The History of the Rio Grande Café in Salt Lake City | Utah

The Rio Grande Café began serving Mexican food in 1981, and since that time, it has remained locally owned and operated. Located in the historic Rio Grande Train Depot and offering Mexican fare in the form of enchiladas, tacos and chimichangas, the historic site provides patrons with a dining experience that is laid back and eclectic.The Rio Grande Cafe in Salt Lake City Utah

The History of the Rio Grande Café in Salt Lake City

An “Air Conditioned” Original

The Denver Rio Grande and Western Railroad service constructed the Rio Grande Depot in 1910 for $750,000. From the start, the owners billed the café as an “air conditioned” original. At the time, this feature was a profitable novelty, one that was, and still is, advertised via a pink neon sign installed over the café’s entryway. When you visit, you’re sure to notice the Taco Lady. Her painting is hung in the café’s dining room. The interior of the Rio Grande Café reflects a time when people ordered classic bottled Coca Cola while listening to tunes on the jukebox.

Historical photo of the Rio Grande Train Depot in Salt Lake City Utah

The Rio Grande Depot was a main travel hub in Utah, and it was designed to surpass the building constructed by the Union Pacific Depot a year earlier. The two stations echoed the fierce competition that was going on between D&RGW’s George Gould and UP’s E.H. Harriman, two well-known rail barons, at the time. Harriman wound up winning this competition since Gould wasted his family’s fortune building a rail line from Salt Lake City to San Francisco in a failed attempt to compete with Union Pacific. He completed the line, but it cost him his rail empire.

Construction of Rio Grande Depot in Salt Lake City Utah

An Architectural and Historic Treasure

As one of Utah’s most splendid structures, the building is currently the home of the Utah State Historical Society, which shares the space with the Rio Grande Café. According to locals, the building is haunted by the Purple Lady. Legend says that she was a jilted woman who was killed by a train when she attempted to retrieve a ring that fell onto the railroad tracks. People have reported seeing her in the women’s restroom of the café, and security guards have claimed to hear her footsteps when they’re in the station’s mezzanine.

Inside of the Rio Grande Depot in Salt Lake City Utah

Fusing the Past and the Present

The Rio Grande Café is the perfect blend of the past and the present with its historic architecture and tasty Mexican cuisine. Those who head to the eatery for lunch or dinner will be charmed by the ambiance and filled to the brim with good food.

Rio Grande Cafe dining room in Salt Lake City Utah

Meet Your Salt Lake Neighbor | Pioneer Park Coalition Vice Chair David Kelly

We as the PPC love to feature our Salt Lake City neighbors, both residents and businesses, on our blog. Today we are please to spotlight Pioneer Park Coalition board member (and newly elected Vice Chairman of the board), David Kelly.

Meet Your Salt Lake Neighbor Dave Kelly

Dave Kelly with Newmark Grubb Acres in Salt Lake City

We caught up with Dave to ask him more about himself, his business, and his involvement in the Rio Grande and Pioneer Park neighborhood of downtown Salt Lake City.


What company do you work for?
Newmark Grubb ACRES

Senior Associate – Office Specialist

I have been in commercial real estate for 13 years.

Downtown Salt Lake City

Commercial Real Estate Agent, Office Specialist: I help tenants find office space and landlords find tenants.

Our main office is located in downtown Salt Lake City, and we are intimately connected to the Pioneer Park and Rio Grande communities. We strive to help Salt Lake City remain vibrant and a desirable location for residents, businesses, employees and tourists alike.

We are a full service commercial real estate brokerage providing tenant and landlord representation, property management, facility services, corporate services and consulting services. We help businesses in relocating their offices to the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande communities, we consult with landlords on how to attract new businesses and their employees to the area, and we also consult with landlords on how to best develop/redevelop their properties to maintain a vibrant/bustling community.

I see the Pioneer Park/Rio Grande area growing with additional multifamily projects adding residents to the community. I also see new office and retail developments attracting in-state and out of state employers to the area, with great access to mass transit and Salt Lake City’s Station Center project being the catalyst to growth. Salt Lake City continues to be nationally recognized for a business friendly environment, a great workforce, and amazing outdoor recreation minutes away.

My favorite thing about what I do is how different each day is from the previous. I also love finding solutions for clients, whether that be finding an office space that will allow them to attract or retain top talent, or helping a landlord unlock the potential of their building.

The “why” for doing what I do is to provide for my family, to have a balance between work and family that allows me to watch my kids grow up. I love what I do. I love building lasting relationships. I love helping someone find a space that allows them to grow their business.

I got involved with the Pioneer Park Coalition very early on after volunteering at a family shelter. It was heartbreaking to see a child’s life condensed down to a box not much bigger than a shoe box.
Newmark Grubb ACRES is deeply invested in this community, we are locally owned and operated and have been a staple in Salt Lake City for nearly 20 years.


When we asked Dave for a recent photo, this is what we received. This is also why we love Dave and are glad to have him is a neighbor in our Pioneer Park community!

david kelly with Newmark Grubb Acres in Salt Lake City

Caputo’s Market & Deli | Neighborhood Spotlight | Pioneer Park Coalition

We love our neighborhood. The Pioneer Park area hasn’t always had the best reputation. We have had some rough years. But we fight through them. We are where we are in huge part due to our good neighbors and businesses who decided that the west side of Salt Lake City would be their home and they planted roots. None as much as Caputo’s Market and Deli located directly north of Pioneer Park.

Caputo's Market and Deli

Caputo’s Market & Deli

When Tony Caputo opened his market and deli in 1997, he says he never considered any other area. The Pioneer Park neighborhood was the perfect location. According to a June Deseret News article,

“We never thought of going anywhere else,” says Tony. “We liked downtown; we liked this part of downtown. You go to big cities, go to the Italian section, they’re always in crummy neighborhoods.”

Caputo’s has been a neighborhood staple ever since, staying solid as new businesses and housing projects grew around him. Three years ago, Tony retired, leaving the business to his son Matt and daughter-in-law Yelena. Matt and Yelena have continued the love and care for the Pioneer Park neighborhood, being active members and supporters of the Pioneer Park Coalition as we work toward our goal of making the Pioneer Park neighborhood inviting for all 24/7.Tony Caputo and family

PC: Deseret News

Caputo’s Offerings

Caputo’s Market and Deli offers a delicious smorgasbord of gourmet food. They offer only the best in cheese, chocolates, and deli meats. From the amazing sandwiches to mouth-watering Cheese Cave, everything is top shelf. But the atmosphere is far from pretentious. Whether you walk in in paint-covered jeans and an old ratty hoodie to a business suit, you fit right in. The market is loud, festive, and is a gathering place for friends, colleagues, and family. Even though he retired, Tony can often be found behind the counter or sitting at a table chatting with customers.

Caputo's Market and Deli cheese cave

Caputo’s also offers many classes for the community. Everything from cheese tasting to chocolate making. Check out a list of their upcoming classes here.

We are so fortunate to have Caputo’s Market and Deli in our neighborhood as a steady cornerstone. It’s so much more than a deli…it shows us every day what our goals for Salt Lake’s west side are and why we are working for our goals. We want to give a huge shoutout to Caputo’s also for their continued activity and support of the Pioneer Park Coaltion.

Gateway Bridal & Prom | Pioneer Park | Neighborhood Spotlight

We are fortunate to have some amazing neighbors here in the Pioneer Park neighborhood. Both residents and businesses alike make our vision for our area come alive. Today we would like to focus on Gateway Bridal & Prom, home of the LatterDayBride collection, located at 360 West Broadway, Suite #101, on the north side of Pioneer Park. Gateway Bridal is owned and operated by our own Pioneer Park Coalition board member, Nicole Thomas.

Nicole Thomas, owner of Gateway Bridal in the Rio Grande area of Salt Lake City

Nicole started Gateway Bridal more than 16 years ago. The original storefront was located at the south end of the Gateway Mall, almost directly across from the current Road Home homeless shelter. The years leading up to the move to the current location were difficult…it was hard for Nicole and her staff to see the area deteriorating as the Rio Grande neighborhood became more a drug haven than a place for customers to come buy wedding dresses. They had seen sex acts performed outside their office window, had addicts use their bathroom to shoot up, showed up to work to find someone had defecated in front of the door, and on a few occasions, people were even found dead in their parking lot, either from violence or drug overdoses. Pre Operation Rio Grande, Nicole felt she had no choice but to move her store, for the safety of herself, her customers, and her staff. You can read more from Nicole in her op-ed here.

Gateway Bridal located in the Rio Grande and Pioneer Park neighborhood of Salt Lake City

Nicole has been a longtime member and now a board member of the Pioneer Park Coalition. She knew when she moved she didn’t want to give up on our neighborhood, which is why she chose to move Gateway Bridal just down the street to it’s current location across from Pioneer Park. While many retailers moved out of the area completely, opting for the shiny new City Creek Center, Nicole knew Gateway’s home was on Salt Lake’s west side. While the problems that plagued the store back in the old location aren’t completely gone, they are few and far between, thanks in large part to the efforts of Operation Rio Grande.  

Now, for the fun part. Gateway Bridal and Prom is Utah’s premier bridal and prom destination. Their customer service is unparalleled and the selection is huge.

The gorgeous new showroom is like something straight out of a fairytale, and is every bride-to-be or high school girl’s dream come true.

From the individual bridal consultation areas with 360 degree views to the fun shared prom area where you can oooh and aaaah with your girlfriends, Gateway’s showroom is candy for the eyes.

Gateway Bridal is also home to the LatterDayBride collection, boasting the largest selection of modest wedding and prom dresses in the world! They also carry the largest selection of plus size wedding dress samples in the state, because they know not every bride is a Barbie doll and want every bride to be able to try on their dream dress before they buy. So from strapless to modest, size 0-32, you can bet you can find a bridal gown or prom dress for every taste AND every budget, with many wedding dresses coming in under $600!

We are so pleased to have Gateway Bridal & Prom in our neighborhood, as well as the leadership and service Nicole provides to our area and to the Pioneer Park Coalition as a volunteer.

Gateway Bridal

We hope you will come visit Gateway Bridal for your wedding and prom dress needs and check out their beautiful new show room and wide selection!

PC: AK Studio & Design