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Chuy’s food unexceptional, but service, atmosphere warm

Tex-Mex fare and house-made tortillas and sauces emerge from this popular Austin, Texas-based chain with nearly 4 dozen locations, also known for its loud and kitschy look. (Every location has an Elvis shrine!)

The food: Given that Charlotte has rather a lot of Tex-Mex choices (among them Austin-inspired Maverick Rock Taco and El Camino), I was surprised to see Chuy’s limited list of proteins (tacos of chicken, beef, ground beef or fried shrimp/fish; that’s it) but pleased to find a Hatch green chile sauce with some actual heat. It’s not killer, but it’ll do.

Expect beans (refried and charro are both fine, not exceptional) and rice (Mexican and green chile-flecked are both a mite dry) with nearly everything. Chicken fajitas produced moist, if not flavorful meat, but the fresh tortillas – both flour for fajitas and corn for enchiladas – are noticeably better than what you often get. Though soft corn tortillas aren’t a menu option for the tacos, our server assured us we could have them.

Best of what we had were two lovely, fat chiles rellenos, crunchily battered and pleasingly oozy with cheese.

Also on the menu: “Elvis Green Chile Fried Chicken,” which is a breast breaded with Lay’s potato chips, then deep-fried and served with green chile sauce and cheddar. (No bananas, though I don’t see why not.)

Burritos, enchiladas and fajitas are the heart of the menu, along with the requisite combo platters, but don’t expect anything unpredictable.

Margarita options are plentiful, but where’s the local beer?

The décor: Kids in particular will love ceilings tiled with cameras or hubcaps, depending on where you are in the big restaurant, most recently Zink American Kitchen, and we saw plenty of kids in the crowd. You don’t really hear them, since you don’t hear much of anything over the profound din (even on a Tuesday night); you may find that festive or hard to handle.

Happy-hour nachos are served in a car trunk, and signs in the bar area say if you bring in a picture of your dog, you get a free appetizer.

The service: Pleasant and team-oriented servers bustle gratifyingly; we watched a kind young server help a distraught child with her push-up pop, unnoticed by the harried mom flying out the door with other kids. We heard servers explain décor (ask about the keys and the ray gun) and generally help one another. If that means sometimes you get three Diet Coke refills from three different people, well, that’s better than none.

Details: Lunch and dinner daily (entrees about $8-$11); 4310 Sharon Road; 704-364-3959; www.chuys.com.

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