Restaurant Review: Cafe Rio

by on September 24, 2018 · 2 comments

in Ocean Beach

Restaurant Review

3309 Rosecrans St.
San Diego, CA 92110
(Loma Square Shopping Center)

Editordude: When you have two foodie restaurant reviewers, sometimes the reviews end up differently. That’s the case here. Bob Edwards did a review of this eatery back in March and called it “soulless food“. Today Judi Curry has another perspective.

I have heard many different things about this restaurant. Some were very positive; some were negative.  I have tried to review it several times with different people but for some reason never got to it until today, when Candy and Irene agreed to trying it out with me.  I had no idea what to expect, and told them nothing about what I had heard so that they could form their own opinion.

Physically the restaurant is cavernous.  Tables all along the walls, in the middle of the room, with the ordering down at the far end of the building.  It is definitely cafeteria style, and as you get in line to place your order you see a unique menu board facing you.  The menu asks you to choose what you want – “Burrito”, “Salad”, “Enchilada”, “Taco”, “Quesadilla” or “Tostada”.

After you have made that selection you then decide what filling you want.  You have your choice of “Sweet Pork Barbacoa”; “Chile Roast Beef”; “Fire-Grilled Chicken”; “Fire-grilled Steak”; or “Vegetarian.”  There are also “Appetizers”, such as Nachos, Tortilla Soup, Chips, Salsa and Guacamole, or Chips, Salsa and Queso.

Additionally there is a “Kid’s Menu that offers a Meat Quesadilla, a Cheese Quesadilla, or a “Nino Quesadilla,” free for children six and under.  It was interesting to note that there are “extras & sides”, like Guacamole, Sour Cream, two tortillas or a single taco.  The sides, regardless of what they are, have a fee.  (Fifty-nine cents for a very small side of sour cream, for example.)

Enchilada and beans

Irene went first and ordered a chicken enchilada with a side order of sour cream.  She picked the shredded chicken breast as the filling, and it came with rice and beans.  The  order  was $7.29.

Candy ordered a Burrito, as did I, and we both had the Sweet Pork Barbacoa as the filling. I chose not to have rice or beans, whereas Candy did have them, and the price was the same – $9.79 – with or without the sides.

I also ordered Tortilla Soup – $5.99 – primarily because I wanted to compare it to the soup that I make.

It should be pointed out that the restaurant itself was very cold. So cold that I wished I had on long sleeves because it was almost uncomfortable.  Irene and I both mentioned that our food was not hot, and I think the temperature of the building was a factor.  We both wished the food was hotter; Candy said that she didn’t mind it that way because she “ . . . always burns her tongue on hot food and wouldn’t do so on this.”

Burrito with Sweet Pork Barbacoa filling and Tortilla Soup

None-the-less, the food was wonderful.  My soup was loaded with everything from the hot table – chicken, pico de gallo, guacamole, cheese, tortilla chips, carrots, etc.  The flavor was excellent and I actually brought it home for my student.  (It was served in a Styrofoam container with a lid on it.)

I have never had a Pork Barbacoa that tasted so tender with a sauce so good.  It is a “sweet” sauce, and people that do not like sweet meat might not like it, but Candy said it was the best pork she has ever had.  She also raved about the rice.  She said she wasn’t sure what the seasonings were in it, but it was delicious.  She and Irene also commented on the succulence of the beans.

The only problem that Irene and I had with our meal was the temperature.  I hope that that can be rectified someway, because I would have really enjoyed my meal better if I wasn’t so cold and  if the food was hotter.

One of the complaints that I heard before trying this restaurant was that everything is served in aluminum containers.  That is true, and at first I was taken aback by watching them make the order in these containers. However, when it came time to leave and take my left-overs with me, I obtained a lid to cover the container where the napkins were and fixed my “to go box” myself.  It was very simple and very quick.

Burrito with rice and beans. All photos by Judi Curry.

We looked around for a tip jar when we received our order but there was none in sight. I stopped one of the cashiers as she was cleaning up the tables near us and asked her about it. She said, “ . . . we are not allowed to get tips” . and there is no tip jar.  She said they have never had tips, and if someone really wanted to leave one they would have to talk to the manger first.  An interesting approach.

With the exception of being cold, we found nothing to complain about. The restaurant was clean; the ordering was simple after we realized what the procedure would be; the price was reasonable, even though we thought that if we ordered an item from the menu that the sour cream and guacamole should be part of the price.  There is no question that we will return.  For the first time in the 9 years that the three of us have been “breaking bread” together this is the FIRST time Irene and Candy have finished their entire meal and not taken anything home.  There was a lot of food; and too good not to finish it there.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Joe Hartley September 24, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Nice to see you writing reviews again. Sounds like a nice place and if I decide to go, I’ll be sure to bring my jacket.



judi September 24, 2018 at 7:34 pm

And take me with you! I filled out their survey and next visit will receive either a free Dessert of free Chips and Salsa.


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