Megan Barber, 303 Magazine, The Rio Grande, Rio Margarita, Margarita, Denver's Best Margarita, Happy Hour Margarita, Denver's Best Happy Hour,What: The Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant

Where: Locations in Boulder, Denver, Fort Collins, Greeley, Park Meadows, and Steamboat Springs

When: Happy Hour is available Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 6:00 pm

Pros: Margaritas are delicious and the three drink limit is no joke.

Cons: New happy hour food menu is much better but don’t come expecting gourmet dining.

Megan Barber, 303 Magazine, The Rio Grande, Rio Margarita, Margarita, Denver's Best Margarita, Happy Hour Margarita, Denver's Best Happy Hour,

The Tropical Guac

A few years ago, ok fine, a decade ago, I was a frequent flyer at the Fort Collins Rio Grande. During college my friends and I would head to the Rio for margaritas, chips and salsa, and a great start to our evening. But now that you are more likely to catch me at the bar at 5:00 pm than 10:00 pm, I’ve found that I head to the Rio less often. Aware that they might be losing out on the happy hour clientele, recently the Rio Grande just unveiled a new happy hour menu that will be available at all locations by November 18.

Let’s start with the drinks. The margaritas at the Rio are as good as ever. Both the Rio Margarita ($6) and the Big Tex Margarita ($7) are on happy hour, but I prefer the classic Rio Margarita combo of tequila, salt, and lime. There aren’t any other drinks on happy hour, but let’s face it, if you are coming to the Rio you are probably there for the margarita anyways.

The happy hour food options are what have changed. I started with the Tropical Guac ($3), a mix of guacamole, salsa verde, and mango salsa. The dip was light, refreshing, and paired perfectly with the margarita. I also enjoyed the Steak Empanadas ($6), which were served with corn salsa, salsa negro, cheddar, a red chile sauce, and avocado crema. The steak was tender and well cooked and the red chile sauce was delicious. Seafood Empanadas ($7) are also on the menu, but I found this dish a little lacking in the flavor department. A better seafood option is the Ceviche ($7), which has lime marinated wild caught shrimp, veggies, and avocado. The ceviche was tasty and had the right amount of acid, but it’s certainly not the best in town. Order the ceviche if you want a food item that’s healthier than the chips, queso, and guac that are the norm at Mexican restaurants.

Overall, the happy hour food at the Rio is better than expected and much improved. Still, the margaritas are what shine here and there are better happy hour food options at other restaurants. The Rio doesn’t take chances with its happy hour menu, offering up classic Mexican fare in a simple and unassuming fashion. It may not be inventive, but sometimes that’s okay. The bottom line is that you can count on the Rio to be a great spot for friends, margs, and good times.