Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Restaurant

Written by on January 15, 2012 in I Eat America, I Eat...Out with 0 Comments

(unclejulios.com) – Ballston neighborhood, Arlington, Virginia

How I heard of this place: Haivng moved to the east coast, and finally into our first home, together, Chris and I walked by Uncle Julio’s numerous times. Upon each pass, we noted that we should someday eat at the brightly colored establishment. When our friends Sam & Jenelle joined us for dinner a few months ago, they highly recommended Uncle Julio’s, and asked us, again, if we had tried it when we saw them last month, and again, the other night. When our friend, Zitta was celebrating her birthday, we knew it was our time to partake of the Rio Grande Restaurant.

Birthday Dessert

Type of cuisine: “Uncle Julio’s is committed to providing only the freshest and highest quality Border Style Mexican Food. With distinctive Hacienda decorating style, we created a unique restaurant concept around original recipes that demand only the freshest ingredients tailored after Uncle Julio’s family tastes. Beyond tacos, enchiladas and tamales, Uncle Julio’s specializes in marinated and mesquite grilled beef and chicken fajitas, ribs, quail, frog legs, and jumbo shrimp.

Ambiance: A large space, assumed from the outside, obvious when walking around the floor-to-ceiling windowed space to find the front door, and even moreso when one steps into the dark, yet brightly-colored establishment. Chairs and tables are set apart with ample space between for people to walk to and from their tables, giving wait-staff more than enough room to carry their sizzling fajitas platters to hungry diners. The large foyer opens up onto the bar, still giving the children and young at heart something to keep themselves entertained: the flour tortilla oven. The plexi-glass case leading from the restaurant to the kitchen hosts a four-tiered rotating, glass-encased oven where the small balls of dough make their way from the top tier, down a small slide, to the next tier and so on, until they end, flattened and cooked to fluffy perfection in the white, linen-covered basket below. Matching, mini mosaic patterns surround the lights on the walls throughout the space, where parties of two, four and twenty (ours) can be easily accommodated.

What I ordered: Being part of a large crowd ordering everyting from fish tacos to chicken, beef and shrimp fajitas, I opted for our server-recommended favorite: the Guadalajara ($21.95), Uncle Julio’s signature grilled jumbo shrimp orochette, stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapeno, and wrapped in bacon, served with my choice of combination (chicken & beef) fajitas.

Shrimp Fajitas

Chris selected the Juarez ($19.95): pork ribs slow smoked over mesquite wood and his choice of chicken fajitas, served with a sie of chipotle barbeque sauce.


Both dishes were served with a side of fresh hand-made guacamole and pico de gallo, rice, frijoles a la charra and home-made flour tortillas.


What I loved: Surprisingly, I cleaned the pork ribs to the bone! The taste, the texture, the temperature. Perfect. I also loved the fresh, thick cut guacamole. The rice and frijoles, often my least favorite items on the plate, took me by surprise, and I finished every bite! The flour tortillas, cute, fluffy and filling. Of the fajitas, the chicken was my favorite! I especially loved the grilled, whole jalapeno on my personal sizzling plate.

Why I loved it: The portions were reasonable; they would have been more reasonable had I not eaten the entire large bowl of oily and warm, fried, crispy, flour tortilla chips with chipotle salsa to start! The food delicious and well-prepared. The staff friendly and comfortable. The ability to accommodate a large party, amazing!

Cost: Average to high ($20 average per dinner entree)

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