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Meet Michael Lee of Urban Rio Cantina & Grill in Historic Downtown Plano

Today we’d like to introduce you to Michael Lee.

Michael, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I grew up in a small town in east Texas called Mt. Vernon, where I began my career in restaurants at 16 years old at the local Dairy Queen. After serving four years in the Air Force with a deployment in Baghdad, Iraq, I moved back to Texas to pursue my degree in Business.

While going to school full-time, I got back into the swing of the restaurant business working as a server at Downtown Plano’s Urban Crust. After almost a year, the owners asked me to take over managing the bar operations at their new concept, Urban Rio.

After spending time managing the bar, I moved to managing the back-of-house operations, then was promoted to General Manager in 2016.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
With any business, particularly the restaurant business, there will always be some struggles along the way, whether it is dealing with staff turnover or inconsistent vendors. I’m glad to say that nothing has been impossible to handle.

Urban Rio Cantina & Grill – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Urban Rio is a Mexican restaurant that specializes in serving “Next-Mex,” a refreshing and inspired, chef-driven menu, highlighting Mexican and Spanish influences from the Rio Grande Valley using only the freshest and most authentic ingredients and recipes.

We are probably known best for our triple-stacked, Rio Club Quesadillas, Stuffed Avocados and Shea’s Tamale Pie. On the beverage side of things, we’re known best for our top-shelf margarita, La Verdadera, which was named “Best Margarita” by Dallas A-List.

As a company, the thing I’m most proud of is the culture we’ve created for our staff. When you join our team, you become part of a family that is supportive if things get tough and will be the first to celebrate with you during your successes. We continually strive to create an “all for one, one for all” mentality on our team, and that can be hard to come by in the workplace.

Unlike many restaurants today, every single thing on our menu is made and served fresh each day. Our menu offers authentic, fresh and innovative items with a heavy focus on quality produce and items made from scratch–down to grinding corn for our tortillas, freshly muddled fruit for cocktails, and house-made, flavored marshmallows for our signature s’mores dessert.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
The owners of the restaurant, Bonnie and Nathan Shea, deserve all the credit. They had the vision to create a restaurant that would allow friends and family to join together over the best chips, salsa and margaritas in DFW, and not only did they create that, but they have allowed me the opportunity to grow and flourish in my career. They welcome any new idea and are always supportive of trying new things at Urban Rio.

My wife, Rachel, who also works for the company, has been my biggest encourager and sounding board. No matter the situation, I can always count on her for support. We make a great team.

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