Even in the land of fabulous taco shops on every corner, I’ve always been a fan of Rubio’s, the popular fast casual chain known for its uniquely delicious coastal cuisine and for popularizing the fish taco, of which I mention in the same sentence as local shops when people ask me where the best fish tacos are. I had Ralph Rubio on my KPRI show last year and he was such a down to earth guy with a great story to tell. He told me during that interview that there were changes on the horizon for Rubio’s and they started to take shape early this year.
Rubio’s first opened in 1983, in the San Diego neighborhood of Mission Bay. Today, counting the ocean as a source of inspiration, Rubio’s uses sustainable seafood in nearly all of its seafood dishes and continues to expand its menu with innovative recipes ranging from sustainable shrimp to Atlantic salmon. In addition, Rubio’s also offers crisp fresh salads, grilled marinated chicken and steak, “no fried” pinto beans, handmade guacamole, a variety of proprietary salsas, along with craft beer and sangria beverage options. And speaking of salads, on a recent visit I ordered their chopped salad and was able to include the crispy fish from their fish tacos on top. That made for an amazing lunch experience that filled me up but did not weigh me down.
The award-winning restaurant regularly receives accolades for its famous Original Fish Taco. It was also recently named the number one Mexican chain on Consumer Reports’ latest survey. Rubio’s participates in a variety of ocean-centric efforts throughout the year including its annual CoastFest celebration and beach cleanup. Rubio’s is headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif., has over 4,000 employees and operates 196 restaurants in California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. That’s quite a start from their humble Mission Bay location.
Restaurants have to adapt to changing times though, heck, even my beloved Juanita’s recently upgraded their look a bit. This was a move that has been hotly debated by Leucadia locals but that’s fodder for another column altogether. But Rubio’s is a different animal and it was time for a transformation that reflected our fast-casual times and the evolution of their brand. The new and improved restaurants are located in Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, and Temecula and are among several locations to undergo the transformation.
Rubio’s will eventually redesign 45 of its California-based restaurants throughout 2015 to reflect the brand’s evolution and culinary progression. During a successful design trial at the Carmel Mountain Ranch restaurant, the new ocean-inspired look received overwhelmingly positive feedback related to the design, décor, color scheme and overall ambiance by thousands of guests in the San Diego area. There was also a significant improvement in sales.
“Since opening the first Rubio’s in San Diego in 1983, our brand has grown to encompass nearly 200 restaurants and has evolved the menu to feature a more expansive grilled seafood menu,” said Ralph Rubio, co-founder of Rubio’s. “It gives me great pleasure to begin our redesign journey in our hometown of San Diego. We’re confident our guests will continue to enjoy our amazing food while experiencing an enhanced ambiance.”
The restaurant redesigns draw inspiration from the sea and feature elements and aesthetics reminiscent of the brand’s beach heritage. Hues of cobalt, green, indigo and sand sparkle throughout the restaurant and patio with shimmering blue tiles that guide guests to Rubio’s signature salsa bar. Descriptive wall panels that depict Rubio’s rich history greet guests as they enter while artwork detailing the brand’s philosophy and cooking techniques are spread throughout the dining room. Modern pendant lighting illuminates natural wood found throughout the restaurant and community seating, and the multi-colored chairs evoke thoughts of coral and sea shapes.
In addition to the redesigns, the North County and Temecula-based restaurants will include Coastal Grill in their logo. The updated name and logo reflects the brand’s evolution and represents its vast coastal cuisine menu.
Rubio’s uses sustainable seafood in nearly all of its seafood dishes and continues to expand its menu with innovative recipes ranging from sustainable shrimp to Atlantic salmon. In addition, Rubio’s also offers crisp fresh salads, grilled marinated chicken and steak, “no-fried” pinto beans, handmade guacamole, a variety of proprietary salsas, and craft beer and sangria to complement any meal.
For more information about Rubio’s 45-unit redesign, its culinary progression or brand evolution, please visit www.rubios.com. To stay up-to-date about Rubio’s happenings, events and more, ‘Like’ Rubio’s on Facebook at www.facebook.com/rubios or follow Rubio’s on Twitter at www.twitter.com/rubiostweets.