Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guide to Lincoln - Restaurants, Bars, and More

Misty's Original - 63rd & Havelock Ave., 466-8424
The quintessential Husker hangout the night before home games.  Its worth the trip just to see the Husker memorabilia  hanging in the bar.  Frequented by television personalities and coaches alike.  Excellent prime rib and pretty much anything else.  Arrive early.  From downtown take 9th or 14th to Cornhusker Hwy.  Follow Cornhusker Hwy. a few miles (48th is last major intersection before Havelock) until you see a sign welcoming you to Havelock.  The Havelock turn takes you onto Havelock Avenue.  There is a new location downtown at 12th and "Q" Streets that offers much of the same fare but it doesn't have the charm of the original location.

The Steak House - 34th & Cornhusker Hwy, 466-2472
An interesting little steak house.  Dark and comfortable.  Great steaks.  Has a great "home town" feel to it.  They put a basket of crackers on the table for some reason.  Great service, too.  Look for the stuffed Jakelope on the wall near the cash register.  Located on Cornhusker Hwy.

Lee's Chicken - South Coddington & Van Dorn Street, 477-4339
One of my favorite restaurants in the area.  Very home-town.  Excellent chicken and more.  Its like stepping into a time machine.  Near Pioneer's Park on the West edge of the city.

Merle's Restaurant - 8250 West "O" Street (Emerald, NE), 474-6435
If you go west on "O" Street long enough you'll end up at Merle's.  It's a small-town dive that happens to serve really great food for not much money.  This is a place for steak and potatoes, not bird food.

Valentino's Pizza - Multiple Locations
"Val's" Pizza is a local favorite and a must for any visitor to Lincoln.   The popular buffet is the best way to sample all of the pizza, plus the excellent pastas and salads.  Other carry-out locations exist if you'd rather take it back to the house.  The pizza is also sold at Husker games, so you can enjoy a slice while watching the Huskers.
Valentino's Grand Italian Buffet - 35th & Holdrege Street, 467-3611
The original location.  Close to UNL's East Campus if you're interested in seeing that area.  From city campus take 14th Street to Holdrege, then go East past 33rd Street.  Has space for parties.

Valentino's Grand Italian Buffet - 27th & Hwy 2, 423-3113
Shoehorned in a strip mall southeast of downtown Lincoln.  An alternative if you're in that area.   Take 9th Street until it turns into Hwy. 2 and turn left on 27th.

Valentino's Grand Italian Buffet - 70th and Van Dorn, 483-2811
This location is out in the 'burbs, but may fit your schedule on the way out of town (for those traveling southeast).

Runza Restaurants - Multiple Locations
The Runza is a Lincoln classic.  Beef and cabbage inside of fresh-baked bread.  Pure heaven from the cookbook of our German ancestors.  These unique sandwiches have been staples of Memorial Stadium eats for years.  Runza's stay hot in your hands forever and are good on a cold day.  The Runza variations and homemade hamburgers are also excellent.  Also sold at Husker games.
Lazlo's Brewery & Grill - 710 "P" Street, 434-5636
Great appetizers, food, and homemade brew.  Located in the Haymarket, right downtown.   I've never had a bad experience there.  The place fills up early so you might want to call ahead.  Bring an appetite.

Lazlo's South - 5900 Old Cheney Street, 323-8500
Located in the former Stackwood's location, this restaurant offers the same food and beer as the downtown location, in an lush and noisy atmosphere.  I was not impressed with it when I went there, so make the downtown location your choice if possible.

Old Chicago - 826 "P" Street, 477-2277
Pizza and more in the Haymarket.  Many many beers to choose from.  Like all other restaurants in the Haymarket area, it fills up pretty early on Friday evenings and Saturdays.

Vincenzo's - Suite 100, 808 "P" Street, 435-3889
Excellent Italian cuisine without being too expensive.  Not a place for grungy sweatshirts and pre-game beer chugging.  Located in the Haymarket.

Spaghetti Works - 228 N. 12th, 475-0900
Your typical spaghetti feed.  Last year it was remodeled to bring it up from the basement to the first floor.  The old delivery truck salad bar is still there.  Bring the family and pig out on all-you-can-eat.  Not quaint, private, or quiet.

Lazzari's Pizza - 1434 "O" Street, 475-5556
Located between Iguana's and the Brass Rail, this pizza joint is popular with the athletes.  The many signed jerseys and posters are evidence to its famous customers.   Good food, especially after a night of drinking at the nearby bars.

BW-3 - 1328 "P" Street, 475-2999
Buffalo Wings and beer.  Several large screen TV's with obstructed views.

Red Fox - 1339 West "O" Street, 438-3300
Dive of a sports bar that is much more appealing inside than out.  Serves a surprisingly good steak, with good prices on specials during the week.

La Paz - 321 North Cotner Blvd., 466-9111
An excellent Mexican restaurant with very good margaritas.  Great service.   Affordable.  Cotner Blvd. intersects with "O" Street at about 56th.   Turn North on Cotner and go about three blocks.

Where to Drink
Lincoln has a variety of sports bars and dives like any other town.  For most visitors, "O" Street will be the destination of choice.  There are a ton of bars from 9th to 16th Streets, with a little dead spot in the middle.  The block between 14th and 15th Streets alone has at least nine popular bars.  Because there aren't large parking lots for tailgating, the Lincoln tradition instead is to warm up to one of the local pubs and socialize there.  It is a college town, so drinks are cheap.  This is a short list of bars I think stand out a little bit for some reason:

Sidetrack Tavern - 935 "O" Street, 438-7776
At one time this was the bar to visit on Friday nights before a game, but it was damaged in a fire this past winter.  Famous emcees Joyce and Paul are taking their raunchy songs and humor a block northeast in the old Boomer's Printing Building.  My understanding is that the owners intend to keep Sidetrack open.  I am not sure what the new location for Joyce and Paul will be called.

Barry's - 235 N. 9th Street, 476-6511
In another time Barry's was the only place to be before the game on Saturday.  The closing of the beer garden across the street to make way for a parking garage has stolen some of its luster.  The cavernous back room has a wall-sized projection TV.  Fight songs from either team's fans may break out at any time.  Located about four blocks from Memorial Stadium on 9th Street.

Sandy's - 1401 "O" Street, 475-2418
A nice bar located in the heart of the "O" Street corridor.  Buy a pitcher of Elk Creek to keep you warm through the game.  A popular spot for Huskers and visitor alike.  Just recently remodeled a bit with flat plasma TV's all around.  Look for women in the men's bathroom.

Brother's Bar & Grill - 14th and "O" Street
Part of a chain of college-town sports bars, Brother's arrived in Lincoln just in time for the 2004 football season.  For that reason I blame them for the Huskers' losing record last year.  It is fairly nice inside, and as the flavor-of-the-month it is usually packed with college students.  The menu and staff was not up to speed during the season last year, so it lost points with me, but I'm sure it is being run much more smoothly now.

The Watering Hole - 1321 "O" Street, 438-3054
A smaller bar with great bar food and tough waitresses.  Usually fills up right after the Husker game ends.

Doc's Place - 140 N 8th Street, 476-3232
A friendly bar down in the historic Haymarket area.

The Brass Rail - 1436 "O" Street, 474-5741
Somehow made Playboy's list of greatest college bars.  Whatever.  A smoky dive that catches the overflow of the more popular Iguana's nearby.  The men's bathroom didn't have a light bulb in it for several years.  The beer garden in the back is nice and they often have live performers there.  The athletes who couldn't get into Iguana's may be seen here.

Duffy's - 1412 "O" Street, 474-3543
The regulars here probably won't even know there was a game going on.  Enjoy a fishbowl of "anything but beer."  Not cheap but sure to get you and your friends sucking long straws to get all the alcohol at the bottom.  Known for the many famous and not-so-famous bands who have graced their stage.  Has a beer garden in the back and Gyro counter as well.  Can buy cigarettes one at a time for you social smokers.

O'Rourkes - 1329 "O" Street, 435-8052
The overflow from Duffy's ends up at O'Rourkes.  Save pitcher coupons to get your 6th for free.  Use the chalkboard over the urinals to leave messages for those after you.   The popcorn is kept in a garbage can.  Keep a close eye on the pool table queue because the regulars have no respect for the non-urinal pool table chalk board.

Iguana's Pub - 1426 "O" Street, 476-8850
A reasonably nice college bar frequented by the Greek scene.  Use the house drink "Iggy Juice" to get your date really drunk.  A good place to see athletes.   Overflow from Iguana's fills up the Brass Rail later in the evening.

Cliff's - 140 N. 12th, 476-0119
A great little piece of Lincoln.  Next to Cliff's smoke shop.  Christmas never ends in this dark and smoky bar.  Smoking is not only permitted but encouraged.   Bring an Iron Lung.  Happy Hour means free Valentino's Pizza for all.

Barrymore's - 124 N. 13th, 476-6494
Located in the stage area of Lincoln's old vaudeville theater.  Probably a little too swanky for the average football fan.  Enter through the alley from 13th Street between "O" and "N" Streets.  May be closed while entire theater is rennovated, though I don't think it is.

W.C.'s - 1228 "P" Street, 477-4006
Head upstairs for a decent selection of pool tables and dart boards.  Live music.

Yia Yia's - 1423 "O" Street, 477-9166
A swanky place to enjoy dark beers on tap.  Good thin crust pizza.  Dance to house/techno music with live D.J. in the adjoined club 1427 (now independent of Yia Yia's) on Thursday and Saturday nights.   Billiard tables by the hour.

Knickerbockers - 901 "O" Street, 476-6865
A decent little bar 4 blocks from the stadium.  The small grill in back offers $0.25 tacos on game days.  The back room expansion now offers a better stage for the frequent live music.  The two owners are fellow East High School alums.

The Zoo Bar - 136 N. 14th Street, 435-8754
Home to the best Blues/Jazz for hundreds of miles.  Has a who's who list of performers who have graced its stage.  Small and dark.  Fills up early.   Frequent live music.  For you too young to get in, the alley in back is a good place to hang out and listen.

Brewsky's Food & Spirits - multiple locations
Classic sports-bar design with good food and many available televisions.
----201 North 8th Street, former location of Fox & Hound, 328-2739
----1602 South Street, tucked neatly inside strip mall, 438-2739
----2662 Cornhusker Hwy, behind Union Bank, 466-2739
----2840 South 70th Street, located in strip mall, 483-2739

Libations - 317 S. 11th, 477-3880
A little martini and cigar hangout.  The South location is more hip with the Yuppies.  Libations, Too is a second location in southeast Lincoln at 56th and HWY 2 - 420-6494

The Mill - 800 "P" Street, 475-5522
For those of you into beans, not hops, try the Mill.  Find a table on the porch for people-watching.  A wide selection of coffees and such.  In the Haymarket.

The Coffee House - 1324 "P" Street, 477-6611
An artsy, depressing coffee house frequented by college students.  Probably not well suited for post-game gatherings.  Good for sitting with a cup o' Joe listening to poetry recitations.

Adult Establishments
The Night Before - 1035 "M" Street, 475-4107
Probably the best of the not-so-great topless bars in Lincoln.  No cover charge.

Foxy Lady - 1823 "O" Street, 435-5943
Scary topless dive close to my old apartment.  No cover, but expect pressure to buy overpriced beer in cans.

Royal Grove - 340 W. Cornhusker Hwy, 474-2332
Dancing only at select times, including amateur contests, otherwise it's a haven for live music.

Shaker's - 11900 Hwy 6, Waverly, 435-4141
The Lincoln area's first all-nude juice bar.  Has cover charge unlike downtown topless bars, with no alcohol.

Where to Golf
Lincoln has quite a few public courses for the size of the city. You should be able to get tee times pretty easily at most of them. Here's a list of public courses with a little commentary (Lincoln's area code is 402):

Public Courses in Lincoln
Crooked Creek - East "O" Street and 134th - 489-7899 - I haven't played this course.
Hidden Valley - 10501 Pine Lake Road - 483-2532 - Newer course with few trees.
Highlands Golf Course - 5501 NW 12th - 441-6081 - Newer course with few trees.
Himark Golf Course - 8901 Augusta Drive (Near 84th and Pioneers) - 488-7888 - Decent design with some trees.
Holmes Park - 3701 South 70th - 441-8960 - 1960's-era big course with trees, water hazards, long hills.
Mahoney - 7900 Adams - 441-8969 - Older public course with windswept, treeless hills.
North Forty - 8101 Adams - 466-4653 - 10-year-old short-ish course that has improved as trees have filled in. Pioneers Golf Course - 3403 West Van Dorn - 441-8966 - Granddaddy of Lincoln public courses, circa 1940.
Jim Ager Memorial - 3761 Normal Blvd. - 441-8963 - Par 3, 9-hole junior course.

Private Courses in Lincoln
The Lincoln Country Club - 3200 South 24th Street - 423-2271 - Par 72, 18-hole course built in 1923.
Firethorn - 9301 Firethorn Lane - 488-2071 - An award-winning course design using native prairie grasses.
The Knolls - 2201 Old Cheney Road - 423-1776 - Shorter 18-hole Par 54 course constructed in 1961.
Hillcrest - 8901 "O" Street - 489-8181 - Par 72, 18-hole course constructed in 1925.
Yankee Hill Country Club - 7600 San Mateo Lane - 421-1700 - Par 72, 18-hole course built in 1998.
I have no suggestion how you can play private courses in Lincoln.  You will have to make your own arrangements.

Notable Courses Near Lincoln
Iron Horse Golf Club - Ashland, Nebraska - 944-9800 - New course halfway between Lincoln and Omaha.
Quarry Oaks - Mahoney State Park - 944-6000 - Championship 18 hole course with native grasses.
Woodland Hills - 6000 Woodland Hills Drive, Eagle - 475-4653 - Rated #1 Public Course in NE by Golf Digest.
There are many more courses in surrounding areas.   If, for some reason, visitors would like to explore a little bit, they'll just have to check a phone book. I'm not an avid golfer, so you may want to consult a golf guide before determining the quality of each course. In general the public courses here are in good shape, not overplayed.

Where to Shop
Westfield Gateway Mall - 61st and "O" Streets - 464-3196 - Four anchor stores and 90 specialty shops plus food court.  This was Lincoln's main shopping mall for years.  It has undergone some recent expansion and renovation to lessen the crappy 1960's look and feel.  Surrounded by tons of additional retail and restaurants.

SouthPointe Pavilions - 27th and Pine Lake Road - 421-2114 - New mall with open design, featuring a little more hip selection of stores.  Standout store is Scheels All Sports, a gigantic sporting goods store.  More retail and restaurants surround area.

North 27th Street Area - Major grocery and big-box retailers such as Food-4-Less, Super K-Mart, ShopKo, and Menards starting at the intersection with Cornhusker Highway and continuing to Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, etc. at Superior Street.  Many smaller retailers and restaurants line 27th Street from Vine Street north to the Interstate.

48th and "O" Street Area - Retail area anchored by Super Saver grocery, Target Store and Best Buy to the north.  Many other small retail stores and restaurants surround the area from "O" Street north to Adams.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Darth's Guide to Lincoln on Game Days

One of the most popular areas of the old dh.com was the Guide to Lincoln.  Quite often visiting fans would ask what to do and see in Lincoln when coming in for a game.  Rather than reply individually I gathered the most common suggestions in one place.

Numbered streets in central Lincoln run North to South, increasing as you go East.  Lettered streets in central Lincoln run East to West, with letters progressing as you go North.  You should be able to navigate downtown Lincoln and City Campus knowing only the alphabet.  Downtown Lincoln is roughly located from 7th to 17th Streets and "L" and Vine ("V") Streets.  Campus takes up the Northern half of that space.  Memorial Stadium is located at 9th and Vine Streets.  Its the big gray bowl, you can't miss it.

Lincoln is a friendly city, so you should feel safe there as long as you take normal precautions.  The downtown area is well-lit and popular enough to be safe at night.   It is well patrolled by both bicycle police and police cruisers.  On campus, security stations have been installed everywhere.  Look for the blue lights to locate one closest to you.  They connect you to the University operator, and can be used for non-emergencies if necessary.  Don't be afraid to ask the locals for directions, as Husker fans take pride in being excellent hosts, especially for visiting football fans.

The telephone area code for Lincoln is 402.

Driving and Parking
Interstate 80 slows down before home games so you should give yourself extra time to get into town on Saturday mornings.  The I-180/Downtown exit dumps your right onto 9th Street in front of the Stadium, which tends to get severely clogged an hour before game time.  I-180 intersects Cornhusker Hwy, so you could exit there and take 14th or 27th to get near campus.  The 27th Street exit on I-80 isn't too bad, except that 27th has a lot of stop lights near campus and becomes a traffic jam before/after games.

Parking isn't too bad depending on what you are doing before/after the game.  If you don't care about pre/post game festivities, you can park at several locations around town and ride the shuttle buses offered by the city's metro system StarTran.  They leave from several popular areas around town, like Wal-Mart (27th and Superior), Gateway Mall (66th and "O" Street), Holmes Lake (70th and Van Dorn), etc.  The express shuttle takes you right to the stadium.  After the game, shuttles run for an hour or so back to your parking lot.

All of the University surface parking lots are assigned to booster clubs, so you can't park in them unless you are a member.  There is still a ton of parking available fairly close to the stadium.  Downtown has a half-dozen large parking garages close to campus, which are available if you are around early enough for $5 or so.  They are close to the restaurants/bars downtown and about a 3-6 block walk to the stadium.

My suggestion is to get downtown early, find a good parking spot while they are available, and enjoy interacting with the locals.  After the game, find something to do on campus or downtown until the traffic congestion eases a bit.  In the next update I will cover popular bars and restaurants you may want to consider during your visit to Lincoln.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Goodbye, Big Eight Conference!

The Big Eight Conference was a union of Midwestern public universities with more similarities than differences. Similar states, similar student populations, and similar values. The proximity of schools gave fans even more opportunity to intermix and intermarry. Though it lacked the population centers of the coasts, and the prep talent associated with population, the scrappy conference did quite well for itself. Legendary football and basketball teams won historic games on the national stage. Legendary players wrote collegiate sports history at those little Midwestern schools. Lacking glamor or big dollars, the Big Eight Conference still managed to be a great association.

I've taken a dozen football road trips to towns like Ames, Lawrence, Manhattan, and Columbia. Saw some great games, met some good people, and formed great memories. The people in those towns looked like me, talked like me, and lived like me. The Big XII never had that same feel for some reason, and for 15 years I have missed what Nebraska had in the Big Eight. Maybe the Big Ten will bring that back. I can only hope the Big Ten will prove to be as enjoyable for Nebraska as the Big Eight was for all those years.

Good luck to Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State. You are all good schools with great people associated with them, and as a Husker fan I will always think fondly of the times we had together. Though you may not agree with Nebraska's decision, or even understand it, I hope like good brothers you will shake our hands and wish us the best as well. Should we meet on the athletic field again some day, I look forward to being in your company.