One of Lincoln’s best hamburgers is being served from a new location.
Hollenbeck Farms of Elmwood opened HF Crave May 24 at 4800 Holdrege St., becoming the first retail tenant of the new Square at Forty-Eight development. To do so, HF Crave moved from its original location, opened in 2011, at the strip mall at 2801 Pine Lake Road.
HF Crave is known for its delicious, cooked-to-order third-pound burgers made from Nebraska-raised beef.
“We were busy,” said Nikke Hollenbeck, who co-owns and operates HF Crave with her husband, JR, of the former site. “But the location wasn’t ideal. We were in the midst of other food places (Chipotle and Noodles were on each side of HF Crave) and parking was difficult at times.”
The new location is bigger -- capacity is 145, including 40 seats on the patio. The new site has also allowed the Hollenbecks to change up some things. They have a meat grinder on site -- talk about fresh -- and they’ve changed their concept from fast-casual to full-service.
“(The service) just fits better with where we’re going with this,” Nikke Hollenbeck said. “We want to give our customers more of an experience.”
What hasn’t changed is HF Crave’s menu -- for the most part. HF Crave dropped a couple of burgers that were laborious to create, such as the Stuffed Pepper Jack, but the restaurant brings them back occasionally as part of its “Time Travel Tuesday” specials.
Otherwise, the menu is a mix of gourmet options ($11), prepared with your choice of protein (hamburger, chicken, portobello mushroom or veggie patty), or build-your-own options, with many, many topping choices, starting at $9, $9.50 or $10.
I went with the popular Steakhouse Burger, pepper-crusted with cheddar cheese, onion strings, steak sauce mayo, lettuce and tomato, cooked medium. My wife had the California Burger with chicken as her protein, and with Monterey Jack cheese, avocado slices, lemon peppercorn mayo, lettuce and tomato. Both were superb and extremely juicy. The burger was spot-on -- no surprise since burgers are the specialty -- but the chicken was perfect, too. Not overcooked, as can happen.
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There are 13 gourmet options, including one with a pepper jack-infused pork bratwurst (Stadium Bratwurst) and another with a pepper jack-infused pork patty (Kicking Piggy).
We both ordered the waffle fries as our sides, served with a homemade dipping sauce (honey chipotle, ancho BBQ, honey mustard, 1000 island, ranch, creamy garlic, jalapeño ranch and spicy garlic). Other side options for 50 cents to $2 more include fried cheese curds, sweet potato fries, Craveslaw or a side salad.
I accompanied my burger with a Citra Summer pint from Zipline. HF Crave has several local beers on tap, a tip of the hat to the quality brews found locally. Hollenbeck said she and her husband are thinking about eventually adding locally made spirits. A few local wines for those who can’t or don’t like beer or liquor would be nice, too. Grade: A
You can tell the Hollenbecks took time in planning the layout to accommodate customers and staff. There’s a flow to it with a nice distance between tables. As you enter, there’s a waiting area to your right with hand-made benches. The dining room features a bar along one wall opposite the seating area which is filled with two- and four-top tables. At the back are a handful of what I call “community tables” for large groups. The room has a “barn” feel to it with all the wood and a red color scheme. Grade: B
I was pleasantly surprised to find HF Crave had switched from fast-casual to full-service. Fast-casual has its place, but I, like the Hollenbecks, prefer the experience. We had a good one thanks to our very attentive server, Devon, who explained how the menu worked and what tap beers were available. During our visit, she checked on us several times. The only glitch was the turnaround time from the kitchen. Guests at two tables who arrived after us received food before us. My wife and I guessed it was because we had ordered a chicken sandwich instead of a burger, which may take more time to prepare. Still, the wait wasn’t terribly long. Grade: B+
Nikke Hollenbeck takes pride in HF Crave’s menu, saying its “90 percent gluten free.” The restaurant highlights its gluten-free dishes with a “GF” on the menu and offers a gluten-free bun for $1 more. For vegetarians, the restaurant has either a grilled portobello sandwich ($9.50) or a three-grain veggie burger ($9). Grade: A