Twenty One Steak proves a fine dining gem on Pueblo’s Riverwalk 

click to enlarge Potato croquettes come plain or sauced “Molinaro style.” - GRIFFIN SWARTZELL
  • Griffin Swartzell
  • Potato croquettes come plain or sauced “Molinaro style.”
Rudy Padula, Brad Padula and Russell DeSalvo opened Pueblo’s Twenty One Steak on Black Friday, 2017. They’ve done well at this Riverwalk spot, a slick little dining space that gives off a mixed ’80s/’00s vibe, lit with vintage-style bulbs in asymmetrical starburst lighting fixtures, polished and pretty. In the kitchen, they have executive chef Jonathan Frakes (no, not THAT one, Trekkies), a Kentucky-native Springs resident who boasts three years as a sous chef at The Broadmoor’s Penrose Room, among other impressive credentials.

COO Joshua Cafasso and supervisor Katie Elliott designed the house cocktails, affordably priced at $9 each, and mostly made with Colorado spirits. The Grey Ghost, for instance, blends Woody Creek vodka with Oyster Bay sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, elderflower liqueur and lemon juice, plus muddled green grapes. The result, served in a huge martini glass with side shaker, leads with tart green wine grapes and finishes dry, refined yet accessible. We also enjoy a Riverwalk Manhattan, which uses Leopold Bros.’ blackberry whiskey with typical bitters and sweet vermouth for a smooth fruit-and-baking-spice flavor combo that evokes autumn.

From shareable plates, $9 each or $21 for three, we order bourbon mushrooms, potato croquettes “Molinaro style” and roasted winter root vegetables, expecting tapas-like portions. But pretty ceramic dishes land packed with American-sized portions; the three-plate deal could feed two moderate appetites easily. Consider it for an affordable date night.
Location Details Twenty One Steak
101 S. Main St.
Pueplo, CO
Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday, 5-10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, to 11 p.m.
They’re good, too. Those mushrooms bear a nice little boozy flavor over a savory undercurrent, though we’d love a little more salt. The potato croquettes come stuffed with bacon and green chile pepper jack, gooey and indulgent. “Molinaro style,” our server tells us, means they come under a three-cheese sauce and non-spicy green chile coulis, no extra charge. The coulis especially, being a reduction of blended Pueblo peppers, puts the Steel City’s signature ag export in a great, elevated context. Those roasted root veggies bear a pleasant sweet-savory butternut squash purée, but while the turnips turn up delicate and perfect, the sweet potatoes need a touch more cook-time.

For entrées, we skip $30-plus steaks for a pair of $19 items: the T.O.P. chop and the pan-roasted cauliflower steak. The former, a chop steak of house-ground beef, comes wrapped in bacon and bursting with savory punch, though it chews tough. Still, it plays nice with its mushroom gravy, as do creamy mashed potatoes and green beans. An odd but not unwelcome plate finisher, a pair of truffle deviled eggs, taste intensely rich with mild tang.

Our server warns us away from the vegan cauliflower option toward a more flavorful taco plate available with vegetarian-friendly jackfruit, but we insist. We’ve had lovely cauliflower steaks before, but this ain’t it, chief. The massive hunk of cauliflower comes cooked to a nice texture, but it’s under-seasoned to the point of blandness. That said, the curried lentils below have flavor enough to share and a little heat besides, redeeming the dish somewhat. Can’t say we weren’t warned, though.

Service overall stands out — only when we ask for non-listed sherry or port options for a tipple in place of admittedly tempting dessert does our server step away to seek info. Despite any stumbles, Twenty One Steak proves worth the time and dime — Pueblo proud and overall strong.


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