Huevos rancheros is a typical brunch dish, even outside of Mexican restaurants. You'll find them at the LoDo branch of Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant, along with plenty of other south-of-the-border favorites that get the brunch treatment — even if it just means adding eggs and homefries to lunch and dinner entrees. But that's just fine with us; all the better to build a solid base for absorbing the Rio's legendary margaritas.
Steak and eggs are a prime example. Tender, thin-sliced steak — the same as what you'll find in the fajitas, tacos and burritos — is piled next to two eggs (your way), diced potatoes and black beans. The dish comes with warm and malleable housemade tortillas, so you can construct your own breakfast tacos, if handheld brunch is your style.
While everything on the Rio Grande's menu could be considered a classic (since the cantina chain got its start in Fort Collins more than thirty years ago), the rellenos are the only dish listed under "Classics" on the menu. Breakfast rellenos are simply roasted and fried green chiles stuffed with eggs and cheese and flanked by more of those potatoes and black beans.
Breakfast tacos are another Tex-Mex standard, here made with spinach and potato or chorizo and potato, along with eggs and cheese, of course.
Any place that serves complimentary bottomless chips — especially at brunch — has a special place in my heart. They're just right alongside one of the sweet-and-sour house margaritas, available in a traditional, lime-heavy house marg or frozen in mango, strawberry and "manberry" — a mango-strawberry mix. For the manberry marg, the bar swirls the two flavors lightly so they stay separate in the glass: It's as pretty as a Baja sunset. The margaritas can also be ordered in mini-glasses, allowing you to sample all of the flavors in a flight. The Rio has about thirty different bottles of tequila and a few Mexican beers.
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The Rio's patio is one of the biggest in LoDo, especially impressive considering the cost of downtown real estate. With so much space, the patio is a great way to enjoy summer brunch while keeping cool under patio umbrellas and overhead misters. Some of the tables accommodate up to eight people, so you can brunch with friends and family without bumping elbows.
The restaurant recently participated in Plastic-Free July, when plastic straws were only served on request. Can't imagine sipping your marg without a straw? Manager Crystal Murrain says that Rio Grande is exploring a long-term solution to avoid using plastic straws. “We’ve tried paper straws, but those disintegrate in the margaritas pretty quickly, but we've found some biodegradable options, and we're trying to facilitate the use of those in the future,” she explains.
Rio Grande has six Colorado locations; the LoDo cantina is located at 1525 Blake Street and serves brunch from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Hot tip: join the MargMob to land a free margarita or queso and then earn points for additional goodies.