Everybody knows the Rio Grande for their dangerously quaffable margaritas. The 3 margarita limit is there for your own good! If you decide to stop by for Restaurant Week, you’ll be glad to know that one marg per person comes with the $52.80 meal. But there’s more to this CO institution than than bountiful beverages.
Let’s start with the salsa. If soap is the yardstick of civilization, then salsa is the yardstick of Mexican restaurants. The Rio does not disappoint. Their salsa is made daily in their “from scratch” kitchen, along with the tortillas, meats, and all the other ingredients they use. Spiciness is important to me as a New Mexican, but it’s not all about heat. Good salsa, like the (complimentary!) stuff they serve at the Rio, has to have depth of flavor, freshness, and the right consistency to be scooped up on a tortilla chip. Rio does it right by keeping it simple: tomato, onion, cilantro, salt, lime and a bit of jalapeno for kick. And the chips are darned good, too.
Your first choice will be between their two marg styles. The “Big Tex” is the classic option: good tequila, triple sec and lime, served on the rocks. I liked the Don Julio Reposado tequila best, but Patrón ain’t bad either. Salt is optional, but you know you should. The “Rio Grande” margarita comes on the rocks or frozen, and includes the fruity flavors all the ladies love: strawberry and mango. If you don’t want it too sweet, consider asking for a strawberry “lite” margarita. Next you’ll pick an app to accompany your libations. I recommend the guacamole appetizer.
The Rio makes killer guac, but my fav was the roasted jalapeno on the side. Don’t let this little chile be a benchwarmer. Instead, use the cilantro, pepper and pico de gallo on the side to create your own ideal dip. If you opt for the side salad, ask for extra dressing. The house dressing of poblano ranch was great, I only wanted more of it! I liked the tortilla soup, but next to the guac it was a little underwhelming.
For the entree, you’ll get your choice of one of 5 different kinds of tacos or veggie fajitas for the meat averse. I tried the grilled steak tacos with ancho pepper sauce and queso fresco. I loved the smoky just-grilled flavor of the beef, and the sauce complimented it perfectly. I also tried the tequila shrimp tacos, topped with especially delicious avocado crema. The folks at the Rio seem to really know what they’re doing
with avocados, every time they touch the firm green flesh of this healthy fruit they create something spectacular. Don’t be shy about adding a little salt and pepper to the sides (rice and beans or rice and veggies) that come with these dishes. Their famous black beans are excellent with a little spice.
On the menu I recieved, the only desert option was chocolate chile crème brûlée. I see on the Restaurant Week menu posted on their site they’ve got something else listed, so I’m not sure what you’ll get when you go. If you get the crème brûlée you’re in for a treat. Topped with sugar and a bit of red chile, this brûlée’s got bite! Just be careful of the mint garnish, it looks great but clashes with the chile.
It’s not hard to get a great meal at Rio Grande, but it might be hard for you to resist hitting the 3 margarita limit. My advice? Take it to the limit.
Check out my blog on Euclid Hall’s Restaurant Week offering, too!
Geoff Phillips is the Food & Booze desk editor for 303 Magazine. A compulsive foodie, he's constantly on the lookout for offerings that are new, fresh and reasonably priced. If he's not at the farmer's market he's probably browsing recipes.