When it comes to steak, Glenn Wheeler is devout. The executive chef behind the mouthwatering cuts at Spencer's for Steaks and Chops, Wheeler exclusively stocks his kitchen with the choicest cuts of well-marbled, USDA prime beef—a distinction bestowed on only the top 2% of the country's beef—from the Chicago stockyards. Each cut spends at least 21 days in Wheeler's aging room before being cooked on a 1600-degree, infrared broiler that sears the juices inside, resulting in a tender steak plump with flavor. His scrupulous selection and preparation delivers a menu of consistently exceptional meat, including the 14-ounce new york strip and the 16-ounce, bone-in kansas city cut. Though known for its steaks, Spencer's also offers seafood entrees including Australian lobster and pan-seared Scottish salmon. With dark wood paneling, white tablecloths, and burgundy upholstery, Spencer's dining room fosters formal occasions, while those looking for a casual experience can sip premium scotches and cocktails prepared by a mixologist at its airy, soft-lit bar. Though the steaks may command the lion's share of attention, Spencer's far-reaching wine list has won four consecutive Awards of Excellence from Wine Spectator, as well as the grudging respect of the kitchen's less-celebrated soda machine.
801 Chophouse establishes itself as a special-occasion restaurant, where every table might well hold a ring in a hidden box or a couple celebrating an anniversary. There are the white tablecloths popping against dark leather booths, the racks of wine tended by a certified sommelier, and, of course, the chops and steaks, all USDA Prime. On the other hand, it's quite conceivable that someone might gladly eat at 801 Chophouse every week and for any occasion—the menu, drink selection, and Wine Spectator-awarded wine list could accommodate months of exploration, and an ever-changing "fresh sheet" overflows with the jet-fresh seafood selections of the day.
On any given night, the wait staff moves across wooden floors beneath high ceilings and 1920s-inspired decor, trays loaded with nine creative potato preparations, filet mignon, and dry-aged pork chops. Meanwhile, the cattle of a pastoral mural gaze out over the dining room's cherry-wood finishes, waiting patiently to graze on uneaten garnishes.
In many ways, Texas Roadhouse is a throwback—the tunes still play from a jukebox, and the steaks, chicken, and seafood are still prepared by hand in-house. Since founder Kent Taylor opened the first location two decades ago, the steak house has spread across the nation, bringing hand-cut steaks and made-from-scratch sides with it. The restaurant's signature steaks assume many shapes and sizes, from 12-ounce Kansas City strips and 10-ounce Fort Worth rib eyes to 20-ounce bone-in rib eyes and 23-ounce porterhouse T-bones. Diners can top steaks with sautéed onions or brown gravy, or pair them with shrimp, ribs, or 10-gallon hats. Cooks prepare skewers of grilled, seasoned shrimp as well as hand-battered country-fried sirloins slathered with housemade cream gravy. Behind the bar, the staff preps signature margaritas, blending different tequilas with triple sec and a sweet-and-sour mix.
Since 1964, Misty's has served a hearty combination of USDA premium beef and house-brewed beer, dubbed the Modern Monks Forbidden Ales. The menu lists a slew of quality steaks and chops, plus seafood, pastas, and sandwiches that satisfy even the most ravenous mad-griffin appetite. Spend your lunch hour cozied up to a smokey blues burger (topped with blue cheese, hickory-smoked bacon, and chipotle mayo; $8.95) and a pint of preservative-free Kolsch, a dry and crispy ale with fruity aromas ($4–$4.20). Hearty dinners heaped with aged Angus prime-rib, soup, salad, and a potato ($15.95–$29.95), along with a pint of Robust Porter ($4–$4.20), leave stomachs stuffed and pitched forward as their operators blissfully mosey home on chestnut mares. Seated amid warm décor with dark wood furnishings and trompe de l'oeil stone walls, you'll feel as comfortable as a snake in a luxury-sized can. Floor-to-ceiling windows let in streams of natural light and provide ample opportunities for people watching. In the warmer months, take advantage of al fresco dining.
Sitting at the intersection of gastro-pub, chop-house, and whiskey bar, The Single Barrel celebrates Nebraska's local food and drink with fresh local ingredients, made-from-scratch cooking, and one of Nebraska's largest selection of whiskey. The 10,000-square foot restaurant is housed inside the former Boomer’s Printing building in downtown Lincoln, and contains a stage large enough to host everything from live concerts from country bands to jazz performances and karaoke nights. Throughout the dining space, the aromas of grilled steaks and fish can be traced back to the full-service kitchen, where chefs assemble dishes from a range of local ingredients.
In addition to pork from TD Niche Pork in Elk Creek and trout from Blue Valley Aquaculture in Sutton, chefs gather ingredients on frequent trips to the nearby Haymarket farmer's market. Their perennial menu of hand-cut steaks now cozies up to a new barbecue menu that showcases certified Piedmontese brisket, shredded pulled pork, and other various smoked delights. Even after the kitchen closes, the whiskey bar stays open—until 2 a.m.—to serve spirits and local craft beers by Blue Blood Brewing Company, Nebraska Brewing Company, and Lucky Bucket Brewing Company.
Backed by a cavalcade of positive press, Vincenzo's has been serving up tongue tantalizing Italian dishes for years. Its menu contains a cornucopia of comforting classics to pacify the palate. Appetizers include delicately fried calamari ($6.95) and shell-clad escargot ($7.95), prepared slowly to mimic their speed in nature. Penne Diavolo, a house favorite, combines tubular pasta with spicy Italian sausage, onion, black olives, and mushrooms in a rich roasted-red-pepper cream sauce ($11.95). Vincenzo's also serves a selection of chops, steaks, seafood, and St. Louis–style pizzas to satisfy hunger or jog ancient memories of eldritch arch-shaped structures.