Restaurant Review: Cafe Rio

Cafe Rio from outside

Editor’s note: We all went to Cafe Rio together, and our friend Lorna Nakell spontaneously wrote this review about our experience. (P.S. We try to mark when restaurants are vegan/vegetarian friendly, and this one very clearly is. Also, the espresso drinks that we had were awesome!) Thanks Lorna!

Café Rio is a hip enough sounding name for a Portland eatery—but don’t be deceived. Immediately upon entering this small establishment, friends and I were disappointed. It seemed that the owner couldn’t decide between having a sit-down or take-out restaurant, so they went for something in-between—not a cart, but also not a full dining establishment either—a “cartaurant.” Although there were five in our party, there was only one table—in the whole place (okay, it was actually two smaller tables that we had to fit together), and that table would only accommodate four of us. My son was left to make himself comfortable in an upholstered chair (complete with attached swivel table) that looked like it was teleported in from an 80’s style hotel lobby.

The menu appeared simple enough for their small kitchen set-up and featured many variations of their specialty dish, GF waffles. In addition, they offered scrambled eggs with your choice of toppings. At first we were afraid that they would be microwaving the eggs, but were pleased to find out that they actually had two small sauté pans at the ready.

Dishes we ordered included two different egg scrambles, three different kinds of waffles, a scone (brought in from an outside baking co.), coffees and a fresh squeezed orange juice. This is what happened: Orders for our table came a little too staggered. We were surprised and saddened when our food was served on paper plates looking like it was prepared by my seven-year-old son (no offense, Calder).

Scrambled Eggs

Sorry for the image quality - but...

The egg dishes came without sides of toast or garnishes of any kind. Although the sausage in mine was tasty, the eggs were crumbly and they skimped on the spinach leaves. The waffles, on their own, ended up being pretty tasty and a good consistency. But, initially, we had a rough go at it because in addition to having to navigate waffle cutting with plastic utensils, we were informed that they didn’t have any butter or jam, but would we like some coconut oil instead (Ummm, why would I want that? Do YOU use that?).

Waffles with Banana and Nuts

Bottom line: Friendly and accommodating service, airport style presentation and atmosphere. Although I want to be encouraging to any dining establishment that is trying to incorporate GF food into their menu, sometimes all the pieces of a restaurant just don’t fit together the way they should. So, in regards to Café Rio, I have to say that unless you live in their hood and are too tired from partying the night before to drag out ye ol’ waffle iron and whip up some Bob’s Redmill pancake mix (which, by the way, is what they use), by all means give them a try. If not, there are so many other great restaurants that serve GF goods these days, you shouldn’t go out of your way to visit Café Rio.

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