Payson's Don Chuy's delivers tasty Mexican flare on the quick

Two plates of shrimp ceviche and a shrimp cocktail at Don Chuy's Taco Shop in Payson on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. SPENSER HEAPS/Daily Herald

All Mexican restaurants are not created equal. There are the fine-dining Mexican restaurants where you enjoy a gourmet chef's interpretation of a taco or nachos. There are the popular Tex-Mex hangouts where the smothered burritos and sweet pork reign. The favorite neighborhood Mexican joints are typically where the waiter knows your usual order. And there are those fast food Mexican stops that turn out to be last-minute options on Taco Tuesday or for those late-night cravings.

I recently discovered another classification of Mexican restaurant -- a cross between the fast food and local favorite joint. The late night/early morning taco shop where drive-thru orders prove to be freshly made, bursting with flavor and sure to satisfy any craving no matter what time of day.

Don Chuy's in Payson is just such a restaurant, and I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised!

I had driven by the brightly painted restaurant many times, and really hadn't paid much attention. But when our family couldn't quite agree on what to eat Friday night, we decided to give the restaurant a try.

"The Carne Asada Fries are awesome," said 17-year-old Preston as we pulled into the parking lot.

Being a fan of anything featuring the wonderful mixture of steak, onions and cilantro that make up a good carne asada, I was sold.

Heading into the restaurant I was immediately captivated by the large mural that dominates the west wall just above the cash register -- a folk art painting capturing the beauty and landmarks of Utah Valley, from Lehi Roller Mills to the Peteetneet Museum. While not the typical decor for a Mexican restaurant, this mural was actually commissioned by the building's original occupant -- Kneader's -- and has, thankfully, been preserved.

Ordering our meals was quite easy, thanks to Preston's recommendation. One order of Carne Asada Fries, one order of Carne Asada Super Nachos and a to-go order of five rolled tacos (taquitos) and bean and cheese burrito.

Don Chuy's boasts a great salsa bar with multiple options ranging from extremely hot to a milder green chile sauce -- perfect for everyone's taste buds. What caught my attention was the selection of sliced vegetables available for people to snack on. Grab your favorite salsa or two and dip slices of cucumber or carrots while you wait for your entree.

The Carne Asada Nachos were a deliciously messy mix of corn chips, refried beans, pico de gallo, shredded cheese and piles of chopped steak, all topped with sour cream and guacamole. The fries boasted the same fixin's all atop a huge helping of French fries instead of chips.

When it comes to portions, Don Chuy's is a clear winner. The Super Nachos certainly lived up to their name, and for only $7.49, they were a great bargain! The Carne Asada Fries, also priced at just $7.49, could easily feed two people. In fact, Preston had to request a to-go box for his leftovers.

The menu at Don Chuy's is as large as the portions with entrees ranging from Chorizo Breakfast Burritos and Chicken Chimichangas to weekly specials like Menudo and Pozole. Best part? Nothing is priced over $10.

So no matter what time of day the craving strikes, when looking for great Mexican food on the go, head to Payson to sample Don Chuy's authentic Mexican flavors. You won't be disappointed.

Don Chuy's Taco Shop

Where: 1024 W. 800 South, Payson

Hours: 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday

Prices: $2.25 for tacos up to $6.50-$9.99 for combination plates.

Info: (801) 465-0480, www.facebook.com/don.chuys

Jennifer is the Audience Development Director for the Daily Herald.

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