Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chevy’s Fresh Mex

12466 Tesson Ferry Rd

St. Louis Mo.

The Place:

South St. Louis County, Highway 21 (Tesson Ferry) near 270, a large strip mall anchored by a Dierberg’s grocery (where fancy people shop for food). Chevy’s is a chain of Mexican restaurants that somehow we’ve managed to completely ignore up to this trip. Large, noisy with too-loud, though not Mexican music. A few TV’s spread around showing noting particularly interesting. There was outside seating available, which we opted against. There was nothing outside to look at other than the parking lot filled with fancy people loading groceries and the highway itself, hardly an appetite enhancing vista.

Inside it was darker, bar-like with a wall covered in rustic rock in the entry, the dining areas were rather dark as well with drab painted walls. There were dozens of neon signs touting Mexican and American beers. For décor there were ancient farm implements, crude wooden rakes, oxen yokes, buckets and hoes, all very rustic but hardly uniquely Mexican, aside from the implication that Mexican = grueling and archaic manual labor. There was not a sombrero to be found anywhere.

We were seated, our drink orders taken, tea, tea and Pepsi. The chips were delivered along with a bowl of peculiar looking salsa. (more on this later)

The staff was strictly young and pale American, dressed in black trousers and bright red shirts, no serapes or sombreros there either. As for overall ambiance, it was hardly Mexican at all. I like sombreros, bullfighting murals and bright primary colors. I like lively songs about cockroaches played on large guitars, it adds to the authenticity. This may as well have been TGI Friday’s.

The Food:

The drinks were delivered, the tea was quite good, and possibly the best restaurant tea we’ve had in a very long time. It helped that it was served in a large glass exactly like the glasses I have tea in at home. It tasted right and felt right. The chips we were munching on were okay, thin and for the most part crispy, though there were a few too many rubbery ones. The salsa was weird. Most Mexican places serve a thin red salsa as a default, and bring out the more powerful brown stuff only on request. This stuff looked like the hotter brown stuff, but it wasn’t really very hot. It wasn’t tomato-y either. It was just odd. There was a taste we couldn’t quite put our finger on. It was okay, but disappointing. We asked about ‘regular’ salsa and was told that this was their regular stuff, “made fresh every day.” Angel asked for the stronger stuff hoping it would be better, it wasn’t, it was just hotter. She asked the waitress about the regular stuff, what was in it, and the answer was ‘cilantro’, to which I added, “Too much cilantro.” The waitress, bless her little heart, added that she didn’t care for it either.

The menu was typical of Mexican restaurants, burritos, enchiladas, tamales, fajitas, tacos, etc. Angel and I decided on a combo called ‘Taste of Chevy’s’, an enchilada, tamale, taco, which included beans and rice. Adam went a la carte, two tacos, chicken and beef, soft and hard respectively.

By the time we decided that the salsa just wasn’t very good, and the loud family across from us reached about fifty percent inebriation, the meals arrived. This was fast, too fast Adam said, merely seven or eight minutes after the order was taken. We were suspicious.

Apparently a la carte means ‘one plate per item’, Adam had three small plates, one for each taco and one for the rice. Our combos came on one large plate each, crowded.

Adam liked the rice but wasn’t happy with the tacos. They were laden with tomato chunks and he hates tomatoes. As he picked away at them we jumped into the combos.

The first (or next) disappointment was the beef. They had used ground beef rather than pulled, which in my mind put this place on par with Taco Bell. Real Mexican cooks don’t use ground beef in my mind. The chicken was only marginally better, rough chopped, some of the chunks big enough to choke on, and a little rubbery, though not awful.

The beans were whole in a thick sauce, not the way I like them which is mashed and mingled with a puddle of cheese. It was little more than a serving of generic brown beans. The rice was okay but such a minor player, even a good one, can’t carry a merely mediocre team.

Adam asked for another taco without the tomatoes and stuff, having tired of plucking the two he had. About this time Angel and I decided the tamales were not very good. She said they tasted like pimentos, not normally a bad thing, but in the tamale it was too strong and out of place.


Neither Angel nor I finished much of anything; nothing was really bad it was just that nothing was all that good. We discussed the too speedy service, the seven to ten minute order to delivery time. This was a symptom, a clue. We decided it meant that all that was occurring after the order arrived in the kitchen was final assembly, all the cooking having been done in batches earlier. This was not prepared to order, it was assembled to order. This is exactly what Taco Bell does with slightly fewer ingredients.

The service was okay at best; our waitress was friendly and honest, but not especially attentive. They didn’t query us about not actually finishing a single thing, even Adam’s virtually untouched tacos.

The lackluster décor made this place little more than just another franchise restaurant, punctuated by the staff clapping and singing ‘happy,happy birthday’s!’ at a couple of tables, not even in Spanish. They may as well just give up on the pretense and start serving overpriced burgers.

Speaking of price, this round came in at forty eight dollars and change, just over fifty if you add the shorted tip. That’s about fifty percent higher than all the other family owned Mexican places we’ve reviewed. With the possible exception of La Pachanga, it was the least impressive of the lot. I’d rate it about two sombreros out of a possible ten, but only partially because they didn’t even have sombreros.

Take your money and appetite for Mexican fare somewhere else.

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