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