A Mexican restaurant with a half dozen locations throughout Colorado will soon have an additional home in Frisco at the Whole Foods Market shopping center.
Developers recently broke ground on the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant. The establishment is slated to open around June 2014.
Rio Grande prides itself on offering a fresh, healthy escape for patrons — along with a reputable margarita. The original Rio Grande was opened in Fort Collins in the late 1980s by Pat McGaughran and two of his childhood friends from the Texas Gulf Coast who wanted to bring the flavors and culture of Tex-Mex to Colorado.
“After wandering about various parts of Texas and Mexico, we really discovered and fell in love with the culture, the wonderful people of Mexico — and the food, of course,” said McGaughran. “Not to mention, the notorious beverage — the margarita.”
McGaughran said he created menu items based on recipes he and his friends discovered during their travels. The result is simple, tasty dishes that speak for themselves, he said.
“One of the things we discovered through travel is that food doesn’t have to be over-seasoned or over-spiced to be truly delicious and something that you can eat day after day,” he said. “We are going to prepare food simply, because that’s the way we grew up, and the flavors ring true to that today.”
Rio Grande representatives said they didn’t plan to build a location in Frisco, but seized the opportunity because it fell in line with their vision.
“Frisco appealed to us in many different ways,” Rio Grande CEO Jason Barrett said. Frisco’s central location and situation along the Interstate 70 corridor met the restaurant’s brand equity needs, he said. The company also liked the idea of establishing itself in a neighborhood with company brands they wanted to be associated with, such as Whole Foods.
“It was interesting to us as a co-branding opportunity,” he said.
The Frisco establishment is an opportunity for Rio Grande to build a location from the ground up. Its other buildings are located in established neighborhoods where they have converted buildings. The newest location will be a freestanding restaurant, which Barrett describes as scalable.
“We can go from operating 3,000 to 7,000 square feet depending on the volume,” he said.
The final push for Rio Grande owner and operators in deciding to open the new establishment was the town of Frisco itself, Barrett said.
“Frisco is a wonderful place, and a place that is on the rise,” he said.
The new restaurant in Frisco isn’t the only way the business is expanding. It’s adding new food and drink items to its menu, including some smaller plates, a high-end margarita and a “skinny” margarita, McGaughran said.
The new cocktails and bar menu will add another layer of enjoyment to the Rio experience, McGaughran said.
“We are known as the place to go for margaritas and tequilas, and now we are bringing in some interesting tequilas from all sorts of distilleries in Mexico, McGaughran said.
The new items are being rolled out at current Rio Grande restaurants, and will be on the menu at the new Frisco location, he said.
“One of the things we discovered through travel is that food doesn’t have to be over-seasoned or over-spiced to be truly delicious.”
Rio Grande co-founder