The devil's in the details at El Diablo, the latest project of Jesse Morreale — who also brought us La Rumba, Rockbar, the original Mezcal, Tambien and Sketch, right next door in the old First Avenue Hotel. Those details begin and end with the lighting, which includes outdoor signs that reflect the long history of the building. On the Broadway side is a sign whose large channel letters hold naked bulbs from the '40s; on the First Avenue side, a neon sign from the '50s with "El Diablo" written in script. And inside are an array of old light fixtures that give the room a retro, yet modern feel. The most impressive are the oversized hanging lanterns in the center of the room over the large bar, which beckon even the most angelic to sit down and sin. Morreale found these lights at the home of a hoarder in Fort Collins. "Hoarders don't advertise," he confides. "When I went to see them, he wanted me to come in the house, and I asked him to bring them outside. It was scary. They were totally trashed. We had to replace virtually every piece of glass."
I was sitting under some of that glass — a hellfire red — when I ordered a Diablotini ($7.50), made with Antiguo Reposado, fresh lime juice, agave nectar and muddled cucumber and jalapeño. After a few of these delicious, spicy Mexican martinis, I could have been as trashed as the light fixtures Morreale rescued. Instead, I followed my Diablotini with a Santo ($8.50), El Diablo's Mexican twist on a mojito, made with 30/30 Blanco tequila, limoncello, agave nectar, soda and fresh basil.
While I sipped, I looked around the bar — an impressive crowd not just for its size (El Diablo just opened August 20), but for its diversity, with SoBo hipsters, a few cougars and a crazy-looking bald guy and his crazier-looking Afro'd friend.
Yes, the devil's in the details. And with all those fixtures illuminating the rest of El Diablo's stunning decor, I can say with certainty that this is a hell of a place to get lit.