For those infatuated with the larger-than-life burritos turned out every day by Chipotle and Qdoba, prepare your palates (and jaws) for a fresh and entirely unique burrito extraordinaire courtesy of newcomer Café Rio. An up-and-coming chain, Café Rio began in a small town in Southern Utah in 1997 as a quaint “mom and pop” spot, headed by Mexican food enthusiasts Steve and Patricia Stanley. In opening Café Rio, the Stanley’s used their appreciation for fresh ingredients and knowledge of classic Mexican dishes from northern Mexico’s Rio Grande (consequently, this is also how the place got its name). Their passion shows in the food.
After opening a restaurant in Olney, Maryland in April 2011, Café Rio has continued to expand throughout the DMV and is certainly leaving its mark with patrons. With locations now in Manassas, Falls Church , Burke, and Chantilly Virginia, there’s no secret as to the rapid success of Café Rio amongst the Chipotle-lovers of the east coast. Customers can watch as employees hand roll fresh tortillas used for the burritos, tacos, salads, enchiladas, and tostadas, scoop avocados, fresh squeeze limes, and grill steak, chicken, pork, or beef. This hard work is not in vain, and is bringing more and more burrito aficionados to turn to Café Rio to get their fix.
The Burke location in particular has become a favorite of college students at George Mason University located a short 10 minutes away in Fairfax, Virginia. Walk in to this location on the weekend and you’ll find the modern, western-themed décor packed with an eclectic mix of customers ranging from college students, to local families with younger kids, and everything in between. Not only does the restaurant have a loyal customer base, but the employees are friendly and will remember frequent visitors. When you go, be sure to mention it’s your first time and you’ll get a song, courtesy of the Café Rio employees (they’ll also sing to commemorate orders of nachos, extra meat, or a free meal).
It’s not just this engaging staff that has me, and so many of my peers coming back for more. Café Rio offers up some unique and frankly addicting menu options, like the “enchilada-style” burrito. Picture a burrito. A big burrito. Now fill it with Mexican Rice and your choice of black or pinto beans, and grilled or pulled chick, steak, sweet pork barbacoa, or roast beef. Throw in cheese, and mild, medium, or hot sauce , then cover it in even more sauce and cheese. Once it runs through the oven, the warm and cheesy “enchilada style” burrito is paired with lettuce, pico de gallo, and sour cream on the side. To take it over the top the Burke employees are more than willing to add a little queso on the inside of your burrito, for an added cost of course.
And this is only the beginning of a wide variety of Mexican dishes served by Café Rio, including tacos, a highly recommended salad (try it with sweet pork), and kid-sized options. They’ll also offer specials for each day of the week, my personal favorite the coconut shrimp tacos that are around every Saturday. Although, half priced tacos on Tuesdays are also difficult to pass up.
So, if ever in need of a change from your typical burrito of choice, a visit to Café Rio will always impress.