Our family’s travel plans may be on hold due to my son’s recent cancer diagnosis, but Tips for Family Trips lives on. I still have great local places to recommend and lots of reviews to write from trips past. We have reason to hope that we will be adventuring again by this summer. This post is dedicated to a Salt Lake City restaurant I re-discovered just last weekend.
We were in Salt Lake City on a lovely, snowy December evening for my eight-year-old’s daughter’s first-ever piano recital. The concert hall is across the street from the Rio Grande Cafe, at about 300 S 500 W in Salt Lake City, so this Mexican restaurant was a natural choice. The Gateway Mall and its variety of restaurants is just a few blocks north, but giving up a free parking space and battling downtown holiday traffic on a Saturday night would certainly have ruined our festive mood.
Our party included five adults (including three grandparents) and my daughter. Our tastes range from “very” to “not-at-all” adventurous. Though the restaurant was crowded, we were seated within 15 minutes and everyone found something to like on the menu. I’m not going to claim that Rio Grande Cafe has the best Mexican food in Salt Lake City, but unlike some local Mexican restaurants we have tried, the food is flavorful. I would happily return here when we are in the neighborhood.
The menu at the Rio Grande does not strive for originality and it proclaims enchiladas to be the specialty of the house. My husband ordered the shrimp enchiladas and I ordered a Santa Fe enchilada, which features layered blue corn tortillas with meat, cheese and a creamy tomatillo sauce. My daughter ordered nachos from the kids menu, which did not lack for cheese. We thought our food was delicious and satisfying.
My daughter complained about our choice of the Rio Grande Cafe because she knew her little brother was getting McDonald’s at home. Since it was her big night, I promised to make a McDonald’s stop afterward if she wasn’t satisfied. She didn’t fall in love with the food at the Rio Grande, but she did fill up sufficiently on chips and cheese and she enjoyed the old train station ambience. She noticed a working jukebox against the wall after we were seated and went over to check it out. She was soon begging for a dollar bill to buy five songs. I asked if she would rather go to McDonald’s or play the jukebox and she picked jukebox. Win win!
Don’t expect to find the likes of Taylor Swift or New Direction on the Rio Grande Cafe jukebox. It is loaded with artists like Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley and the Beatles. It had been updated for the holidays with classic Christmas songs by The Chipmunks, Bing Crosby and Brenda Lee. Grandma pitched in one more dollar bill, so we were able to listen to The Chipmunks twice.
The last time I dined with my husband at Rio Grande Cafe, at least ten years ago, I was put off because the chips and salsa are not complimentary. An order of chips and salsa cost $1.50,which probably hasn’t changed since our last visit. What I noticed this time is how affordable the rest of the menu is. Most combination plates cost less than $10. Our party ordered chips and salsa, five entrees, and one item from the kids’ menu, and our bill before the tip was about $50. At that price, it’s not hard on the pocketbook to buy dinner for everyone.