Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Speedy Mexican Cuisine At Casa Del Rio

How I could have possibly overlooked such a happening Wadsworth dinner spot does not reflect well on my ability to feel the pulse of my hometown. I have covered much of the local, independently owned restaurants in Wadsworth over the last two years, but there was one that I had not gotten around to until tonight, Casa Del Rio. Situated back from the road behind the Sunoco station right at the exit onto Rt. 94 from I-76, the building has had a long history of restaurant locales. When I first moved to Wadsworth back in 1986, it was an L & K Diner. Then it became a Denny's for a while. About nine years ago, it turned into its current incarnation, Casa Del Rio.

I had eaten there prior to tonight, but it had been quite some time. At a recent meal at a completely unrelated restaurant, I overheard another patron recommend Casa Del Rio and this put a bug in my ear to return and check it out for myself. While the sign can be seen from the highway,

Roadside Sign for Casa del Rio
if you are programming the street address into your GPS, it would be 839 High Street, Wadsworth, OH 44281. They can be reached at 330-335-4001. Parking was in the lot surrounding the restaurant.

Here was a shot of the front entrance to Casa Del Rio:

Exterior of Casa del Rio
When I pulled into the parking lot tonight (a Wednesday night) at 7:15 PM, I wasn't expecting a parking lot so packed with cars that it took me two revolutions around the restaurant to finally snag a spot. As I walked through the front door, there were people in the hallway leading to a secondary door which actually took you inside the eatery. The place was packed with at least a fifteen minute wait list. Since it was only fifteen minutes and I was fairly hungry by this point, I decided to wait for a table.

Fortunately, most of the dinner rush must have been finishing up their meals as only ten minutes later, the hostess indicated that she had a table ready for me. She left me with the menu to peruse:

Casa del Rio's Menu Page 1
Casa del Rio's Menu Page 2
Casa del Rio's Menu Page 3
Casa del Rio's Menu Page 4
Within seconds of my arrival at the table, salsa and tortilla chips quickly followed:

The salsa was mostly pureed and had a nice acidity from the tomatoes and the lime juice. It had a touch of spice from the jalapenos and personally, I would've liked a little more spice, but I can see how this level of heat would be good for the average customer. I could also taste the fresh cilantro, which gave the salsa a nice herbal flavor.

Corn Tortilla Chips
The corn chips tasted fresh, but were served room temperature. Perhaps I've gotten spoiled by other Mexican-American restaurants, but I do enjoy the chips more when they are still warm. That being said, I'll take fresh room temperature chips over stale, warm chips any day. The other interesting discovery I made was that Casa Del Rio serves tortilla halves instead of tortilla quarters. It didn't affect the flavor, obviously, but I did find that breaking the halves into smaller pieces made for easier dipping into the salsa for consumption.

Since I had already looked at the menu on-line before coming to the restaurant tonight, I already had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to order, the Burritos Decebrados:

Burritos Decebrados with Refried Beans
I know that many of the components used in Mexican cuisine can be prepared ahead and at the time of service, most of the menu can be assembled a la minute and plated quite quickly. What I didn't expect was that a mere three minutes after placing my order, my entree made its way from the kitchen to my table. The gentleman delivering the plate warned me that the plate was extremely hot. Over the years, I have developed a personal theory that the hotness of the plate seems to be inversely proportional to the correct placement of the dish in front of you. In other words, the hotter the plate, the more it will need to be adjusted so that it is directly in front of you.

Only mildly heeding his warning, when I went to adjust the plate for a better photograph, I discovered that the plate was indeed 4000 degrees Fahrenheit. Okay, so maybe I am stretching the truth just a tad, but when they warn you that the plate is hot, they truly mean it. After getting a nice photograph of my dinner, I started to examine it a little more closely. The dish consisted of two flour tortillas filled with braised beef and topped with a chile con queso. Some of Casa Del Rio's refried beans were served along side and topped with just a touch more melted queso.

Here was a shot of the filling inside of the burritos:

Closeup of Burritos Decebrados
When I got to the end of one of the burritos, I decided to open it up and expose the delicious beefy filling for an even better shot:

Braised Mexican Beef
The beef was completely tender, juicy, and very tasty. Based on the what was in the tortilla shells, it had been braised with tomatoes, red peppers, and onions. The meat was seasoned nicely and would've made an excellent filling for a number of other dishes. The flour tortillas were fresh and the edges that hadn't been covered in chile con queso had browned slightly under the broiler. The chile con queso had a bold flavor and was both creamy with just a touch of heat from the jalapenos, but was a tad thin and rather than stay on top of the burritos instead pooled on the plate.

The refried beans were served in a massive portion next to the burritos. I tasted the beans by themselves and while creamy and quite "beany," were just a tad underseasoned. Mixed with some of the melted cheese, they were okay, but just to check, I grabbed a spoonful of beans and added just a small sprinkle of salt from the shaker on the table to see if that would fix the problem; it did. This was a minor gripe, however, as the beans were just shy of being well-seasoned.

When my server returned to check on me, I asked for the check. With water to drink, my check came to roughly $9.50 with tax. As with most casual Mexican-American restaurants, there was a cashier at the front of the restaurant where you actually pay the check. When I got to the front, I asked the gentleman running the register if it was always this crazy. He replied that until the national chain Chipotle had opened up several months ago in Wadsworth (where the Blockbuster used to be, in case you were wondering), it was like that every night of the week. Business died down a little after Chipotle opened, he surmised, because people were checking it out for themselves. When they realized that the food being served at the two establishments really was entirely different, business has once again returned.

My hat is off to anyone who manages to keep a packed restaurant seven nights a week. Based on the meal I had tonight and the incredibly quick turn-around between the time I arrived, was sat, and paid the check, even if there is a wait when you go, you won't spend hours until you have eaten and are ready to leave. The food was tasty and fresh and even if the beans were a bit underseasoned for my taste, overall the experience was quite a positive one. If you already happen to live near Wadsworth, there is no doubt in my mind that you should try out Casa Del Rio. Since I visit family and friends in Wadsworth often, I don't have to make the decision of whether to travel there just for a restaurant. Should you find yourself in this neck of the woods, definitely put them on your list of restaurants at which to eat.

Casa de Rio on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

Love Casa! So glad you did too! They have great Margaritas as well!

Becky said...

I have eaten at Casa Del Rio many times and have always enjoyed the food! The servers are also very attentive and make sure you have something to drink at all times in case you tongue is on fire from the very spicy food!

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