After experiencing the new Tavern 180, its name finally made sense.
This isn’t your typical bar, nor is it your typical restaurant. It’s a posh cocktail lounge that features fine dining. Basically, it’s 180 degrees from what you think of when hearing the word “tavern.”
“That’s the concept we were after,” Tavern 180 general manager Spencer Goff said. “It’s a fine dining menu combined with a chic bar atmosphere.”
Indeed it is.
When my wife and I entered Tavern 180 for the first time, I thought I had walked in the wrong door. I didn’t find a restaurant, but rather a very contemporary martini bar filled with black leather booths and several black high-top tables.
Then came the menu. It’s not typical bar-and-grill fare. Instead, it features high-end steaks and other scrumptious fare such as parmesan-crusted chicken and grilled, hand-cut Canadian salmon.
Yes, there are burgers and appetizers. But Tavern 180 takes them in a different direction. Its nachos, for instance, are made with ahi tuna, creating a flavorful experience.
The price point may scare some -- the center cut prime ribeye is $44, and the chef favorite Wagyu hanging tenderloin is $43. But, as Goff noted, there are several dishes, including burgers and sandwiches, priced around $15. The fish and chips dish I enjoyed was just $16.
Tavern 180 opened in southwest Lincoln at 8600 S. 30th St. at the end of March. It’s managing owner is Brett Clure. Executive chef is Adam Dike, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, and has worked at Lazlo’s and Piedmont Bistro, Goff said. The restaurant is Clure’s third. Goff said he opened the first three years ago in Omaha and a second in Ankeny, Iowa, just over a year ago.
The Lincoln and Ankeny stores are smaller. The Omaha restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, while the other two offer dinner daily, but have lunch service only on Fridays.
Our food was exceptional. We started with the Ahi Tuna Nachos ($16). It’s a small appetizer (probably too small for the price), with avocado, tomatoes, jalapenos, nori, roasted sesame seeds and a wasabi aioli atop wonton chips. It was quite flavorful, thanks to the tuna, jalapenos and the aioli.
For entrees, I enjoyed (very much) the fish and chips ($16) -- four pieces of fried Lagunita IPA-battered with hand-cut fries and house made tartar sauce. Loved the batter and the fish was perfect.
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My wife savored the Berry & Bleu Salmon Salad ($16), featuring grilled salmon, mixed greens, crumbled bleu cheese, assorted berries, spiced peanuts and a balsamic vinaigrette. Again, it was flavorful combination, with the salmon, sweet berries and the sharp cheese.
We accompanied our meals with bar selections. My wife had a crafted cocktail -- a Sazerac -- for $9. I had a local brew, a Zipline Kolsch ($5.25). There’s an extensive wine list, with the menu providing food-pairing recommendations. Grade: A
Tavern 180 is a big, dark square room, with a u-shaped bar filling up most of the space. Padded booths sit opposite the bar, while tall tables with padded chairs line the sides of the bar. The color scheme is black and gray, with the only color -- blues, reds, greens, yellow, coming from the back-lit liquor bottles at the back of the bar. I’ll say it again: it’s dark, especially coming in from out of the sunlight. Be careful; I stumbled on the step at a tall table. Basically, Tavern’s 180 very contemporary, and as Goff, said, “chic.” Grade: B+
Tavern 180 excels here -- as it should. If you operate a higher end establishment, your customers expect more, ranging from service to appearances. That was the case.
The staff wears black, complementing the decor. Our server, Lexi, was sharp. She asked, first, if we needed beverages and then suggested we try the Ahi Tuna Nachos as an appetizer. We took her up on it.
Tavern 180’s presentation was great. Food was served on a variety of attractive dishes (square, circular, rectangular) that were white in color, contrasting nicely with the black tables. The cloth napkins, too, were white.
Turnaround time from the kitchen was exceptional. The nachos came shortly after the drinks. Our entrees arrived not long after we had finished the nachos. Lexi quickly cleared dishes between courses and checked on us routinely.
The “surprise” here was the menu itself. It’s on a tablet. Your server will show you how to “call up” or “swipe” through the selections. It’s different and I’m not sure how I feel about it. We still placed our order with our server, but how long will it be before we just punch in our orders ourselves and limit our face-to-face interaction? Grade: A
Tavern 180’s menu doesn’t include any specific vegetarian entrees or sandwiches, but there are options among the appetizers (steamed edamame, asparagus risotto) and salads (roquefort wedge). I’m pretty sure the kitchen can prepare such dishes as the Mardi Gras Pasta without meat. As for gluten-free dining, Tavern 180 notes those dishes such as the Wagyu Hanging Tenderloin on the menu with a “GF.” Grade: C+