We don’t ask much of our Tex-Mex joints. Any place worth the salt on its Margaritas has drinks that go to your head, pools of melted cheese, and lighting dim enough to chalk the whole thing up as a bender. But Rio Bravo Tacos & Tequila, newly opened in the long-shuttered Globe space in Larchmont, surprises from the moment you eye its spiffy (yet unfussy) décor that harmonizes an impossibly varied palette and a huge cache of artwork. “Wowee,” said some guys who walked in while we ate, “I’ve gotta get these people to work on my home.”
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Photos by Leslie-Anne Brill
The colorful interior of Rio Bravo is matched only by the colorful food, drinks, and dishes you’re served.
Default to Margarita on the rocks with salt? Not so fast. At least check out the list of 10 preconceived drinks, from Skinny (fewer than 100 calories) to Torrero (shown below, Don Julio reposado and 100-year-old Grand Marnier), which arrives with flames leaping from a hollowed-out lime (submerge it for a smoked tequila flavor). But don’t stop there. A build-your-own Margarita scheme groups about 60 tequilas into three columns—blanco, reposado, and añejo (from least to most aged)—then lets you choose a fresh-squeezed juice, a seasoning (from PAMA pomegranate liqueur to Cock ‘n Bull ginger beer), and a salt or sugar rim. Most are reasonably priced, but Herradura Selección Suprema extra añejo will run you $60 (the agave is propagated by bats and grown from plants dating back to 1870!). You can build a Margarita from this pricey selection, but it’s best appreciated straight.
How hot is this joint? The drinks are literally on fire.
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Food goes a bit beyond the ordinary. Co-owners Edgar and Hector Brambila know they have a good formula with Rio Bravo in Fairfield, Connecticut, which opened a year and a half ago, and have expanded into Larchmont and Westport (also in the Nutmeg State) simultaneously. Tacos, made with gluten-free, hand-stretched yellow corn tortillas, include varieties like chicken fried steak with caramelized onion, and turkey club (turkey carnitas with avocado, lettuce, and bacon). Marco Polo tacos with bacon-wrapped shrimp and chipotle crema were well made and generously portioned—interesting and tasty, if not more than the sum of its parts. I was excited to find queso dip—melted white cheese with roasted green chiles, a Texas thing—but less excited to find it needed more chiles. Other offbeat selections include enchiladas Sonoma (cheddar cheese, grilled chicken, and spinach, with Chardonnay cilantro pecan sauce), Colorado chicken salad with sugar-roasted pecans, and achiote-and-lemon-seared salmon with roasted pineapple. Dishes default to a gringified lack of heat, but the website assures that “if you like your meals picante, we’ll make it pure fire.” Surprisingly, it was the tableside-prepared guacamole that had a peppery kick.
The place is so new that we were the first to unwrap the plastic from our bottles of Cholula hot sauce (in four flavors!). So far, the newfangled dishes don’t threaten to overtake the classics, but the up-level margaritas are well worth a step out of your comfort zone.
Rio Bravo Tacos & Tequila
1879 Palmer Ave
(914) 341-1546; riobravotacosandtequila.com