Dear PoP – The Most Amazing Restaurant, Cafe Rio, is Coming to DC

Photo by PoPville flickr user yostinator

I got an intriguing tweet from @KJinDC7 yesterday afternoon:

“@PoPville The most amazing restaurant is coming to DC.”

[You can follow PoPville on twitter here.]

It was linked to a Craigslist ad for Cafe Rio, Mexican Grill. The ad from Salt Lake City says:

“Cafe Rio, Mexican Grill is continuing its growth across the country!! We are expanding and we are looking for great people to help us as we open the Washington DC market for Cafe Rio.

Candidates MUST BE interested and willing to relocate to the Washington DC area.

Cafe Rio managers are WORKING MANAGERS, responsible for ensuring that “Every Meal is a Masterpiece” by cooking, preparing and serving our award winning food. Successful candidates will undergo extensive training on all positions in the restaurant in the Salt Lake area before relocating to Washington DC.”

Their Website says:

Cafe Rio serves the most delicious, award winning food that will leave you craving more!!

We’re up with the sun, squeezing limes and scooping out avocados, baking our fresh desserts and making our signature sauces and salad dressings by hand. We’re not complaining, though. It’s just what we do – kind of like hand rolling every tortilla from scratch, and buying only USDA Choice meats.

With no freezers or Microwaves in our restaurants and no artificial ingredients in our foods, it is simply the highest quality, freshest food you will find anywhere.

You can see their menu here.

Anyone ever eat at a Cafe Rio out west?

I’ll be sure to update when an exact location is announced.

49 Comment

  • Seriously amazing food.

  • I have been waiting for this day since I moved out here. Cafe Rio is ah-mazing!

  • I am suspicious of any ethnic food originating in SLC!

    • i’m suspicious of people being enthusiastic about a mexican chain owned by burger king while we have a ton of awesome local taquerias. seems ass-backwards to me.

      • The worst West Coast Mexican chain is better than anything DC has to offer. SLC doesn’t seem like a likely place for ethnic anything, but I’ll take it!

        • Wow…It that doesn’t scream I don’t know my ass from a hole in the ground, nothing does. Go try Pollo Sabroso on Park between 14th and 15th or Taqueria Districto Federal on 14th Street and then move back to the West Coast.

          • Oops, I violated the Echo Chamber Rule of PoP Commenting. I’ll amend:

            Every restaurant in Petworth/DC is the best ever.

            No but really. Mexican food here sucks, especially if your standards were established by living you know, near Mexico.

          • And really, all the “move back to the West Coast” stuff? Are you really that unfriendly towards anyone who disagrees with your assessment of your town? Obviously I wouldn’t live here unless it had redeeming qualities, but the Mexican food certainly isn’t one. The steaks though…I’ll stay for the steaks. Either I’m very incendiary, or you’re really sensitive. That has to be stressful.

            And, regarding your recommendations: Pollo Sabroso is ok, but Silvestre Cafe in Brookland is better. And El Pollo Rico is better than either. But that’s not Mexican, it’s Peruvian. And Oyamel has very decent tacos, go at happy hour. But I have had better elsewhere, in places that were not DC. I know that hurts. I’m crying over my homemade tamale pie right now.

        • uhhhh… taco bell (also owned by Burger King) was originally a ‘west coast chain’ started in california.

      • Your facts are wrong. Cafe Rio isn’t owned by Burger King. It’s privately owned by CEO Bob Nilsen who used to be the President of Burger King in Miami. The two companies are in now way related. Check out his bio:

  • Give me a break. Anything that comes to DC is going to be staffed by local people and will immediately start sucking. Everything that comes here sucks worse than anywhere else.

    Take ANY chain, and you’ll have the worst food quality and service in DC. Even when the service is top notch for the first six months, it will drop off a cliff as soon as local management is installed.

    • Hmmmm…
      It seems they clearly didn’t include people like you in the survey when they ranked DC as the happiest city in America!

      All kidding aside, I do agree with you when it comes to the local workforce. It always surprised me how lazy this town can be. I have an oversimplified theory about this and think it’s two main things that drive this phenomenon:

      The first being that we haven’t experienced as much of a recession (in the way of jobs, real estate values, etc) that the rest of the country has. Second being the bureaucratic culture spill-over from government to the private sector.

      Then again, let’s just blame Marion Barry for this too! 😉

      • I see that.

        It seems a sense of ownership and pride is lacking in many Washingtonians. Yesterday, neighbors mentioned kids who aren’t raised well and kids who came from poor families. Thirdly, I wonder how much does it impact our citizens that we are not represented with Congressmen/women?

        It would be inspiring if the citizens here felt empowered in their own governing. The way thing get done here is through a tenuous relationship between our city mayor and the fed (and Va., Md., and a lot of red tape). Some congresses hate us, just because we’re majority democrat. It seems such a co-dependent, dysfunctional unhealthy overplayed relationship.

        In Boston, if the people want a tunnel, they vote for it and get it. In DC, if you want a tunnel you work with Virginia, Maryland, and the fed, and it takes 20 years. I wonder if this makes some passive in the long run, contributing to the sense of laziness and disillusionment. Sorry to say, but it actually reminds me of how some might feel on reservations. There is a sense of hopelessness in some.

        I’m not excusing the lazy Washingtonians, but I just wonder what contributes to their laziness.

        • They’ve been fed a steady diet of “it’s not your fault that you’re where you are, it’s the fault of [Congress, Slavery, Republicans, Them, Lack of Opportunities, Lack of Access to Education, Not Enough People Caring, Not Enough Resources, Cops, Not Enough Cops, Out of Towner’s, Gentrifiers, People Getting in Our Business, etc. etc. etc.]”

          Combined with very generous civil benefits which don’t encourage anyone to do anything.

    • You should probably get out of here, asap. Like today. You self-loathing transplants will never be happy wherever you are, but why try to bring the rest of us down with your hatred?

    • I absolutely agree with this posting!!! They fired the “illegal” workers at Chipolte in Columbia Heights and replaced with “locals” — the place is a piece of crap now … it functions at a snails pace and the last time I was in there they did not know how to roll a burrito …. this seems to be the case with so many of the restaurants … the service sucks so bad at the new IHop that I refuse to go back … cannot take an order, cannot get the food out in time, etc. , etc. …. absolutely sucks!

      • I’m just going to point out that both of those places have new staffs. Obviously the replacement Chipotle employees are newly trained, and I remember old newspaper coverage of the IHOP opening lead me to believe that much of the staff didn’t have a background in food service.

        Chipotle was great because you had people that worked there for the better part of a decade. You don’t get that back overnight. Patience.

  • I don’t know – according to some Californians, there are no good restaurants in DC.

    I usually go to the Riverdale/Bladensburg area for cheap, authentic Mexican food.

  • There are a number of surprisingly good food places in SLC – it’s not just for funeral potatoes anymore.

    And Cafe Rio is super good. It’s like if Chipotle had babies with a real restaurant.

  • The pace of the corporatization of DC’s local restaurant culture is simply amazing.

  • Cafe Rio is very, very good. It will be shunned by snobs and enjoyed by everyone else. Great get for DC!

  • As a Salt Lake City native, I couldn’t be happier! Cafe Rio is always the first stop as soon as I land at home. Be very excited people!!!

  • a lot of us are in the middle on this kind of thing. it’s nice to bring in new things to dc. but it also sucks to make us less unique. when i travel i want to see things i don’t see where i live. and i want where i live to be distinct. i don’t mean to hate on this, and i honestly salute people making their way in the world by trying to usher in good quality things. but a little part of me is saddened.

    i will probably try the place, but i still prefer me some homegrown.

    • Less unique? I think anything is a refreshing change from the “chinese” takeout slop houses and the ubiquitous Peruvian chicken places.

      • jason,
        thanks or your opinion. i was just stating mine. i don’t care for chinese carryout or peruvian chicken, yet i seem to manage to find places to eat that i enjoy yet are only found here. i’m sorry you think that’s what makes dc unique.

  • Wow, DC’s first Tex/Mo(Texas/Mormon) restaurant, brought to you by the same people who own Tommy Hilfiger (yes, it’s true).

    • Not entirely correct but good try.

    • That’s not entirely correct… bit of a stretch there. But good try.

      • Posting twice as Anynomous within a minute – not entirely effective. But good try.

        • What part isn’t correct? They are mormons from St. George Utah, and yes the financial group (Apax Partners Inc.) that partners with them does own Tommy Hilfiger. Check the listing of investment on the Apax website.

          • Right. Apax partially owns them (they are a silent partner) and they also partially own Tommy Hilfiger (a small part.)

            The main owner of Cafe Rio is Bob Nilsen and he acts as President as well.

            Your comment suggested full ownership in both Cafe Rio and Tommy Hilfiger. It’s a little misleading.

  • I am excited! I am so sick of El Slav/fake Mex food I could scream. This town needs a good real Mex resturant!

  • El Slav? Is that a Latino-Serbian fusion?

  • There is not a vegetable on that menu. Even the salads have meat in them. Not even a spinach quesadilla! Just seems weird to me.

    • Hate that. Of course, you could choose items “without meat,” but, I agree with you.

      Meat allows mark up. This menu is simply lacking any thing new or creative. The greatest delicate Mexican food that I ever ate (in Mexico) included tunas (fruits), edible flowers, lemongrass, lots of citrus, unusual beans, corn, okra, and other vegetables.

      This will be an affordable chain, but not much new.

    • I’m not terribly concerned– I just won’t go there– but the description makes it sound as though it would at least be somewhat veg-friendly:

      “We’re up with the sun, squeezing limes and scooping out avocados, baking our fresh desserts and making our signature sauces and salad dressings by hand.”

    • The meals are custom built to order. I have a lot of friends who don’t order meat and trust me.. there is plenty of lettuce, pico de gallo, cilantro, lime, beans and rice to fill you up in a salad.

  • I will 100% eat here if it is what it sounds like will be (affordable, fresh mexican food)

  • The people who love it have sold me. There aren’t a lot of good Mexican options around and I’ll be glad to have something new to try and potentially fall in love with.

  • Perfect fit for Chinatown and/or Columbia Heights

  • This will be a welcome addition to a city severely lacking in cheap and affordable food. $8 for a delicious salad that fills me up from Cafe Rio or $8 for a half-size burger from Good Stuff that I can eat in 3 bites and still be hungry. Hmmm…..tough choice.

  • Pretty sure this is the Mexican restaurant that’s building out a big brick building at 14th & V. If this is right, it will be a great location for a Mexican place.

  • I was in SLC recently and went to Cafe Rio. The reason I remember is that an employee told me they were coming to DC. The employees were really friendly. The food wasn’t great, I’d say on par with Chipotle. I had a pulled pork salad, and the pork was very, very sweet. That’s all I tried though.

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