El Rio Grande offers authentic Mexican style fajitas, burritos, chalupas, chile rellenos, chimichangas, enchiladas, tamales, tostadas, salads, flautas... Peek into the kitchen at the rear of an unassuming A-frame building at 8334 Airline Highway during lunch or dinner and you’ll likely see a diminutive gentleman manning the stove or the food prep table. If you happen to catch 84-year-old Joe Urdiales handling a knife and engage him in conversation, he’ll make eye contact with you while he continues chopping onions, bell peppers, tomatoes or whatever’s on the chopping board before him. When Urdiales isn’t darting around the kitchen, he’s probably patrolling El Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant’s dining area, chatting up new and decades-long regular diners, wryly delivering time-tested one-liners as he’s been doing for over 52 years.
Urdiales is the patriarch of Baton Rouge’s first family of Mexican food, which has been running the city’s oldest Mexican restaurant since 1962. Whether Urdiales continues fixing authentic Mexican nachos, burritos and handmade tamales for another 52 years, or whether he hangs up his apron tomorrow, he’s made a lasting impression in the Baton Rouge food community.