Cafe Rio - Falls Church (Willston)
There have been a few comments about this new place in the thread about "New Places in Arlington and Falls Church" thread http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/821810 so I though I'd start a Cafe Rio thread.
I'm a cheap lunch guy, so I visited there today, Taco Tuesday, when tacos are $1.50. I had two, a pork and a chicken, so this won't be an extensive review, though basically there's the fillings and either as tacos or burritos, but the burritos are $6.95.
The chicken was fine. I thought the pork (the do call it barbecue/barbacoa pork) was so sweet I thought it was a dessert taco. Lots of molasses or something like that. I couldn't tell what the pork tasted like. They also have shredded beef.
It's a production line but a little different from Chipoltle and the like. You place your order at the head of the line, and the server dishes your fillings out in a round aluminum plate and hands it to someone manning the grill behind him. So you're getting not freshly cooked from raw, but freshly heated meats. Then it gets assembled with the tortillas and passed on to the next station where you add toppings - cheese, lettuce, sour cream, etc. Pretty standard stuff. They serve pico de gallo in a separate container. For an extra $2, you can add rice, beans, and a drink.
The tortillas are indeed a hand process, not a machine like Chevy's where you put dough and gas in and tortillas come out. There's a hand press and I saw a rolling pin, I guess for the ones that don't quite come out right. They're cooked on a rotating steel griddle, probably timed so that one revolution cooks each side. The tortillas (they're flour - I didn't see, nor ask about corn) are just a little thicker than what most taco shops serve, but not nearly as thick as the Salvadorian ones. They were pretty tasty, actually.
There's the usual drink bar, a few varieties of iced tea, and some other drinks - mint lemonade, something called Southwest lemonade that was red, and I don't remember the other two. I'm a water drinker. Regular water is free, but if you want Dasani, it's in the dispenser with the sodas for the regular soda price. No, I didn't cheat other to have a small sample of that red lemonade. It's just not RIGHT! ;)
I did hear a couple of rounds of the near incomprehensible shouting from the staff that was reported in the other thread. I happened to be standing at the cash register right behind someone who had a coupon for a free meal, and what they were all shouting was FREE MEAL. I heard another burst when I was sitting at a table, and it must have been something else free - that part was understandable, but I couldn't tell what it was (not a meal).
I was there about 2 PM and while they weren't very crowded, there was a fair amount of traffic. The line probably backs up quite a bit whenever their busy time is since there's a lot of hand work and some things timed by heating that can't be done any faster.
Anyway, I'm likely to go back for another does of $1.50 tacos now and then, avoiding the pork of course, but then it's just a nice exercise-length walk from my house. I wouldn't come from Bethesda or Bowie to check it out.
Of course it's fast food, but I can't remember the last time I had a $1.50 taco that I thought was decent, and these (except for the barbacoa) are decent. I think the tortillas make them better than most of the other fast food tacos.
And where do you get a slow food taco anyway, other than when there's a long line at District Taco? ;)
thanks for the review; but i thought willston was the other plaza -- where mark's duck house is located. when i looked at a real estate map, however, it showed that "willston center" also includes the area over to target. (i never realized that willston road or drive is what patrick henry morphs into at the curve near xo taste).
i learn new stuff here all the time. ;-).
how does it compare with district taco?
It's really different from what District Taco makes. At D.T., I almost always get a couple of fish tacos (Tuesday and Friday only) and Cafe Rio doesn't offer that option. The Carnitas at D.T. is definitely better at Cafe Rio, and I prefer Cafe Rio's tortillas over the ordinary store-bought type at District.
But given the $1.50 tacos on Tuesday at Cafe Rio, (District's are $2.25, I think, any day) that would be my choice. There's nothing wrong with Cafe Rio's tacos other than the carnitas, which tastes like candy, so I avoid it. The chicken and beef are fine. If they have fish at all, it's not on Taco Tuesday.