Menu Please: Homemade Mexican Served at Casa Rios Grill

Having retired (she thought) from the restaurant review business, Femme de Joie pretty much quit reading Yelp and so was unaware until very recently that the old El Rinconcito on Eureka Way isn’t El Rinconcito any more, though it’s still painted IN HUGE LETTERS on the side of the building. As it turns out, the Rios family who were partners in that venture split off to open Casa Rios Grill in the old Savory Spoon location.

The interior has been updated with snappy red paint. There are about fifteen tables for two or four plus a couple of booths, all of which sport black tablecloths with white paper place mats and crayons to create your own artwork (or keep little ones occupied). There’s a row of bar stools along the left side of the counter in the back where you can sit for a beer or glass of wine. Specials are on a blackboard right when you walk in. The menu is a mix of Mexican and some American dishes like patty melts and salads.

Most Mexican restaurants offer chips and salsa with your meal. Multicolored chips were fresh and crisp, though obviously not made on site. But the pureed tomato-chile salsa was a treat – not too spicy – and the warm black bean dip was light years better than similar bean dips M. de Joie has tasted in other restaurants.

Chorizo egg scramble, $11.99

In addition to a few American breakfast staples like French toast, bacon and eggs, and veggie omelets, Casa Rios offers brunch dishes with more Mexican sensibilities, such as the chorizo scramble. Chorizo can be oily and too hot, but not here. Mixed with bell peppers and onions, topped with salsa fresca, the scramble was mild and flavorful without that heartburn-y feeling. A side of house-made fresh tortillas were just wonderful, tender and soft, a far cry from anything you buy in the supermarket. And though Mexican restaurants aren’t really renowned for presentation, a pretty melon and berries garnish was a nice touch and showed the care going into each plate.

Casa Rios serves house-made menudo on weekends and Femme de Joie would have ordered that, but they also have pozole, which is hen’s-teeth-rare on menus around here. Brick-red broth made from dried chilis (not chili powder) had a little bite; generous amounts of shredded pork and hominy packed the bowl with cubes of avocado and shreds of cabbage bobbing on top. A few squeezes from a wedge of lime added a slightly sour tang. If you think you can’t bear the tripe in menudo, try this instead for your hangover. If you’re not hungover, this is a wonderful warm-up on a cold morning.

Pork tamales. $11.99

Making tamales is a lot of hands-on labor – it’s not something you just decide to whip up from scratch one night after work. Casa Rios makes their own. The masa was a bit on the doughy side but the shredded pork filling was moist, dampened with a bit of salsa verde, and served with homemade refried beans and rice.

Chile rellano, $10.99

Most restaurants use light green Anaheim chilis for rellanos. Nothing wrong with those; they’re a good product. But dark green Poblano chiles have pizazz – much thicker flesh and crunchy texture, with a vegetable grassy flavor enhanced by a little heat (1,000 to 2,000 on the Scoville scale). Here they were blistered just long enough to soften, then filled with a niblet of mozzarella, coated in an eggy batter, and fried lightly to create an omelet-like robe. This treatment showed off the freshness of the chili and wasn’t weighted down by lots of cheap cheese (that bete noire of Mexican restaurants).

Side order of a chicarrones gordita, spicy sauce, $5.99

Chicarrones are pork skin (or sometimes pork belly) that have been cooked, seasoning, dried, and then fried, and while they are indescribably delicious bits of piggyness, they are not diet or health food. A bowlful would be perfect to enjoy with a few beers while watching football, but probably not a good ongoing plan for every weekend through the rest of the season. “Gordita” means chubby, and so this is a chubby handmade tortilla filled with chicarrones and topped with a little sour cream, queso fresco, and cilantro. Lightly fried so that the tortilla puffs just a little, it’s a substantial snack.

Casa Rios recently started serving brunch from 8 AM to 1 PM on weekends, and apparently the word isn’t out yet. Service is friendly – almost too friendly, though that may have been because when we visited there were only one or two other tables with customers.

If Femme de Joie had a complaint about Casa Rios Grill, it would be that the portions are a bit on the modest side. However, that is tempered by the very fresh ingredients and high level of cooking coming out of the kitchen. They don’t have combination plates the way most Mexican restaurants do, but this is much better food than most Mexican restaurants. Although it’s a bit out of the central Redding area, it’s definitely worth driving out to visit.

Casa Rios Grill, 1647 Hartnell Avenue, Suite 1 (near Victor in the Hartnell Castle strip mall), Redding CA 96002. 530-276-0646. Open Monday through Friday 10 AM to 9 PM, Saturday 8 AM to 9 PM, Sunday 8 AM to 4 PM. Beer and wine. Cards and cash; no checks. Parking lot. Follow them on Facebook.

Femme de Joie
Femme de Joie's first culinary masterpiece was at age 4, when she made the perfect fried bologna sandwich on white bread. Since then she has dined on horse Bourguignon in France, stir-fried eel in London, and mystery meat in her college cafeteria, but firmly draws the line at eating rattlesnake, peppermint and Hamburger Helper. She lives in Shasta County at her country estate, Butterscotch Acres West. She is nearly always hungry. Visit MenuPlease for more or send her an email at femmedejoiefood@yahoo.com.
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30 Responses

  1. Margy says:

    I have been going here since they opened and they keep improving. My favorite is the chicken taco, homemade corn shell with shredded chicken. If I had to complain it would be the chips that appear to come from cash&carry. Since I work close by, I am happy to have this option available for lunch. In your travels if you can find a local establishment that serves organic (besides orchard nutrition and country organic) I would be most appreciative. Wishing the Rio’s family much success!

  2. Welcome, back, Femme de Joie!

    I’m going to be in Redding most of the day today, and had been trying to decide what to do for lunch. I think I’ve found it! Thank you!

  3. Beverly Stafford says:

    Oh Femme! So good to open my A News Cafe icon and find you front and center. Your absence was understandable, but you were sorely missed. This review makes up for months of missing you.

  4. CoachBob says:

    Been there twice. Once busy at noon, very long wait. Went back in the early evening and only 3 tables being used, very long wait. Food was okay but the cook staff took forever. I’ll go to Ortegas in Palo Cedro. Always fresh, always consistent and friendly family. Too many Mexican places in this town to have slow service.

  5. Boojum19 says:

    Thanks for the informative review. For what it’s worth, the operators of La Cocina de Chuy, the restaurant that took over El Rinconcito’s space, painted over the large lettering several weeks ago.

  6. Hal Johnson says:

    It’s great to see a post from you again!

    When I first decided to try Casa Rios, it was a pleasure to see Carmelo from the old El Rinconcito location walk out to greet me.

    Dang, I’m suddenly feeling ravenous.

  7. Richard Christoph says:

    Dear Ms. Femme de J,

    So good to have this candid and detailed review after your much lamented absence. We will definitely try Casa Rios and trust that it will be comparable in quality to the nearby Thai Hut, which we discovered years ago from another of your excellent reviews.

    Welcome back.

  8. DougM says:

    You’re back! I’m hungry….get to work 🙂

  9. Ginny says:

    Good to have you back, also…………. Will have to try Casa Rios.

    Enjoy!!!!

  10. Barbara Stone says:

    Drooling…

  11. Joanne Gifford says:

    A great review , glad you are back !!!

  12. Barbara Cross says:

    So Glad to have you back.. We missed you while you took an early retirement… your reviews are always helpful…

  13. Oh, Femme de Joie, what a treat to have you back! We missed you! Is it my imagination or are your photos more crisp?

    Nobody reviews like you do. You’re the best. Thank you!

  14. Shelley says:

    What a treat to see your column, Femme de Joie. We will definitely give Casa Rios Grill a try. Welcome back.

  15. Adrienne says:

    WELCOME HOME!!
    I had heard of this new restaurant just last week! Very highly recommend. I may just have to make the trip across the river…..

  16. Doug Mudford says:

    I hope new restaurants keep opening so you will stay.

  17. Karen Calanchini says:

    Great to have you back! I missed the reviews. This restaurant is five minutes from my house.
    Your review is informative, mouth watering and the photos are beautiful.
    Thank you…I am visiting them Sunday.

  18. Stan W says:

    Great review! Looks like you are sporting a new camera. Nice to have your reviews back.

  19. Common Sense says:

    Excellent Restaurant. Food is Very Fresh Tasting!…if you go before 11:30 or after 1:30 the place is almost empty….The portions are a little smaller but at the end of the day…..it’s not a fill you up to the gills tasteless place….It’s a Super High-Quality place with friendly service and Excellent food!

    You can TASTE the Freshness here….

    • K. Beck says:

      AH HA! That explains it. I took some out of town friends to El Rinconcito a few months ago and the menu had changed and all the employees, most importantly, the cooks, were different. It was good, but certainly not the same. I was looking forward to their pork tamales. But they were off the menu.

      There was a film crew there. They asked if we wanted to be filmed, we all declined. I guess they were making a TV commercial.

      I have driven by Casa Rios several times. I plan to stop in

  20. Alice Bell says:

    First time today for breakfast there. The pozole was outstanding and such a huge serving!
    Plus the sangría was the best out of the bottle sangría i’ve ever had. The addition of fresh fruit (apple, orange, peach, blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry) was icing on the cake. This is my new favorite place for weekend breakfast.

  21. Tami Bennett says:

    We have gone there a few times. I love the shrimp tacos and all the other dishes we have tried. Very kid friendly too.

  22. Jamie says:

    Nice to have you back!

  23. Great review, Femme de Joie. My wife and I went there for lunch a couple of weeks ago we both had carnitas. They were fantastic. Carnitas is always a good choice for a test because it is hard to get them just right. We will definitely be going back.

  24. The Old Pretender says:

    The menu items are less expensive than many other local places and the portions are substantial for that price. Add in the quality and good service and this place is our favorite place for old married couple date nights.

  25. Steven Towers Steven Towers says:

    That bowl of pozole looks amazing, and your description of the chile rellano has me counting down the hours until lunch. First tinge of regret that I’ve had since moving back to Palo Cedro.

  26. Kathryn McDonald says:

    I was a big fan of El Rinconcito and am now an even bigger fan of Los Rios Grill. I have eaten there several times and think it’s the best Mexican restaurant in Redding.

  27. Sally says:

    Maybe I live under a rock, but was unaware of Casa Rios, but you have sold me. Can’t wait to try it!

  28. Common Sense says:

    Chips are Indeed Home Made….not store bought! Abe the half owner told me that…..I hear Breakfast is over the top also!….going back again….and again…..

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