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Bye-bye Arby's, hello Cafe Rio

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Here’s something that was fun to watch … last week Greg White, using the teeth of an excavator bucket, skillfully plucked off the outside trim of the Arby’s restaurant on North Mission Street in Wenatchee.

In just over a day, the owner of G.L. White Construction (general contractor on the project) and his crew had taken the first step towards transforming the former roast beef sandwich joint into a Cafe Rio Mexican Grill.

In case you didn’t know (and we didn’t), Cafe Rio is a fresh-Mex, sit-down eatery that, in menu and service, rests nicely between Taco Bell and larger family restaurants. Sort of like a hefty spoonful of sweet pork barbacoa (Caribbean barbecue) between the folds of a handmade flour tortilla, which is one of Cafe Rio’s specialties. Yeah, that’s it exactly.

In coming months, White and crew will install a new exterior and remodel the inside to fit the specs of Cafe Rio, which is a Utah-based franchise with more than 50 restaurants in a dozen states. The Wenatchee outlet is the first in Washington State.

A few fun Cafe Rio facts: restaurants have no freezers or microwaves because everything’s prepared fresh daily; all tortillas are made from scratch while you watch; employees at each restaurant squeeze more than 1,000 limes a day; secret recipes (particularly the spice recipe) are locked in a safe every night. Those tidbits are from the company website at

Curb that drooling, however. White said remodeling could happen pretty fast but complications with sprinkler systems and other stuff means the new restaurant probably won’t be open till spring.

’Fraid that means no fire-grilled steak salad with creamy tomatillo dressing for the holidays. Maybe for Apple Blossom Festival?