Rio Cristal, the iconic Cuban restaurant on 40th Street, will close its doors on August 31st due to economic troubles from the pandemic, an employee confirmed to NBC 6 Friday.
Rio Cristal is well-known for its french fries and traditional Cuban cuisine. The restaurant opened its doors in Westchester in 1974.
"I’m not so sure that the community will be able to get over this," wrote local food blogger Sef Gonzalez, who broke the news of the restaurant's closing on Thursday. "You have until August to enjoy this Miami icon."
Gonzalez told NBC 6 that he grew up in Westchester, and would frequent Rio Cristal with his parents and grandparents. "There's definitely an emotional attachment to it; it's sad to see it go," he said.
An employee from the restaurant told NBC 6 that economic troubles resulting from the pandemic had made it impossible to continue to operate, especially since the price of rent has not gone down and the restaurant does not have the necessary space to offer outdoor seating.
The restaurant is nestled between a variety of iconic Miami spots, such as La Carreta and Sergio's, but Gonzalez said that what made Rio Cristal stand out was its "old school" feel.
"It really was like walking through a time portal," he said. "The staff dressed like what you would have seen back in the day, and they have hearty, big portions."
According to Gonzalez, the restaurant's most famous dish was the #51 Super Rio Cristal Steak with a pile of fries. "When people see the pictures, they go crazy," Gonzalez said of the meal.
On the restaurant's website, it says that founder Jose C. Acosta first had a run with the restaurant business in New York before moving to Miami to create "the famous mountain of french fries over the juiciest palomilla steak" that gave Rio Cristal its fame.
Locals took to Twitter to mourn the loss of the restaurant and its iconic dish.