Chili’s! For me, Chili’s was synonymous with good food and good times – smoky fajitas, margaritas, bottomless chips and salsa, fun and laughter. I have spent hundreds of evenings at Chili’s relaxing over a cold drink and sharing laughter with friends and coworkers. I suppose you get it. Chili’s means so much to me because of nostalgia and the history we share.
No matter how small the town or big and bad the city I lived in, and no matter if I knew a single soul over there, the familiar red and green sign made me feel right at home. Here was a place that would be the same, no matter what latitude or longitude it was located at!
So when I learned about the Chili’s restaurant in Phoenix Market City, I made a beeline there over 2 years ago. They didn’t serve margaritas in the afternoon, but so what? The moment I stepped in, the familiar decor enveloped me like a warm cocoon and I was happy. The food I ordered was just about so-so, but that was still OK.
Fast forward a few years and I was back in the Phoenix Mall, this time in the evening, and looking for a place to have a quick dinner. The hot Rainforest Resto Bar was packed and I wasn’t too keen on going there any way. It seems like a knock off of the Rainforest Cafe (unless it is officially a part of it?), and my experience of the Rainforest Cafe in Las Vegas is still vivid and fresh in my mind.
Chili’s seemed to be the choice, and I was curious to see how much atmosphere it had in the evening. The place was about half full. The server was courteous and smiling. I ordered a non alcoholic margarita and my friend ordered a mojito. The margarita was acidic with too much lime, almost like drinking a concentrate instead of a mixed drink.
We ordered Southwestern Rolls with avocado Ranch dressing. This has been a favorite of mine, packed with sweet corn, black beans, red peppers, jack cheese and spinach. The rolls had a good cover with a slight pastry like feel and were not oily at all. The filling was slightly soggy and bland. But the ranch dip was worse. It was pretty watery and didn’t stick to the roll. And there was no Ranch flavor at all. Now if you are a Ranch lover, you know that Ranch dressing is pretty zesty and bursting with flavor. The avocado wasn’t very distinctive either.
For the mains, my friend ordered Chicken Jack Fajitas which were smoky and good. But the dish was really low on onions and peppers which are the main component of fajitas. The standard serving does not include rice and beans, but the dish is sumptuous enough even without the rice and beans.
For my vegetarian main dish, I ordered veggie & cheese quesadillas. The description mentioned a creamy spinach sauce that I was not sure about. On asking the server, I was told that it was queso. Actually, the sauce turned out to be more like bechamel or your regular white sauce. I think they are using this creamy spinach as a glue to minimize the use of ‘real cheese’. I would have preferred it if the spinach was just sauteed and not ‘creamed spinach’.
There was the usual accompaniment of pico, sour cream and lettuce. The pico was perhaps the only thing well seasoned and had some heat.
The veggie quesadilla portion is large, enough to satisfy a very hungry person, or can easily be shared between two people. The portion size of appetizers is small but the entrees have generous portions. If you do the whole drinks, appetizers, entree thing, I suggest you share the entree if you want to save room for dessert.
I skipped the dessert this time and asked for the check. A point to note is they add 12% service charge in addition to service tax. This means your tip is already covered, a whopping 12% which is not really prevalent among Indian tippers. But if memory serves me right, their taxes have gone down compared to the 35%+ tax I had paid on my first visit (it just means their menu reflects prices inclusive of tax).
So what is my verdict on Chili’s Pune? Chili’s is known for bold and zesty flavors, which I did not get. My reason for going to Chili’s was more for old times’ sake rather than anything else. But if Chili’s is just another restaurant for you, like dozens others, I am not sure what the draw will be for you.