Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Cafe

Tango with your taste buds at Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Café, where the aroma of homemade salsa, sizzling fajitas and slow-cooked ribs lure diners in with authentic south-of-the-border style food.823restaurantspotlight.jpg

The festive surroundings at this eatery emulate distinctive Hacienda décor, surrounded by a spacious dining area adorned with potted greenery. Lively music enhances your experience at Uncle Julio’s, where stuffed bull heads mounted on the orange-painted walls adds to the ambiance.

Located only one block away from the Ballston Metro station on Fairfax Drive, Uncle Julio’s offers an alternative to American cuisine with its Mexican-inspired dishes. Tucked along the side of the restaurant, a patio provides a quiet retreat from the neighboring office commuters hurrying past.

Once seated, warm tortilla chips and a side of roasted tomato salsa arrive, compliments of the chef.

Try a custom margarita, created from your choice of more than 10 different tequilas. The Swirl, a frozen concoction consisting of margarita and homemade sangria layers, is a favorite among the restaurant’s patrons. The ceviche royal ($8.95) is a recommended seafood starter. Shrimp, scallops and tilapia are marinated in a fresh lime and lemon juice mixture and combined with tomato, onions and cilantro.

The el dorado ($9.75) is one of the lunch specials listed on the menu, offering two soft beef or chicken tacos sandwiched with diced tomatoes and shreds of iceberg lettuce inside warm flour tortillas. Be sure to add a side of sour cream ($.75) for the tacos. A cup of fresh fruit and a dollop of cream agria accompanies the tacos, adding a sweet finish to the meal.

In keeping with traditional Mexican cuisine, the guadalajara ($19.95) is a top pick: grilled jumbo shrimp brochette stuffed with Monterey Jack cheese and jalapenos wrapped with bacon. Pick your choice of chicken, beef or combination fajitas to pair with the shrimp. The entrée is also served with rice, frijoles a la charra, pico de gallo, fresh guacamole and warm flour tortillas.

For a famous mesquite grill, try the honey chipotle salmon ($18.95). Mesquite grilled salmon is glazed with a honey chipotle sauce and served with corn-black bean-cilantro rice and a side of pineapple pico de gallo.

The restaurant also specializes in ribs, quail, seafood and even frog legs. The matamoros ($17.95) features grilled marinated frog legs, along with your choice of chicken, beef or combination fajitas.

An order of sopapillas ($5.25) is sure to add a sweet finish to your dining experience at Uncle Julio’s. These puffed Mexican pastries are sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered sugar, and served warm with honey for dipping.

On weekends, the restaurant serves favorites during its brunch hours. Huevos Mexicanos ($9.25) are among the three breakfast tacos offered. Three eggs scrambled with onions, peppers, tomatoes and cheeses are rolled in fresh flour tortillas. Another breakfast choice is enchiladas norteno ($9.25). Three flat cheese and onion enchiladas are dressed in a zesty red sauce and topped with two eggs over easy.

Committed to serving original recipes with only the freshest ingredients, Uncle Julio’s specialties include tacos, enchiladas and tamales, paired with marinated and mesquite grilled beef and chicken. For a break from the workday, Uncle Julio’s lunch specials and entrees offer a quick and enjoyable Mexican getaway.

For more than 22 years, Uncle Julio’s restaurant has provided hospitality in a fun atmosphere.

Uncle Julio’s Rio Grande Café


4301 N. Fairfax Dr.

Arlington, Va. 22203

Sun. – Thurs.: 11 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.

Fri. – Sat.: 11 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.

Sat. – Sun.: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.