Some of Lincoln’s best meals are being served from a pop-up kitchen in a downtown bar.
I’m not kidding.
Nick Webster operates Webster Bistro at Marz Bar at 11th and O streets, offering some of the most amazing dishes around such as his Chinese Duck Pancakes ($10) made with braised duck, cucumber, scallions, cilantro and crispy shallots and served with a garlic hoisin dipping sauce.
Or his Wild Mushroom Soup ($7) prepared with shitake, oyster, cremini and morel mushrooms with roasted leeks, fresh thyme and sherry.
Or his Braised Pork Shoulder ($9) served with roasted beets, parsnips, carrots, a sage cream sauce and fresh thyme.
Nader Sepahpur owns Marz Bar, which used to offer food service full time. Sepahpur shut down the kitchen to remodel it (and the bar). He reopened the kitchen as a pop-up, allowing local chefs such as Webster a chance to show off their skills.
Webster, 27, has operated out of Marz off and on for the last two years, but signed on full time with Sepahpur in October, giving the popular downtown bar a food menu Wednesday through Saturday evenings.
Webster is no stranger to Lincoln’s dining scene, having worked at the Country Club of Lincoln, Venue and MoMo’s and learning from such Lincoln culinary gurus as Lorin Dagel, Josh Nightengale and Jonah King.
“I’m doing food the way I learned when I started in this business,” Webster said.
That means he creates his rotating menu from scratch, sourcing much of his food locally.
Part of the appeal for me is Webster’s rotating menu, which he changes weekly.
Webster features five items each week: a soup, a salad, two entrees and a bite-sized dessert. Prices range from $7 to $13, with the dessert costing just $2. The chef often themes his menu, having featured Southern, Indian and Taiwanese most recently. He rarely repeats a menu item.
“It’s fun for me, especially when a regular customer comes in and says ‘What should we try this week?” he said.
In early December, his menu included a Lamb Bacon Cuban ($10) that I’m still thinking about. The sandwich featured hot pepper-cured lamb bacon, pork confit, homemade pickles, mozzarella cheese, sweet pickled onions and spicy mustard. I loved the contrast between the onions and mustard.
That week also included a Potato & Roasted Leek Soup ($7), the Chinese Duck Pancakes and a Preserved Lemon Winter Salad ($8). The dessert was a Blood Orange Posset. The word I’m using here is impressive. Grade: A
Customers order at the counter at the back of the bar and can either wait for their food or have it delivered to their table. Webster is a one-man show (though the bar staff will, at times, bring out food or bus tables for him), so patrons should be patient. Webster has designed his menus to be efficient, with much of the food prepared ahead of time, so the turn-around time usually is pretty speedy. He eventually may want to have help for busier times. Grade: B
(Please note: Webster has a catering gig outside of the bar on Saturday. A friend will handle the kitchen for him until Webster returns around 7 p.m.)
Marz, arguably, is one of Lincoln’s most attractive bars, beginning with the eye-catching orb light fixtures in the middle of the room, which are rumored to be from Omaha’s Peony Park. Other highlights include the exposed brick walls, the novel, round booth seating and the very, very long bar. Grade: A
Webster makes it his mission to offer at least one, but usually two, of his four items as vegetarian, vegan and/or gluten-free. My first introduction to Webster was him bringing a salad to our table to sample and identify the ingredients. We did pretty well. It was wonderful golden potato and fennel salad ($7), with the fennel and the preserved lemon and basil dressing giving it its flavor. The salad also included roasted golden potatoes, oyster mushrooms, scallions and edamame. It was quite something. Grade: A