The Rio – Thirty Year as the Heart of Downtown

by Kyle Pogue

The day was hot and dry. Within the walls of the courtyard, it was cooler. Water babbled from the massive stone fountain and the splashing sound of it was calming. Children could be heard laughing in the distance. The couple sat at a table near the fountain, lounging in the direct sunlight. In front of them sat an empty plate with the last spoonfuls of rice and beans scattered around the edges. There were two empty beer bottles and two long stemmed glasses with one more drink each of margarita in them. There was a small plate of cut limes. The couple looked at each other and both knew they should go. They should get up, exit through the large gates of the courtyard and head back into the city. They should go and GET THINGS DONE…… The water spoke softly to their left. A bird landed on the fountain’s ornate centerpiece and added its quiet voice to the song of the afternoon. The couple both saw the smile in the other’s eyes before the corners of their mouths began to hook upward. One more margarita.

Welcome to The Rio.

Officially called The Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, to all of us hungry and thirsty Fort Collinists it is simply, The Rio. Located in the heart of Old Town Fort Collins since 1986, this Texas-inspired staple of our town’s food and drink culture is set to celebrate their 30 year anniversary this year. Fajita plates will sizzle, chips will be deeply dipped, and of course, the margaritas will flow!

Ahhh… The Rio margaritas, one of the cornerstones of the restaurant since first opening their doors. Many have heard the story and it is true, the recipe for the famous Rio margs did indeed come about when the owners were mixing drinks for themselves one night and ended up “enjoying” them so much that they forgot to write it down. They dove back in the next night, found the same magic through trial and error and this time documented it, much to the benefit of all of our tequila loving souls. They must have found true magic, for this small, family owned and operated restaurant is now the largest seller of Jose Cuervo tequila in the nation! I know that sounds like something I just made up right now, but it isn’t! They sell the most, and you and I, fellow margophiles, drink it.

There are few experiences that are as Fort Collins specific as enjoying a margarita on The Rio’s beautiful and secluded back patio. Many bars and restaurants advertise as a “getaway” from everyday life. The Rio delivers.

Much of that getaway feel can be attributed to the staff at The Rio. They are friendly, hardworking and know how a restaurant should be run. Without any of the phony, over the top attitudes that you may receive at so many chain restaurants, The Rio has maintained a genuine, family owned feeling while still delivering top notch service. They even have multiple generations of families working at the restaurant. You don’t find that too often, but when you do, it’s because the place is doin’ it right.

There are many reasons to go to The Rio: the chips and salsa (my favorite in town), the pan-seared mahi tacos, their chile con queso (get the deluxe!), the fajitas, and of course, the incredible margaritas. You should go to enjoy great service from a great staff. You should go when you want to celebrate with a group of friends. But my favorite reason for going to The Rio remains the same as it always has; to enjoy a few cold drinks out on their patio and let the worries of the world slip away. This is a spot where you can get away without ever leaving Fort Collins.

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