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 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.
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.
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.