Rio Rebirth: First Look at Canteen Food Hall Menus and More


There’s a metric hell-ton going at Rio, including the upcoming opening of its Canteen Food Hall on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024.

Rio’s owner, Dreamscape, is investing about $350 million in the beleaguered off-Strip hotel-casino. Dreamscape took over operations of Rio from Caesars Entertainment in Oct. 2, 2023.

We’ve got the inside scoop on what’s happening at Rio, including an exclusive first look at the menus for the resort’s new food hall. Or, as the kids call it, boom.

Whatever they’re called, food courts, food halls, food collectives, they’re here to stay and we’re a fan.

It was rough seeing Rio neglected by its former operator, although, it didn’t make much sense to invest in a casino it sold.

Dreamscape is determined to return Rio to its former glory, and from what we’ve heard, they’re making a lot of smart moves to accomplish that goal.

The only way to go is up, and Rio’s rebirth is going to surprise many Las Vegas fans who have given up on the place, bemoaning the loss of the once-renowned Carnival World Buffet and free “Masquerade Show in the Sky,” among other things.

Food halls are the new buffets in Las Vegas, and Rio’s is shaping up to be a big draw. We’ve got an exclusive first look at all the menus for the Canteen Food Hall.

We bopped into the food hall in December. There’s been a lot of progress since then.

Rio’s food offerings have always felt a little hit-and-miss. For gamblers (especially locals), that’s about to change. Players demand hearty, fast casual food at reasonable prices. The Canteen Food Hall should deliver just that.

Rio has put together a tempting mix of concepts and cuisines. (The only important cuisine missing is Italian, but we hear Rio is getting a new Italian restaurant or two. Let’s go.)

The starting line-up includes: Attaboy Burger, Southland Burrito Co., Shogun Ramen, Tony Luke’s, Tender Crush and Nama Nama.

Most of the food hall outlets are existing concepts, except for Attaboy Burger, which is a Dreamscape original. Let’s dive into the menus, already.

The menus are intentionally trimmed down, to ensure optimal service and quality upon opening, but menu revisions are anticipated as the concepts get their footing at Rio.

First up, Attaboy Burger.

Simple, effective and not $34 dollars for a burger (looking at you, The Strip). First thing we’re trying is the Texas Toast.

Here’s the menu for Nama Nama.

The Blue Crab should probably have that lump checked out.

Nama Nama also has a take-out menu.

There are 126 sake rice strains. Hey, you try writing all these photo captions. We have things to do.

Tony Luke’s gets raves for its cheesesteak sandwiches, here’s the menu.

Trying this on our first or second trip, despite our confusion about the Kraft Cheez Whiz.

If ramen’s your thing, take a look at the menu for Shogun Ramen.

Ramen comes from a Chinese word meaning “pulled noodles.” Please note our restraint and maturity here.

Southland Burrito will feature Sonoran-style burritos.

If you don’t know what makes Sonoran-style burritos special, how do you even live your life?

We try not to play favorites, but we’re probably most aroused by Tender Crush. For one thing, we are a chicken tender fan. Secondly, this place comes from the folks behind Black Tap at Venetian.

Behold, our Rio food court to-do list.

Here’s more about all the concepts in the Canteen Food Hall at Rio.

We look forward to making our way though all the food hall offerings, but that’s just the beginning of what’s happening at Rio. Renovations are quietly under way through the resort, some visible, some not so much.

The exterior of the Rio is being repainted, and the building will now boast programmable lights (think Circa or Mandalay Bay).

The Rio’s marquees are being repaired and upgraded, which is welcome news, as the resort’s main marquee is one of the most spectacular in Las Vegas. The other marquee (closer to The Strip) will be devoted to Penn and Teller, who recently confirmed they’re staying at Rio despite the ownership change. Dreamscape didn’t want their wrap in its refurbished hotel tower, so the magicians get the marquee, complete with a new video screen.

The renovation of Rio’s main marquee should be done by Super Bowl.

Today’s visual metaphor for Rio.

The rooms are being renovated, and they look just like the renderings.

How detail-oriented are the operations folks at Rio? They made sure the curvy tables have glides on the legs to make moving them easier for housekeepers.

The Rio’s pool complex is getting a complete refresh.

The casino’s new carpet is sexy AF.

In big news for soda fanatics, Rio was formerly a Pepsi house, but is now transitioning to a Coke house. Yes, some people care about this. A lot. We, personally, will take any exclusive scoop we can get.

Rio has a new loyalty club, Rio Rewards. Here’s more.

At some point, Rio will become a Hyatt. The Rio name will stay. Bonus: Massive database, a must for any successful Las Vegas hotel. Ahem, Fontainebleau.

As new offerings come online at Rio, others are kaput, of course. The World Series of Poker has moved to The Strip. Live keno is done, as is The Duomo, an entertainment space, along with a weak attempt at Italian, Cupola Cafe.

The pizza was meh, as the kids say.

There are big sections of Rio’s massive casino floor that are currently sparsely populated. It’s a ton of space. Curious to see how Rio deals with these “dead spots,” but more new slots are in the works.

You can still see the “Show in the Sky” tracks on the ceiling. The floats are still in the building, and Rio says it might roll them out for photo ops.

Swapping out slots from the Caesars era has been a massive undertaking.

On the bright side, when we recently chatted with several top Rio executives, they seemed to have the right sensibility for turning the place around. They understand the balance of appealing to both locals and tourists. Station Casinos tried it at Palms, and drove away locals annoyed by the club and dayclub crowd.

Executives understand very well one of their biggest challenges will be to make guests understand those one-star reviews for Rio aren’t reviews of the resort as it is now, or how it’s going to be.

Rio is doing its renovation in phases, so there’s unlikely to be a big “reopening” celebration, no specific day when the renovation is “done.” Rio’s just going to be better, and those of us who have fond memories of Rio in its heyday will be able to visit the place again without cringing. (At one point, Caesars Entertainment rented out a big swath of the casino floor for timeshare salespersons.)

Dreamscape is taking down ads and putting up art. It’s dissecting every part of the business and investing in improvements.

Dreamscape is a real estate company, so it’s likely they’ll look to sell the Rio in a few years, but they’ve hired a solid team who have years of experience in the casino and hospitality industry.

If you’ve ruled out the Rio’s parking lot as a potential site for the A’s relocation, you haven’t been paying attention. The Trop deal is anything but a done deal.

Hope lives, and we can’t wait to see Rio transformed into a resort that’s Vegas-worthy again.


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