Rio Grande Café.
When restaurant owners/partners Byron Lovell and Brian O’Meara purchased the long standing, historic Rio Grande Café in February, they knew exactly what they were getting into. Lovell had been a patron of the eatery for the past 30 years and actually offered to buy the restaurant from the previous owner five years ago.
“Nothing has really changed,” Lovell says. “We kept the original menu and recipes. We may add a few things here and there, or find ways to improve upon them, but overall, it is the same Mexican comfort food people have enjoyed for decades.”
In fact, so little change has taken place with the new ownership, that 90 percent of the kitchen staff and 70 percent of the wait staff remain.
The same beloved enchiladas, burritos and the “taco-lady” are still staples on the menu, and even the old “Coffee” and “Air Conditioned” signs hang above the front door. The restaurant went through a bit of remodel during the transition, but a new kitchen and some paint were about all that was needed. Lovell plans on recreating the feel from the 1990s by installing a retro jukebox and several speakers that will serenade patrons with the sounds of Johnny Cash and other crooners.
As for the neighbors that surround the Rio Grande Café, the homeless shelter and the St. Vincent de Paul overflow shelter are across the street, but Lovell says, “The people that live down here are not bad people; they have been very respectful. We have not had any problems.”
In an effort to assuage any reticence of restaurant patrons coming in for dinner or visiting during the evening hours, Lovell has security monitoring the parking lot. He wants people to feel safe walking in and out. “The neighborhood is really being worked on by the state,” he says. “We want people to come, eat some great Mexican comfort food and enjoy this historic restaurant.” The new iteration of Rio Grande Café is an oldie and a goodie!
Rio Grande Café
270 S. Rio Grande St., SLC