pictures have been included in this updated menu.

My guest requested the Turkey Combo (half sandwich and soup). She chose Chicken Enchilada Soup and added bacon to her sandwich (.59 extra but it showed up on the ticket as .99). I ordered Fajita Quesadilla as I enjoy Mexican-style food. The quesadilla could have had more filling; there were only large slices of onion (sauteed?)and meat inside. It could have appealed to more patrons if there had been an option to include a variety of grated cheeses, sliced zucchini, green chili strips, or other tasty in-season additions. I added guacamole, which was .99 additional, but will probably skip it next time. Previously there was a small serving bowl of wonderfully spicy black beans but, this time, pinto beans were on the plate. The rice was delicious, however. It was not Mexican/Spanish style but prepared a la Asian. It has always seemed odd to me that a restaurant named Chili's, has only chips and salsa, an incogniti quesadilla, and Margarita chicken referencing the name. FYI -the most expensive item on the menu was a 12-ounce New York Strip at 14.99.

While waiting for our entrees, we noticed that the music interfered with conversation. More speakers and less volume would have provided a more pleasant environment. I liked that patrons were 'spread out' ... not seated at adjoining tables. Even though I prefer to eat out during 'off hours' and there are usually many empty tables, often we are seated right next to other patrons. Many of us enjoy having private conversations while eating and, because of proximity to others, this is not possible.

My quesadilla was huge (only 8.29) and I boxed up more than half but we crossed the line and ordered a Molten Chocolate Cake priced at 5.39. The dessert was a real value because the serving was family-style. Sarah said it looked like a tarantula (bundt pan shape) as she calmly peeled the frozen chocolate sauce 'skin' from the vanilla ice cream. I worked on it too, scooping out caramel sauce flows. I prefer caramel to chocolate...yum!

The server removed items that we had finished with which is not always the norm in many restaurants. She also checked for additional needs that we might have but was not obtrusive about the task.

We enjoyed our dining experience and were able to walk safely on cleared sidewalks to our car. I look forward to going back for the eggrolls and the Margarita Chicken.

Note: The salsa mentioned above contained finely chopped cilantro. Some restaurants use whole leaves and chunks of stems. I find that a bit much. When preparing food at home, I tie up the harder to digest spices and similar items in a cheesecloth bag for later removal.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

there's no reason a novel should be written about CHILI'S.

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not a novel but a scientific report! Sounds like it was writen buy Food Critibot 3000.

12:41 PM  

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