On my most recent trip to Vegas I did something I haven’t done since I was about 12…I stayed off Strip. It was a trip meant to spend some time with my family rather than some time with the Sports Books and pools. And it was a chance to try some places that weren’t in a casino. One of these places was Cafe Rio.
When you experience Vegas off-Strip, there are two things you notice (well at least two things that I noticed). First, it covers a lot of land. It’s a huge, sprawling city set in the desert at the base of the mountains. Second, when you get away from the casinos and flashing lights, it really isn’t much different than a lot of others cities in the country. This became most apparent when we drove to Cafe Rio past a Home Depot, Chevy dealership, Bed, Bath and Beyond, and a variety of other stores, ultimately pulling into a strip mall that could have been found in Anytown, USA. Well, any town in Arizona, SoCal, Nevada, etc.
My freakishly athletic cousin Eddy and his equally athletic wife Kristin decided to take me to Cafe Rio as an example of some of the good quality food that can be found in Vegas. For them, they focus on a Paleo diet which isn’t too much different than the way I eat (except I like a lot more bread and a little more dairy), so this was an “approved” eatery. And if that wasn’t enough, they sold it with the fact that at Cafe Rio they make flour tortillas from scratch; an admitted vice of mine.
Looking at the menu, it looked like the best way to experience the tortilla was with the green chile smothered burrito. The sweet pork barbacoa came highly recommended, so I went with that too. I ended up getting the cheese melted over the top of it, but stopped at the sour cream. Had to keep it healthy!
The burrito was very well done, one I hold describe as a step up from some of its fast food counterparts like Chipotle or Qdoba. The pork had a very nice blend of sweetness and spiciness that was balanced by the black beans and the freshness of the Pico de Gallo. The green chile offered a nice acidity and another level of spice. But what really set this apart was the tortilla. There is just another level of flavor to a fresh made tortilla and the way it stands up to all of the ingredients. It had a nice soft chew to it and more flavor than you usually get. I almost went back and just ordered a half dozen tortillas with the green chile.
Even though it was a simple lunch in a land full of five-star restaurants, it was very enjoyable. Word is it even got a thumbs up from my grandma. I’ve started to look for more places off strip, more places the locals go and this was exactly the type of place I was looking for.