By: Jennifer Duff
Capital Cooking Contributor
A new Mexican restaurant is popping up around town with a focus on fresh food and community involvement--Cafe Rio. This 'quick service' restaurant doesn't have any freezers or microwaves, hand squeezes over 1,000 limes a day, and has 6 locations in Maryland and Virginia. We had the opportunity to head over to Cafe Rio to try out some menu items and check just how "fresh" it is.
The restaurant is fun and festive with brightly colored furniture, "cantina-like" light fixtures, and an assembly-line type kitchen. It was super clean and the staff were friendly and efficient (it was a little before standard dinner time so there wasn't a huge line and we didn't have to wait).
Cafe Rio has a solid Mexican food menu of the standard fare -- enchiladas, burritos, tacos, quesadillas, nachos, and tostadas. For each of those entrees, you can pick your 'meat-filling' from a variety of options like fire-grilled chicken, sweet pork barbacoa, and chile roast beef to name a few. I opted for the fire-grilled chicken enchilada with the hot sauce, which comes with beans and rice.
The enchiladas were saucy and filling - stuffed with chicken and smothered with a smoky sauce topped with cheese. Not too spicy and a good enchilada that hit the spot. The black beans were okay and cilantro lime rice had a nice tart flavor but for some reason, the rice we had was not fully cooked and some of the rice was crunchy. Must of been a bad batch or something. It would have been nice if this came with a side of sour cream and guacamole. But overall, a good enchilada with fresh ingredients and some minor missteps along the way.
We also tried the burrito enchilada-style with fire-grilled steak. The burrito itself was absolutely ginormous. It too was smothered in sauce and cheese, stuffed with tender steak, rice and beans. Definitely satisfying, albeit BIG.
The cool thing about Cafe Rio is that you can order the food online and go pick it up so it's ready when you arrive. A definite plus for those of us who are busy and are trying to squeeze in a quick weeknight meal. So if you are looking for a quick Mexican meal with fresh ingredients, a good amount of spice and some variety, try Cafe Rio - it's the saucy alternative to Chipolte.