Cafe Rio Mexican Grill, a Salt Lake City-based, fast-casual concept with 10 locations in Colorado, plans to bring its Tex-Mex fare to Colorado Springs’ north side.

The chain is negotiating to lease a 3,319-square-foot building at 1560 Briargate Blvd. that was the former home of the city’s lone Steak ‘n Shake restaurant, according to documents submitted to Colorado Springs city government planners. Steak ‘n Shake closed in early 2022; the building, near the Chapel Hills Mall, has been vacant since then.

Cafe Rio representatives declined to comment because they’re still in talks to lease the building, they said via email. The building is owned by a Dallas-based real estate investment trust, which didn’t return a phone call from The Gazette.

Founded in 1997 in Utah, Cafe Rio’s menu was inspired by recipes and traditional cooking from northern Mexico’s Rio Grande region, southern Texas and New Mexico, according to the chain’s website.

Its menu includes burritos, tostadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, nachos and salads. To support its slogan of “fresh food, made fresh,” Cafe Rio doesn’t use freezers or microwaves and food is prepared fresh daily, its website says.

Cafe Rio has Colorado locations in Castle Rock, Denver, Glendale, Grand Junction, Greenwood Village, Fort Collins, Highlands Ranch, Longmont, Northglenn and Southglenn, its website shows. The chain has about 150 restaurants in nine western states, including Colorado, according to the website.

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In Colorado Springs, Cafe Rio’s location will have dine-in, pick-up and drive-thru service, the chain’s proposal submitted to city planners shows.

Cafe Rio plans to make over the exterior of the former Steak n’ Shake building, while essentially gutting the interior — removing and replacing equipment, furnishings and finishes; removing partition walls; and removing and replacing plumbing, mechanical and electrical systems, the proposal says.

No timetable for the restaurant’s opening was included in Cafe Rio’s proposal and it’s unknown if the chain plans additional locations in the Pikes Peak region.

As Colorado Springs’ population has grown in recent years and the city has won plaudits from U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s most desirable places to live, it’s become a magnet for national and regional restaurant and entertainment concepts looking to expand.

Among the newer entries: Chuy’s, In-N-Out Burger, the Old Spaghetti Factory, Torchy’s Tacos, Whataburger and White Pie Pizzeria. Others that are on their way: Chicken Salad Chick, Dave & Buster’s, Illegal Pete’s and Shake Shack.

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