VIRGINIA - Now I know why people have been e-mailing me about Terry's Steakhouse in Virginia.

The steaks are butter-knife tender. The salads are homemade as are the hash browns and "flame broiled potatoes." And Kay Mencl's pies are as good as those at Stauffer's in Lincoln.

I'll be back.

Soon.

The steakhouse, located in downtown Virginia, is a popular destination for diners in the area. It may become one for Lincoln diners, too. It's pretty darn good.

The restaurant, open only in the evenings, is owned and operated by Terry Mencl (his last name is painted on the outside of the building) and his wife, Kay.

It's a small town bar and, of course, looks like one with beer signs and such.

Terry bought it in 1992 from his uncle, Johnny, who had it for 45 years. Johnny is still a regular customer. He sat at the table next to mine during my visit.

When Terry took over, he expanded the menu to include steak and seafood on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Only burgers and sandwiches are available on Mondays through Wednesdays.

Friday nights feature hand-breaded, all-you-can-eat Alaskan pollock. On Saturday evenings, Terry sells three cuts of prime rib - 8, 12 and 16 ounces.

Terry also hosts the occasional BBQ night, making ribs or chicken with a trip to the side bar available for $8.50. My visit coincided with one of those occasions.

My girlfriend enjoyed the all-you-can eat pollock with the flame-broiled potatoes (fried potatoes with peppers and onions mixed in) for a very reasonable $7.95.

I ordered the Italian ribeye, a 16-ounce, hand-cut steak marinated in Italian dressing and topped with sauteed mushrooms for $20.95.

The Italian and garlic ribeyes are house favorites, as are the flat iron steaks ($14.95 for 8 ounces and $19.95 for 16 ounces).

I went with the homemade hash browns with onions as my side.

Both our meals included a trip to Kay's salad bar. Available on Friday and Saturdays only, the salad bar on this night included homemade potato salad, cole slaw, a pea salad and more.

The salad bar, by the way, is worth a trip to Virginia in itself and is a meal option for $5.75.

I can't say enough about my steak. Ordered medium rare, it was one of the tenderest cuts I've had in awhile and stacks up to any from the Lincoln steakhouses. You also can order the ribeye without the Italian or garlic flavors.

We finished our meal sharing a slice of Kay's coconut cream pie ($2.25). The pie featured a thick, flaky crust. It's a must-try, so leave room.

The drive to Virginia is about an hour from south Lincoln. You will, as I did, find the drive well worth it.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 402-473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com, or follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jeffkorbelik.