Ground Zero annually hits the road in July, visiting restaurants that are about an hour or so from Lincoln.
EXETER -- John Graham has seen a bunch of repeat customers since taking over the bar and grill in downtown Exeter in October 2010.
That includes a gentleman from Sutton, who likes Graham’s steaks so much he’s been there six times in the past two months.
“He told me he had only two steaks all of last year,” Graham said. “Each time he comes now, he brings somebody new with him.”
Steaks are a draw at John E’s Bar and Grill, which Graham runs with his fiancee, Rhonda Walford. A former kitchen manager at the York Country Club, Graham wanted a place of his own.
He and Walford took over what was Gator’s Pub for 29 years. He immediately upgraded the menu, making food available every day instead of just at select times during the week.
Now that also includes the steaks, which once were Saturday night-only specials.
Steak choices include two cuts (by hand) of ribeye and a 10-ounce sirloin ($17.50). Ribeyes come in queen (12 to 14 ounces, $19.95) and king sizes (16 to 18 ounces, $22.50). Steaks are served with choice of potato (baked, hash browns, fries) or onion chips and on Fridays and Saturdays, a trip to the salad bar.
I enjoyed a generous queen-cut ribeye on my visit there last Saturday. The steak tipped closer to 16 ounces. It was juicy and perfectly seasoned -- even, some would say, a tad salty, but I like my steak that way.
John E’s also features a decent burger and sandwich menu, which includes Graham’s signature “Pig Family” entrees.
The “3 Little Pigs,” for instance, is a pork fritter with ham and bacon on grilled cheese and runs $5.75. “When Pigs Fly” is a breaded chicken breast with ham and bacon on grilled cheese.
My wife ordered a straight pork fritter sandwich ($4) with a trip to the salad bar as her side item.
The salad bar is small, but solid, with a homemade potato and pasta salad to go along with iceberg lettuce and assorted toppings (tomatoes, red onions, croutons, etc.).
John E’s has become a destination for motorcyclists. A sign outside welcomes them.
It’s also become home for a number of special events.
On July 27, Graham and Walford will begin a monthly fish and mountain fry. The plan is to host the fry on the fourth Saturday of every month and feature live entertainment. The Last Minute Band from Lincoln will perform at the inaugural event, with food available at 5 and music following at 8.