Eddy Cloran is thinking outside the box or, more accurately, working outside of one.
Wanting to start his own restaurant but low on funds to do so, Cloran converted a trailer into a big red box, from which he operates his outdoor grill on the northeast corner of the Superior Street and Cornhusker Highway intersection.
For those who have the health department on speed dial, Cloran is legal. He has his permit on display outside his stand.
He opened Nitro Burger on July 8, serving juicy gourmet hamburgers and grilled sandwiches at extremely reasonable prices. They cost $4.50 each. Combo meals -- which include a side and soda -- are $6.50.
Cloran went to culinary school at Southeast Community College and worked at a number of restaurants and catering companies in Lincoln before deciding to open his own business.
"I was putting in a lot of work, but not getting a lot out of it," he said.
He runs Nitro Burger out of the Nebraska's Home Improvement parking lot. NHI owner Jim Sipes is a friend Cloran knows through his church. Cloran credits his faith for giving him the strength to pursue this venture.
"God gave me this gift, and I'm trying to do the best I can with my abilities," he said.
I'm on a roll in finding good burgers, having reviewed the new Crave two weeks ago.
Cloran has an impressive lineup as well. He seasons each third-pound patty and features a different, homemade sauce on each of his five burger selections. Each burger is grilled to order.
On my visit, I enjoyed "The Diablo Burger," a juicy burger -- make sure you have a napkin -- topped with a tasty sweet-and-sour sauce made from tangelos and smoked habaneros. It also included sharp cheddar cheese, Roma tomatoes and sliced onions.
Other unique toppings include a smoked paprika ketchup, a port wine marinara, a toasted pecan spinach pesto, a smokey molasses BBQ sauce and an apricot sauce.
Nitro Burger's menu also features a beer-marinated cheesesteak and two pork patty burgers. I'm anxious to return to try one of these. Grade: A
Nitro Burger is a one-person operation, sometimes two when Cloran's girlfriend helps out. His burgers and sandwiches are made to order, meaning it takes about 10 or 15 minutes for each entree.
Menus are posted on giant chalkboards. Cloran has to-go menus but was out of them on my visit. A stack of them would be handy for patrons waiting in line to order.
Nitro Burger is takeout only, with no picnic tables for dining. A couple of tables would be nice, but Cloran is limited on space for them. Grade: C
Nitro Burger is quite visible from Cornhusker Highway, but a little tricky to access especially if you're heading east. I found the best way to reach it is through Orschelin's parking lot.
The big question here is what will happen when the weather turns cold. Cloran plans to keep cooking outside until Dec. 1 and then make a decision about what to do through the winter months. Grade: Not applicable
Nitro Burger has two sandwiches for vegetarians.
The "Beanie Burger" is a blend of pinto and black beans formed into a patty. It's topped with Roma tomatoes, onions, pickles, smoked cheddar cheese, dill mayonnaise and paprika ketchup.
The "Meatless Cheese Steak" features sauteed mushrooms, garlic, onions, bell peppers, chilies, mozzarella cheese and a smokey molasses BBQ sauce. Grade: C