As you’re pushing through your first few semesters of college, it’s easy to fall into a routine of living off dining hall food and ramen noodles.
But when the time inevitably comes and you can’t stomach another serving of your budget diet, a trip to a locally-owned eatery may be in order. Read on for The Daily Nebraskan’s top local restaurant picks.
Sam Crisler, senior culture editor - Fly Dogz, 3111 O St.
Many people give skeptical glances when they hear the phrase “gourmet hot dog,” but Fly Dogz turns the typical ballpark dog on its head, offering dozens of toppings to give each hot dog a new identity.
From nacho cheese to avocado to sriracha to cream cheese, Fly Dogz boasts enough options to build the most heavenly concoction you can dream up. Try their combination suggestions too, like the BLT Dog and the Reuben-ish. To make things better, Fly Dogz delivers to campus.
John Reel, assistant culture editor - Sultan’s Kite, 1311 E. O St.
There’s no shortage of gyro eateries in downtown Lincoln. In fact, three spots specializing in this dish are on O Street.
However, the best place to grab this greasy Greek sandwich is at Sultan’s Kite, a hole-in-the-wall operation neighbored by Cliff’s Lounge and Walgreens. It’s a hard restaurant to miss with its storefront blazing in neon, but what shines brightest here is the food.
Aside from the beloved and classic gyro, other Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines share a menu with burgers, Indian food and solid vegetarian choices.
I recommend trying out their Philly steak pita. As its name suggests, this dish is a marriage of my two favorite on-the-go foods, the Philly cheesesteak and the gyro. What you get is the best of both.
Stephanie Cavazos, outgoing editor-in-chief - Grateful Bread/Freakbeat Vegetarian, 1625 S. 17th St.
What started as a small bakery in Lincoln’s Near South neighborhood, Grateful Bread has turned into one of the busiest locally owned restaurants in the city.
Now, 20 years after its opening, Grateful Bread added “freakbeat vegetarian” to its menu, serving soups, vegan curry rice bowls and mac and cheese, along with its bakery items – like the unbelievable cheddar scones and “big daddy” chocolate chip cookies.
It’s hard to come by a day where the cash-or-check-only restaurant doesn’t have a line out its door, because the only two employees are the husband and wife pair who opened the restaurant in 1998.
But the 1960s funkadelic decor is a great conversation starter during the wait time. If you like spicy food, you won’t be disappointed by the chipotle mac and cheese; and if you don’t, try the vampire-be-gone mac filled with garlic and herbs. With Grateful Bread’s low prices, you might as well try it all.
Lizzie Boeschen, culture reporter - Honest Abe’s, 126 N. 14th St.
It seems like the options for burgers are endless in downtown Lincoln, but none are as mouthwatering as Honest Abe’s.
They offer a rotating menu of inventive topping combinations, which means there’s even more reason to go as often as you can. My personal favorite burger is the 1809.
With bacon, gouda, pickled apples and smoky mayo, it’s the perfect mix of tart and savory. Definitely order the freedom fries, too. They’re Insta-worthy and deliciously addictive. Service is always fast and friendly, and it’s just a short walk from campus.
Jake Stahlnecker, culture reporter - El Rancho, 2700 E. O St. #2
Eating at a restaurant is not just about food; it’s about feeling at home. Every time I walk into El Rancho Mexican Restaurant, I feel at home. Chips and salsa are free, the service is quick and the employees always have a warm smile on their faces.
From floor to ceiling, El Rancho is decorated with colorful paintings and hand-carved chairs that transport diners from Lincoln to a land of Diego Rivera beauty.
While the ambiance is warm and welcoming, it’s El Rancho’s affordable, authentic food that sets it apart. Most dishes range from $7-$8, and with heaping portions of pork green chile, sizzling chorizo and slow-cooked adobada, El Rancho is far from the assembly line beef-and-cheese-burrito Mexican restaurant.
It’s an affordable, authentic and welcoming place where you will never leave hungry. What more could you ask for?
Presha Holley, culture reporter - Hi-Way Diner, 2105 NE-2
There are plenty of places in Lincoln to get a late-night meal, but the quality and atmosphere of Hi-Way Diner makes it my favorite choice.
I appreciate the convenience of ordering at the counter and choosing my own table, and it makes things especially quick. The breakfast food is my favorite in town.
I always opt for the #5, which comes with two eggs, perfectly cooked bacon, crispy golden hash browns and Magic Toast. Don’t ask, just believe. Practically everything is under $10, and they even have a “Price Is Right” menu with delicious options under $5. Oh, and it’s open 24/7.
Alec Ryan, culture reporter - Gourmet Grill, 1400 O St.
Everyone can agree the best way to end a night out with your pals is to grab a bite to eat. But if you’re looking for something different then the same old late night sandwich or for a vegetarian option before you head home, your search is over. Swing into Gourmet Grill on the corner of 14th and O streets for a mouthwatering late-night treat. Gourmet Grill is best known around Lincoln for its gyros, but they have many other options to choose from, like chicken kabobs or Philly cheesesteaks.
As for their vegetarian options, try the the hummus sandwich, the delectable spanakopita plate or, my favorite, a finger-licking falafel sandwich. If the savory entrees aren’t enough to convince you to check out Gourmet Grill, the excellent service and warm atmosphere should tip the scale.
To top it all off, Gourmet Grill is open until 3 a.m. every night except Sunday. If you’re looking for speedy, late-night service with a relaxed atmosphere and prices that won’t break the bank, Gourmet Grill is the place for you.