Nebraska is known for its steaks. Anyone driving through the state can see cattle for miles and miles. The state ranks in the top five among cattle farms and ranches. So, it’s a gimme that the state has outstanding steakhouses.
But, did you know that Nebraska is home to amazing Greek cuisine, as well as New Mexican fusion, Philly sandwiches, pizza, burgers, and more? Nowhere in the state is the melting pot of cuisine more prevalent than Lincoln. The state capital may be home to one of the blue bloods of college football with the Cornhuskers, an outstanding race car museum, and wonderful green space, Lincoln is also home to great food representing the globe.
In no particular order, here’s a look at nine delicious dining options to explore in the Star City.
Starting out as a food truck, Muchacho’s features a fusion of New Mexican food with the tanginess of Midwest barbecue. With green hatch chile mac and cheese, burritos named after the University of Nebraska football’s historic offensive line, and tacos that are out of this world, of course Nick Maestas had to find a spot in downtown Lincoln for a brick-and-mortar version of his food truck. The pork or chicken tacos are amazing! Kick off your visit with an order of brisket nachos. The Pipeline Burrito is twice the size of a typical hand and consists of three smoked types of meat, beans, rice, coleslaw, and more. The Pipeline, named for the Nebraska football team’s offensive line, is part of a name, image, and likeness promotion with players who receive a percentage of sales. The bright, turquoise-painted storefront is reminiscent of colors you’ll find in the southwest United States. Featuring an outstanding breakfast menu with burritos, tacos, and more, Muchacho’s is also an excellent place to start your day. With a seating capacity of a few dozen, tables go quickly at the popular eatery. Whether you dine inside or take your order to go, Muchacho’s is a must when visiting Lincoln. Muchacho’s still uses its food truck to offer its outstanding menu around town.
2. Yia Yia’s
For a unique pizza adventure, head to Yia Yia’s (pronounced Ya-Ya’s) on O Street. The Lincoln original features New York-style pizza, with big slices on a thin crust, which can be eaten with a fork or folded and eaten like a real Lincolnite (OK, maybe like a New Yorker). Guests can order a specialty pizza, such as The Local — with a marinara sauce base and topped with bacon, pepperoni, sausage, hamburger, bell pepper, onion, mushroom, black olives, and smothered in mozzarella cheese — or create their own pie. Yia Yia’s menu features nearly 20 vegetables, including corn, potatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and artichokes, as well as fruits and nuts. Vegan and diet-conscious pizzas can be created here. Each pizza order comes with a chunk of freshly-made bread. Along with salads and delicious appetizers, Yia Yia’s has dozens of beers available. A Lincoln favorite for more than 20 years, Yia Yia’s has a second location beyond the downtown spot.
3. The Green Gateau
With a French name, you’d expect to find The Green Gateau on the Champs-Élysées in Paris. However, you’ll find dishes bearing international names just minutes from both the Husker football stadium and state capitol.
Chef Eric Lemke strives to use fresh ingredients by working with local farmers and distributors for his farm-to-table concept. Dishes range from tenderloin au poivre fettuccine — featuring Angus tenderloin tips sautéed with mushrooms and black peppercorns, flamed in brandy, simmered in cream with dijon, and gorgonzola cheese, then tossed with fresh fettuccine — to the crêpes cordon bleu casserole, with chopped ham, asparagus spears, and shiitake mushrooms wrapped in delicate crêpes, and then baked au gratin with swiss cheese.
Start your dining experience with a variety of appetizers, including the lavosh, an unleavened Mediterranean cracker with toppings such as chicken and spinach, basil pesto and tomato, or shredded pot roast, chicken, prosciutto, sliced tomato, and sun-dried tomato pesto. Of course, The Green Gateau features an outstanding wine list along with a large variety of craft beers and specialty drinks. With white tablecloths, The Green Gateau presents an upscale, yet comfortable décor, making you feel as though you are dining at a Parisian eatery.
4. Honest Abe’s Burgers
Home to the best burgers in Lincoln, Honest Abe’s offers a tasty spin on the American favorite. With names such as Hammer of Thor, Fireside, and Greatest Burger Ever, Honest Abe’s has to create one of the tastiest burgers you’ll ever enjoy. Adding chipotle cream cheese, griddled Brussels sprouts, bacon mayo, and pepper jack cheese to The Hammer of Thor, you’ll believe you’re a Norse god after consuming this burger. The Fireside includes Sriracha ketchup, jalapeños, cumin, and spicy mayonnaise. For a more traditional fare, check out the Greatest Burger Ever, with bacon, grilled onions, tomato, lettuce, and topped with Honest Abe’s awesome sauce. The sides are just as noteworthy as the burgers, with truffle fries and parmesan truffle tater tots, or the standard freedom fries or tots. With four locations around Lincoln, Honest Abe’s is a great burger restaurant at which to dine.
5. Misty’s Steakhouse And Brewery
Lincoln’s original sports bar, Misty’s, got its start as a bottle club in the early 1960s at its original location in the Havelock neighborhood, when people would bring in their own alcohol because the restaurant wasn’t allowed to serve alcohol. But that all changed in 1964, when the owners received their first liquor license. With a rotisserie and other cooking tools added, the club began serving meals. As a restaurant, Misty’s became known for its prime rib, and later steaks and seafood. Today, you’ll find coaches, players, politicians, and celebrities dining at Misty’s, at both the original spot and the downtown restaurant. While prime rib (my favorite) remains popular, Misty’s is a great spot to enjoy an 18-ounce T-bone steak, aged and prepared to perfection. Other outstanding steaks include a filet mignon, ribeye, and sirloin. Add a lobster tail, crab legs, or grilled shrimp, and you’ve ordered a delicious turf and surf combination. Misty’s also serves pork chops, chicken, burgers, and seafood entrees.
6. Cheesesteak Grille
Starting with a stand outside Memorial Stadium where they sold Philly cheesesteaks to Husker football fans, a brother and sister grew their dream of running a cheesesteak restaurant in Lincoln into reality when Cheesesteak Grille opened in 2010. Offering cheesesteaks served on local favorite Rotella Bakery hoagies, Cheesesteak Grille adds a Midwestern spin on the classic Philadelphia sandwich. Mixing Swiss cheese in with the steak or chicken as it cooks, cheesesteaks are ready within a couple of minutes. The fast-food eatery features 6-inch or 10-inch hoagies as well as bowls. Sides include seasoned fries, rice, or chips. Located next door to a gas station, Cheesesteak Grille includes nine tables with a seating capacity of about 36 people. Customers often get their Philly to go.
7. Sultan’s Kite
Offering a taste of Mediterranean cuisine, the menu at Sultan’s Kite features entrees such as chicken tikka korma, falafel, and (my favorite) shawarma. Whether served with pita bread or as a salad, shawarma is a nice combination of chicken or beef with a variety of tzatziki sauce, onions, tomato, lettuce, and olives. The seasoned potatoes are a delicious side dish. While the downtown eatery is located in an older building, offering character to the restaurant’s story and atmosphere, it has limited seating, so a nice option is to grab an order to go and enjoy lunch on the Capitol Mall, an area north of the state Capitol building with sculptures and water features amidst state government and university buildings and museums. A second location in south Lincoln offers more dining space and drive-thru service.
8. Parthenon Greek Grill
Serving authentic Greek food for more than two decades, Parthenon Greek Grill in south Lincoln is the closest you’ll get to Greece without a passport. The grill serves everything from appetizers such as saganaki (imported Kasseri cheese melted and flamed in brandy) to traditional Greek entrees like souvlaki, with your choice of meat skewered and served with a side, such as seasoned Greek potatoes, and pita bread. Diners can also enjoy lamb specialties, including leg of lamb and lamb chops. Parthenon’s menu also includes Greek salads, pizza, and sandwiches, as well as stuffed peppers with orzo, fresh mint, basil, capers, sauteed onions, and tomatoes in a white wine sauce, with a dab of olive oil, and baked in a tomato sauce. After your dining tour of Greece, enjoy a slice of baklava for dessert.
9. Engine House Cafe
Offering breakfast daily, Engine House Cafe combines home-cooked meals with a mix of history, as you dine in a renovated fire station. The vintage firehouse served Lincoln’s Havelock neighborhood for about 70 years, opening in 1900. From horse-drawn water hose wagons to fire trucks, the fire station saw it all. Today, you’ll enjoy an outstanding breakfast surrounded by artifacts and memorabilia celebrating the fire house’s legacy, including helmets, axes, and other gear. Whether it’s omelets or a plate of pancakes, breakfast at Engine House Cafe is a trip through Lincoln’s past. After breakfast, enjoy a walk around the historic district, with its classic architecture and local boutiques and shops.