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Inside Rio Tacos and Tequila, downtown’s new Mexican restaurant

Rio Tacos & Tequila opened downtown over the weekend, bringing new activity to a block of Third Street. 

The first thing you’ll notice approaching Rio Tacos & Tequila is its bright front porch. An open patio overlooks the bustle of the street from its space beneath City Bar.

The seating area is dotted with live greenery, orange-red chairs and tables with a terrazzo pattern inlay. The finishes stand out against the patio’s exposed brick walls and wood beams. 

Inside, the focal point is an abstract mural with colorful shapes, designed by Bridget Tiek of Tiek and Co. and brought to life by local artist Marc Fresh.

“We wanted to bring a lot of color and vibrance to the inside,” says Chef Tonnie Pointer. 

Outdoor seating at Rio Tacos & Tequila

 

The eatery by local restaurateur Chad Hughes has been in the works since last summer. “We felt like downtown needed something new and fresh to come in,” Pointer says.

The restaurant’s menu emphasizes big flavors and cocktails. Street tacos are a specialty. Choose from a list of six proteins topped with diced red onions and cilantro. Another signature item is camarones: sauteed shrimp, roasted onion, bell pepper, tomatoes and two garlic and cilantro masa cakes topped with chimichurri. The menu also includes street corn, empanadas, fajitas and quesadillas.

Pointer prides herself on the flavor she puts into each of her dishes. Everything on the menu is made in-house, including the salsa and queso.

“I put a lot of flavor into everything,” Pointer says. “I hate biting into something, and it just tasting like the meat.”

Camarones at Rio Tacos & Tequila

Rio offers frozen margaritas and a frozen paloma. Juice used in the cocktails is squeezed fresh in-house. 

Signature cocktails include the Strawberry Mexican Mule, a refreshing take on a traditional mule; and the Jalapeño Mezcalrita, a fresh-pressed mezcal margarita. Pointer says she tries to stock the bar with ethically sourced tequilas that give back to the communities they’re produced in. 

As for what she hopes Rio brings to downtown, Pointer’s answer is simple.

“My mission is to bring people good food,” she says. “I want them to remember the dish they had, and come back and eat it.”

Rio Tacos & Tequila is at 333 Third Street and open every day, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Find more info on its Facebook page.


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