John Larsen is a high school teacher, football coach and girls basketball coach.

You now can add another title to the list: restaurant owner.

Larsen and his wife, Jorena, reopened the sports bar and grill in the Alamo shopping center at 56th Street and Nebraska 2 under the name The Press Box.

The establishment used be The Element and before that, Bleachers for many years.

"It's something we've talked about for years," said Jorena, who works as an administrative assistant in the athletic office at Lincoln Southeast High School, where John is the head football and girls basketball coach. "It's something we both kind of had a desire to do."

The Larsens opened The Press Box on Nov. 22. Jorena's son, Michael Briggs, is the general manager. Open daily for lunch and dinner, the sports bar features American grill favorites, including burgers, sandwiches and appetizers.

"Sports have been a major player in our lives, and we have made many lifelong friends through the years," Jorena  said. "We feel this gives us a great avenue to stay connected for many years to come."

Food

I know what you're thinking: Does Lincoln really need another sports bar? You'll change your mind once you try The Press Box's food, starting with the hamburgers.

I ordered the French onion burger ($7.49), which featured a patty dressed with French onion mayo and topped with a homemade onion ring on a toasted sesame seed bun. My wife enjoyed The Juicy Jo ($8.99), an 8-ounce patty stuffed with cheddar cheese and served on a toasted ciabatta roll.

The burgers were a pleasant surprise. Why? They were seasoned and hand-pattied. They reminded me of the scrumptious patties found at Parkway Lanes, which ranked No. 1 on My Top 5 burger list. Other burgers include barbecue, slaw, swiss mushroom and firehouse (topped with pepperjack and pickled jalapenos).

On our return visit, we started with the must-try wing fries ($7.99). Totally bad for you, the appetizer features french fries topped with mild or spicy wing sauce, melted cheddar cheese, ranch dressing and chopped boneless chicken wings with more sauce.

I ordered the prime rib Philly ($7.99), based on Jorena's recommendation. She's been told it's one of the best in town. I can't argue. It featured thinly sliced prime rib, grilled with green peppers, onions, mushrooms on a hoagie roll with melted Monterey Jack cheese. The Press Box loaded the hoagie with ingredients.

My wife tried the Reuben ($7.49), which was stacked with thinly sliced corned beef, sauerkraut, thousand island dressing and Swiss cheese on marble. She swapped out the cheese for Havarti. She ate half and enjoyed the other half for lunch the next day. Other sandwiches include a French dip, club and Jorena's homemade chicken salad.

A highlight was the sides, which include giant sweet potato wedges. For $1 more, you can enjoy homemade, hand-dipped onion rings, which I recommend. The onion rings were big, kind of like the ones from Runza. Grade: A

Service

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During our lunch visit, the service was good, but it should have been because we were the only customers. Jorena said lunch has been slow. She thinks it's because diners still don't know about the sports bar.

Dinner was a different story. We stopped in after a 5 p.m. movie on Friday and found the Press Box packed. No tables were open, so we sat at the bar. I expected the worst, but came away impressed. We received our drink and menu orders promptly. I watched other tables, and food came out quickly for them as well. Grade: A

Atmosphere

The Larsens spent most of their time (and money) on the kitchen because the dining room was already in good shape. The sports bar features two levels of seating. The lower level is a dining room with round booths and tables. The upper level features singles seating with a counter and bar.

The decor is simple and not gaudy, with just a handful of prints, including one of former Nebraska football coach Tom Osborne. I half-expected photos of Larsen's LSE teams, but I'm guessing they want the place to be for everyone, not just LSE fans.

The restaurant, as you can guess, is filled with several TVs viewable from any table. A big plus for me was the shuffleboard to go along with the pool table. Shuffleboards are hard to come by in Lincoln.

The only drawback is space. The Press Box is not as big as some of the city's other sports bars. Tables can be hard to come by during peak times on Friday and Saturday nights. Grade: B

Vegetarian friendly

There's not a vegetarian item on the menu outside of a few appetizers (quesadillas, corn nuggets, onion rings, etc). The Press Box may want to consider a few specialty salads without meat and a couple of veggie sandwiches to round out its menu. Grade: D

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

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