Before deciding to open a second 9 South CharGrill location, Brett Richardson did the math -- figuring out the distance in miles between the new location in Hickman and the old one at 844 South St.
He and partner Shawn Lacey wondered if the 14.2 miles separating the two sites would be enough. Would they be going to the south Lincoln well too often?
They talked to Brian Kitten, co-owner of Brewsky’s, which has four Lincoln locations, and calculated the difference between the two Lazlo’s restaurants (7 miles).
“We thought it was doable,” Richardson said.
They were right. The new 9 South CharGrill, located on the edge of Hickman at 1204 Park Drive, is not only drawing from Hickman and south Lincoln, but from several of the nearby small towns.
“We tell people if they don’t want to fight the stoplights (in Lincoln) to come see us,” Richardson said.
9 South CharGrill opened its second restaurant in May, nine years after opening the first in south Lincoln. The owners lease a 5,575-square-foot standalone building from the Hickman Development Corp., which approached them about coming to the small town.
The new restaurant is nearly three times larger than the original 9 South, with seating for 290 diners. It also has a 50-seat party room with all the amenities and a large parking lot. Diners at the South Street location know parking often is an issue.
Even little things behind the scenes -- like a large walk-in cooler and spacious kitchen -- made opening in Hickman appealing to the owners.
The kept the name because of brand recognition, plus gift cards -- now available at Sam’s Club -- can be used at either location, Richardson said.
The menu is the same at both, but the Hickman restaurant also has a late-night menu since the bar remains open after the dining room has closed.
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9 South has been a favorite since it opened because of its multi-faceted menu. You want steak. It has it. Burgers, pasta, seafood, even ribs? It’s all there, and it’s done well, with the restaurant providing its signature twists on them.
We visited on a cold, drizzly Thursday night, which led my wife to order the chicken pot pie ($14.99). It was the best I’ve ever had, with large chicken breast chunks and veggies baked on a mashed potato crust and sweet puff pastry. It warmed the tummy and the soul.
I ordered the beef rustic ($15.99), one of 9 South’s pasta dishes. I likened this to a Philly steak sandwich smothered over a bed of bowtie noodles. It featured cooked-to-order grilled steak bites, mushrooms, red peppers and a creamy cilantro white cheese sauce. It came with rosemary crostini bread slices to sop up the cheese sauce. The dish was hearty and tasty.
Really, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. The “Nebraska Fondue” is a favorite appetizer (grilled steak, veggies and cheese sauce). I’m also partial to the “Cow & Pig,” a roast beef and ham sandwich on marble rye. I’ve also enjoyed the plate-size ham steak and pork ribs. Prices range from $15 to $25 for entrees. Grade: A
Unlike the “intimate” South Street restaurant, the new Hickman location gives diners some breathing room. The restaurant is divided into two seating areas -- the bar is more casual with TVs, while the dining room is TV-free and boasts comfortable booths. Its look is contemporary and rustic at the same time -- from the outside, it reminds me of an old saloon minus the swinging doors. Inside are cement floors and black tables and chairs. The patio is huge and a destination when temperatures are agreeable. Grade: B+
Some customers have complained on Facebook about wait times for dine-in and takeout, but we didn’t have any issues during our Thursday evening visit when the restaurant was moderately busy. Our entrees came out 10 to 15 minutes after ordering, which was appropriate considering my wife’s pot pie most likely was oven-baked.
My only complaint was in cleanliness. Servers had bused two nearby vacant tables of dishes, but didn’t wipe them down. They remained that way until servers started tearing down the dining room for the night. I watched one server sweep the floor around one of the tables, but make no effort to clean the tabletop. Odd. Grade: B.
9 South, with is all-purpose menu, has multiple vegetarian options, from sandwiches (grilled portobello mushroom, grilled tomato) to pasta (fettuccini Napoli, baked mac ‘n’ cheese) to soups and salads. The menu or website doesn’t note gluten-free options, so check with servers. The larger kitchen may allow them to do some things they couldn’t at the South Street location. Grade: B+