International chains have been devouring the food scene of the city since forever. While I’m no big fan of this raging trend, I try to accept they have their positives. One being that such “foreign” influences force the domestic market to level up and maintain good standard and second, we get to try the intended food of a particular region even if it isn’t the same as the brand you’d get abroad. Chili’s is among the brands I’ve been waiting to try out, being a sucker for American comfort food.
Chili’s specialises in Tex-Mex; a long-standing fusion cuisine between Southern American & Mexican flavours. Located at Express Avenue’s third level, this is another place that seems to have brought in the “American vibes” to our shores. Loud music, attractive blue lights on the bar, huge posters and a large screen with music videos playing are the first things that come to mind when I recall our visits. Orange lighting fills the dining area and with these low lights and all around cushioned seating it echoes a ‘diner’ scene. Privacy and conversations are kinda difficult here with the close seating and loud music.
As swanky as the interiors are the always upbeat staff! They help you with your orders, give honest suggestions and have a good grasp with the whole menu. There was a problem only during one of our visits, on a weekend, when they seemed too held up and getting their attention was a bit hard. Other than this hiccup, it was smooth, efficient and earnest.
I absolutely love the menu at Chili’s. Almost everything on it seems super appetising, sure to tempt you on the first read. Vegetarian dishes are quite in equal to the non vegetarian ones on the menu. Everything listed is in length descript making sure it adds on to the temptation from the juicy pictures. They have a good range of combos which help when you come as a couple or more. With these combos, you get to try a good few dishes and also have a VFM meal. Over the three times we’ve been to this place, these are the dishes we’ve tried:
Classic Nachos: Uber cheesy plate of appetisers. It was super hot! The toppings were well complimented with the oh-so-stringy cheese. The nachos weren’t too crispy, though, under all the toppings and cheese and that slight sogginess would be my only qualm with this. I absolutely love sour cream but the ones that came with these didn’t have the kick that generally makes me scrape the dish off.
Ultimate Dipper: This BIG plate with 6 dips and 5 of their appetisers (Chicken wings come two ways; bone-in and boneless, so that makes it 4 appetisers) is enough for about 3 people. However, it wasn’t an AMAZING plate of food as expected.
While we totally LOVED the Southwestern Rolls (it was a vegetarian dish and quite the best of the plate), BBQ Chicken Wings (our all time favourite) and the Texas Cheese Poppers (another classic) the Tangy Chicken Wings and Chicken Crispers were quite unpleasant! The Tangy sauce on the wings was TOO tangy, almost pickle-y and it totally didn’t suit our palate. The Chicken Crispers were bland maida bhajjis. Yes, the chicken inside it was moist and tender but on the whole it SO bland and greasy we even wasted one of it. There were quite a lotta dips and I felt they were a bit too runny and a few almost identical in taste. These were, however, certainly great accompaniments to those crispy appetisers.
Big Mouth Bites: This is a good plate to share between two when you’re not really hungry to eat a whole burger each. These mini-burgers (slightly bigger than regular sliders) with bacon, cheese, and onion rings with a ranch dressing. To the point there’s nothing wow about these, it wasn’t bad either. The bacon wasn’t too appetising despite the ‘Applewood Smoked’ tag. Onion rings were crispy and golden. This was served with a side of Fries. Chili’s has this type of fresh fries where the potatoes are fried with a bit of it’s skin. While I liked this (especially with extra salt and pepper) my friend found it really weird and unappealing. The size and thickness on it was uniform but these weren’t crispy. Altogether, these fries weren’t really great.
Southern Smokehouse Burger: Okay, now we’re talking. Just the description of this and I went in to order this without second-guessing around the other options. The best part about this was that it came in exactly as it’s depiction on the menu. Obviously, that posed the problem of fitting it “elegantly” in my mouth. Lost cause. 😉 With perfectly juicy, tender meat, LAYERS of bacon (albeit, slightly mediocre ones), cheese and onion rings the burger would totally satisfy the craving. Another thing I really liked was the burger bun itself! Called ‘potato buns’, the potato in the buns makes it stay smooth, fluffy, light and best of all, crumble-free. This burger also came with Fries and Bottomless Coke.
Mix n Match Fajitas Trio: We tried this with Pork Carnitas, Grilled Chicken, and Shrimp. While the technique in making it is super clearly explained and the umpteen sides they give with it are pleasing, on the whole, the Fajitas seemed to be too much of work for nothing as great. I absolutely loved the Pork Carnitas; juicy, meaty and flavorful by itself. Grilled Chicken was tender but kinda boring & bland. The shrimp was pretty good and fresh. I didn’t like their guac at all! The other toppings, especially the cream went really well with the fajitas. The Salsa was mediocre, especially because it was watery. The tortillas were kept in a separate case which ensured it stayed hot for at least majority of the time. The sizzling effect of the Fajitas was fun to watch. Overall, I don’t think this is something I’d order again here.
Baby Back Ribs: Tried the Original Half Rack of this DUHLICIOUS plate of food :’) Truly succulent, fall-off-the-bone, melt-in-your-mouth tender meat. The BBQ Sauce went great with the overall smokiness. This came with a side of fries and corn on the cob. This made it a truly wholesome meal. The bones in the rib were pretty thick despite which there was plenty of meat on the dish. It’s that kind of a dish that makes sticky fingers and happy hearts! 😀
Ancho Salmon: They have a set of dishes for ‘em calorie conscious and this was one of those, supposedly around 620 calories. I absolutely love salmon and I’d felt like having rice then and that made me order this particular dish. The salmon as such was super fresh, tender and juicy with it’s mild dressing. The rice was flavour packed and the steamed veggies made the dish hearty. What was baffling was the size of the fillet and the how inadequate the dish was! I know they’re to get the person fewer calories, but that’s definitely not how they do that, by giving food that’s almost like an appetiser, leaving the person hungry! Was completely dissatisfied with its VFM also.
Molten Chocolate Cake: Just anybody’s go-to dessert. This one had GOOEY warm chocolate cake with a yummilicious chocolate-y centre and cold vanilla ice cream. And of course, more chocolate sauce! It did not get too cloying with the saving grace of the mediocre ice cream. No surprises, the plate was wiped clean in minutes. This dessert can be shared by 2-3 people (if you aren’t that chocolate devouring monster :P)
Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie: This was a filling and lick-off-your-spoon yummy warm dessert. Sticky caramel, a chewy bar of nutty chocolate and fudge! Again, I felt the ice cream was mediocre and not really in coherence with this dessert. Would’ve helped if it was a chocolate ice cream!
They have a good range of Mocktails as well (given Chennai is officially the ‘virgin capital’ :/)! Delicious twists with virgin Margaritas, refreshing and good flavoured drinks. We’ve tried three of these and the Watermelon Margarita, which came in a typical margarita glass with the salt on the rim, is what stuck in our minds. It wasn’t anything spectacular as such but just super fresh, perfect for the sunny afternoon we were there. All the drinks were exactly as per the description and was a lot in quantity! All in all, they were quite a delight, VFM wise too.
Pricing at this place is definitely on the higher side. While for a few dishes, it goes VFM, I personally felt it was a bit too much overall. This is one of those reasons to make me have second thoughts with being a regular here. A good facet of theirs would be the quantity they deliver and that most of the food here isn’t tweaked for the domestic crowd. A few great dishes, vibrant atmosphere, and refreshing beverages are my top reasons to visit this place.
WTF METER FOR CHILI’S:
Ambiance – 8/10
Service – 8/10
Quality & Taste – 7/10
Quantity – 8/10
Food – 7/10
Beverages – 7/10
VFM – 6/10
Overall – 7/10