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!

Neon was, by far, the cleanest restaurant in which we ate during our week-long trip across Nebraska.

Neon was, by far, the cleanest restaurant in which we ate during our week-long trip across Nebraska.

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.

The steaks at Neon were suburb! The ribeye was seasoned and prepared well and and the strip was even better with a side of mushrooms.

The steaks at Neon were suburb! The ribeye was seasoned and prepared well and and the strip was even better with a side of mushrooms.

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.

  • This is our Airbnb, Postcard Place. It's located right in Pawhuska, just a two and a half minute drive from the Pioneer Woman's Mercantile. It even has its own Instagram account, @postcardplce. ⁣
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Postcard Place can accommodate up to six people. With comfy bedding (including clean duvets for each new guest), USB ports by every bed, make-up remover wipes, comfy blankets for tv viewing, complimentary coffee/tea, creamer, full kitchen, soap, shampoo, hand lotion, and even a luggage scale, we've tried to think of everything you might want when spending a night away from home. Of course, we also provide stamped Pawhuska postcards so you can send greetings to those who couldn't come along on the trip.⁣
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Find Postcard Place on Airbnb and book it for your next trip to Pawhuska and come @visittheosage.
  • Perched high on a hill in Tuscany is the medieval village of Montepulciano. In the center of town is the piazza grande paved with bricks laid in a herringbone pattern in the 14th century. ⁣
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Standing in the piazza, looking at the bricks, we were filled with a sense of awe at the history these bricks have seen. They've been there for 700 years so have seen times of war and peace, celebration and sorrow. Generation after generation of townsfolk were born, lived and died, and all have walked on these bricks. ⁣
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This is one of the things we love most about traveling. It gives us an authentic feel for history, one we wouldn't have if we just stayed at home.
  • We were so tickled when @thechefandthedish reached out and asked us if we'd like to take a complimentary cooking class with them. They offer private cooking classes with chefs from all over the world that you can take right in your own kitchen. ⁣
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For this class, we Skyped with chef Paola who taught us to make strawberry risotto, traditional bruschetta, and a delicious poached pear dessert that blew our minds. ⁣
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Risotto always seemed like a difficult dish to make, but Chef Paola explained it so well that it wound up being pretty easy. We spent a great afternoon with friends, learned something new, and enjoyed a great meal after. A class with The Chef & The Dish is a great gift idea, as well. Follow the link in our bio, and you can read more about our class on our blog.
  • The world is a big place, and there's so much to discover. Go places, and see things. It doesn't matter if you don't have a detailed itinerary, either. Sometimes, it's more about the journey and what you see and experience along the way, than it is about the destination.
  • During our trip in Tuscany with @italyunfiltered, we stopped at a small family winery. After learning about the organic methods they use to produce high quality Chianti Clasico wines, we had a tasting. ⁣
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Wine tastings in Italy are nothing like those in the US. They are glorious affairs complete with delicious foods paired with the incredible wines. This particular winery brought us samples of homemade, organic jams made from fruits grown in the family's garden. We dabbed these on locally produced pecorino cheese. Yum!⁣
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We're so glad that we had a local driver and guide. Stopping here was a highlight of our Italian adventure, and we never would have found it on our own.
  • The village of Marsaxlokk, Malta, is famous for these brightly painted fishing boats. The design is rather ancient, possibly dating back to Phoenician times, though it's still used today because it is very strong and holds up well in rough weather. One feature of each boat's decorations, are eyes painted on the bow of the boat. These eyes are said to protect the people fishing while they are at sea.
  • The blue cobblestones of Old San Juan, Puerto Rico, are actually part of a recycling project which started 500 years ago. Iron foundries in Spain produced huge piles of waste, called slag. Rather than throw these piles away, the slag was made into blocks which was placed into ships as ballast. The ballast was offloaded in Puerto Rico when they loaded products bound for Spain. The blocks were then used to pave the streets. ⁣
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Pretty good idea, and 500 years later, they are holding up well!
  • The Overseas Highway connects Key West and the Florida Keys to the mainland U.S. While the entire road is a marvel of engineering, the centerpiece is the Seven Mile Bridge, which runs over water for, well, seven miles.⁣
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The next time you're driving, reset your trip odometer and wait until it gets to seven miles. You'll see that's a pretty long distance. And then think about the fact that people built a bridge over water with no land to support them for that distance. Pretty incredible-especially since the first one was built in 1912.

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