Chonas Mexican Grill is a popular Lawrenceville restaurant, family owned and operated, that sits in a strip mall at the entrance to Discovery Mill, near I-85 and Sugarloaf Parkway. I found this restaurant by glancing at Urban Spoon and reading the user reviews. What I saw looked pretty interesting. We were looking for a place to eat on a Sunday and when Gourmandises turned out not to have Sunday hours, we tried Chonas out.

When you step inside, in front of you is a full service bar, with several seats. To your right is the rest of the restaurant, with about a dozen booths and maybe twenty or so tables. When we arrived, a party of 17 was being served and so a lot of tables were pushed together. There are at least 4 wide screen televisions around the room, so if you want to watch sports and eat, you certainly have that option.

The first thing to note about the menu is that about a third to half the dishes at this restaurant are classic Atlanta Tex-Mex. This means if you want your combinations at dinner you can get them and a Speedy Gonzales is available at lunch. From that point forward, however, this restaurant is treading new ground, with some original dishes. They had an insert with dishes not on the menu, things like mango shrimp and a variety of dishes featuring milanesa steak (a thin sliced steak).

There are some other good looking dishes on their menu.  Their specials are interesting, their seafood specials all look good, their fajita plates are enormous, and my wife couldn’t resist trying their sinaloa beach tacos. I had their milanesa sandwich, and my daughter decided to go with a traditional #9 combination.

Chonas has a good red salsa, with a hint of cilantro and a hint of spice that, as my wife noted, “can catch up with you.” Chips are dry, free, served early and often. Service throughout was superb: attentive, efficient and not cloying. When I forgot my glasses, staff came out and ran us down in the parking lot to return them.

The food was served relatively quickly, given the other large party. The Sinaloa tacos had mostly chunks of marinated grilled chicken, with a sauce (on the side) they called a tomatillo sauce (though it was very dark red), and also a pico de gallo and lime slices on the side. The tomatillo sauce tasted strange to us, so my wife used a combination of the pico, lime juice, and some of their good stock red on her tacos. The result was really pleasing, she said.  She gave me a taste of the pico, and it was a fine salsa. The milanesa sandwich was large and thin, with lettuce, avocado chunks and the thin steak was a nice medium to medium rare. The bread was suprisingly good, as well. I liked my sandwich, a pleasing change of pace.

My daughter didn’t realize until after the fact she had ordered a ground beef enchilada. She’s been spoiled with the steak burritos from Taqueria Los Hermanos and probably thought she had ordered steak. So the enchilada was just ok to her. The beans and rice she liked. My wife commented that their spanish rice was “a little different, and better than usual.”  I didn’t try it, so I’ll take their word for it.

In terms of the Mexican food ecosphere, this restaurant’s closest comparison would be the Agavero Cantina in Lilburn, but arguably, this place has a small edge in terms of new and original dishes.  It’s a good restaurant if you’re in the area, good value and it’s worth trying their new dishes. That it’s close to a popular mall doesn’t hurt either.

Verdict: More than just Atlanta Tex-Mex, this place serves fine Atlanta staples but also a lot of original food. Highly recommended.

Chonas Mexican Grill
Discovery Mills Mall
1820 North Brown Road, Suite 10
Lawrenceville, GA, 30043
(678) 847-0072

Chonas Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Of interest: the web site for Chonas features a ton of coupons, including 2 for 1 meals and 99 cent kid’s meals. It’s the kind of place to make a bargain hunter proud.