A week before Connecticut forced restaurants to close to stem the spread of coronavirus in March 2020, we dined at the new Mexican eatery in Mystic CT, Rio Salado.
The restaurant had opened in December 2019 to very good reviews, and we finally got there just before the earth spun off its axis — well, maybe not that exactly — but before COVID upset pretty much everything, including the dining out experience.
Fifteen months to the day after we were last there, we ventured back to Rio Salado to give it another try, and it was just as good as we remembered. I never got to write that original review because the newspaper canceled weekly restaurant critiques when everything shut down and pretty much everyone went into hibernation.
The restaurant reopened for takeout, dine-in and patio dining months ago, but we waited until being fully vaccinated to go back indoors again. We went early on a recent Wednesday evening, and the place was hopping. After so much social deprivation, it was a bit jarring.
But there are safety protocols in place — masks required unless seated at your table, ample distance between tables, staff masked at all times, and employees dedicated solely to bussing and cleaning separate from those preparing and serving food.
We were up for it and excited to be back at Rio Salado. Our waitress was exceptional, ever attentive, spot-on in her recommendations, and willing to answer any and all questions.
She suggested we start with the Rio Rones ($15), chunks of crispy fried pork belly, and the Taquitos de Pollo ($10), rolled chicken tortillas. Both were very good, but if you order the Rio Rones, never tell your cardiologist. Served with a garlic mojo, a delicious blend of what tasted like citrus and cilantro, the crispy pork bites were delectable.
The thinly rolled chicken tortillas get a big thumbs up too. They arrived in a small bowl with a heaping helping of chile con queso and salsa fresca. We had considered ordering the Street Corn ($5), which we saw delivered to a nearby table, but agreed all that creamy sauce and crumbled cheese over an ear of grilled corn would be messy. But, wow, did it look good.