The Rio Boulder Debuts New Shift Bar


The Riogrande has opened a new concept bar within the existing industrial space on Walnut Street in Boulder. The first phase of  The Rio’s renovation includes the rooftop bar and the brand new “Shift Bar” inhabiting a newly renovated prime location, hovering above the main dining area on the mezzanine level, just removed enough to create an entirely different atmosphere, dare I say, more hip? The space hosts similarly industrial details like raw wood and metal, yet fills a void that the Rio has been looking to address for a while now. While the Rio is a super popular and perpetually crowded establishment, it hasn’t necessarily been know as a place to grab an elevated cocktail or refined small bite. Although known for their fabulous Margaritas, The Rio aimed to step up their game, debuting a brand new Mexican inspired Tapas and cocktail menu along with the Shift Bar, which they plan to debut on September 30th.

“When looking to refresh the Boulder Rio, the team took inspiration from the building itself: a former auto body shop and filling station that was in existence for 60 years. The vision sought to capture the essence of the building’s automotive history and evoke America’s long romance with the automobile.”

There is an obvious synchronicity between the new space and the contents of their newly designed Bar menu; While the new plates stay true to the made-from-scratch Mexican concept, the variety of small-plates for the happy-hour crowd and the slight refinement of the dishes, fully fit the casually refined, open space. The new cocktails definitely appease the young professional Boulder crowd,  infusing subtle, more progressive flavor profiles than the traditional, (while still outstanding) margarita. The idea of a road trip was used as a muse for the redesign; the insurmountable freedom of the road and poignancy found in those moments of exploration in new places, the ideas, people and of corse cuisines, is the provocateur for many of the new drinks and bites they offer.


I had the chance to sample several of their new dishes, some of my favorites being, a subtle spin on the traditional with a “tropical guacamole” with salsa verde and mango salsa, a go-to classic, the steak empanada with corn salsa, cheese, red chile sauce, avocado crema and salsa negro, and my favorite, the shrimp ceviche accompanied by homemade crisps and corn chips. Some of the new drinks include a cucumber mojito, a “perfect storm” made by infusing Herradura Reposado, ginger beer, fresh lime and cassis, the “skinny Marg” for those many “clean eating” Boulderites out there, and one of my favorites, the “Paloma” which uses Herradura silver, soda, fresh grapefruit juice and a touch of citrus, perfectly refreshing, assertive without the aggression of the coin margarita (might I add that those are often my drink of choice). One of my favorite aspects of The Rio is that they unapoligetically provide some of the best margaritas in town, and being from Austin Texas where we revere the margarita as an art form, that is a big statement. I want my citrus fresh and my tequila strong, The Rio obliges.


Now, I count a grand total of five distinct spaces within the Rio that will please any palette or desired atmosphere: The main dining area, great for general dining uses and large parties; The lower level outdoor dining area, covered and decorated by distinct lighting features that create a lovely glow in the evening; the bar, bar area, just that, a straight-up bar; the patio area which, depending on the hour can be both lovely and casual, hosting a pleasant fountain and delightfully dim dining space, and alternatively, rowdy and (delightfully) debaucherous as the night progresses, more margaritas are consumed and patrons munch vast quantities of  guacamole and chips; and now The Shift Bar for the more refined palette, the hip happy hour crowd seeking tastefully crafted small plates and cocktail offerings.


The Shift Bar is currently open to all and we expect to see the new menu available on September 30th of 2013.