Distance: 1.5 miles
Restaurant Type: Regional Chain (over 50 locations across Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming)
Cuisine: Mexican, Tacos
My Frequency: Many Times (over 30)
Who: John, Justin, Braden, and Jeff
Food: Pork Barbacoa Salad
Price: $8.35 (just for the salad)
Cafe Rio is clearly a local favorite. It's rare to meet someone in Provo who hasn't been there. For many people it seems to be a rite of initiation to BYU and Utah in general. It's also a popular choice when families are in town to visit. Though I really enjoy the food, I'm not as sold on the whole experience to the extent of many Provoites.
The ambiance is fun overall, with neat decor throughout the restaurant. It is almost always packed and noisy, which deters from the experience for me. I will admit that it is fun to almost always run into someone I know at Cafe Rio. Though the decorations are appealing, the light is not; it's very dark even with the lively colors.
The salads and burritos are the two most popular items and are most frequently chosen with their famous pork barbacoa. Though I had been to Cafe Rio a bunch of times before this, I had never ordered a salad for myself. I always told myself that next time I would, but fell back on my burrito or shrimp/fish tacos at the last second. This time I stuck it out and overall enjoyed it. I was happy to have finally ordered the salad, but I'm partial to the burrito and will probably stick with that in the future. I feel like many people order the salad because they think that it is more healthy. Though Cafe Rio doesn't publish their nutritional information yet, most calorie counting sites estimate that the Cafe Rio Salad is actually more calories than the burritos. Granted if you don't put on all the dressing and don't eat it all in one sitting, you may be better off, but who wants to skimp on the delicious dressing?
Here's my old friend that I know and love. Enchilada style is the way to go for sure. Who doesn't love extra cheese melted over their burrito? I actually don't know if I've ever ordered a burrito from Cafe Rio without the extra sauce and cheese. Cafe Rio is known for their fresh ingredients and homemade tortillas. There is a pretty good ratio of meat to filler beans and rice as well, which is rare. The pork is sweet and has a bit of spice, which balances out really well.
This time Justin ordered a Tres Leches and though I've had it before, it was good to get a reminder bite. This delicious dessert always is a treat. The cake is unique in that it doesn't get soggy after soaking it with three delicious sweet milks. The fresh strawberries and whip cream top it off perfectly.
Do differently next time:
I've been plenty of times and have ordered a variety of things on the menu and have never been let down by the food. My one complaint for Cafe Rio is that because it is always so busy, I feel like I am being rushed through the line and my food slopped together. My compromise is usually ordering by phone, picking it up, and eating elsewhere.
Good Choice. Though everyone in Provo raves about this classic, I can't give it my highest rating because of the overall experience. I enjoy the food and quality, but don't like feeling like eating is a race. My life is fast paced enough that when I eat out, I want to slow down and enjoy the experience.