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 friends and 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 three of them 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 five locations across Colorado. Now, as a 35-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