The downtown Boulder location of the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant has embarked on a redesign. The first phase is a revamped rooftop bar and the addition of a cozy, low-ceilinged (and therefore very loud) new mezzanine bar. In this repurposed storage room, the new Shift Bar was named to recognize the building’s earlier role as an auto-body shop. The walls are decorated with the likes of an arrangement of wrenches evoking the past.
Traditionally, people haven’t gone to the Rio primarily for the food, though it is scratch-made and reliably consistent. They go for the margaritas (a limit of three per person, whether a petite woman or a big guy with a linebacker build). The service always seems to depends on the server and can be anything from off-handed to efficient. And it has not been a place for cleanliness freaks, because the table might be sticky or the floor sprinkled with crumbs and other food remnants — or maybe not. But for potent drinks, a party atmosphere and moderate prices, it can’t be beat. In a previous post, I wrote about the Rio experience — and it has better food images too.
The menu has been tinkered with to bring it very much up to today’s tastes in food and drink. In addition to the potent margaritas (rocks or frozen, salt or not, lime or strawberry), the Rio has now cocktailized its drink menu. New on the menu are the likes of Ranch Water (El Tesoro silver, soda water and fresh lime), Paloma (the Rio’s introduction of Herradura silver plus soda, fresh grapefruit juice and a slice of lime) and the Perfect Storm (Herradura reposada, fresh lime, ginger beer and cassis). In addition to the tequila cocktails, the new cucumber mojito is the only rum-based item.
Executive chef Nate Booth has developed a new bar menu of scratch-made small plates to go with the new drinks. Some samples: