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Late in the afternoon, after driving across half of the State of Montana, I checked into a motel in Billings, got comfortable, and comtenplated what I wanted for dinner.  That was simple, as Mexican food was on my mind, as I hadn't enjoyed any fine Mexican cusine in several days. Before checking into the motel, I had noted a nearby Mexican restaurant - Café Rio Mexican Grill - and since it was within an easy walk, Café Rio was my restaurant of choice this evening.

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:  Café Rio Mexican Grill is located in west Billings in a shopping center, surrounded by "big box" stores. Pleasant outdoor dining is available on two patios in front of the restaurant, which are shaded during the afternoon.  It's about 5:30 in the afternoon on Wednesday, August 23, 2017, and the sky is hazy from the warm, 98° summer afternoon, and the nearby forest fires.  Despite the haze and the warm weather, I chose to enjoy my diner outside, on the patio.

Photo:  As you enter the restaurant, you make your selection from the menu, posted at the left of the photo, and then you enter the "Disneyland style" serving line until you reach the counter, place your order, and watch the staff prepare your meal, before your eyes.  

Photo:  The menu is posted at the side of the serving line.  Actually, it's pretty compact, and offers only a few choices.  When I walked in, I was a bit puzzled, as this wasn't what I was expecting, but then I took notice and actually did something that I don't do very often - I read the menu - and then I was able to decide on my entree. Two tacos, rice and beans sounded good to me.  Note the "ristras," dried chili peppers tied together, that decorate the restaurant, and give it a "southwestern" feel.

Photo:  The dining room is clean, comfortable and very family-friendly.  On this late Wednesday afternoon, the restaurant was only about half full.  At the time I visited this restaurant, I didn't know it was a link in a chain of restaurants, as I normally avoid chain restaurants.  It was within walking distance of my motel, I was tired, and what the heck?  ... I enjoyed a great dinner.

Photo:  After you figure what you want to order, you get in the serving line, place your order, and the friendly staff will make your order, in a matter of a couple of minutes, right before your eyes.  The order makers are on the "front line" but you can see the kitchen staff in action, in the background, as the kitchen is completely open.

Photo:  I love the bucket of limes and lemons placed above the kitchen, with the sign that states they are real. Where are the tomatoes?

Photo:  I ordered two tacos, along with pinto beans and rice, and the girl assembled my tacos, before my eyes.  All orders come with a cup of guacamole, which is a great touch.  Veggies, olives, cheese and everything else is in trays, and you tell the server what you want on your taco and that's how it's made.  The format is very similar to Don Quixote Mexican Grill in Sacramento, which I have visited many times, and it's a good format, as you order what you want, and you know your food is super fresh.

Photo:  The friendly gal making my order was both amused, and surprised that I was taking photos, as she ladles a helping of pinto beans on my plate.  All orders are served in round, aluminum pie pans, which make take-out dining, or in-house dining equally convenient, and keeps dish washing to a minimum.  Photo gives a look into the open kitchen to the rear of the serving line.

Photo:  After your order is prepared, the next station is the friendly cashier, where you pay for your order, and you get a smile, a mint, and a great dinner in return.  I didn't order a drink, as I had plenty of cold beer in my motel room, which was only a 10-minute walk down King Ave.

Photo:  There are no wait staff at Café Rio Mexican Grill so after you receive, and pay for your order, you seat yourself.  Unless you can talk one of your fellow diners into taking your photo, you're out of luck unless you can flag down a staff member.  Upon my request, the cashier gal gladly took my photo.

Photo:  I ordered two carne asada tacos, pinto beans and rice, and received a complimentary cup of delicious guacamole.  I can't vouch for the Mexican authenticity of this dinner, but it wasn't "Mexican fast food," and it was delicious, and really made my evening.  The tacos, beans and guacamole had a little "kick" to them, which was just enough to make them taste great, yet not enough to offend most sensitive taste buds.  The tacos seem to be covered in aluminum foil, which forced me to take another photo.

I like hot weather, and it really surprised me that the temperature was a hot 98°on this late Wednesday afternoon, but it made a perfect afternoon to enjoy dinner outside on the shaded patio.

Photo:  One of my two carne asada tacos.  You have the choice of corn or flour tortillas - usually I order corn - but tonight, I ordered flour tortillas, and I'm glad I did.  The tortillas were fried, which were thick, puffy, juicy and had a very "nutty" taste.  The flour tortillas were amazing!  For garnishes, I had the gal dress my tacos with lettuce, cheese, onion and tomatoes - not at all "authentic" Mexican - but I was in Billings, Montana, which is a long way from Mexico.  Tonight's dinner was delicious!

The meat is moist, juicy and delicious, the vegetables are fresh, the salsa is made in-house, the staff is friendly, the price is right, and you will have your tacos made, before your eyes, just the way you want them.  What's not to love about Café Rio Mexican Grill?

Café Rio Mexican Grill
2816 King Ave. W.
Billings, MT. 59102
406 373-7000


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