LINWOOD -- We thought we took a wrong turn.
Having never been to Nowhere Special or Linwood, where the steakhouse and saloon is located, my friend Eric and I expected to find the restaurant in a downtown with a bunch of other businesses.
So when pavement gave way to gravel leading to a scattering of houses, and Google Maps telling us we had arrived in Linwood, we weren’t sure.
But after a couple more turns, there it was, a stand-alone oasis-of-sorts in rural Nebraska. Its name is a bit of a misnomer ... because it actually is kind of special.
Nowhere Special is a dining destination and gathering place for the village of 100 or so and the small towns nearby. Open daily, the restaurant has become known for its half-pound burgers, rib-eye steaks and weekend prime rib.
Linwood is about 32 miles northwest of Wahoo. Google Maps will take you on routes north via highways 77, 79 or 15, depending upon where you’re leaving. Nebraska 79, however, is detoured because of road construction north of Raymond Road, so beware.
Nowhere Special is owned by Nick and Amber Cherny, who took over the former Big Fella’s from Mike Codr in July 2012 and renamed the bar and grill. The Chernys also operate the Outer Limits, a bar and grill outside of Valley.
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They pay tribute to their predecessor with two menu entrees -- The Big Fella Rib-Eye and The Big Fella Prime Rib -- named for it.
After purchasing it, the Chernys renovated the bar and grill. The work is impressive. Six years later it still looks brand new. With seating for more than 100, the carpeted main dining room has booths along the walls and tables and chairs spread throughout. The bar features stone work and includes some nifty under-the-bar lighting.
The restaurant also includes a heated party room/beer garden, which can hold another 120 or so. That’s where the pool tables are.
The menu is small and what you would expect from a small-town restaurant, filled with typical bar-and-grill fare. Burgers are a half-pound each and are served with waffle fries or gems. Sandwiches include breaded Alaskan cod, chicken fried steak, breaded chicken and pork tenderloin. There are also chicken strips, breaded shrimp and gizzards served as baskets. Costs range from $5.25 (mini corn dogs) to $8.49 (gizzards).
The draw is the Big Fella Rib-Eye, described as a “HUGE hand-cut USDA choice slab.” Indeed, it is. Priced at $21.99. The steak fills the plate, barely leaving room for the choice of potato and Texas toast. On weekends, Nowhere Special sells prime rib ($24.99) and chicken fried steak ($12.99, with mashed potatoes, corn and dinner roll).
On our lunch visit, Eric had the steak, while I went with the prime rib melt, the day’s special, which was using up the rest of the prime rib from the weekend. It was served on a ciabatta-like bun with au jus to dip into. Paired with the waffle fries, it hit the spot. And at $6.25, the price was extremely reasonable.
In fact, all the prices were inexpensive, including beverages. A large mug of Coor Light, for instance, cost just $2, while a mug of Shock Top was $4.50. And the tax on our $41 tab was less than two bucks. You’ve got to love small towns, especially one featuring a special-kind-of restaurant.
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Jeff Korbelik is the tasting room manager at James Arthur Vineyards. He's been writing restaurant reviews for the Lincoln Journal Star since 1998.