What do you do when you're in Clinton, Utah just a little past 8 on a Sunday evening, and you're in the mood for Mexican food, and all of the sit-down Mexican restaurants are closed? For us, fast food is an option of last resort, but there's a bright, shining beacon at the end of the "food tunnel," and that's Cafe Rio Mexican Grill, located in the suburbs of Clinton, in the greater Salt Lake City metro area.
As with all of reviews that I publish, I have no affiliation with the restaurant reviewed, and there is no monetary gain on my part, as I am simply a person who likes to eat, and I love to write-up, and publish my dining experiences.
Photo: It's a little after 8:00 on Sunday evening, October 11, 2020, and we've arrived at Cafe Rio, located in Clinton, Utah to enjoy a fine Mexican-style dinner. Cafe Rio wasn't our first choice tonight, but due to the lateness of the hour - we'd had a busy day working on Robert's Jeep - Cafe Rio was the only Mexican restaurant open, other than fast food, and we weren't in the mood for that.
Photo: On this mid-Sunday evening, except for the staff, we practically had the entire restaurant to ourselves. As you walk in, you'll notice the kitchen to the rear of the restaurant. There are menu boards, listing the menu, and you make your selection, walk up to the counter, tell the staff what you want, and they make your meal for you, as you watch.
Photo: Another view of the clean, attractive dining room. The cashier's station is at the left, rear of the photo, as Chris pays for his order.
Photo: The menu is very short and simple, and it's strategically placed near the kitchen, where you place your selection, and watch the staff make your meal.
Photo: Burrito maker Graciela looks up at the order, as the reads what variety of sauce to put on Robert's burrito. The staff at Cafe Rio make your order as you watch, so you know your food is fresh. Various sauces and fillings are in trays in front of the staff, and orders are made "assembly line" style by two or three staff members, working together as a team.
Photo: After toasting my flour tortillas in a taco press, Graciela removed them, placed them on the signature round aluminum pan, and added the spicy pork filling that I had ordered. Next stop is to drizzle salsa verde on my tacos.
Photo: After the taco has been loaded with meat, and ladled with sauce, she moved to the station next to her, where condiments are kept. She asked me what I wanted on my taco, and I requested tomato, diced onion, guacamole - no extra charge for the guac! - and cotija cheese. She placed the condiments on my taco, added a few scoops of pinto beans and Mexican rice, and handed my plate to the cashier.
Photo: Robert watches the friendly staff member make his burrito. When the order is completed, it will be handed to the cashier, you pay for it, you pick the table of your choice, and then you enjoy your meal.
Photo: Tonight's diners at Cafe Rio, from left to right, Steve, Robert and your author. Chris seems AWOL, as he's nowhere to be found. If you're looking to enjoy a beer, look elsewhere, as Cafe Rio doesn't serve any alcoholic beverages.
Photo: Under the "Tacos" section of the menu board, I ordered two tacos with "Spicy Hatch Chile Pork," which sounded like just the thing to warm me up on this chilly Sunday evening. All taco dishes include rice, and your choice of black, or pinto beans.
When you order "Tacos," you get your choice of seven meat fillings, and one vegetarian filling. I went with the "Spicy Hatch Chile Pork," which the menu describes as, "Shredded pork, simmered with tomatillos, habaneros, and Hatch green chilies. Sounds mighty hot to me!
As I mentioned, after the meat was placed on toasted flour tortillas, and chili verde sauce was ladled on the tacos, I went with diced tomato, diced onion, guacamole - at no extra charge - cotija cheese and cilantro. All ingredients were amazingly fresh, and it was great to be able to pick and choose exactly what I wanted.
The rice and beans were good, tasty and solid, but not exactly memorable. The pinto beans could best be described as Mexican "pot beans," which are basically plain pinto beans from a pot, which has been cooking on a back burner all day, and will be used for the basis of refried beans, cowboy beans, or the countless variety of bean dishes served in Mexican kitchens. The rice was mostly plain, white rice, cooked in chicken broth, with a little seasoning, and a nice light brown color.
I had expected the pork to be seriously hot and spicy, but it really wasn't, and when it comes to spiciness, I'd actually consider it on the "mild to low medium" end of the heat scale. Despite the lack of heat, the pork was marinated, tender, juicy and simply delicious.
The food may not be exactly authentic, and if you've ever enjoyed a meal south of the border, you'll know what I mean. That being said, Cafe Rio's food is made from super fresh ingredients, your meal is made right before your eyes, your food is custom-made to your specification, you get YOUR choice of ingredients, and the staff is amazingly friendly. The portions will fill you up and the price is right. What more could you ask for?
Cafe Rio Mexican Grill... fine Mexican cuisine in Clinton, UT.
Cafe Rio Mexican Grill
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