Even so, when Beermann’s Beerwerks opened in the old Elks Lodge and began offering valet parking, a few eyebrows were raised. After all, Lincoln is a town best known for its clay-pipe factory, a town where the most popular form of transportation is a dually driven by a guy in a cowboy hat. Although the restaurant was extremely popular, it seemed owners Karen Fox and David Rosenaur had overextended themselves, and the restaurant abruptly closed.
But now Beermann’s is back, its concept streamlined a bit. It serves “pub grub” in the bar and the adjoining parlor. Upstairs, what was an upscale steak house has been re-imagined as a lodge hall with family-style dining Wednesday through Sunday. The concept here is fairly simple: You sit at a long, community table, and the food is served communally. Dinners start at $14.95 and include homemade soup served in a tureen, fresh-baked bread, salad, potatoes, veggies and your choice of entree. If you prefer lunch or dinner in a more private setting, the parlor downstairs is the way to go. The space has been lovingly renovated, with coffered ceilings, brick walls and a system of fans connected by a pulley running the length of the room. Dark, patterned carpeting; oak tables; and mounted heads of bison and deer complete the old-fashioned look.
Beermann’s appetizers range from Buffalo wings to popcorn shrimp or chili fries. You can’t go wrong with an order of homemade, crispy potato chips ($3.95) heaped in a galvanized-tin basket. You can order them with ranch or spicy barbecue seasoning or with salt and vinegar, but unadorned is best. If you’ve never had potato chips hot out of the fryer, you haven’t lived. Beermann’s chips are surprisingly grease-free and come lightly dusted with cayenne pepper. Our table of five made short work of them. The casual offerings on the menu also include a selection of salads, chili, burgers and sandwiches.
The burgers, made of beef ground on the premises, are noteworthy. They’re flavorful and taste just right from their time on the grill. The Buffalo chicken sandwich ($6.95) was decent without being spectacular. Although the chicken, which is breaded and fried until crispy, was tender, the sandwich could have used more of the spicy wing sauce. The smoked-salmon BLT ($8.95) received higher marks for inventiveness. The diner standard has been reworked with apple-wood-smoked bacon, grilled onion, avocado and a hefty portion of smoked salmon in addition to the lettuce and tomato.
Beermann’s also offers a quartet of wood-oven-roasted specialties ($14.95-$15.95), such as plank-roasted salmon and tri-tip and several pizzas, including one with chicken and Granny Smith apples with rosemary cream sauce. The tri-tip also makes an appearance in a salad ($8.95) with bleu cheese; caramelized, grilled onions; and a honey-mustard vinaigrette. All portions here are enormous; even the salads will defeat any but the heartiest eater.
The baby back ribs, like all the wood-oven specialties, come with your choice of two sides, which include chili fries, coleslaw and some tasty ranch beans. Although the ribs were tender, the house barbecue sauce was unmemorable. Beermann’s barbecue sauce is described as spicy, but the predominant flavor was sweet with very little hint of heat.
Beermann’s does a great job with desserts ($3.50-$5.95). Chocoholics can satisfy their addiction with the chocolate fudge cake, a dense slab served with vanilla ice cream and topped with caramel and chocolate sauces. The restaurant feeds the kids-at-heart with old-fashioned sundaes, cookie sandwiches and an irresistible version of s’mores. This comes with a pyramid of graham crackers, each topped with a chunk of Hershey’s chocolate, roasted marshmallows and a drizzle of caramel. You also can opt for a float made with handmade root beer or with Beermann’s Industrial Stout. Beermann’s brews its beer on the premises and offers the aforementioned stout, Lincoln Lager, Rip Roarin’ Red and a holiday special, Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine. You also can buy six-packs to go or a growler, or a half-gallon jug of ale.
Although Beermann’s does not quite reach the level of a destination restaurant, it fills a more important niche. Finally, residents of the Lincoln area have somewhere to go for upscale dining. Here’s hoping Beermann’s sticks this time, in its second incarnation.