Open 7 Days: 11AM - 2 AM; kitchen closes 11 PM
(609) 943-2123 Google Maps
Gravitas: Decor: Cost: Proximity:
Flying Down to Rio is a 1933 movie, best known for Fred Astaire’s screen debut with Ginger Rogers. They got 3rd and 4th billing, but stole the show, and the rest of their careers went down in cinematic history.
South Rio Restaurant is built in a restored Art Deco night club (the former Maxine’s) which easily could have been used as a set in this movie. It’s a spectacular space, worth experiencing at least once. Even better, the current management is offering good food at reasonable prices: so you may find yourself returning often.
The new owners, the brothers Henry and Jorge Mata, have made tasteful improvements (constructing an attractive bar in the front of the main dining room, and remodeling the side room as a cosy lunch space). The dance floor is still there. Keeping with a Sports Bar theme, large screen TVs line the walls, though the sports are as likely to be soccer matches as NFL football or MLB. Jorge Mata, the manager, is omnipresent and affable. As of the date of this review, April 2016, the restaurant was operating in “Soft Opening” mode. The staff seems competent but is still learning the ropes.
The food is varied and surprisingly good. The menu is basically “American” food including burgers (including a superb Veggie burger), sandwiches, salads, and dinner entrees: chicken, seafood, and steaks. For lunch, you can order off the menu or, if you’re in a hurry, order from a cafeteria style buffet. Prices are very reasonable for the quality, and the portions are more than adequate. We’ve rated the restaurant as $$, which is accurate, but perhaps a little misleading. If you order carefully, and don’t drink alcohol, you can certainly get out for well under $15 head, particularly for lunch. At the time of this review, the lunch buffet with a main course and two sides, cost $9. Similarly, sandwiches or burgers are $8-9, and dinner entrees are $14-26. The Rio Tuna steak shown in the header image is $18; the chicken tower was $16.
If I have any reservations about recommending this place, it’s that I’m pretty sure it hasn’t yet found it’s identity. The food is good, but the menu lacks focus. Is it a lunch joint? A pleasant restaurant? A bar? A sports bar? A dance club?
The Mata brothers would like to answer, “Yes” to all of the above, but I’m not sure they’re all mutually compatible. We’ll see. In the meantime, it’s well worth checking out, and a valuable addition to the downtown restaurant scene. Note the bar is open until 2 AM, but the kitchen is open to 11 PM.