The Neon Bar and Grill, located in the Motel Raine in Valentine, Nebraska, makes #3 on our list. Normally, we would not have expected to put a restaurant on our list, especially one located in a motel, but this trip around Nebraska made us learn to open our minds and expect the unexpected. If you are in Valentine, go to Neon, and you, too, can be blown away by this fantastic restaurant. (If you are staying in Valentine, you should also stay in the Motel Raine–which is also a fantastic place.)
Before we even get to the amazing food, let me just say that the Neon Bar and Grill is absurdly clean. After several days driving around western Nebraska worrying about picking up salt and pepper shakers, it was refreshing to go into a restaurant where they had so obviously been washed. We even took a picture with my phone to remember the occasion!
Second, the service was fantastic. The staff working that night went out of their way to ensure that we had everything we needed before we knew that we needed it. And they helped us with a friendly, cheerful attitude that let us know that they actually enjoyed their jobs.
Third, and arguably most important, the food was terrific. They said they specialized in steak, and that is no lie. It is among the better steaks I’ve had in Nebraska, and you should know that I’m a guy who loves a good steak. The owner ages the meat himself, and then grills it to perfection. And I mean perfection–both Ann’s and my steaks were done exactly as requested. This is something that can elude the most competent chefs in some of the best steakhouses I’ve visited in New York, Chicago, and Kansas City. But Tim (one of the owners of the Motel) nailed it. He could (and should) be trusted with prime grade beef. Wow. The side dishes were also good, and the restaurant had a full bar and a surprisingly good wine selection that would provide options for even a more discriminating palate.
Finally, the owners of the restaurant and motel, Tim and Dana Colvin, are willing to bend over backwards to make sure you have a good visit. Stay in the hotel. Enjoy a relaxing dinner in the restaurant, chat with the owners who are two of the friendliest, mosts personable people you’ll ever meet. If you are interested in golf, talk to Tim when you make your reservation, and he can hook you up with a good price at the Prarie Club, a championship course located just outside Valentine.
Nebraska has given us a number of surprises, and Neon Bar and Grill was one of our favorites. For this reason, it is #3 on our list of Nebraska’s Nicest Nine.