Refined dining on the Hill? Believe it.
Café Aion lives in a simple, rustic space in the center of the action on University Hill. But the three-year-old Spanish inspired restaurant stands in stark contrast to its raucous neighbors, offering remarkable food, good wine, and a warm experience through and through.
The distinction holds even beyond the Hill. Compare Café Aion to more widely celebrated on par restaurants downtown – and their million dollar finishes – and you’ll find that this place epitomizes less is more.
In the best possible sense. Using re-purposed materials, simple but striking art, brick fireplaces, polished wood floors, and sublime lighting, Café Aion has created a friendly yet elegant neighborhood darling.
We wandered into the space once occupied by another neighborhood favorite – Burnt Toast – on a weekday evening. Before long, we had settled into a table full of simple tapas with big flavors: fried cauliflower, beets with pistachios, flat bread with hummus, and Manchengo cheese with dried fruit compote. We also enjoyed a big Italian red that didn’t break our budget.
It took restraint to savor slowly, but we tried. Near us was a large table enjoying a completely different array of tastes as well as bar drinks. They were planning to charge next into platters of paella (a house specialty) and roast chicken.
Service was terrific. Our waiter was friendly and conversant in all aspects of the menu and wine list. She explained that the quiet-ish night was due to finals week at the university. CU faculty and staff make up a large portion of Café Ion’s customer base.
She suggested reservations on Fridays and Saturdays; the 11-table dining room fills fast. Best to call ahead on Wednesdays too, due to a big deal: paella platter (just right for two) and a bottle of wine for just $39.
We’re looking forward to more: a seat at the horse shoe bar, a longer dinner, brunch on Saturday and Sunday, the lovely patio this summer. In any case, enjoying Café Aion’s sophisticated yet accessible character will be well worthwhile.