After the Piedmont Bistro closed its doors in late 2016, it didn’t take long for Jeff Barclay and Scott Ritter to recognize the potential of a restaurant in that locale.
Before the end of 2016, it was announced that Barclay and Ritter – co-owners of Lincoln’s Venue restaurant and Goodcents Deli Fresh Subs – had acquired the site at The Shoppes at Piedmont Center in east Lincoln. Keeping the original name, but adding the Venue connection, Piedmont Bistro by Venue opened Jan. 9, 2017.
Barclay and Ritter also recognized the talent and devotion of the Bistro’s previous staff, resulting in a number of the workforce remaining when the new restaurant opened.
The top places to dine outdoors in Lincoln
In our online survey asking for the best place for outdoor dining, readers tended to favor the Haymarket for their picks, while my choices skewed more toward the rest of Lincoln.
There was one consensus, however. Both readers and I chose The Lodge at Wilderness Ridge as No. 1.
With a large patio situated off the gorgeous log building, which resembles a ski lodge, Wilderness Ridge is Lincoln’s go-to place for outdoor eating.
Here’s a rundown of my favorites, followed by readers' choices.
-- Jeff Korbelik
Former night sous chef at the Piedmont Bistro, Jillian Manthei, was soon named as general manager of the new eatery. She explains that while there have been some staff changes – most notably in the kitchen area, where now there is more diversity – carrying over former employees has been a boon to morale and has increased staff passion and dedication.
She especially commends the efforts of former kitchen staffer Justin Stutzman, whom she says has enthusiastically and confidently moved into the role of executive chef for the Bistro.
Manthei also recognizes the valuable insights and resources that the Barclay/Ritter organization has provided to her and the Bistro staff, citing activities such as weekly meetings where “they hear our plans and dreams and offer support and guidance. The transition was a very smooth one, and there is a very comfortable and reassuring feeling to the relationship.”
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, with brunch on Sundays, Piedmont Bistro by Venue has a large and diverse menu. While the restaurant has maintained a relatively static bill of fare since opening, Manthei says she plans to adjust the menu somewhat to accommodate seasonal options. She hopes to launch the first modification sometime this spring or summer.
The Bistro already uses locally sourced produce as much as it can, and with the seasonal menu adjustments, Manthei anticipates increased use of local products.
The restaurant’s breakfast menu opens with choices of Buttermilk Pancakes ($4 to $8) and French Toast ($6), as well as Farmer’s Hash ($9), Biscuits and Gravy ($8), Breakfast Combo ($8) or Daily Omelet Special ($8). In addition to three sandwiches – Breakfast Sandwich ($8), Breakfast Club ($9) and Madame Piedmont (gruyere, cob-smoked ham, Dijon cream sauce, sunny egg, sourdough, $10), there is the option of Build Your Own Benedict ($8 to $13).
The lunch menu features seven appetizers including Black-eyed Pea Quesadilla ($6), Beet Fries ($7) and Spinach Gouda Dip ($9). Chicken, Asian Sesame or Veggie wraps are available at $8, and salad offerings number eight, from House ($7) to Garden Goddess ($8), Grilled Caesar Chicken ($10) or Seared Salmon Nicoise ($13).
Four burger choices at lunch include 10 sandwich options from Grilled Cheese ($8) to Red Reuben (smokey roasted beets, braised cabbage, gruyere, Russian dressing and Russian rye bread, $8) or Cranberry Pecan Chicken Salad ($9).
The dinner menu features the same appetizers, salads and burgers as the lunch menu, with four steaks offered – Piedmontese Flat Iron (8 oz., $18), CAB (certified Angus beef) Strip Steak Frites (12 oz., $22), Grilled CAB Filet of Ribeye (10 oz, $24) and Bistro CAB Filet (6 oz., $25).
Eight entrees ranging from $14 to $23 include Build Your Own Mac and Cheese, Herbed Mushroom Cavatappi, Dijon Chicken Breast, Maple Soy Glazed Chicken, TD Niche Berkshire Pork Chop, Seared Salmon, Maple Leaf Farm Duck Breast and Seared Scallops.
Sunday brunches include combinations from the breakfast and lunch menus – pancakes, French toast, biscuits and gravy, daily omelet, eggs benedict, appetizers, sandwiches, burgers and salads.
According to Manthei, customer favorites at breakfast are the biscuits and gravy, with grilled Caesar chicken salad at lunch, the Bistro CAB filet at dinner and buttermilk pancakes at Sunday brunches.
The Bistro’s sharp and clean ambiance is a plus for its popularity. Manthei comments that the restaurant has a good and varied selection of dining options – from food to drink – that are tailored to individual tastes. “Diners can have anything from duck breast to a burger.”
Located in a neighborhood environment, it is not surprising that many of Bistro’s customers are area residents or retirees. According to Manthei, retirees comprise most of the breakfast crowd, while the lunch traffic combines both business professionals and retirees. Dinner is a general mix of customers with Manthei seeing a growth in date night guests on the weekends. A mix of families and larger social groups dominate the Sunday brunches.
Manthei, assistant general manager Spencer Goff and assistant manager Dave Leopardi feel that the Bistro’s diverse menu – “offering options you can’t get anywhere else,” Manthei says – is motivation for people to dine there.
That, plus the restaurant’s entire staff’s desire to please.
“Our staff is like a family,” Manthei says. “We are happy to be here to cook food for you and wait on our guests. We are passionate about what we do. Lots of people at the Bistro are working every day to serve and satisfy our guests. Try us.”