About Us

TIMES WE CRAVE


We care about black beans. Seriously, we really do. That’s how the Rio all started.

Back around 1986, before handlebar mustaches, sleeve tattoos, and VanLife hashtags were a thing, three hippie brothers from Texas packed up their van (#VanLife), and hopped around Mexico for a while. It was the combination of the good people cooking delicious black beans down there, and the good people with a craving for something different up here, that sparked everything the Rio stands for today.

Black beans not being a crop in Colorado, the brothers brought seeds to a farm in Longmont, and together everything grew from there. Shortly after, the Rio served the first fajita in the Rocky Mountain State. That was a cool day.

So yeah, black beans are pretty special to us. Maybe a little too special, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Fajitas, we consider them like you would a first-born child. No pressure, right? Our endless pursuit of the perfect plate of nachos is something we’ll always lose sleep over. Let us know what you think of our new take on them. And, if a day ever comes where we don’t make fresh salsa and fresh tortillas at the start of every shift, that’s the day we close our doors. Locally-sourced is what we were founded on long before everyone was at the farmer’s market. Because there are no shortcuts (we even fired a guy who said he could make the beans quicker).

That long, simple, delicious, journey through Mexico lives on in every dish we have and will ever make. At the same time, our eyes are peeled for the next inspiration to strike on another wild adventure. So, pull up a chair. Lower your guard. Enjoy some damn good TexMex with some damn good people. The only thing you can’t put a fork in is us because we’ll never be done.

 

HISTORY


Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant has been serving Colorado its own brand of from-scratch TexMex fare since 1986.

Founder and Owner, Pat McGaughran, grew up in Houston, Texas, a city known for its cultural diversity, including a strong Latino community, and TexMex cooking. Living in such a melting pot, McGaughran spent his youth eating plenty of fresh, Mexican food, both at his friends’ homes and out at Houston’s well-known TexMex restaurants.

As young men, McGaughran and his two friends Andre and Stephen Mouton packed up a van and spent extensive time traveling through northern Mexico and the Yucatan, learning more about the culture, and, of course, the food. McGaughran discovered and fell in love with a whole new cuisine, asking for recipes along the way.

The First Rio Location

After McGaughran’s travels, he settled in Fort Collins, Colorado, and while he loved his new home, he missed the food he enjoyed in Mexico, especially the chile rellenos and the black beans. He began cooking his favorite recipes for friends and even gave black beans to Lucy Stromquist, a nearby farmer, to grow this non-native crop locally.

Shortly after, McGaughran decided to take the leap and open a restaurant, the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, in Old Town, Fort Collins, with Stephen and Andre Mouton, where he could introduce his beloved TexMex food (and slow-cooked black beans!) to everyone. That long, simple, delicious journey through Mexico lives on in every dish “The Rio” will ever make.

The Rio quickly became not only an outlet for him to share his passion for Latin culture and food but also a place for guests to have a laugh with friends over a good meal. When guests visit the Rio, they feel a positive, welcoming energy in an environment where they can feel at home and even let loose a little.

The concept was so popular that over the next three decades, McGaughran opened six locations across Colorado. Now, as a 33-year-old Colorado icon, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant is still the state’s favorite spot for fresh TexMex and strong margaritas. However, today’s dining scene is changing.

Big Changes for The Rio

More than ever, diners are looking for an “experience” rather than just good food on a plate. To better serve this shifting demand, McGaughran is renovating his two most popular locations, downtown Boulder and LoDo Denver, to create a more modern, hip environment, with expanded food and drink offerings, including more shareable options.

The completely renovated Boulder restaurant boasts an entirely new look with upgraded furniture, new paint, carpet, and flooring, as well as cozier seating and a living wall, giving the space a bright, fresh, warm ambiance. Next to the bar, a new tequila wall features shelves upon shelves of hand-selected, premium liquor. The bar is now in the center of the restaurant, creating an even more inviting, inclusive environment. The new space also includes an open kitchen, giving patrons a peek at the artistry that goes into making the Rio’s fresh, from-scratch menu items.

Along with a refreshed vibe, the Rio is dedicated to bringing fresh ingredients, interesting flavors and chef-inspired preparation to the menu, while staying true to the traditional dishes that made the Rio famous. Patrons can still get the classic Rio margarita, flame-grilled fajitas and handmade tortillas they’ve loved for decades, but now, new salsas celebrating different chile varieties have a spot on the menu. Even the Rio’s upgraded taco selection brings a more interactive, modern dining experience with a la carte, mix-and-match ordering and seasonal, featured items.

At the bar, patrons can find a full menu of spirits, local craft beer, and 11 fresh margarita varieties. Under the direction of their tequila ambassador, craft tequila-based cocktails, such as the Rio’s new Añejo Smash, offer another new twist on a classic drink style, while still paying homage to the Rio’s history as one of the nation’s largest tequila purveyors with more than 60 hand-selected tequilas and another 17 vault tequilas.

The Rio Today

With a new aesthetic and updated menu, the Rio brings an approachable yet premium TexMex experience to the Colorado dining scene, and that will continue with another restaurant renovation planned for its downtown Denver location in late 2019.

From introducing Colorado diners to fajitas over 30 years ago to more recently partnering with local farms for Harvest Days for a late-summer, seasonal menu, there have always been new things to experience and enjoy at the Rio. The Rio will always be home to those tasty margaritas, flavorful fajitas, and slow-cooked black beans. Good food done well will always stand the test of time.