Get A Taste of Mexican Tradition At Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill

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A picture of the popular dish, Parrilladas.

Kathleen Bennett, Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill

As soon as one lays his or her eyes on Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill, it is known that Rio Azul is no ordinary restaurant-it is a familial experience. Half of the dishes on the menu are recipes from owner and Chef Ernesto Gastelum’s own family.

As soon as you step into the pueblo-style restaurant, the soft lighting and bright colors of the décor and the aroma of spices and chilies will make you feel like you have been transported to a small village in Mexico.

According to Chef Ernesto, he wants his customers to experience and enjoy the traditional Mexican cuisine that he handcrafts every day from recipes inspired from his own family. Born in San Benito, Sinaloa, Mexico, Chef Ernesto is proud to share his Mexican heritage with his guests.

Born on a farm in the mountains, Chef Ernesto learned to cook by helping relatives cook from scratch with fresh ingredients.

“The Cochinita Pibil is my favorite dish,” Chef Ernesto said. “It reminds me of when I was a kid growing up. I could smell all of the wonderful spices and the flavor of the pork my mom was cooking – amazing! I love pork!”

The Cochinita Pibil, a slow-roasted pork cooked in banana leaf with fresh orange juice, lime juice, achiote sauce, Serrano and Habanero peppers, topped with red onions and served with a homemade empanada with cheese and garlic, is also a favorite among Rio Azul's customers.

Another Gastelum family tradition and popular signature dish is Parrilladas. The dish includes a combination of citrus marinated grilled shrimp, bacon-wrapped shrimp stuffed with jalapeño and jack cheese, quail, grilled chicken and grilled steak served over grilled onions, green and red bell pepper, with fresh guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, cotija cheese, rice, and a choice of beans.

According to Daniela Saenz, the general manager of Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill and Chef Ernesto’s daughter, Rio Azul's namesake margarita, The Rio Margarita, is also especially made with fresh ingredients.

“We make our own Limonada and use fresh ingredients,” she said. “The Rio Margarita is made with fresh squeezed limes, oranges, agave nectar and organic blue agave tequila.”

Even though Chef Ernesto does not live on a farm anymore, he still uses the freshest ingredients from Coachella Valley Produce, the Certified Farmer’s Market and the Savory Spice shop in Palm Desert to keep the integrity of his family’s rich cooking traditions.

He also continues to use the same love and passion for making great food.

Get a taste of family tradition at Rio Azul Mexican Bar & Grill.

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