Eating Off of the Beaten Path

Schuyler Nebraska is a sleepy little town about a hour and a half Northwest of Lincoln. Not much stands out in this quiet town of just over 6,000 people. One place that has made an impression on the Lincoln Lutheran mens soccer team is a little restaurant called Chonas. With authentic Mexican cuisine, it’s definitely a place worth stopping at if your journey takes you through the town.

From the outside, Chonas doesn’t look like much at all. Marked by a bright, multicolored sign, it can be seen from a mile away. The yellow, red, and green shine out like a beacon, inviting the hungry people of Schuyler and its guest in for a tasty meal. Since the building looks like it might have once been a Burger King or Wendy’s, you might expect to find similar atmosphere on the inside, but you’d be wrong.

As soon as you step through the doors, it is clear that this is no regular fast food restaurant. The first thing you see is a huge grocery style cooler, one that regularly holds milk, eggs, and yogurt, filled to the brim with a large variety of bottled sodas and beverages. Theres a shelf sitting in the dead center of the room, overflowing with assorted candies that have Spanish labels on them. Cases of beer are stacked in a tight rectangle next to the shelf and this is where you find the start of the line. As you step up to take your place, you see a long counter, overflowing with candies and other mexican foods for sell. A short, round lady stands behind it with a smile on her face, patiently awaiting to take your order.

Decisions do not come easy at Chonas. With so many different meals, the choosing process can almost be defined as an art. With all the common traditional mexican cuisine, it’s hard to go wrong. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, you can get a burrito filled with tongue. I was not feeling quite up to that challenge though so I settled with a burrito filled with marinated pork, a less adventurous choice. While waiting for my food, I had time to open my choice of soda, a large coke in a glass bottle, with a bottle opener tied to one of the shelfs near by. As I took my seat at one of the many booths in the room, I stopped to take everything in.

Looking around, I spot the source of the loud and festive music being played in the restaurant. Speakers in the ceiling are not the source, but a giant jukebox blaring the spanish music adjacent to the door. Three songs of your choice cost a dollar and you are free to dance or sing as much as you would like. The atmosphere of this restaurant is unlike so many in my regular life. It is a place to come and relax, hang out, have some fun, and for me, to try something a little different. As I sit back and relax, the short woman who was working behind the counter carries out a plate with a monstrous burrito resting on top of it.

Presentation wise, don’t get your hopes up, just a giant burrito wrapped in tinfoil and a green sauce in a little plastic cup on the side. Its whats on the inside that counts right? In this case it is. As I peel apart the tinfoil shell, I notice the warm, fluffy tortilla, grilled to a slight golden brown. As I bight into it, an explosion of flavor hits me. With fresh pork and vegetables overflowing from the tortilla wall, its hard not to be satisfied. With no side dishes, it’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that you will not get full from the burrito, I have never been more wrong. The burritos there are huge and will fill you up guaranteed. If you still feel a little hungry, you can browse their large assortment of candies to satisfy your sweet tooth.

If you want a candle lit dinner with waiters and a large check, Chonas is not the place for you. But if you’re looking for some authentic mexican food, the kind that you could find in their own homes, give Chonas a try. It’s very affordable and the portions are quite generous, what more could you ask for? 

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