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Sneak Peek: Urban Rio Cantina & Grill in Plano

Urban Rio in downtown Plano (left); Grilled chicken rio club quesadillas (right) photos by Melisa Oporto

Urban Rio, the newest restaurant in downtown Plano, is Nathan and Bonnie Shea‘s baby. For two years, the owners of Urban Crust dreamed and conceived and schemed about opening a Mexican restaurant until, finally, last Monday, it all came together when they opened their doors to the public. The restaurant features a menu of “Next Mex” cuisine and is housed inside the historic Plano Ice House, which was gutted for the Shea family’s Urban empire. On the first floor lies Urban Rio and Nate’s Gelato where guests can get their dessert fix, while the second contains a cantina called On the Rocks with a full bar. The third floor is used as office space. The Rooftop sits at the fourth floor, and the Sheas plan to use the space as a catering service and event center where musicians can play live music.

But I’m getting too far ahead of myself.

Jump for NSFW food photos.

Chef Ryan Olmos and owner Nathan Shea

Chef Ryan Olmos used to be the Execuchef at Eatzi’s for six years before he helmed the kitchen at Urban Rio. Now he’s el capitan on 1000 E. 14th Street in Plano, and his menu is what you’d expect from a Tex-Mex.. I mean, Nex-Mex restaurant: quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas, fajitas, the works.

There are exceptions that make Urban Rio a stand-out restaurant, and one that I’m sure many people will travel to Plano just to visit. For one, all the corn tortillas are made in house. “We take the corn and grind it ourselves [in the molino] and then we make the corn tortillas from that,” Shea explains. And, two, the tamale pie ($10.75), which Nathan Shea describes as a “Mexican pot pie,” isn’t a dish you see all that often. The fresh masa dough, diced chicken, chipotle crema, and Chihuahua cheese is served bubbling hot. It makes you feel as if you’ve just wrapped yourself in a comfy blanket after your first bite.

Adobo beef skewers with chipotle adobo and Mexican spices, brushed with chili oil and grilled

The grilled chicken rio club quesadillas are reasonably priced at $8.25, and stuffed with marinated chicken breast, refried black beans, caramelized onion, and Monterrey Jack cheese. This is an appetizer that could fill you up quickly because of its size. But this is Texas, and most people are used to eating big portions these days.

Smoked bacon and mushroom empanadas with habanero peppers and queso listo

Inside Urban Rio is a Rio Grande Valley-inspired interior that gives off a cool, desert-y vibe. The colors are earthy, yet vibrant at the same time. On the Rocks also serves the same food as Urban Rio, but the lights that change under the full bar make it more hip for twenty and thirty-somethings looking for a place to hang out. “The original Plano Ice House was built in 1917 and we incorporated the ice house theme into this part of the bar,” said Shea. He proudly showed us an old ice box he bought to use as decoration.

Shea also told us that there was a two-hour wait the first weekend Urban Rio opened. Pretty crazy. This place is already bound to be a hotspot for those who live in Plano.

Crispy corn-crusted fish tacos with jalapeno slaw, fresh cilantro, lime, and chipotle aioli
Tamale pie
Orange flan

5 comments on “Sneak Peek: Urban Rio Cantina & Grill in Plano

  1. nice photos. very clever to get that shot of the owner and the chef together like that! excellent idea

  2. A bunch of us met there last night for the Grand Opening and we were all blown away by the amazing food & drinks! I personally am in love with the chicken quesadillias and their guacamole!

    Beautiful place! We were all talking bout how the Rooftop Lounge would make a great place to have events…birthday patties, showers, etc…then again…it’s perfect just for an evening cocktail with friends.

    Frisco Moms gives it two thumbs up!

  3. Went there last night for dinner and…wow….the food was simply amazing! I do understand, and hopefully everyone else does, is that the first few weeks a new restaurant has been opened is where the work the kinks out and refine their game. That said, the restaurant is still getting its legs with having just had the grand opening last Monday. What I mean by that is that there were a few glitches with the evening.

    The first glitch was that they were all out of the Tamale pie, which is a shame because it sounded really, really good – and now that I’ve seen a picture of it here really makes me wish they were a bit more prepared. But no matter – the other diner with me ordered the same dish (the pulled pork) and we were quite pleased with that. This leads me to the second glitch – our main course arrived before our appetizer did, so we were hit with quite a bit of food to eat at the same time. Again, no huge deal. After dinner we were curious as to what they had for dessert. I figured Tres Leche cake would be an obvious choice. Well, apparently all they had was flan and nothing else. BUT….this was not ordinary flan….this was orange flan, so no arguments there. And yes….it tasted as good as the picture in this articles makes it out to be!

    So, despite a few minor bumps, everything looked good (food, restaurant inside, building, etc), the food tasted excellent (not one complaint about appearance, taste, etc of anything we got) and there was a constant stream of people coming to the restaurant and that to me is a GREAT sign that this restaurant will do well. I know for sure that I’ll be back soon!