Down the Hatch Bar & Grill

It may never cease to amaze me how unifying a Nebraska football game is in this town. I grew up as a Nebraska fan living in Iowa which meant that watching the Big Red usually meant watching a game that no one outside of my immediate family had any interest in. I’ve been in Nebraska for coming up on five years now and the novelty still hasn’t quite worn off.

With that in mind, the Saturday before last presented me with my most recent opportunity to take a pilgrimage away from my cable-free apartment for the noble pursuit of watching a televised sporting event while eating something that is bad for me. My journey this time took me to the farthest reaches of the Lincoln area to a place called Down the Hatch Bar and Grill.

Down the Hatch very nearly cemented itself as having eternal sentimental value to me as it was very nearly the venue in which I watched the largest comeback in the history of Nebraska football. But alas, Alonzo Moore couldn’t hang on to the ball, Tommy Armstrong Jr. threw it to the wrong team, and the rest is history.

The score of the Nebraska-Michigan State game notwithstanding, my final verdict is that Down the Hatch is a pretty solid place to watch a game should your travels ever take you to northwest Lincoln.

The menu at Down the Hatch is pretty simple, which might be a turnoff to someone in the mood for a culinary adventure, but I am a man of simple tastes so I really didn’t mind. Generally, my perusal of the menu at a sports bar ends when I have ascertained the house name for a bacon cheeseburger. In any case, I was there to watch a game. And for that, the atmosphere was more than admirable.

Like many sports bars in Lincoln, Saturdays in the fall make Down the Hatch over into a rendezvous for Husker fans who want to trade the tranquility of a home living room for a place that erupts in loud cheering every time Nebraska gains three yards.

Located on Northwest 1st Street about two miles east of Highlands Golf Course, Down the Hatch offers smaller portions for lower prices than some of the other places I’ve been to, which makes it a great option if you’re looking for a place to watch a specific game, or just a place to have an inexpensive night out.

The score of the Nebraska-Michigan State game notwithstanding, my final verdict is that Down the Hatch is a pretty solid place to watch a game should your travels ever take you to northwest Lincoln.

Need a Place to Watch the Game?

If you’re like me, then there are two things that will continue to be true about you for the rest of the foreseeable future: you love the Huskers, and you don’t have cable television. There are few things more unifying in Lincoln than Husker football. It is a tired cliché, but is perhaps still worth mentioning, that a sold out Memorial Stadium is the third largest city in Nebraska, and that a little more than five percent of the population of this state occupies it's confines on game day. 

Nebraska football really is a spectacle worth taking in, and while the voices of Greg Sharpe and Matt Davison paint an admirable picture via the airwaves of the Pinnacle Sports Network, there are times when a person just needs to see what’s going on. 

There are a number of quality establishments to which fans can go if they want the next best thing to actually being there. My time in Lincoln has given me the opportunity to vouch for fine sports-watching experiences from:

But, today I am going to be focusing on a place called Randy’s Grill and Chill.

Located just behind the Burger King on 48th and Holdrege, Randy’s is comfortably out of the way for anyone looking to avoid the downtown scene. Don’t get me wrong, watching games downtown is great, but Lincoln’s peripheral neighborhoods have merit that is all their own. Not the least of which is the ability to find a good parking spot as well as avoiding, once the game is over, the unenviable experience of sharing five city blocks with 91,000 of your closest friends. 

Randy’s has drink specials every night of the week in addition to Keno, pool, and a poker table. It’s more than just a place to watch a Husker game, and with six televisions in the dining area, there really isn’t bad seat in the house. 

My latest excursion there was last Monday night to take in some baseball and rouse my football appetite with some NFL preseason action. The place had some nice energy without being overly crowded—not to mention $2 Busch Light draws—which makes it great if you’re just looking to get out of the house on a weeknight. But when does it really comes to life? On Saturday afternoons in the fall. 

It’s more than just a place to watch a Husker game, and with six televisions in the dining area, there really isn’t bad seat in the house.

My experience there last season—which was only for an 11 a.m. kickoff against Illinois, so hardly a high-tension game—showed a tremendous amount of promise. The dining area was nearly full of scarlet-clad onlookers who were perfectly comfortable hooting and hollering with the same enthusiasm as if they were watching the game in their own living room. 

The quality of both service and food is about what you’d expect from a place where the staff knows what it’s doing. And, like any self-respecting sports bar, Randy’s serves a pretty decent bacon and eggs cheeseburger which will only set you back $8.50. 

My verdict is that Randy’s passes with flying colors as a place to take in a Husker game, or just go grab a beer during the week. The dining room is spacious, the chairs are a normal height (I have a thing about bar stools, but I digress), and if you’re wearing a Nebraska shirt, you’re family. And if the sport of watching sports ever becomes more complicated than that, well that’s the day I retire.

Photo Credit: Eric Langhorst


Now that the NCAA Tournament is over, and the dust has settled, let's take time to reflect on this new Nebraska basketball phenomenon and what it means for Lincoln.  As a relative newbie to Nebraska, it didn't take long for me to get caught up in the excitement that is Husker football. Having no prior allegiance to any football team, college or otherwise, it was easy to drink that red Kool-aid and shout "Go Big Red!" The same rang true as 'Nebrasketball' swept over the city this season, and I was hooked.  

Pinnacle Bank Arena  

Pinnacle Bank Arena 

Before I get started, though, I want to get one thing out of the way. Pinnacle Bank Arena ... have we decided what to call it yet? Personally, I prefer The Vault to PBA, so that's what I'm using in hopes that it will gain traction.

Before Coach Miles, I only attended one UNL Men's Basketball game. It was well-attended, but for someone who knows nothing but the basics about basketball, it wasn't very fun. I couldn't tell you who we played or whether we won. It is no secret that Coach Miles was brought in to build this program, but I don't know anyone who expected the kind of season we experienced this year to happen so soon. My first basketball experience at The Vault was when we beat Illinois. To say that the atmosphere was exponentially more intoxicating would be an understatement.

I love Nebraska football as much as the next guy, but there is something in the air at The Vault during a basketball game that cannot be rivaled. Does a roof make that big of a difference? Or is it the inherent excitement that comes with being the under-dog who keeps coming out on top? I'm putting my money on the latter because Devaney didn't have the same magic. Whatever the source, there is an intimacy and enthusiasm at The Vault that I have not experienced at other college sporting events. That excitement is not merely contained by The Vault, though. It spills over into the quickly developing West Haymarket area without abandon.

Canopy Street

Canopy Street

It is a little known fact that early in the season, if you were to approach the entrance to The Vault after half-time, you could get in for the remainder of the game without a ticket. For the last home game, we met some friends for dinner across the street from The Vault, waited until after half-time and made our attempt with no luck. Disappointed, but not defeated, we made our way over to Canopy Street. We spent the remainder of the game outside with hundreds of other fans who watched, screamed, cheered and chanted as though we were court-side. It was an amazing experience I am eager to repeat

So, what happens now?  As we settle into the post-season for basketball, heading into the Spring Game and impending football season, Nebrasketball seems so quickly forgotten. Is it already a thing of the past? I think not. I think Coach Miles and his team of underclassmen are just getting started. In his unfortunately titled piece on, senior writer Tom Dienhart writes, "With this coach, with this fan base and with those sparkling facilities, Nebrasketball appears to be on solid footing for the future. It’s going to be fun to see how far Miles can take this program." This newly converted basketball fan couldn't agree more.

Photo credit: Sarah Frederick