Costa Vida vs Café Rio: The Truth Behind The Rumors
For years I have heard rumors about Café Rio and Costa Vida's origin stories. The restaurants are so similar, it's no surprise people think the two must be connected in some way. And everyone likes a sordid tale of betrayal. One popular theory that I have shared myself, is that a husband and wife started Café Rio together and after a nasty split, the wife started Costa Vida to spite her husband. Another version cites a set of best bros who went to war over control of the restaurant and one broke off and started his own.
Tired of wondering what the truth is every time I stuff my face with a burrito at either restaurant, I decided to actually research how these Mexican grills got their starts. According to Fast Food Menu Prices, a husband and wife did start Café Rio together. Steve and Patricia Stanley started their food establishment in 1997 in Southern Utah, quickly garnering accolades in the quick service restaurant space. in 2004 they began expansion into other states. But there was no marital split that lead to Costa Vida's creation.
In fact, it was a different marriage altogether that started Costa Vida. Sarah and JD Gardner began their restaurant venture in 2003, also in Utah. The idea for their Mexican Grill was inspired by a vacation in Cabo San Lucas. But there was enough similarity in both restaurants for Café Rio to file a lawsuit, which is the only real drama of it all.
And even that wasn't such a big deal. They settled in 2007 (details of which weren't disclosed). Both chains are thriving and for me it's a matter of proximity more than anything on where I choose to dine. But I will say, Café Rio does taste better than Costa Vida. Which do you prefer?