Mar 172011

Don’t be afraid. The scariest thing about Chelly’s is the interior decorating.



Isn’t this place dreadful inside? When reader JaySoy suggested it a year or two back, I had never really noticed it, nestled on the end of a haggard strip mall around the corner from Swagger at 85th and Wornall. The shopping center is anchored by the excellent neighborhood bar, Walsh’s Corner Cocktails which apparently has a cheeseburger I need to try.

A cheeseburger you don’t need to try is at Chelly’s, because Chelly’s is a Mexican restaurant. Mexican restaurants don’t need burgers. If anyone feels strongly to the contrary, feel free to tell me how great Chelly’s burgers are in the comments.

That being said, I did enjoy my meal in this curious little place much more than I anticipated. It is a familiar and popular genre of restaurant: slightly Americanized Mexican fare with a broad appeal but not the utterly gross kind. They serve up hearty plates of food along with mass-produced Mexican beers and perfectly good unnaturally green margaritas. Think Mi Ranchito, Dos Reales, Los Corrals and the like.

I was pleasantly surprised by a delicious pork tamale covered with a red chile sauce that they seem overly fond of. Tacos get the traditional corn tortilla, onion and cilantro treatment. I had carne asada and chicken and the meats, from what I remember, are just fine. These tacos aren’t going to knock your socks off but sometimes you just need a fix.

Tamale and tacos

The menu advertises an accompaniment called the “Mexican flag,” which I assume is the centrally located piles of green guacamole, sour cream, onions and tomatoes on each plate.


As you can see, Chelly’s serves whole pinto beans rather than the more common refried variety and though I prefer the latter when they are good these are perfectly tasty and a refreshing chance of pace.

Waldo is not a particularly good locale for Mexican food, with the supremely mediocre anglocized Cantina del Ray and Taco Factory up north. Paparico’s is the newest addition to Waldo’s Mexican family which has very favorable reviews around town, with a notable exception. So in this climate, Chelly’s succeeds, even though it may not be up to the highest standards.

Chelly's Cafe on Urbanspoon

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  9 Responses to “Chelly’s Cafe: 218 West 85th Street”

  1. Cantina del Ray is so bad, I'm surprised they're still in business. Swizzle was a better use of the real estate.

  2. Strangely enough, it's the same owners as Swizzle, just a different concept. You may have know that Swizzle's chef died in an accident which probably triggered the change.

  3. a recent visit to cantina del ray was surprisingly good. their margaritas kick ass.

  4. Interesting that you're all into Waldo's joints lately. I like Chelly's pork sopa's though on occasion I have bitten into a mouthful of juicy pork fat-phew-splat-psstche! And, I have carried out some Chelly's Sunday breakfast and eaten it on my deck in the summer with a glass of OJ and it was like being in the company of angels-I was having pleasant San Diego flashbacks. I can't bring myself to even try Cantina del Ray-I am genuinely done with Mexican food that tastes like a TV dinner.

  5. I also reviewed Chelly's and found it about the same as you. My photos don't show it but that brain-numbing blue was not the color on the walls when we were there. I do remember it being brightly colored, but OH MY that is blue. Love your lead sentence.

  6. I really like Chelly's. It doesn't sound like it would be a Mexican restaurant, more like a breakfast place, which is great because they do serve breakfast. I have always been satisfied with my meals there, but they could improve their salsa.

  7. We've been eating at Chelly's for years. The food is authentic enough; I don't want the ubiquitous mystery meat tacos of TJ/Nogales, nor the gringo meals plated in Cabo, Puerto Vallarta, Cozumel, Acapulco and Cancun. And the really “good” meals found in places like Tampico or Leon, as well as the slipper lobster tails along the Pacific coast ($5 each), will never be replicated in the States. Just not going to happen.

    On the other hand Chelly’s offer a consistent meal at reasonable prices, it’s not too far south and the Asta’s love the live, cheesy imitation mariachi music Friday nights. What’s not to like?

  8. Absolutely awful. My family was recommended to try Chelly's. The whole experience was a disaster. My family owned restaurants when i was growing up, so it is takes a lot for me to criticize a meal… But OMFG, everything was horrible. Carnitas looked and tasted like they had been marinated in the dumpster for the last week. Service was poor and unfriendly. We literally still laugh about how terrible the meal was. Stay away. I wouldn't feed their food to my dog.

  9. I laughed through this entire review. Burgers at Mexican restaurants confound me too!