With the sun blaring down upon me, in the middle of a punishing-102 degree heat wave, I enter the outdoor patio of the just-open Neon Alley Bistro, aptly named for its proximity to one of Pueblo’s newest tourist-friendly offerings, namely the growing plethora of vintage and unusual neon signage dotting the alleyway between downtowns’ B and C streets, respectively.
As I walk through their shaded Victoria street entrance, I’m a bit taken back by their outdoor seating; it is immediately a very inviting and welcoming addition in a place like Pueblo where there is usually great weather and too few patios to relax on.
The serving is done in tandem by both Stewart and Dana this early afternoon, both of whom are cheery and personable despite the blaring heat. I’m offered a seat either in or outdoors, so I opt for an outdoor patio seat despite the temperature. I do this because the outdoor seating of the Neon Alley Bistro has a unique serenity about it; with two gorgeous water fountains providing relaxing sounds, bright covered seating and lattice-covered flowers and foliage along the walls. While I sat, I found it very easy to imagine myself at a European cafe, sipping coffee and perhaps enjoying a pastry while within its relatively secluded grounds.
After a minute or two of menu perusing, I order two tapas and an iced latte. Both the Peppadue Englaterra and the Perime Sezoni, vegetable-based small plate dishes, seem to be a perfect fit for the weather; fresh and light. And an iced coffee because every day, once a day, you should give yourself a present.
While I wait, I decide to jump indoors to take a gander at the interior, which is just as nice in its own way. The interior of the Neon Alley Bistro has an understated quality about it, one that is European themed and rustic-inspired at its core, but at the same time utilizing minimalist and clean designs And fresh linens to present itself as a vintage-inspired modern cafe.
My latte arrives just in the nick of time, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt, it is one of the better lattes I have had in Colorado. Served in a large mug, my latte has a richness about it; velvety to the point of almost chocolate like on the tongue, and with a low acidity that is much better not only in hot weather but for the stomach in general. In fact, the latte is so rich that after a drink or two I worriedly ask if the drink was in fact made with soy milk rather than a fuller fat cow milk, to which I am assured it was made as ordered.
One by one, the tapas arrive.
First, the Perime Sezoni. With a gorgeous plating, the perime sezoni is a simple dish bursting with ample flavor; a plate full of zucchini, red cabbage, cucumber and tomato that are drizzled with a balsamic reduction that is beautifully sweet and biting on the tongue, transforming the unadorned veggies into delectably fresh bites. Add to this that with every bite new complexities form with different vegetable bite combinations, with hints of dill and scallion making their way through the dish to make it much more than the sum of its parts.
Before I can devour the perime entirely, the Peppadue arrives. As if I wasn’t already riding high on my meal already, the next dish arrives to take it up several notches. Featuring a stuffed Piquillo pepper (a chili native to northern Spain with a name that is Spanish for ‘little beak’) the peppadue englaterra is scored and stuffed with a pan-seared potato, relish and aioli mixture that is full flavor and richness embodied, then packed into small bites. I had never before heard of the piquillo, but I don’t think I’ll be able to live without them any longer, with the pepper itself being of exceptional flavor; shifting from a moderate sweet to a wondrous bit of heat on the back end of the tongue. The tapas order comes with seven of these small wonders, but next time I will request probably two dozen.
Which isn’t to say I left unsatisfied. No no, I leave full and satiated to say the least.
As I finish my meal, owner Pellumb Dhamo arrives to make small talk and make sure my meal was to my liking. After assuring him it was (no need to embellish one bit either, my food was fantastic), he informs me that they are in talks to expand not only their menu but their hours of operation and community involvement as well, which is outstanding news. I could see myself coming back to this gem of a restaurant again and again.
For now, the Neon Alley Bistro is open during early the day, M-F from 7AM-3PM. With plans for a dinner and specialty menus in the works, you’d better keep up with them at Facebook.com/NeonAlleyBistro to see just what’s around the bend
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