- 901 N. Grande Ave., Tucson, AZ, 85745
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Mon.-Sat. 6 a.m.-7 p.m., Sun. 6 a.m.-2 p.m.
What was ordered: birria burrito ($3.75), chile verde burrito ($3.75), caldo de queso ($3.50), albondigas ($3.50) and two soft drinks ($1.25 each for a total of $18.38, well within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20
Comments: The building has a new paint job and the small dining room has been nicely made over, but this is still the same old Mexican bakery that has been attracting loyal customers for decades.
If you’re up with the birds, the smell of fresh baked pan dulce (Mexican sweet breads), empanadas, pan de huevo (egg bread), cochinitos (pig-shaped gingerbread cookies) and more can perk you up quicker than that $5 cup of artisan joe you get at some haven for snotty art wimps. And for $5 here, you get a dozen baked goods, though you’ll miss out on the heady critiques of what’s currently playing at The Loft.
What the neighborhood has known for years is that it’s an equally good place to stop for lunch or takeout.
Though the menu is confined to burritos and sopas, there’s more than enough variety to keep you coming back to try more.
The prices are inexpensive enough here that we went with a pair of small sopas and burritos on a recent visit, which was actually a lot more lunch than we needed. The caldo con queso came in a surprisingly large bowl for a small order (the large is $5.50). The cheese had been masterfully melded with the rich chicken stock into a luxuriously smooth broth with no strings attached. Slices of bell pepper and onion were accented by peeled and sliced potato, sized and portioned at a thoughtful balance as opposed to the fist-sized chunks often encountered with such sopas.
The albondigas was equally first-rate, the meatballs delicately flecked with mint and rice and immersed in a pristine chicken broth rich in slow-cooked undertones.
The burritos here are not the gut-bomb fatties found at fast-Mex joints but rather the long, slender type often encountered in Mexico. The filings are more than ample, but rather than overpowering you, they’re portioned in amounts that more pleasantly play off the homemade tortillas. The chile verde version featured lean, shredded pork deeply imbued with green chiles, garlic and onion. The birria burrito was pleasantly juicy, the succulent, shredded beef more strongly flavored with red chile than other versions.
Service: Order at the counter and the food is brought to your table.
Bottom line: You could easily order just soup or just a burrito and leave El Rio sated and happy for less than $5. Then again, you’d be certifiably crazy not to grab a fresh-baked goodie to go.