When Mom is overheated because it’s 106° in the shade, or she forgot to defrost something for supper, or a ketchup stain magically appeared in the middle of the family room rug or Dad said her new dress looked, “Fine.”, then it’s a good thing for every family to have a dinnertime back-up plan. That temperature can be lowered several degrees by letting someone else do the cooking and wash the dishes. It’s always possible that someone in the house may volunteer for this “cool down” activity, but it’s much more likely that whisking Mom off to her favorite restaurant will be the favored solution. How does it work at your house? Here in the heartland of America, southeastern Nebraska, WHERE you live, dramatically affects the choices.
Seward, Nebraska is a small town. Even though we know it isn’t a city, it’s generally large enough for us to be able to do what we want, so it doesn’t seem too small to us. We have a university, a Walmart, a town square loaded with fantastic shops, two grocery stores and NINE restaurants. We think that’s pretty good for a town of 6,000. Having lived in a village of only 250, it’s practically a metropolis to us! So, when it’s time to eat out after Sunday church services or when it’s “too hot in the kitchen”, we DO have options.
Cafe on the Square – Located in the heart of downtown, right on the corner of 6th and Seward, Cafe on the Square offers delicious, home-style meals and sandwiches at lunch and dinner and they’re well-known for their hearty breakfasts. One of our favorite dinners, there, is Chicken Fried Steak and Mashed Potatoes with Country Gravy. It’s always served with delicious homemade rolls and seasonal veggies. From Meatloaf to Chicken Strips to perfectly grilled Reuben Sandwiches or Cobb Salad, the options are plentiful and all delicious! It’s a great sit-down restaurant for families or for a date-night with just Mom and Dad. The prices are reasonable and in line with what would be considered typical for the area. Most full dinners are in the $8 – $12 range. The service is always prompt and courteous and the decor is an eclectic mix of nostalgic, local memorabilia, from the pictures on the wall, to the framed sports uniforms to an antique tandem bicycle suspended from the ceiling. It’s a fun, relaxing spot for the whole family and Mom definitely gives it a full 5 out of 5 plates!
La Carretta Mexican Restaurant: La Carretta is the newest, sit-down family restaurant in Seward. It’s located about 4.5 miles south of downtown, on Highway 15. It’s close to the Interstate and two hotels. It was the hit of the community when it opened a few months ago and it was pretty typical to wait in line for a table on Sundays or during weekday lunch and dinner hours. Even though the new has worn off, a little, La Carretta still draws lots of hungry visitors. They serve authentic Mexican meals, appetizers and salads. They also offer alcoholic beverages from their bar. After guests are seated by the hostess, the table is immediately served freshly made corn chips and house salsa. Again, for the area, meals are comparably priced to other family restaurants. Though the menu is lengthy, there is not as much variety as you would think. Tacos, burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas with your choice of filling (chicken, beef or pork), served with refried or charro beans and Mexican rice are standard fare. I LOVE the flavor-packed and juicy, roasted chicken that they shred for Chicken Chimichangas and other chicken dishes and I’ve never eaten better Mexican rice, anywhere. Our son-in-law enjoys a dish of bacon-wrapped shrimp, when he eats there with us and the kids lean toward nachos in every variety. It’s difficult to get a single table to accommodate the entire family when we go with our son-in-law and daughter or guests (at least 10 of us), so we usually end up with a kids’ table and a grown-up table. Other than two steak options, which my husband has not been impressed with, the menu is strictly Mexican food. When we’re in the mood for Mexican, this restaurant gets 4 out of 5 plates from our family!.
Dragon Palace: Dragon Palace is also downtown, just off the square and offers a lunch buffet each day, in addition to their regular menu. Though the building, itself, and the decor could use some updates and repairs, the food is usually very good and serving sizes are extraordinarily generous. Our family, no matter how many of us there are, has always been accommodated easily at Dragon Palace. This is a good family restaurant with excellent prices. Sometimes, the buffet is a challenge, because it’s very popular and so it’s difficult for staff to keep it filled, but ordering from the menu you always receive prompt service and fresh, piping hot food. My favorite is a crisp, spicy chicken called Dragon Chicken. It’s served with a choice of white rice or chicken fried rice (Go for the chicken fried! It’s excellent), and there is always so much food, I have to take a large portion of it home for the next day’s lunch. It is exclusively Chinese food, with the exception of the ice cream bar that is included in the buffet price, so be sure everyone in your party enjoys that cuisine. Dragon Palace also offers a carry-out menu. We give Dragon Palace a 4 out of 5 plates for food, but 2 out of 5, for the building and decor, which are a huge part of the overall experience.
Beyond those, Seward offers several national chain and fast-food eateries, for families on the go. They are pretty much what you expect from fast food and typical of their sister stores in other communities. These include:
Dairy Queen: A variety of fast food sandwiches, chicken strips and soft-serve ice cream treats. Priced somewhat higher than surrounding fast food restaurants. It’s a 3 out of 5 plates for our family.
Runza: This is a chain that is specific to a handful of states — Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, and Wyoming. They are named for their signature sandwich, which is a beef and cabbage filled roll, commonly known as a bierock, in other parts of the country. They offer other standard fast-food fare, as an alternative, so you can get a cheeseburger or chicken strips or even a bowl of chili and cinnamon rolls, in season. They have salads and ice cream, as well. What sets them apart is that the food tis fresh and homemade. When you get a burger, it’s a hand-formed patty, grilled up as you order it. For fast food dining experiences, we rate Runza at 4 out of 5 plates.
Amigos: Amigos is sort of an anomaly in fast food restaurants. First of all, it isn’t fast. They are a Mexican food restaurant, but serve a wide variety of American fast-food options, as well; AND they have a full breakfast menu, as well as fresh doughnuts, each morning. Food can be hit and miss, depending on what you order. Our family has our favorites when we eat there and it’s a good compromise when someone is in the mood for Mexican and others are not. Their prices are in the upper range for fast-food. We enjoy things like Chicken Fajita Quesadillas, Southwest Chicken Roll-ups or Tex Mex or Southwest Chicken Salads, and even soft tacos when we eat there, though we tend to shy away from the beef items on the Mexican menu. On the American side, you can get a variety of burgers, chicken strips, or even Cheese Frenchies. Amigos gets 3.5 out of 5 plates from our family.
McDonalds: McDonalds is, well, McDonalds. We buzz through the drive-thru on rare occasions, but don’t eat their very often. It’s been cleaned up and has new management and staff, so it is better than in the past, but unless we are just in a mad scramble to get food and get on with what we’re doing we really don’t even consider it as an eating out option. I would say it’s probably a 2.5 out of 5 plates.
Pizza Hut: We have been burned so many times at our local Pizza Hut, that it is another restaurant that doesn’t even come up as an option, when we’re picking a place to eat out. Whether for eat-in or delivery the service has been awful and we just don’t enjoy the food. 1 out of 5 plates
Godfathers: Godfathers is our #1 choice for pizza, in Seward. We love their Humble Pie, Taco Pizza and All Meat Pizza. they offer three different crust styles and the product is always consistent. They have a small salad bar, available, if you eat in and they’re located just off the square in a historic, brick building that they have embraced in the interior decorating. They have loft dining and a small private dining room, too. It’s not fancy, but the food is good and delivery service is prompt and reliable. Godfathers gets a 4.5 out of 5 plates for our family!
Subway: A typical Subway chain. It’s clean and the food is fresh. If you’re in the mood for hoagies, it’s the place to go. It can be extremely crowded over the typical lunch and dinner hours, so time your arrival accordingly. Family favorites are the Chicken Bacon Ranch, plain old Turkey, Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki and Steak and Cheese. Subway is a 4 out of 5 plates for food and 3 out of 5 for atmosphere. We typically order carry-out.
Those are our small town, eating-out options, but I had so much fun putting this together, maybe I’ll do some additional posts, highlighting restaurants we love, when we go on a big-splurge, date night to the city or drive to favorite privately owned eateries in surrounding small towns. Hmmmm……..I wonder where we could go for dinner?
So, what do you do when it’s too hot in your kitchen? Where are your favorite places to relax and have a great family meal?