Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant opens seventh location in Frisco
If you go
What: Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant
When: Grand opening is Monday, Sept. 22
Where: The Basecamp, 182 Lusher Court, Frisco
Cost: Appetizers range from $4 to $11.95, entrees from $7.95 to $17.95 and specialty cocktails from $7 to $11
Signature item: Grilled steak and cheddar burrito smothered in green chili, spicy green chili, veggie green chili, ranchero or tomatillo sauce
Kids menu: Yes
Dining options: Dine-in, carryout
More information: Visit www.riograndemexican.com
Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant will open its seventh location in The Basecamp, near Whole Foods on Lusher Court in Frisco, on Monday, Sept. 22. The company’s new spot will serve the same famous margaritas and freshly prepared dishes found at its Front Range and Steamboat locations, plus a few items exclusive to Summit County.
“This mountain region has always been appealing to us, having been in Colorado as a business for 28 years,” said Pat McGaughran, owner and founder of Rio. “We love to come up here to play, and we think our fans spend time in the mountains playing, as well.”
Rio will join Summit County’s collection of more than a dozen other Mexican restaurants, but McGaughran said he feels like the new addition will complement his competitors.
“Our biggest distinction is what we describe as the ‘Rio experience,’” he said. “Part of our core values, the first one says, ‘People are our secret ingredient.’ We feel like we’ve been very successful in creating a great dining experience and great atmosphere for people who have been out and enjoying the beautiful world of Colorado that we live in. It might be described as the food or margaritas, but how we make people feel is something that we think is unique.”
Steve Richter, director of operations for Rio, said the restaurant chain views itself as Tex-Mex, and the key to its success is freshly prepared food.
“We’ve been making flour tortillas for 28 years, which is no small feat, somewhere between 1,000 to 2,000 tortillas per day,” he said. “That’s a big differentiator of ours, but more than that is everything on the menu is fresh. The guacamole is made fresh each shift; the salsa is made fresh each shift. Everything is made from scratch; we don’t buy salad dressings or green chilies canned — everything is made in house.”
This philosophy carries into the restaurant’s bar, where specialty cocktails and margaritas are made with fresh-squeezed juices and high-quality tequilas and other spirits, Richter said, including the famous Rio Marg.
“The recipe for the margaritas started pretty simply,” McGaughran said. “My original partners and I grew up knowing how to make margaritas, and we were trying to find the one recipe that we all agreed upon. … We stumbled across a great concoction, a great recipe; it caused a dance party to occur, just the three of us.
“But we forgot to write it down, so we had to do it again. And we rediscovered it and wrote it down, and it’s a beautifully simple recipe and one that’s brought a lot of joy to people over the years. It’s hard to have a bad time when you’re drinking a margarita, especially a great margarita.”
Richter said the No. 1 item that Rio features is its fajitas, with grilled steak, shrimp, chicken or veggies, a simple but flavorful marinade and fresh-made tortillas, guacamole and pico de gallo. Many of the ideas for recipes came from the founders’ upbringing in Southern Texas, as well as travels to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala.
“We were inspired by the simple, beautifully prepared food,” McGaughran said. “That inspired our menu, which hasn’t changed dramatically in 28 years.”
The core of the menu is Rio’s smothered burritos, which start with sautéed chicken, braised pork, grilled steak or bean and cheese, served with fresh-made green chili sauce and melted cheese.
“My favorite is the mahi tacos, which a lot of places will throw in the deep fryer, which is equally delicious, but we choose to do ours a little bit cleaner, a little bit healthier,” Richter said. “We do pan-seared mahi tacos.”
“We serve that with steamed veggies,” McGaughran added. “You won’t find that combination in other places — healthy and delicious.”
Rio is also family-friendly, said Shannon Hayhurst, general manager, which has contributed to its long-term success in other communities.
“One of my favorite aspects of it is now the kids that were small when we opened are parents and bringing their kids in,” McGaughran said. “When I see a small child with black beans smeared all over their face, I know I have them for life; they will be Rio fans.”
Hayhurst is excited to open the doors of the new restaurant and welcome locals and visitors to see how this Colorado brand has grown and evolved.
“I’m looking forward to really being the hospitality spot of Frisco, serving the best food and great margaritas and having a great place where the community can come and enjoy,” she said.
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