The year was 1997. The place, a little town in southern Utah called St. George. A beautiful couple named Steve and Patricia Stanley started a cafe or restaurant called Cafe Rio Mexican Grill. Cafe Rio served authentic dishes derived from inspired recipes and traditional cooking of Northern Mexico’s Rio Grande region, Southern Texas, and New Mexico. Central to every bite was the idea that each and every ingredient must be fresh and made fresh to order. And you know what? People loved it. They couldn’t get enough of it. So much in fact, that one restaurant became six. In 2004, these six little restaurants caught the interest of a fine gentleman named Bob Nilsen. He purchased Cafe Rio from the Stanleys with the idea of spreading the passion for making this fresh Mexican food to everyone close to Utah and beyond.
He made sure to keep the mantra of “fresh food, made fresh” at the very core of the brand. No freezers. No microwaves. Nothing premade. Our staff begins each day, bright and early, hand-squeezing limes, hand-scooping avocados, simmering sauces and preparing desserts. The crowds that line up at our over 125 Cafe Rio locations today, aren’t the sole ones to take notice. We’ve won over 100 awards, from the very best of City Search and the Oxnard Salsa Festival for the Inc. 500 and also the Alfred P. Sloan Award. And you know what else? We’re just starting out.
Cafe Rio opened in 1997 in six Utah locations. Currently, you will find fifty-seven locations in ten states: Arizona, California, Montana, Wyoming. Nevada, Colorado, Idaho, and Utah inside the West and then in Maryland and Virginia on the East Coast. A list of locations may be found at http://www.caferio.com/locations.
The VRG spoke with Aubrie within the Support Center at Cafe Rio. She told us that neither the black beans, the pinto beans nor the rice contain any animal flavors or broths. None of the bread products were made with L-cysteine as being a dough conditioner. The guacamole will not contain gelatin. A soybean-based shortening is used in the kitchen area where vegetarian and vegan menu items are prepared separately from meat products.
Aubrie told us that Cafe Rio’s purchasing director is a vegetarian and so understands lots of the ingredient concerns of vegetarians and vegans. She has evolved lists (previously available online) of menu items which are vegetarian or vegan and is currently updating them. In mid-March 2013, Aubrie stated that “the [updated] vegan and vegetarian information needs to be available on our website shortly.”
The update was needed due to a recent ingredient change. Aubrie informed The VRG that
There is a change made recently using the margarine which is used within our California, Maryland, and Virginia locations. Previously the margarine was dairy-free, however with the change made the new margarine does contain dairy…If you are interested in vegan or animal-free products in the California, Maryland, and Virginia markets this is a list of things that are secure:
* black beans
* pinto beans
* flour tortillas
* corn tortillas
* corn chips
* corn strips for salads
* tostada shells
* Pico de Gallo sauce
* Salsa Fresca
* romaine lettuce
To clarify the margarine change, we asked Aubrie if Cafe Rio restaurants in other states use margarine containing dairy. She replied by stating that “all in our other markets do not use dairy-free margarine so we usually do not anticipate that any changes is going to be made in the future.”
On its website, Cafe Rio states that most of its food is “fresh and made daily. There aren’t any microwaves or freezers in almost any in our locations. Nothing is premade. We don’t have mechanized processed food.” Readers considering mkxorn much more about Cafe Rio Specials may visit its website: http://www.caferio.com/
The items in this article, our website, and our other publications, such as the Vegetarian Journal, are certainly not designed to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice ought to be taken from an experienced health professional. We frequently depend upon product and ingredient information from company employees or company statements. Information does change and mistakes are usually possible. Please make use of own best judgment about whether a product or service would work for you personally. Further research or confirmation may be warranted.