Head East of the Rio to Rio’s

Have you ever walked into a birthday party of someone you didn’t know and been welcomed as if you’re supposed to be there? This is precisely what happened to me last night and it is such a cool feeling! My friend Michelle of Better Bites of Austin called to invite me to Austin’s own charming Eastside South American cafe, Rio’s Brazilian, which was celebrating it’s first birthday, about one hour before the party. I happened to be on the Eastside already, so I stopped by. I was immediately greeted by owner Ben Googins, who literally walked me through the entire drink menu. Yes, me…the unknown party crasher, when he had friends and family there to entertain!  I went with a glass of my favorite, Vinho Verde. After all, I had to spontaneously celebrate their birthday! Oh, and another sign I instantly became part of the family? I sat next to Ben’s proud mother who drove in from Manor for the event. In the photo below, from right to left: Elias Martins (co-owner), Ben’s mom, me, Michelle, Ben Googins (co-owner).

About ten minutes after I arrived, I noticed the decor of the living room-like cafe complete with a plush white couch and vibrantly painted walls adorned with eclectic art. And, suddenly, the TV in the corner began airing Cooking Channel’s FoodCrafters, featuring Rio’s baking “savory cupcakes” and the room erupted with cheer! I immediately had to try one of the featured baked goodies, known as Empadão, with a smooth golden top and filled with hearts of palm, green olives, mushrooms, and carrots.

The pastry dough was a little soft, a little chewy, and a little crispy on the edges and the filling was hearty and comforting. It was served with a very delicious and spicy sauce that I of course LOVED.

And this wasn’t Rio’s TV debut. They’ve been featured on Cooking Channel before for their Cheese Bread, or Pao de Queijo. In fact, here’s the recipe, but we should probably leave it to the experts.  Check out the adorable ambiance!

Really, this post could go on forever because I can’t stop gushing about this adorable, tasty, and hospitable South American cafe. Before I go, I will tell you a little I learned from Ben and Elias about their business.

  • They live a few blocks away because they’re cooking and working so often.
  • They get to work at about 7 AM and leave at about 10 PM on a regular work day.
  • The cafe is closed on Mondays, but they’re still cooking and working to ship and distribute products in the many places consumers can purchase them to enjoy at home.
  • They started out by selling their products at the downtown farmer’s market. Ben said he would recommend this to anyone because it was an easy and cost effective way to get exposure and sales. Eventually, 2 days a week wasn’t enough and after hopping around many kitchens, they made their home kitchen and the cafe their base camp.
  • The Empadão used to be the best seller. Now, their breads are most popular.
  • Ben traveled to Brazil to teach English years ago where he met Elias. Together, they ended up cooking and are serving up these delicious eats that are enjoyed beyond Austin!
  • They recently expanded the cafe to have a new back room, which houses about 10 additional modestly-sized tables.
  • They have a front patio that’s just adorable, adorned with colored lights that would be lovely in warm weather.
  • You can find their products all around town, including Royal Blue Grocery, Spec’s, Whole Foods Market (5th and Lamar), Downtown Farmer’s Market. Here’s the complete list. Or, order online!

One thought on “Head East of the Rio to Rio’s”

  • Introducing: RebecConnections February 6, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    […] event at City Hall last year. I even met two new friends last week, Ben and Elias, owners of Rio’s Brazilian, when I found myself walking into their birthday party without having known them a minute before. I […]

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