So how does the new Ground Up Kitchen come up with the names for its gourmet sandwiches?
“It’s whatever pops into my head,” co-owner Erik Hustad said.
The Pretty Bird, for example, is a chicken salad sandwich, so Hustad decided to play with the word bird.
And Fight Club, the latest non-menu special sandwich with salami, ham and provolone?
“I have no idea why I called it that,” Hustad said. “I guess it’s because I liked the movie.”
Ground Up Kitchen took over space in the Meadowlane Shopping Center at 70th and Vine streets in February from Como Se Taco.
Hustad and Gabriel Lovelace’s Ground Up Restaurants, which also operates Lincoln’s two Honest Abe’s Burgers and Freedom stores, opened Como Se Taco in August when Honest Abe’s moved a couple of doors down in the same strip mall to a bigger location.
Como Se Taco specialized in gourmet tacos, but Hustad said the concept didn’t take off.
“We felt like it was too specified,” he said. “We were getting a sense from a lot of people that it was really good, but not the kind of place you go to very often. We started hearing it more and more.”
So they shut it down for two weeks and re-opened as a gourmet sandwich shop, offering some of the same fare they sold when they first started in Lincoln with a food truck. The Washington, a Cuban-spiced pulled pork sandwich, is so named because it was Hustad’s first creation for the truck.
The new café also includes a couple of the tacos from Como Se Taco, chopped salads, macaroni and cheese, the occasional soup and Brussels sprouts for those of you missing them from when Ground Up had Sebastian’s Table in downtown Lincoln. Those sprouts are a prominent feature in the vegetarian-friendly sandwich, Russell’s Brussels.
Those of you who missing the hot sandwiches from the now-closed Doozy’s should try Ground Up Kitchen. The hot sandwiches here are better because of the ingredients and bread used.
Ground Up features breads from Le Quartier, and Hustad’s creations, well, they are delicious works of art. The Russell's Brussels, for example, is made with griddled Brussels sprouts, feta mayonnaise, gouda, guacamole, hazelnuts (for crunch) and pickled apples (for acidity balance and flavor). It's really something to enjoy.
As is the Fight Club, which includes Romaine lettuce (for crunch and color), marinated grape tomatoes (for flavor), mayo and red onion (for more flavor) to go along with ham, salami and provolone.
The sandwiches run $6.95 each and are big enough (about 8 inches) to eat alone, or you can pair them with a side ($7.95) or a side and drink ($8.95). Sides included waffle fries, mac ‘n’ cheese, side salad with a homemade dressing -- the Ranch had dill in it -- or Brussels sprouts (for $1.75 extra). You can order a half sandwich for $2 less. Grade: A.
Ground Up has a knack for decorating its restaurants, making each one extremely hip. The decor in the Kitchen is a mish-mash of framed prints and pictures, with many having a nostalgic feel. One of the dominant pieces is a print of Gen. George Washington, which is apropos.
The café is small, with seating for 25 to 30 folks. There’s also a bench for take-out customers. Like Honest Abe’s, customers order at register and then wait for food to be delivered to tables. Grade: B+
This isn’t fast food. The sandwiches take a little bit, but not a lot, of time to prepare. My wife and I were one of two tables during our lunch visit and received our food about five minutes after ordering. That gave us time to get our drinks from the beverage station and settle. But if it’s busy, the wait could be longer. Grade: B.
Hustad made a point of saying they can accommodate all kinds of eaters. They have gluten-free breads on hand and can turn many of their sandwiches into vegan or gluten-free. Your best bet: If you don’t see something on the menu you like, ask. The current menu, which rotates, included one vegetarian sandwich, the Russell’s Brussels. Grade: B.