Cortez speak-easy to open in former Pepperhead location

Monday, Aug. 21, 2017 5:56 PM
Sandra and Micky Colorado behind the bar of their new restaurant, Sobre Mesa, at 44 W. Main St. in Cortez.
The dining area in Sobre Mesa, which is in the building that housed Pepperhead Restaurant, at 44 W. Main St.

Just a few months after Pepperhead Restaurant closed, two of its former employees are opening their own restaurant in the same spot.

Micky and Sandra Colorado are in the final stages of preparing Sobre Mesa, a 1920s-themed speak-easy, bakery and restaurant, for its opening on Cortez’s Main Street. The couple said they hope to make it a different kind of restaurant than anything Montezuma County has seen. Their goal is to hold a “soft opening” within the next few weeks.

The couple bought the Pepperhead building from its former owners, Tess Montaño-Forth and Pete Montaño, just before the 8-year-old Mexican restaurant closed. Although both Colorados have worked in restaurants for years, this will be their first time opening their own. Micky studied culinary arts through international hospitality program Le Cordon Bleu, and he said he’s spent several years studying the cuisines of different countries and cultures in preparation to open his own restaurant. Sandra’s specialty is mixology, so she’ll be in charge of the cocktail bar while Micky designs the menu.

“We decided to do something different for Cortez,” Sandra said. “You don’t really see these kinds of restaurants in Cortez – they’re usually in Durango, Telluride, bigger places.”

Prices will be similar to Pepperhead’s, Sandra said, but she wants the restaurant to feel like a “fancy” establishment. Micky said he plans to serve a wide variety of food, from oven-fired pizza to Cuban sandwiches to Spanish paella. The menu will also change regularly, he said, as he phases out recipes and tries new ones. Although the hours haven’t been set in stone, Sobre Mesa will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“I’m just one of those types that likes a broad range of stuff,” Micky said.

The speak-easy will be the main attraction, though, and that side of the business informs its atmosphere. With the help of head line cook John Dufur and a few other employees, the Colorados have almost completely transformed the restaurant’s interior into a warm-colored, dimly lit bar with dark stained wooden tables and well-stocked whiskey shelves. The only thing that hasn’t changed is the mountain landscape painted on the walls of the front room. The couple said they wanted to keep that because it represents Colorado.

But the rest of the building is meant to feel like the Roaring ’20s, one of the Colorados’ favorite historical eras.

“They worked hard for everything they had,” Sandra said. “I think that’s part of what made us who we are today. So I think more people should really know about Prohibition and the 1920s.”

To complete the speak-easy atmosphere, customers will be able to get special deals by giving a weekly password at the door. The “secret” passwords will be available on the restaurant’s website. Micky said that once the restaurant gets going, he hopes to host mystery dinners and other old-fashioned events.

For now, though, he and Sandra are focused on hiring the rest of their kitchen staff and getting their certifications from the Montezuma County Health Department and the Cortez Fire Protection District. Their goal is to be fully open on Sept. 1.