Pepe's: a biker's bistro

Pepe Fierro pours agave nectar to make his scorched ice cream. Fierro, an avid bicyclist, uses organic and vegetarian ingredients in his entreees. Photo by Krista Vogel, NewsNetNebraska

Six years ago, when Pepe Fierro moved to Lincoln from Texas, a job and an apartment awaited him.

Or so he thought.

Instead, Fierro, 45, spent his first months in Lincoln living in a station wagon and waiting tables for a pittance.

Then he stumbled upon something that helped turn things around.

“I remember there was a bike in the alley that didn’t have any rims, but I went ahead and took the frame,” he said. “Two weeks later there was a 10-speed bike with good rims and tires, so I incorporated them both, and that’s how I started getting to and from work. It helped me save up money.”

Four years later, Fierro started Pepe’s Veggie Mix Bistro in a small upstairs space in Havelock. He built a vegetarian menu using agave nectar, tofu and local produce. That bike influenced him, too. On “Bike Sundays” at Pepe’s, bikers can eat for $5. And on Saturdays, diners can barter bike parts for meals. Then Fierro takes those parts and builds bicycles, donating them to people in need of reliable transportation.

At Pepe’s Veggie Mix Bistro, the ambiance shows in the unmatched chairs and tables, paintings and string lights on the walls. Evidence of Fierro’s bikes is everywhere, too — a bike is parked against the wall, bike trinkets sit on the surfaces, and pamphlets for biking events are posted.

“When I opened up this place, I always thought, ‘How cool would it be to barter at least one day a week where you don’t need money?’” he said. “People have brought me whole bikes, and I’ll give them a gift certificate. I’ve had people bring up handlebars, bicycle seats. Some people barter services like haircuts.”

Fierro has donated about 35 bikes – many to college students – since his business began.

“It’s really neat to see their faces when they’re just sitting there, left with a bike on the street. They’ve got a ride,” Fierro said. “I figured if it helped me, it could help them.”

Story and photos by Krista Vogel, NewsNetNebraska

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