Tio’s: A Rant

by John on May 13, 2009 · 12 comments

I was driving on Washtenaw in Ypsilanti, and I noticed a small sign on the front of Tio’s Mexican Cafe. The sign read “Best Mexican Food in Ann Arbor”. This was a hard thing for me to digest because.. Well.. Tio’s sucks. The food is terrible. It is quite possibly the least authentic, overpriced, pile of shit “Mexican” restaurant I have ever been to.  I found myself trying to think of local Mexican restaurant that wasn’t quite as good as Tio’s.  Couldn’t do it.

If somehow you work at Tio’s and you find yourself reading this and disagree with me, I would be more than happy to come in and eat any food you recommend.  Prove me wrong.  Until then, here’s exactly why your restaurant sucks.

Tios’ recipes are their own interpretation rather than an attempt to mimic either the American Southwest style of Mexican cooking or traditional Mexican cooking. The problem with this is that their interpretation is like a bad, overpriced version of Taco Bell without the drive through. Tio’s tries to serve you the least quality food possible, which is basically a bunch of beans dressed up in different ways, then tries to squeeze a buck out of you any possible way they can. Tio’s prices are already high, but when you get your bill at the end of your dinner, you may be shocked to find the following additions charged to you:

  • Sour Cream – $.99
  • Beans & Rice – $2.99
  • Beans without the rice – $1.69-$2.99
  • Corn Chips.   Without salsa.  That’s extra of course – $.99
  • Guacamole – $1.49

Yes, this is correct.  Unlike any other normal Mexican restaurant you do not get chips and salsa for free, beans & rice do not come with your meal and any thing extra you want to add to your meal is going to cost you at least a dollar.  If you were to order the wet burrito with a side of rice and beans with salsa and sour cream, it would end up costing you $12.46 before tax.  This is for a shitty tortilla stuffed with bad meat, way too many beans, and way too many vegetables with a heaping amount of bland red sauce and yellow cheese(more on this later).  Also, A fifty-cent charge is added to your bill for two extra flour tortillas when you inevitably come up short in the tortilla-to-fajita ingredient ratio.  Wouldn’t this be like charging for a couple of extra packs of Saltines for your chicken noodle soup at Denny’s?

Next, Tio’s does not serve beer or even margaritas.  When was the last time you visited an establishment that served Mexican food that didn’t serve at least a basic margarita?   You would think a restaurant that serves food this bad would at least try to liquor their customers up before serving it to them.  Also, you would think a place that tries so hard to squeeze as much money as possible out of people would attempt to serve alcohol, which is quite possibly the most overpriced item on your average menu.

I already called the food shit, but I will emphasize this again with its own paragraph.  The food is shit.  I’ve honestly had better Mexican food at hospital cafeterias  The cheese is yellow, which if you read my blog regularly, you know is a complete sin for any Mexican restaurant.   The shredded chicken resembles cat food and might quite possibly taste even worse.  The Nachos are about 80% refried beans, 10% onions with a smell that strangely resembles body odor, and 10% random vegetables and a few pieces of meat.  The “world famous” wet burrito?  I’m sure the citizens of countries across the world are putting in overtime so they may afford a flight to visit Tio’s Mexican Cafe for their incredible wet burritos.  Also, while you might expect a Mexican restaurant to serve some sort of Mexican dessert, Tio’s decides to strategically go the opposite way, give the middle finger to the entire state of Mexico and serve the most random pre-made desserts that they could get their hands on.  After your fajitas, treat yourself to a “Ultimate Fried Chocolate Brownie Hot Fudge, Caramel Sundae”.  If your stomach wasn’t hurting already from the poor quality food, this will surely do the trick.  If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, maybe the New York Cheesecake will do.  Because when I think Mexican food, I think New York Cheesecake.

Oh, and you know you’re in a terrible Mexican restaurant when the entire perimeter of the parking lot and every square inch of the building’s exterior are decorated in American flags and other assorted red, white and blue decorations.  You sure do get your fill of American patriotism when you visit Tio’s Mexican Cafe.  I almost feel like saying the pledge of allegiance before eating my Huevos Rancheros.

In summary, If you would like to replicate the dining experience at Tio’s, do the following:

1. Remove one Ortega tortilla from its box.
2. Open a can of refried beans.
3. Find yourself some regular old shredded cheddar.
4. Combine, heat, and serve.
5. Throw $10.99 in the trash.  Unless you want any additional condiments or sides.  That will be extra.

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

CP May 13, 2009 at 12:31 pm

Don’t forget about their specials. Today only, you can get $0.25 off your $8 burrito! Every other restaurant (Mexican or otherwise) manages to find actual Mexicans or other latin dudes to work the kitchen – yet Tios hires hillbilly ex-cons. I was disappointed to hear that its no longer closing.

John May 13, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I heard from a former employee that they re-use their chips. Sick man, sick.

wouldibuyitagain.com May 13, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Probably my favorite post since I have been following your site. Hilarious. We have a pizza place here in Indy (Goodfellas, check my site for the review) that claims it is the “best pizza in the world” as they won some world competition. However, the pizza is pretty damn good, so I can’t pimp on them.

Tio’s sounds like it sucks really bad. New York Cheesecake, are you f’ing kidding? It is amazing that places like this stay open. My closet Mexican restaurant is one of the shittiest in the city, and that makes me sad.

John Gundrum May 14, 2009 at 5:47 am

Great post, I have to agree 100% that tios does suck for sure

New Pand May 14, 2009 at 8:23 am

HA… fantastic.

John May 14, 2009 at 9:40 am

I tried to put it into words how much this place sucks, but I still feel as though I did not do it justice.

Liz October 2, 2009 at 9:56 pm

After reading your “review,” what I can’t seem to to figure out is how, if their food is so bad, has Tios stayed in business for over 25 years? Just so you know the local community has voted Tios “Best Mexican” for the past decade (that’s A2 news, Michigan Daily, Current Reader’s Choice, and The Detroit News). Visit the new location at 401 East Liberty to see the wall of awards and try some of the new menu items. Of course you are entitled to your opinion. I’m just putting out a different perspective.

John October 3, 2009 at 9:56 am

I am fully aware of Tios longevity and awards. Because of those awards, I would have to question the credibility of the voters. Obviously the majority of these people have no knowledge of good, authentic Mexican food. This was primarily the reason that I decided to write this. Calling Tio’s the best Mexican food is like saying Pizza Hut has the best pizza.

Michael January 6, 2010 at 8:13 pm

I am so glad to hear that I’m not crazy and that someone agrees with me that Tio’s is the worst “Mexican” food every conceived of. When I moved to Ann Arbor about a year and a half ago, I stopped in for some late-night tacos. I was shocked that two tacos in what seemed liked hard, off-the-grocer’s-shelf Ortega shells cost me something like $9. And they were crap! I could hardly finish them, but felt obligated to because of the money I had just wasted. My friend kept telling me that maybe I had gotten a bad batch and that I should really give it a second chance. No way! I haven’t been back since. And yes, I too was confused be all the awards they had. Clearly, it was the first time the people doing the voting had ever been served something labeled “Mexican food”, since the only way they could have picked Tio’s as the best is if they had never tried anything to compare it against. Gah!

Shannon June 4, 2011 at 3:15 am

That was the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time.

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