Lincoln has seen a growth in burger-themed restaurants since Red Robin opened near SouthPointe Pavilions in 2003.
It makes sense. This is "The Beef State," after all.
JB’s Burger Kitchen and Bar is the latest entry, opening in mid-March as part of the Country Inn & Suites at 5353 N. 27th St. It replaces Beacon Hills, which had operated there for nearly 16 years.
The concept, according to a recent Journal Star article, was created in-house. National Hospitality Services of Fargo, North Dakota, which owns the hotel and restaurant, wanted a concept that was easy to operate and appealed to more ages and genres than had Beacon Hills.
So instead of casual dining, JB’s, which takes its name from the initials of a company executive, is more of a sports bar, with about a dozen TVs, a large bar area and menu filled with burgers, sandwiches, salads and appetizers.
While “burger” is in the name, it’s not the entire focus of the menu. Diners also can find salmon, chicken, lamb and pulled pork as sandwich choices.
JB’s serves a gourmet burger ($8), meaning just as much thought is put into the toppings and bun for each selection. My Mediterranean burger, for instance, featured feta cheese, tomatoes and arugula, house tzatziki sauce atop a ground lamb patty, which appeared to be between a quarter and a half pound in size. It was quite flavorful.
My wife ordered a turkey burger ($8), which was topped with Swiss cheese, avocado and arugula and served on a multi-grain Greek yogurt bun. This one needed some kind of a sauce (lo-cal even), too. It was on the bland side.
The draws, here, of course, are the burgers. There are many, ranging from one with chipotle and jalapeno relish (South of the Border, $8) to a double stack with a bourbon BBQ sauce (Go Big Red! Burger, $14).
Each burger and sandwich is served with house-made chips. For $1 more, you can get a chrome cup filled with hand-cut fries. They are worth the extra dollar. Grade: B.
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The restaurant has taken some grief on Facebook for shoddy service, but it appears it’s worked out the kinks.
On our visit -- five weeks after opening -- we enjoyed a good experience, enhanced by the work of our server, Aaron. He came to our table quickly after we arrived and checked on us throughout our meal. Our food also arrived in a timely manner -- about 10 to 12 minutes after ordering.
I would put a sign at the door, saying “please seat yourself.” When my wife and I arrived, we weren’t sure if should just grab a table or wait. With booths with high walls, we were afraid we would not be seen after sitting down. But Aaron was right there. Grade: B+
The restaurant is an extension of the motel, meaning it has the same look and feel to it. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just, well, kind of plain, unlike Miller Time Pub & Grill, another hotel restaurant that went through a major transformation.
Miller Time has the feel of a bar, while JB’s feels like you’re in another room of the hotel, like a big meeting room with tables, booths and a large bar. Grade: C+
For a burger joint, there’s actually a fair amount of vegetarian choices. They include the Chipotle black bean burger ($8), eggplant Parmesan $7, Asiago artichoke flatbread with grilled peppers, onions and Swiss cheese ($5.75) and Mediterranean salad ($8).
A la carte sides include hand-cut fries ($4), Parmesan garlic fries ($4), house chips ($3), Cajun chips ($4), cole slaw ($3) and sweet potato waffle fries ($4.50).
The menu makes no mention if gluten-free buns are available for the burgers and sandwiches. Grade: B