Walking into Café Rio is what I imagine walking into an authentic Mexican café to be. The bright yellow walls surround tables and chairs of different colors and styles. A tin roof with hanging dried chili bunches and decorative lanterns run across the front wall. Needless to say, the charming décor releases great energy.
Similar to Chipotle, Café Rio is a Mexican-Style fast casual food chain with delicious food. As a picky eater, I love it when restaurants have an assembly line ordering system. The ability to see the food that I will soon eat is a great luxury that pushes the boundaries of traditional restaurant dining. I love that I can choose how much of each ingredient I want and decide if I want chicken or steak depending on how it looks. The whole experience makes my picky taste buds happy.
The ordering process at Café Rio started with homemade tortillas spinning on a tortilla grill. It was neat to watch and was a great distraction during our wait in line. Next, I chose one of their five meats – grilled steak, grilled chicken, pork barbacoa, roast beef, and pulled chicken – which (for any order besides salads) the server immediately put on the back grill to warm with my fresh tortillas. I stepped outside of my picky eater comfort zone and ordered pork tacos. I can’t tell you how HUGE this is, people?! I love BBQ pulled pork but pork on a taco? That is like a Chicagoan eating ketchup on a hotdog. I don’t know what got into me…
Unfortunately, the fun almost ended there. The salads, sauces, and sides were messy – overflowing cheese, spilled dressings, and excess meat juice covered the counter tops. There was a dollop of green hot sauce in the cheese bin, which wasn’t the only topping out-of-place. It was a picky eater’s nightmare. Although rushed, the staff members made up for it with good customer service – they allowed me to substitute crunchy tortilla strips for black beans (*gag*), gave me an extra side of cheese, and apologized when my tacos were mysteriously lost in the shuffle.
I started having fun again when I tasted the taco. My pork tacos with shredded cheese in a warm tortilla did not disappoint. The flavors erupted in my mouth – the pork had a surprisingly sweet taste which was spectacular. As any picky eater would do when we find a knockout dish, pork tacos are now my permanent meal at Café Rio. The tortilla strips were great and the rice was decent – I avoided the green things mixed in and decided that it was good, but Chipotle rice is better.
Mitch ordered a pork salad so he could try the soft green creamy tomatillo dressing that was the best he’s ever had. He also thinks Café Rio is genius for putting a warm tortilla at the bottom of each salad – a special treat to look forward to after eating leafy greens.
All in all, based on the restaurant decor and food alone, Cafe Rio is most definitely picky eater approved!
Restaurant: Café Rio / 9595 S. Eastern Avenue / Las Vegas, NV 89123 / 702-953-2500
Picky Eater Approval Rating: 4/5