Brenner Wrong. Reitz is Close. Urban Rio in Plano Features Great Chips and Salsa

Urban Rio’s interior; prickly pear CACTUS frozen margarita; chili-rubbed grilled tuna. (Photography by Kevin Marple)

In the current edition of D Magazine, I review Urban Rio in Plano. As Leslie Brenner would say, “I quite liked it.” However, La B did not. Last week, she granted Urban Rio one lonely star (paywall may apply). I felt she took points off the place for the wrong reasons. She notes the ubiquitous TV screens (it’s Tex-Mex in Plano!) but dismisses the efforts the kitchen takes to produce fresh ingredients such as grinding corn into masa on site and making sophisticated, time-consuming sauces (inspired by Mark Miller!). She fails in Tex-Mex once again for stating: “For dipping, there are baskets of sturdy, not particularly addictive tortilla chips. The unnatural-looking bright green ones? They’re made from cactus, a server tells us.” Leslie, that’s a good thing.

And shame on you Mr. Scott Reitz. In his Dallas Observer review he types: “Sure, there’s an endless procession of store-bought chips you can dip in a tomato-heavy salsa or runny black beans…” Huh? Didn’t you spot the workers hand cutting the tortilla chips in the open kitchen? I’ll give Reitz three stars for grasping the history of Plano and noting the significance of Urban Rio. TVs or no TVs, Nathan and Bonnie Shea, who also own Urban Crust down the street, are responsible for adding a chef’s touch to the food served in historic downtown Plano.

Guys, I understand you are both from out of town, but in Dallas we take our chips and salsa seriously. Oh, I see a best chips and salsa post. Come on gang, tell these two where to go. For chips and salsa, that is.

For your consideration:

There have been plenty of prospectors who have talked about developing historic downtown Plano into a vibrant, hip destination. The Fillmore Pub and Vickery Park, two spinoffs from trendy Henderson Avenue in Dallas, sparked the fire when they moved in among the vintage clothing stores, furniture markets, and quaint embroidery shops that have populated 15th Street for many years. The little old ladies who lunch at Jörg’s Cafe Vienna began sharing the sidewalks with tattooed barflies.

But Nathan Shea is the one who fanned the flame. He has opened two thoughtful and successful restaurants, turning East Plano into a destination for diners from as far away as Oak Cliff. Plano doesn’t seem remote when you sit at a table in the second-story bar at Urban Rio and watch the twinkling lights of Reunion Tower in the distance.

Jump for more and fabulous food porn.

Shea has been a believer in Plano since he moved here from Michigan in 1972. He taught school at Richardson’s Berkner High for 15 years. After class, he dabbled in marketing and bought and sold real estate. His wife, Bonnie, spent 25 years in the oil and gas business. She retired from a large firm and decided to strike out on her own. The Sheas looked for office space near their home in Plano and stumbled on a vacant building on East 15th Street that was once a saddle and harness store. Nathan bought the building and, with the help of his builder brother Michael and designer Cal Young of CYA Design Collective, finished out the interior and added a second floor to accommodate Bonnie’s office. Then they not only changed their minds, but they also changed the energy of downtown Plano. Bonnie and Nathan partnered with Salvatore Gisellu (the Sardinian chef who owned Daddy Jack’s Wood Grill in Deep Ellum) and his wife, Jeanne-Marie, to open Urban Crust Wood-Fired Pizza and 32 Degrees Rooftop Bar in 2009. The street that once shuttered at 5 pm was now open late. The search for Bonnie’s office continued.

One more jump for the reveal.


Shea's tamale pie. (Photography by Kevin Marple)


  • Texas Xs

    Too bad for Dallas that two out of three critics are Rank Amateurs and what do we have to show for it. Lame reviews that put out false information with NO perspective on Tex-Mex OR Mex. Nancy, glad you are setting it straight.

  • That salsa is a total snooze, and the beans were inconsistent across two visits — runny one time, thick the next and rather bland compared to Gloria’s both times.

    My favorite salsa may be at Cafe Maya in Oak cliff. The chips are store bought, but the salsa is loaded with smoky chili flavors and flecked with black charred chili skin. Meso Maya has a great chili-driven salsa too.

    I may be from the north, but chips and salsa are ubiquitous, and I’ve been dipping since I long before I could legally drink tequila. I’m bored with Tex-Mex or “Next-Mex” places that offer tomato based salsas with tomatoes that taste like they’re come from a can.

    Other than a few dish gripes, Nancy, I’d say we wrote nearly the exact same review. I even found myself defending Urban Rio from cantankerous table mates, too. Great minds…

  • MM

    “Tell them where to go” — LOL

  • Chips and salsa are ubiquitous? Like bagels, they are! Other than that, your place or mine?

  • Maple

    So, are we to believe that Canadians know Tex-Mex?!?

  • Get a room, you two.

  • allison

    My favorite lately is the roasted salsa at Mariano’s. Mainly because I really like roasted salsa. And I want thin, preferably warm, white corn chips. El Fenix chips are the worst. If you have both, I will love the place.

  • WmBTravis

    Brenner would be much better suited to managment at Belo, as she does her part in the Belo cabal to drive-up the bottom-line and drive-down profit with her boorish, paradigmic reviews.

  • CocoV

    My favorite would have to be Uncle Julio’s chips & salsa.

  • Jilly

    Forgive me if I’m wrong, but aren’t restaurant reviews usually more about the food and less about the owner’s credentials (or perceived lack thereof?).

    Reviving downtown Plano is all well and good, but in my three visits the food has been passable. Sure some dishes are interesting, but I’ve yet to have anything that I couldn’t get just as good, if not better, someplace else. The jalapeno slaw on my mother’s fish tacos was so salty it was almost inedible, and the fish was unnaturally fishy. Definitely not worth all the hype.

  • Charles b

    I love this place. I took a group of ten for my wife’s birthday and the loved it. I would say the 1.5 hour waits on Friday and Saturday night says others love it too.

  • Bill

    Nothing Special IMO. I agree with Scott and enjoy the salsa at Meso Maya