Restaurants & Bars

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.

Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well.

 

That is the mantra of Maggie Pleskac, owner of Maggie’s Vegetarian Café located in the Lincoln Haymarket. Maggie is one of the founding members of Slowfood Nebraska. Maggie’s passion for organic eating was discovered when she was living in California. When she returned to Lincoln in the late 1990s, she decided to try to bring California’s fresh organic eating back to Lincoln, and in the process, support Nebraska producers. The result was the opening of her small restaurant in July 2000.

Upon entering the cafe, a sign reads, “Know your farmer. Know your food.” Maggie takes this to heart, utilizing products from local producers year round.  Some of her local sources include Jisa Farmstead, Dutch Girl Creamery, Branched Oak Farm, and Wise Oven Bread.

Food is never inert energy. Although we pluck it from earth or its mother plant, prepare it or cook it, food holds and irreplaceable and complex set of memories that inform the vital functions of the body, mind and spirit.
–Maya Tiwari

Although small in size, Maggie’s is mighty in flavor.  In September 2012, Food Network Magazine voted Maggie’s Avocado Melt Wrap, “The Best Sandwich in Nebraska.” After trying several of the wrap options, I have to agree with Food Network Magazine, the Avocado Melt Wrap is vegetarian heaven in your mouth. The wrap uses fresh avocado, Jisa Farmstead cheddar, provolone and mozzarella cheeses, roasted sunflower seeds, onion, fresh tomato, mixed greens, and house made Herb Mustard Dressing to create an experience unlike any other.

You can visit Maggie’s Monday through Saturday from 8am to 3pm. If you don’t get off work before 3pm, you can always find a few of Maggie’s wraps or baked goods served down the street at The Mill coffee shop.

“Food is never inert energy.  Although we pluck it from earth or its mother plant, prepare it or cook it, food holds and irreplaceable and complex set of memories that inform the vital functions of the body, mind and spirit.”  –Maya Tiwari

Photo by EpSos

Buffalo Wings and Rings

I’m not sure the phrase “bad day” can ever be appropriately used to describe a sixty-degree afternoon in January, but last Sunday did its very best to earn that moniker.

It started out with such promise. Not only was it nice enough to play Ultimate Frisbee, which normally requires a vacation to Florida this time of year, but it was also the last weekend of the NFL Playoffs.

Championship Sunday is ordinarily one of my favorite days of the sports calendar because it is the last day for almost eight months where there will be more than one football game. Unfortunately for me, I’m not sure I have ever hated two football teams more than I hate New England and Seattle, who will now face off in a Super Bowl that will, at best, give me time to start filing my taxes while I wait for the commercials to come back on.

The one positive of the day is that while the Patriots were beating the Colts, deflating footballs, and generally being pains in my behind, I was enjoying both the atmosphere and the food at Buffalo Wings and Rings.

Buffalo Wings and Rings definitely isn’t Buffalo Wild Wings. I know that now. Was anyone else confused by that? No? Never mind.

Located between Rule G and Vega right off Canopy Street in the Railyard, Buffalo Wings and Rings is a fixture of one of the best entertainment districts Lincoln has to offer. If the weather is nice, you can watch the game outside on a plasma screen roughly the size of my apartment, if the weather is cold you can go ice skating. If the weather is like it was last Sunday, you can do both.

While wings are definitely the specialty of the establishment, Buffalo Wings and Rings has a lot more good non-wing options than Buffalo Wild Wings. As if to overwhelm me with viable choices, they offer two kinds of bacon cheeseburger, chicken tenders, and a gyro that is “more popular than you’d think, for a place that mainly serves wings.”

As a sports fan, Buffalo Wings and Rings doesn’t leave a lot to be desired. With most traditional domestic beers on tap, more televisions than I could count, and $2.00 off pitchers on Sundays, it really is a phenomenal place to watch football.

Both times I’ve been there—last Monday during college football’s National Championship Game, and Sunday for the AFC Championship Game—the game I was there to watch was the only game on, but my feeling is that they probably mix it up a bit more on normal night. It is also perhaps worth mentioning that in both cases, my party was able to stay for the entirety of the game we had come to see without our waiter being awkward about it, which isn’t as much of a forgone conclusion as you might think.

Buffalo Wings and Rings offer 69-cent wings on Tuesday nights, and kids under the age of ten eat free on Mondays. They also have an ongoing non-sports-related trivia challenge you can participate in while you wait for your food to come, if sports isn’t your thing.

My verdict is that this might be the best place I’ve tried since I started writing these, even if parking in that part of downtown has a tendency to be an absolute hellscape. My only hope is that next time I go there, a domestic draw and a bacon cheeseburger won’t be consolation for another Super Bowl appearance by the Seahawks.

Photo by Chris Lexow

Ploughshare Brewing Company

...Share the Bounty.

There aren’t many things I enjoy more than sharing a good meal with good friends. 

This being said, my husband and I recently stumbled upon Ploughshare Brewing Company. Ploughshare is the new pub on the block. They opened for business in July of this year, and they have been going strong ever since. 

Ploughshare is a microbrewery pub that serves amazing pub style foods seven days a week from 4pm to midnight (kids welcome until 9) at 1630 P Street. They even hold trivia night on Tuesdays at 7.

Not sure what this looks like? Imagine Mumford & Sons owned a pub; that is the vibe Ploughshare is putting out.

Upon entering Ploughshare, patrons are greeted with reclaimed wood walls and a relaxed atmosphere. Not sure what this looks like? Imagine Mumford & Sons owned a pub; that is the vibe Ploughshare is putting out. You won’t find any televisions in the place, just people gathered on wood benches having good conversations and great beer. There are tables and booths for parties of all sizes along with an upstairs loft with large tables. Educational tours are offered for $5 per person, which includes a customized Ploughshare glass and a free pint. 

Like a traditional pub, beer and food are ordered at the bar. 

Beer

Ploughshare offers a rotation of 12 craft beers on tap. On our venture, several people tried the Tailgate Red Irish Ale among others and dubbed it their favorite. My husband tried the Farm Boy Cream Ale and said it felt like he was punched in the throat. So, if you are into hoppy beer, try the Farm Boy, otherwise go with the Tailgate Red. Also, the Smithy American Export Stout will be added to the tap rotation mid December.

Food

For me, the food was the star at Ploughshare. Not only are all the selections made from scratch in house, but also the ingredients are sourced from all over Nebraska. Soups, bratwurst, and lasagna make an appearance on the menu, as well as vegetarian and vegan options for picky people such as myself. For our first trip, my husband and I split the vegetarian lasagna, butternut squash curry soup, as well as a handmade pretzel with mustard aioli. The portions were great and the flavors were even better. To be honest, carbs are my favorite food group. But truly, the pretzel was delicious. The aioli mustard had a little bite but was a perfect pairing for the firm yet moist salted pretzel. 

Buffalo Wild Wings

Sometimes, when choosing a venue from which to take in a sporting event, it is important branch out from your comfort zone and try something that is unfamiliar. And sometimes it is important to do the exact opposite of that and keep your thinking firmly within the box.

With the latter sentiment in mind I decided to watch last month’s Nebraska-Northwestern game from the comfort of a sports bar that I have probably gone to two dozen times.

Buffalo Wild Wings, while a little on the corporate side, is a place where the service and product are dependable, the televisions are abundant, and the crowd is a sure thing.

Sometimes, when choosing a venue from which to take in a sporting event, it is important branch out from your comfort zone and try something that is unfamiliar. And sometimes it is important to do the exact opposite of that and keep your thinking firmly within the box.

I think most people are probably familiar with their sixteen varieties of chicken wings, the spiciest of which at one time came with a free t-shirt, and the many different kinds of beer they have on tap, so that won’t be my focus here.

The focus of this column, the thing that has kept me coming back to BWWs in regular intervals for the whole of my adult life, is the atmosphere of the place.

Watching a football game at Buffalo Wild Wings is one of the precious few things in life that is just as much fun as it looks on television, at least in my experience. While the establishment’s ability to send games into overtime by doing things like controlling the weather or using the sprinkler system to attack the kickers might be a touch exaggerated in the commercials, the energy and enthusiasm is more or less true to form.

My experience there three weeks ago was honestly pretty par for the course when it comes to watching a Husker game in Lincoln, Nebraska. I’m pretty sure I could watch a Nebraska game on a ten-inch hand-held in the middle of a rain storm and not have a problem getting people to watch the game with me.

My best experience at BWWs actually came last January during the NFL Playoffs.

I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan and, as most football fans will remember, the Niners played the Seattle Seahawks for last season’s NFC Championship. Far from being the only person there who even remotely cared about that game—which was my honest expectation—there was a healthy contingency of supporters for both sides who were more than just casual onlookers who decided to root for a team once they got there. Several people were wearing red and gold jerseys while others adorned the acid rain and highlighter that you wear if you support Voldemort…I mean the Seahawks.

Watching a football game at Buffalo Wild Wings is one of the precious few things in life that is just as much fun as it looks on television, at least in my experience.

My verdict is that if you are an NFL fan living in Lincoln—my most sincere condolences to you if you are, I know how lonely that can be—and you’re looking for a place to watch your favorite team, BWWs might be the place for you. It has a broad enough reach that there is usually a good turnout for prime time or playoff games even when the fan base is a little bit more marginalized.

This is to say that while there may not be enough 49ers fans in Lincoln to fill Memorial Stadium, there are certainly enough to fill Buffalo Wild Wings. Which is important, because losing to the Seahawks is something no one should have to do alone.

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

Sweet Tooth? Eat C and L Dairy Sweet.

One of my favorite things to do in Lincoln during the summer is eat ice cream. There are a lot of great places to get ice cream such as the UNL Dairy Store on east campus or just take your pick of several Culver's scattered throughout the city. A new place called Breezy Island Ice in the Railyard has delicious shaved ice; you can even get ice cream at the bottom of the bowl!

But for me, C and L Dairy Sweet takes the cake (or maybe I should say cone). A cherry malt always hits the spot after outdoor activities in Pioneers Park down the road or after eating at Lee’s Chicken across the street. I often see youth sports teams and their families enjoying a tasty treat after playing an evening game.

When I visited C and L today it wasn’t too busy, but on Tuesdays and Wednesdays the parking lot always overflows. There’s a good reason for that. Those are the only two days you can get the special lemon ice cream they make. My family tries to keep an extra quart in the freezer for special occasions, such as birthdays or Saturdays.

This classic old-fashioned outdoor ice cream and grill joint has been at the corner of Coddington and W Van Dorn for over 30 years! Our city has changed and grown around it, but C and L Dairy Sweet has remained one of the tastiest landmarks in the southwest corner of Lincoln.

Photo Credit: Robyn Lee