‘The Rio’ Moves Back After Fire: Extensive Remodel and Same Great Service, Food, Drinks

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant front door (Photo by Blaine Howerton)

By Blaine Howerton | New SCENE

After a devastating fire in July, 2021, Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant has re-opened its doors at 143 W Mountain in Fort Collins.

“After more than 30 years on West Mountain Avenue, it was time for time for an update, and the kitchen fire expedited the process,” said Pat McGaughran, founder and owner of the Rio. “Whether it’s a happy hour or wedding reception, the Rio has been a community gathering spot for years, and we are very excited to be able to bring the community back together in our original space. The renovation celebrates the history within the walls and also gives the space a more modern and contemporary look.”

Pat McGaughran, Owner of Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant in Fort Collins (Photo by Rolly Medina)

COVID in 2020 was a scary time for Rio. “We managed to find our way through all that,” said Pat. “I felt like the community figured out a way for us to keep moving forward. We are very grateful that all that took place, and we had the fortitude to keep moving forward.”

Then the fire happened. ” I got a call at 1 o’clock in the morning, and they said the building’s on fire. I thought this was it,” said Pat. 

But, firefighters saved the building. There was a spot close by, a temporary location. According to Pat, the insurance company covered the losses. “We pulled all that together, and it’s been tremendous that we had that facility. So now, here we are!”

Upcycled decor at the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (Photo by Blaine Howerton)

Pat explained that they gave special attention to the remodeling details at a recent press luncheon while standing in the new dining room. They upcycled much of it and kept the traditional look and feel while modernizing the building (originally built in 1902).

As always has been the case, Rio gives special attention to ingredients in the food and drinks.

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant’s bar in Fort Collins (Photo by Blaine Howerton)

This author has ordered the same green chile-smothered chicken burrito for nearly 20 years. I ventured out at the luncheon to try the steak and Portabella Fajitas! I’m a huge fan! The FRESH JALAPEÑO MARG was an excellent complement with Cazadores Reposado, orange liqueur, and fresh muddled jalapeño & lime.

“I’m grateful to have this opportunity. We have been in this location since 1991,” said Pat. “This place has been an amazing place for people to gather over the years.”

Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant offers happy hour Monday thru Friday from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., lunch and dinner daily (times vary per location), and weekend brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Vegan-friendly and gluten-free options are also available at each location.


Custom artwork at Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant (Photo by Rolly Medina)

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