That big “whoosh” you heard back in May was the collective sigh of relief by northern Utahns over the stay of execution that the Rio Grande Cafe had just received. The state had reconsidered its plan to use the space, located at the historic Rio Grande Train Station, for its archives. Once a hangout for a variety of subcultures, the cafe is now popular with families and business people, happy to still be able to dine there.
Since opening its doors 21 years ago, cafe owners Pete and Jean Henderson have served up fine Mexican food and displayed the artwork of Utah artists. They enjoy being able to decorate the cafe with fresh artwork and welcome the new customers it helps draw in.
Originally displaying the work of some friends, the cafe shows a wide variety of artwork and tends toward the avant-garde. The cafe doesn’t actually sell the artwork that adorns its wood-paneled walls. Rather, if a patron expresses interest, he or she is put in contact with the artist.
Exhibitions hang for a month and are scheduled out about a year in advance. Many emerging artists who were first shown there went on to become well-known Utah artists. The Rio Grande now requires interested artists to first submit a portfolio of their work.
The Rio Grande Cafe (801-364-3302) is located at 270 Soouth Rio Grande Street in Salt Lake City. It is open Monday through Saturday for lunch from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. and dinner from 5 p.m. until 10:30 p.m., and Sunday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.
UTAH’S ART MAGAZINE SINCE 2001, 15 Bytes is published by Artists of Utah, a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.