Cafe Del Rio Then and Now


This is the Werrin Building in Virginia City. It was originally built in the 1870s. Some sources say it was constructed in 1873, but the brick-and-rubble walls seem to suggest it was built after the Great Fire of 1875. But in any case, it was used as a general store, and the upstairs floor was a boarding house. It was abandoned in the early 20th century, and sat vacant for decades.

Inside the Werrin Building.

In early 2004 Brian and Ardi Shaw bought the building. The Shaws had run the Cafe Del Rio restaurant in Carson City for years, but a string of bad luck forced them to bounce between a total of three locations, and they finally threw in the towel and stopped trying to make it work. But when they found this building for sale, they saw an opporunity to bring their southwest cuisine to Virginia City. These pictures was taken in May 2004. soon after they bought the building but before they started renovations.


In January 2006 the renovation was completed, and the Cafe Del Rio opened to hungry customers. The original building wasn’t modified too much. The brick and rubble walls still stand, and the building’s facade has only seen minor changes. Most notably, there’s a little railing around the balcony that wasn’t there before. But overall, the outside has kept its historic charm, as well as the “170 S. Werrin 170” ghost sign over the entrance.

Where they did a lot of work is on the north side. The old shed and stairs on the side were demolished, and a brand new addition was built that houses the reception desk, waiting area, and bathrooms. The corrugated steel from the old shed was kept and recycled as a decorative element over the new kitchen area.

Inside the restaurant.

Inside is such a complete difference. Sure the original walls are still there, and so is the hardwood floor. But now it is no longer the cold, empty space it once was. This desolate old store has been transformed into a cozy southwest dining room, with a new ceiling (you used to be able to see through the cracks to the second floor), new furnishings, plants, inviting lighting, and local photos hung from the original rubble walls. The kitchen area is clean and efficient, and a small bar dominates the far end of the room. It’s not the same place anymore; it even looks bigger.

The food is delicious, the atmosphere is comfortable, and Ardi herself is the hostess and head waitress. I have a feeling the Cafe Del Rio is going to stick around for good this time.


  1. My husband & I were at the resturant saturday July 14th. We were not greeted by anyone for about 5-min. we were told it would be a few minutes, no problem with that. At that time a party of 5 arrived & the Hostess/waitress was able to seat them because a large table was available, no problem it will only be a few more minutes. We sat there for 40 minutes before we were able to sit down. We were never offer a drink while we were waiting, we ordered our meal it was another 30minutes for that. My rice & beans were cold it didnt matter at this point. Then a large party arrived & that was it for us , I had to ask for ice for my melted down ice tea,& our check. All I can say is you people are not very organized staff wise nor was the quality of our meal very good. NEVER AGAIN FOR US !!!!!

  2. My mother and I visited Virginia City in July 2007 and was very pleased to find a “real” restaurant in town. At first I thought we would be eating hot dogs or hamburgers but Cafe Del Rio serves up some tantalizing dishes at good prices. We did not have a problem during the mid-week to be offered seating. The large windows have wonderful views of the mountains. We are returning this summer to Lake Tahoe and regardless of Virginia City being an hour away, we are looking forward to our drive to a historic town and have a great lunch. Thank you Cafe Del Rio.

  3. Here it is July 2008 again, my 88 yr old mom and I revisited Virginia City to have lunch at the Cafe Del Rio again – unfortunately their lunch menu was limited so did not get my favorite dish, BUT the crispy beef taco was excellent (one was plenty), and my mom had the small romaine salad with succulent prawns- it was huge. The chefs in the kitchen know how to cook up the best meals I have ever had. So I will forgive them for the limited menu, this time. I will certainly come back for the food, clean restaurant and hospitality, not to mention a beautiful view of the Nevada mountains. It is well worth the out-of-the way trip. Check out the historic sites as well. The Piper’s Opera House was just restored – nice tour. We’ll be back…….

  4. Its September 2008 and we just had the pleasure of once again visiting the BEST restaurant in Virginia City–Cafe Del Rio.This was a special treat. We were greeted by Ardi who was very pleasant and showed us to our table after a very short wait. We had been here before and we know that this place can be very busy but that the food makes the wait worthwhile ALWAYS.My wife had the Cabo Tostada and said that it was “to die for”.It was Wednesday night and they feature a “Gospel Fried Chicken” special. I had it and all I can say is I’d sing for my supper anytime as this fried chicken was the best I’ve ever had.For dessert we shared the Creme Broulee and it was delightful.In short if your in Reno, Carson City or at Lake Tahoe, you will enjoy visiting historic Virginia City and especially enjoy dining at Cafe Del Rio. Its a 5 Star place in my book.

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