Other than the original Chuy’s on Barton Springs Road, all the locations of the Tex-Mex chain that began in Austin in the 1980s have one design detail in common, made by a local herself.
Inez Escamilla has been welding for about 11 years, and one of her biggest projects involved crafting metal taco and burrito door handles for the more than 40 Chuy’s restaurants across the country. “I was so taco-d out,” she said with a laugh, although she’s had plenty of meals there over the years.
You can see her handiwork elsewhere around town. She made the sign for the SoCo Athletic Club, her favorite gym for yoga classes. She’s also been welding metal pieces for the new downtown bar the Gatsby — a 1920s-themed pub that offers craft cocktails just east of the stretch of Sixth Street known more for clubbing than conversation. It’s a cool spot she’ll go to for a drink, although it’s so recently opened, she said, that there’s still some decorating to be done.
But for her, what best capped off more than a decade of proving herself as a woman in a job typically viewed as one for men was a brief stint on the HGTV show “Brother vs. Brother.” The channel’s newest reality competition pitted two teams renovating a home against each other. Although Escamilla was eliminated halfway through the six-episode season, she said it was a learning experience she wouldn’t trade that gave her confidence in her craft.
Welding, however, can be rough on the body. Now that she feels she’s proved herself, she plans to scale back a bit on her welding and fabrication business, Creative Arcs and Sparks, to pursue a different career path that will still give her a good workout. Sharp End Athletics, a training facility on Research Boulevard that was primarily for baseball players and other athletes, is broadening its clientele and moving to another location soon, and Escamilla is in the midst of the changes for the gym. She said those changes include services such as a therapy pool, kickboxing and possibly even women’s self-defense.
“I’ll still weld custom furniture,” Escamilla said. “But it’s 104 degrees outside and I’m literally playing with fire. I’m really starting to ask myself, ‘What am I doing?’”
In the meantime, when she isn’t rock climbing at Reimers Ranch Park in Dripping Springs or at what local climbers call the Seismic Wall in the Barton Creek greenbelt, she sometimes heads into the thick of Austin’s nightlife.
“I walked by Bar Chi (on Colorado Street) late the other night, and it was just packed,” she said. The Japanese sushi spot has reverse happy hour Thursdays through Saturdays starting at 10 p.m., which means that’s often when a waiting list grows.
She also has a weak spot for rooftop bars, she said. Hangar Bar on Colorado Street, Speakeasy on Congress Avenue and 219 West are among her favorites.
Escamilla tends to know where all the good places are for just about any activity because she’s a born-and-raised Austinite who just can’t live anywhere else. “Believe me, I’ve tried,” she said.
Do as the locals do! Each week we’ll bring you recommendations from Austinites on what you’ve just got to check out — from insider tips on where to catch the best live music to where to find the best Tex-Mex.