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Uncle Julio's Rio Grande Cafe


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#1 jasonc

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:08 PM

I have a pretty interesting story about Rio Grande.

You see, there was this guy, pretty average in most respects. He was hungry one day and happened to stop into Rio Grande. He ordered a meal and consumed it, it doesn't really matter what it was. It wasn't the best meal he had ever had and it certainly wasn't the worst. It got the job done, though. The waitstaff was quick - not overly fast or anything and not too slow. They were also fairly pleasant. Nothing over the top, just pleasant. The man paid with his credit card and exited the restaurant. Three weeks later he received his credit card bill, which included the purchase at Rio Grande. He then paid his credit card bill, thus completing the transaction.

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#2 Sthitch

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:11 PM

I have had a similiar experience there. But when I went the beer was really cold and served with a frosty mug and was not Corona.

#3 CrescentFresh

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:12 PM

I have a pretty interesting story about Rio Grande.

You see, there was this guy, pretty average in most respects.  He was hungry one day and happened to stop into Rio Grande.  He ordered a meal and consumed it, it doesn't really matter what it was.  It wasn't the best meal he had ever had and it certainly wasn't the worst.  It got the job done, though.  The waitstaff was quick - not overly fast or anything and not too slow.  They were also fairly pleasant.  Nothing over the top, just pleasant.  The man paid with his credit card and exited the restaurant.  Three weeks later he received his credit card bill, which included the purchase at Rio Grande.  He then paid his credit card bill, thus completing the transaction.

And I suppose they filled his water glass when it was empty, no?
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#4 Jacques Gastreaux

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:13 PM

And I recall that the margaritas are cold enough go give you "brain freeze" on a hot day. Posted Image

edited to experiment with external smilies.

Edited by Jacques Gastreaux, 06 July 2005 - 03:15 PM.

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#5 DonRocks

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:19 PM

Rio Grande is good, man!

Have you guys seen that Uncle Julio truck driving around town?

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#6 JPW

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:20 PM

I have a pretty interesting story about Rio Grande.

You see, there was this guy, pretty average in most respects.  He was hungry one day and happened to stop into Rio Grande.  He ordered a meal and consumed it, it doesn't really matter what it was.  It wasn't the best meal he had ever had and it certainly wasn't the worst.  It got the job done, though.  The waitstaff was quick - not overly fast or anything and not too slow.  They were also fairly pleasant.  Nothing over the top, just pleasant.  The man paid with his credit card and exited the restaurant.  Three weeks later he received his credit card bill, which included the purchase at Rio Grande.  He then paid his credit card bill, thus completing the transaction.

:P
You captured it perfectly.
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#7 Heather

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:22 PM

Rio Grande is good, man!

Good?

I think "competent" is the adjective you're looking for.

#8 bilrus

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:23 PM

I'm a fan of their fajitas, but not of the 45 minute waits that occur at lunchtime at the Reston Town Center location.

RG fits in that group of places like Clydes and the Great American places. They do a (mostly) good job turning out mainstream, middle-of-the-road, crowd-pleasing food.
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#9 hillvalley

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:25 PM

Rio Grande is good, man!

Have you guys seen that Uncle Julio truck driving around town?

I have a thing for their salsa and chips. On a hot day, with a cold beer and good company it's not a bad way to spend an hour. The camarones diablo 'aint to bad either.


I worked at the old Bethesda location as a hostess about 12 years ago (for two weeks) and it was amazing how quickly one masters the art of sneaking chips and salsa during a long shift.
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#10 Heather

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:28 PM

RG fits in that group of places like Clydes and the Great American places.  They do a (mostly) good job turning out mainstream, middle-of-the-road, crowd-pleasing food.

It's where we take the kids sometimes. Their kids menu is more interesting than most places, and mine love the tortilla machine.

#11 FunnyJohn

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:28 PM

Yes Rio Grande is... well what it is. Acceptable TexMex. Highly popular with the tell-tale longish wait for a table on wkends and sometimes other nights. Cold beer and frosty margaritas. I enjoy the fajitas. Nuf said? Posted Image

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#12 Kanishka

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Posted 06 July 2005 - 03:47 PM

Great, now I've got a craving for Texidorean food. I should stop reading this forum, its making me fat.

Wait, no, that's the eating. Sorry. Mixing up potential fooding with actual again.

#13 squidsdc

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 05:29 AM

My Dad likes to go every year for his Bday, but it has to be on a Thursday 'cuz that's the only day they serve goat. (at least in Bethesda) From what I understand, the rest of the menu is pretty much run of the mill. Has anyone else tried the goat?

Edited by squidsdc, 07 July 2005 - 04:21 PM.

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#14 TinDC

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 08:27 AM

I like their nachos because they're individually topped, not a big pile where the chips underneath get no cheese.

#15 Meaghan

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 10:28 AM

... not a big pile where the chips underneath get no cheese.

Like the icky ones at Merkado.

#16 JLK

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 09:50 PM

I have only been once. The food was fine, inoffensive, but I didn't get the fuss over the frozen sangria. Ick.

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#17 DanielK

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Posted 07 July 2005 - 11:54 PM

My Dad likes to go every year for his Bday, but it has to be on a Thursday 'cuz that's the only day they serve goat. (at least in Bethesda) From what I understand, the rest of the menu is pretty much run of the mill. Has anyone else tried the goat?


We were there a few months back, and the Thursday goat was no longer on the menu. Don't know if that was a temporary thing, but you might want to call first.

In the past, the goat was very very good. In fact, it was the only thing that differentiated Rio Grande from any of the other chain Tex Mex places in the area, IMHO.

#18 DanielK

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 06:41 PM

No one has mentioned Rio Grande.....is that it?

I forgot about Rio Grande - we haven't been there in so long. Not as good as Austin Grill, in my wife's opinion, but back when they used to serve Cabrito (baby goat) on a regular basis, it was on our dinner rotation.

#19 rbh

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Posted 09 June 2006 - 07:00 PM

I have sworn off eating at Rio Grande... I've never had anything above mediocre there, and one bad meal (well just cold) pushed me over the edge. Same meal, my vegetarian friend got chicken in her spinach enchilada...

I like Guajillo... for the mini-chains, I've always liked Guapo's.

#20 jparrott

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 09:04 AM

I find the newish Rio Grande in Fairfax Corner to perform better than some of the others. Then again, I pretty much only eat there after 10PM after I've been stuck in my "real" job very late.

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#21 JeffC

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Posted 11 June 2006 - 09:34 AM

I eat lunch at the one at Rio in Gaithersburg from time to time. Never great, but invariably competent, with good lunch specials. I can still remember years ago, when it was reportedly George HW Bush's go-to place for Tex-Mex and it had a semi-permanent spot in the Washingtonian's Top 100.

The food seems pretty much the same to me as it was then, but there are now places that are better.

#22 The Hersch

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 04:52 PM

I had lunch at the Balston Rio Grande today, and it was pretty good. Excellent, thin, crisp tortilla chips with so-so salsa. I was astonished to see "Herschel's Platter" on the menu (my name being Herschel), so I simply had to order it. Way too much food, but mostly quite good. A chicken enchilada, a chile relleno, a pork tamal, a soft grilled beef taco (the taco was soft; the beef was chewy but fine), a mound of pretty good guacamole, some indifferent rice, pico de gallo. The enchilada and the chile relleno were both nicely done and very tasty. I chose the green sauce, which was spicy and tangy and good. The one clear dog on the plate was the tamal, which was a heavy, doughy, tough, leaden disaster. So does anybody know who Herschel is, in the Uncle Julio world? There aren't many of us with the name out there, and even fewer, I would think, with a connection to Mexican food.

One annoying thing about this place: The staff seems to be trained not merely to address guests as "guys", but to do so relentlessly. My party was one man (me) and one woman, and our server added "guys" at the end of every single sentence that she addressed to us. We spent about an hour and a half over lunch, and we must have been called "guys" at least thirty times. Then as we were leaving, as we passed the hostess's station by the front door, she said "bye, guys". Do these poor folks get fined if they forget to say "guys" every three seconds?

But all in all, not a bad place for a chain. A whole lot better than Guapo's, nowadays.

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#23 JPW

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 10:57 PM

Rio Grande is to Tex-Mex what Cracker Barrel is to Southern food.

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#24 Sthitch

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 11:16 PM

Rio Grande is to Tex-Mex what Cracker Barrel is to Southern food.

Of course because we have so many other better selections out there, like "On the Border" or "Chevy's". No, Rio Grande is not then end all be all of Tex-Mex, but it is much better than most of the other crap that is available. And the tortilla chips are much better than most places.

#25 Joe H

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Posted 30 July 2006 - 11:30 AM

Rio Grande is to Tex-Mex what Cracker Barrel is to Southern food.

I strongly disagree with this. The Dallas Morning News gives Uncle Julio's (Rio Grande in Texas where it originated) three stars which is the second highest rating of the Tex Mex restaurants in Dallas. Ciudad which has four and is indeed excellent is "authentic" Mexican. This is the link for the Dallas Morning News capsule review: http://www.guidelive...L&item_id=10372 Uncle Julio's and Pappasito's which are both enormously popular in Texas are very, very good for what they are: fajitas, excellent chips, good Margueritas and some specials. They are not mom and pop neighborhood places (which may be the best of all but there are only a handful of these around anymore); rather they are seemingly cavernous eating halls piling huge amounts of good to very good food (fajitas are very good) on plates to crowds that still wait an hour or more for a table after over twenty plus years of operation.

When the Austin Grill opened on Wisconsin Avenue in the early '80's it was outstanding. Of course then there were only a couple of Rio Grandes and Washingtonian-even then-regarded Rio Grande as better. Today, Rio Grande is 90% as good as it was then. The Rio Grandes in D. C. are comparable to the Uncle Julios in Texas which have the identical menu. The Austin Grill which may now be a larger chain has little in common with the original.

I stand by my comments about Guajillo as D. C.'s best Tex Mex. GO FOR THE DAILY SPECIALS. ANY daily special and order that. For me Guajillo is a special restaurant which we (or someone in, say, Dallas) would be lucky to have.

#26 MsDiPesto

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 10:03 AM

Are the wait times still 45 mins at dinnertime? We tried to go there a couple times years ago, but were turned off by the long wait times, and after that just found other places to go.

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#27 The Hersch

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 10:35 AM

Are the wait times still 45 mins at dinnertime? We tried to go there a couple times years ago, but were turned off by the long wait times, and after that just found other places to go.

I can only comment on lunch, and only at the Balston location. We arrived about 11:45 am (deliberately early to beat the rush), and the place was almost empty. When we left around 1:15 pm, it was perhaps 35% full. So on a very hot day in late July, there was no lunch rush to speak of.

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#28 yeuxblu

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 03:03 PM

Coming from Texas, it is difficult to find good Tex-Mex (as every Texans likes to lament.) Rio Grande's steak fajitas rank as my favorite up here. I may have tried other items previously but it hasn't been worth doing again. The meat marinade is well done with that hint of lime and they do a nice job of cooking the meat so it's a nice rare to medium rare. Of course no good tex-mex meal goes with out the home-made flour tortillas. The Fairfax location has done a consistently good job with margaritas on the rocks. They've been well-balanced. It was a nice gesture by the waitress to ask our preference between Grand Marnier and Cointreau although I always thought the type of tequila would indicate the liquor.

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#29 MichelleW

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 03:15 PM

I can't get over the noise level at Rio Grande. It pretty much ruins everything else (including what little there is to ruin anyhow) for me.

#30 xdcx

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 03:24 PM

if anyone in your party is vegetarian, do not take them to rio grande. The only thing that is vegetarian is the vegetable fajitas. Even the things where meat isn't an ingredient like cheese enchiladas, chile rellenos, rice and beans all are either cooked with stock or lard.

#31 yeuxblu

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 03:40 PM

if anyone in your party is vegetarian, do not take them to rio grande. The only thing that is vegetarian is the vegetable fajitas. Even the things where meat isn't an ingredient like cheese enchiladas, chile rellenos, rice and beans all are either cooked with stock or lard.

Don't forget the torillas: flour, lard, salt & water. Mmmmm...animal fat.....

#32 Meaghan

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 09:50 PM

This reminds me...
Last time I was at Rio Grand having a couple of drinks, my friend picked up the coaster, which has the very animated Uncle Julio on it, and he made it talk to me about money in a Speedy Gonzales voice.
"Ahhhhh, you got skunked agggainnn."
If nothing else, I laughed...

Uncle Julio

#33 Scott Johnston

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 10:52 AM

I agree, I only come here for the fajititas (which I do come for)...too many places sell tough over cooked fajitas. My only complaint was that Rio Grande skimps on the onions and peppers to accompliy them.

Coming from Texas, it is difficult to find good Tex-Mex (as every Texans likes to lament.) Rio Grande's steak fajitas rank as my favorite up here. I may have tried other items previously but it hasn't been worth doing again. The meat marinade is well done with that hint of lime and they do a nice job of cooking the meat so it's a nice rare to medium rare.


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#34 KOK

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 11:53 AM

I agree, I only come here for the fajititas (which I do come for)...too many places sell tough over cooked fajitas. My only complaint was that Rio Grande skimps on the onions and peppers to accompliy them.

Do they still have the see-thru tortilla machine where the dough balls rise through a circulating doohickey while getting flattened and cooked to become tortillas?

Though it's over 5 years since I've been, they were always very good about making sure the onions & peppers were done enough, and also giving extra onions/peppers as well as tortillas.

Thanks,

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#35 Heather

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 11:56 AM

They do still have the tortilla machine, and agreed that they do a good job cooking the steak fajitas medium rare.

#36 mdt

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Posted 11 April 2007 - 03:56 PM

We have tried the Silver Spring location three times now, each time thinking that it couldn't be as bad as it is. It's awful. Horrid carnitas drowning in onions and oil. Steak nachos that feature little chunks of dried out beef, cheap greasy cheese and oversalted chips. The beans are like black holes of blandness, sucking the flavor out of the surrounding foods. Even the salads are bad.

I liked the original location many years ago but hadn't tried any of the expansion locations. It's not getting another cent from us. This place makes the Rio Grande Cafe look like the Frontera Grill.

You did not have the experience that I did on my last trip to Rio Grande. Bland soft beef taco with a tortilla that was not fully cooked. The only redeeming part of the meal was the cup of beans.

#37 zoramargolis

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Posted 06 January 2008 - 07:02 PM

Guajillo, Taqueria National, los Tipos - I hate them. I do. I hate them because they claim to have Tex Mex food. They taunt me with visions of rat trap cheese, tamales without the abhorrent little bits of vegetables stuck in the masa, refried beans the texture of putty, big greasy chimichangas, and a certain exoticness without threat that is reminiscent of Old El Paso products and the Patio burrito, if only it were good.

A love song to memory--ahh yes, the crappy food of childhood and home. Jeez, Beezy, haven't you been to Rio Grande Café? They've got all the mediocre Tex-Mex dishes you've been craving.

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[Moved here from the La Cantina thread.]

Edited by DonRocks, 09 January 2008 - 11:55 AM.


#38 beezy

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Posted 08 January 2008 - 12:10 PM

A love song to memory--ahh yes, the crappy food of childhood and home. Jeez, Beezy, haven't you been to Rio Grande Café? They've got all the mediocre Tex-Mex dishes you've been craving.

Oh Good Lord - Rio Grande is too fancy for my taste - a tortilla machine? fruit on the plate? fancy pants corn cake? FISH on the menu? unheard of! I like all my tortillas corn, grease and crunch, land-based animals only and all my food with a good dose of chili powder.
Hmph.

#39 FunnyJohn

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 02:33 PM

Well what about the drinks that must accompany "authentic" TexMex. Interesting that in today's Post there is this about the Rio Grande. This particular beverage sounds too good -- not your overly sweet mixture of limeade slush and cheap tequilla that is de rigour for washing down greasy tacos -- for qualifying Rio Grande for classification as authentic. (Actually I would contend that the only truly authentic TexMex exists in West Central Texas, but that's just my own prejudice.)

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#40 beezy

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Posted 09 January 2008 - 09:53 PM

Well what about the drinks that must accompany "authentic" TexMex. Interesting that in today's Post there is this about the Rio Grande. This particular beverage sounds too good -- not your overly sweet mixture of limeade slush and cheap tequilla that is de rigour for washing down greasy tacos -- for qualifying Rio Grande for classification as authentic. (Actually I would contend that the only truly authentic TexMex exists in West Central Texas, but that's just my own prejudice.)

We from the East Texas front would argue that West Texans actually eat Mexican food, not Tex Mex. Perhaps it is the petroleum and swamp gas that everyone has been rolling in, but if it's not somehow involving pre-packaged something, we're not having it.

Personally, I think you can only have a few things with Tex Mex

- a beer (Lone Star or Pearl only - out of a longneck. not in a can or glass, unless you're at home. Never on tap.)

- a margarita (the restaurant from my childhood used to have a garter stretched around the glass for added exoticness)

- a Coke

- iced tea

- not Sangria

I do remember the Swirl fondly from happy hours during the dotcom boom. It's a lovely technicolor adult slurpee with a sneaky, evil mean streak of closet alcoholism - sort of like Baby Jane in a Mexican wedding dress. A few of those combined with frisky puppy creatives in their 20s can result in an astounding amount of confessional conversation and dubious hookups.

*sigh* I miss those days.
Hmph.

#41 pidgey

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 01:59 PM

Personally, I think you can only have a few things with Tex Mex

- a beer (Lone Star or Pearl only - out of a longneck. not in a can or glass, unless you're at home. Never on tap.)

- a margarita (the restaurant from my childhood used to have a garter stretched around the glass for added exoticness)

- a Coke

- iced tea

- not Sangria

South Central Texans eat Tex-Mex, especially breakfast tacos, with Big Red. That being said, I think the margaritas at Rio Grande are pretty good. I think its a better option than, say, Cactus Cantina, and no, I don't think either one of these are real examples of Tex-Mex. I get tired of my culture being defamed by bad food.

#42 DanCole42

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 02:13 PM

Between Don Pablo's, Chevy's, that one place with the Irish-sounding name that escapes me at the moment, Chi-Chi's, and Rio Grande... I'll take Rio Grande any day of the week.
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#43 ladi kai lemoni

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 02:18 PM

man, it ranks among the average of average restaurants, but Rio Grande consistently satiates that craving for cheesy, sloppy, beefy texmex goo.

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#44 FunnyJohn

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 02:29 PM

man, it ranks among the average of average restaurants, but Rio Grande consistently satiates that craving for cheesy, sloppy, beefy texmex goo.

Word! I personally find the Fajitas there exceedingly satisfying when I want a gut-bustin' experience.

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#45 porcupine

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Posted 10 January 2008 - 02:52 PM

Word! I personally find the Fajitas there exceedingly satisfying when I want a gut-bustin' experience.

Yeah, but I miss the cabrito. :(

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#46 u-bet!

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Posted 12 January 2008 - 05:39 PM

- a margarita (the restaurant from my childhood used to have a garter stretched around the glass for added exoticness)

El Chico?

#47 TinDC

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Posted 26 May 2008 - 12:27 PM

Last night at Rio Grande Bethesda. Goopy blech.

#48 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 02 May 2010 - 01:16 PM

They got frog legs? Had to try them and it's been awhile since we've been to Bethesda so that's where to went for lunch today. The chips are great here, crispy and light, but a little greasy. We ordered a combo platter with crispy beef taco, chicken tamale, a beef enchilada and a chicken enchilada. We also ordered a grilled combo platter - frog legs and costillas (pork ribs). The frog legs were grilled until tough, other than the smokiness from the grill, have no flavor. To address that deficiency, we were given a side of garlic butter. Instead of using butter, I stripped the frog leg meat and stuffed them into a flour tortilla and topped the whole thing liberally with their delicious guacamole. The costillas tastes okay (I don't like BBQ and don't normally eat BBQ, this was for my wife), a little on the dry side. The best part of the combo platter was the chicken tamale, nice flavor, moist and even the green sauce was good. I never got a bite of the taco. The chicken enchilada was a little dry, the beef enchilada fairly greasy...all in all fairly decent Tex-Mex.

Unfortunately we couldn't find our favorite stores (unique furniture and accessory stores) so there's really no reason to go back to Bethesda.

#49 KMango

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Posted 02 May 2010 - 09:54 PM

They got frog legs? Had to try them and it's been awhile since we've been to Bethesda so that's where to went for lunch today. The chips are great here, crispy and light, but a little greasy. We ordered a combo platter with crispy beef taco, chicken tamale, a beef enchilada and a chicken enchilada. We also ordered a grilled combo platter - frog legs and costillas (pork ribs). The frog legs were grilled until tough, other than the smokiness from the grill, have no flavor. To address that deficiency, we were given a side of garlic butter. Instead of using butter, I stripped the frog leg meat and stuffed them into a flour tortilla and topped the whole thing liberally with their delicious guacamole. The costillas tastes okay (I don't like BBQ and don't normally eat BBQ, this was for my wife), a little on the dry side. The best part of the combo platter was the chicken tamale, nice flavor, moist and even the green sauce was good. I never got a bite of the taco. The chicken enchilada was a little dry, the beef enchilada fairly greasy...all in all fairly decent Tex-Mex.

Unfortunately we couldn't find our favorite stores (unique furniture and accessory stores) so there's really no reason to go back to Bethesda.

"Croak hi next time."

On Friday, met some folks for lunch on the patio at the Reston location. Ordered the frog leg fajitas, and I echo the no-discernible-flavor assessment, although with attractive grill marks. My version also had an oddly watery/rubbery consistency, screaming of former freezer time. Was fun to be on the patio, though, and I adopted the same strategy of smothering everything with avocado.
-KMango

"Everyone expects me to do certain things. It puts a ceiling on your progress. You’re blocked by your pride. To get good, you have to throw your board around and fall." -Rodney Mullen

#50 Ericandblueboy

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Posted 02 May 2010 - 10:03 PM

Ordered the frog leg fajitas, and I echo the no-discernible-flavor assessment, although with attractive grill marks. My version also had an oddly watery/rubbery consistency, screaming of former freezer time.

In retrospect, they had to be frozen. I don't see a chain sending people out to pick out the freshest frog legs :lol:




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