Located on a street corner in the heart of the Haymarket area, LeadBelly is surprisingly popular for such a seemingly small place. Before opening the doors to the restaurant, we walked through a wrap around porch scattered with tables and chairs that would serve as a perfect outdoor dining environment during summer nights in the Haymarket. As we walked in around five o’clock in the evening, we instantaneously found a place to sit as a group of three. Our table was in the middle of a somewhat dimly lit room. What were they trying to hide? Turns out it was nothing more than their tastefully decorated walls which were bespeckled with bits of decor that perfectly matched LeadBelly’s byline of a “Contemporary American Pub”. Sitting on the comfortably padded chairs at a high table, we immediately also noticed that the chairs were actually the right height for the table (*cough* Selleck Dining Hall *cough*). Not a minute after this observation, we were greeted by a broadly smiling waitress. As first time LeadBelly customers, we were thankful that our waitress was willing to explain how to choose the perfect leadbelly sandwich. This section of the menu was not like anything any of us had seen before. There were several different kinds of sandwiches, and you could choose whether you wanted your sandwich served on a hamburger patty, chicken breast, or veggie burger. This portion of the menu offered several unique options, because unlike most restaurants where you are limited to a certain few chicken sandwiches or hamburgers, this section at LeadBelly provides the opportunity to mix and match and find the perfect combination of sandwich and meat for you. Because of both the size and large variety of items on the menu, we did have to ask our waitress to come back later to take our orders. We settled for ordering drinks while still perusing our menus, observing some of the dishes’ unique names like “Cowabunga” and “Hangover Helper”. In the past, I have had experiences with waitstaff saying they will “come back soon”. Now, whether their delay was because of a perfectly reasonable accident in the kitchen or because of a particularly busy day, it has never been a pleasant experience. This was not the case at LeadBelly. Our waitress was back at our table within about five minutes of her leaving. We gave her our meal orders and the real wait was on.
We noticed the tables and booths starting to fill up and gave ourselves a little pat on the back for having dinner a little earlier than most. It might have had something to do with the University of Nebraska — Lincoln versus Michigan State game the next day, but if you are looking for a very easy-going pre-dining experience, either do not go to one of the best reviewed pubs in town or come earlier than most diners. As we were still waiting for our food, we noticed plenty of television screens scattered about the restaurant’s walls, which accented the pub’s description of being…a pub. Another fifteen minutes later, our food was served, and we dug in.
The “All Beef” (Felix) certainly did not disappoint. Then again, it is hard to go wrong with a hot dog. I particularly enjoyed their choice of substituting an ordinary hot dog bun for a baguette. Whereas the classic buns might be easy to handle when you grab a dog on the go, they are also a fast food staple. By switching to the baguette, the food rose to a higher quality in both looks and taste. Another way LeadBelly was clearly taking a step away from the fast food quality was by substituting the typical French fries accompaniment with corn chips. Some might argue that corn chips are just nachos and cheese, but even by calling them something else they have attempted to raise their proverbial bar just a little above those of fast food places to elevate themselves into the ranks of finer dining. Even the mustard the All Beef was served with was not your average, run-of-the-mill, yellow mustard. It was High Life mustard. Now, what does that mean exactly? A quick Google search revealed that it is just a fancy name for regular mustard. By just increasing the price without changing anything else, LeadBelly is successfully selling a meal for something far more than it actually is, and not just price wise. They have recognized how important it is for a meal to both look and sound appealing in addition to tasting good.
“All Beef” – LeadBelly
The Round House (Emily) leadbelly served on a hamburger patty had lettuce, tomato, red onion, and white cheddar with Sriracha mayo. I chose to add a bit more flavor and asked for some bacon to finish it off. It was delicious! The Sriracha mayo made the sandwich a little spicy. It is worth mentioning that the hamburger patty was a little pink. While it did not bother me, and I thought it maybe even gave the burger more flavor, I know some people dislike eating meat with any sign of pinkness. The French fries side was actually a combination of regular French fries and waffle fries.
“Round House” – LeadBelly
I (Meredith) had heard rumors of a sort of peanut butter and jelly leadbelly, whose description fit the Raspberry Beret listed on the menu, but I suppose I was not feeling adventurous enough, so instead I settled on a more ordinary option, the Cuban (atop a “ground-chuck” hamburger patty). My hamburger patty was served with a thick layer of pulled pork, topped with yellow mustard, dill pickle, and Swiss cheese. To be completely honest, this combination really was not anything too special—no special taste that I had never tasted before. It could have been better had the pulled pork been a bit more flavorful, maybe an addition of barbeque sauce would have assisted the lack of flavor. For anyone not willing to branch out too much, the Cuban leadbelly would be the way to go since the only difference from a normal cheeseburger is a layer of pulled pork. Next time I visit LeadBelly, I promised myself that I will force myself to be a bit more daring and try something a little more out of the ordinary and unique…possibly even the Raspberry Beret.
“Cuban” – LeadBelly
Every week in the Friday newspaper, the Lincoln Journal Star publishes a review of a local restaurant in the entertainment section of the paper, called the Ground Zero. After visiting LeadBelly, we compared our review of the restaurant with the LeadBelly review published in the Ground Zero this past summer on June 21. While there were similarities between our two reviews, there were also several differences, which we expected since the writer for Ground Zero had at least fifteen years of experience writing food reviews and this was our first attempt ever. That experience, as well as familiarity with the Haymarket area, especially the dining district, allowed the Ground Zero review to provide some background information on the location of LeadBelly and the restaurants that had previously occupied the same location. The Ground Zero review contained information about the LeadBelly owners. The reviewer took his dining experience as an opportunity to talk with the owners; he quoted some of their conversation in his review. The professional tone of the review is what differentiates the Ground Zero review from ours the most. Since we wrote our review for a blog, we wrote with a much more casual and relaxed style. Both of the reviews had a lot of the same information about the restaurant, including the service, the atmosphere, and, obviously, the food. However, the organization of the two reviews was very different. Our approach to the review was more along the lines of providing the reader with our personal opinions and impressions of the restaurant. We focused on our overall experience and went more chronologically through our experience at the restaurant instead of describing each component of the restaurant separately and in detail, like the Ground Zero review did. The Ground Zero review gave each different aspect—food, service, atmosphere, and vegetarian friendly—of the restaurant a letter grade (A-F), which we did not do. Both articles gave the food and service at LeadBelly positive reviews. One noticeable difference in the two reviews was the fact that we only visited the restaurant once, and the three of us each only ordered one entrée—no appetizers or dessert. While it may give a more limited scope on what the restaurant has to offer, it is probably sufficient for our audience since most college students do not have three course meals when they go out to eat—money crunch! Both reviews also mentioned the quick service, comfortable, casual atmosphere, and the unique leadbelly sandwich options. The Ground Zero review provided exact prices of the dishes ordered as well as a price range, unlike our review. We did include estimated price ranges of the meals we ate in some of our posts, but our failure to include exact prices probably shows our lack of experience in the world of culinary reviews. Both the Ground Zero review and our blog included basic information like the address and website. But the fact that we are new to reviewing was again obvious as we failed to include other important facts such as the types of payment accepted, the hours, and notes about parking. Overall, the most basic concepts of the two blogs were very similar if not identical, however the Ground Zero review did have a much more professional approach than our blog posted by three un-experienced reviewers.
You can read the Ground Zero’s LeadBelly review here.
Nebraska Foodie is a collaboratively written blog; its authors explore different culinary opportunities throughout the state of Nebraska, not just Lincoln. Not only do the authors post restaurant reviews, they also post stories, one-on-one conversations, photos, and events that will enable its readers to get a sense of what Nebraska has to offer in the culinary and dining world. Right around the same time the Ground Zero review was published, a review of LeadBelly was posted on the Nebraska Foodie blog. LeadBelly was the newest restaurant in the Haymarket at the beginning of summer 2013 and it was a “must-try” for many people looking for a new place to eat out. Similar to the review written in the Ground Zero, the low success rate of previous restaurants in the same location was mentioned, but the Nebraska Foodie author was confident that LeadBelly is here to stay. Although Nebraska Foodie is a blog and the writing was bit more casual than that in the Ground Zero, it was still evident that the review was written by a much more experienced individual than us three new restaurant reviewers. The language, especially the use of descriptive adjectives, creates a much more useful restaurant review—you can practically taste each dish described! The review’s general approach was nearly identical to our own approach. The author began by describing their initial thoughts of the restaurant as her party sat themselves and was greeted by a waitress. She then transitioned to a short summary of the LeadBelly menu, and she finished with the description of each member of her party’s dish. Similar to our own blog, this particular Nebraska Foodie blog post included photos of each of the dishes ordered. One approach the author took at the very end of her post was to encourage readers to share their own LeadBelly experiences in the comments section below the post. This little line of encouragement is a very effective approach in order to increase the number of readers that do not solely read your blog, but also interact with your blog by voicing their own opinions. Aside from the LeadBelly review, the Nebraska Foodie blog offers several unique options. It is obvious that a lot of work has been spent to perfect the site, and that the blog continues to expand as new ideas are brought to the attention of the blog’s authors. Yes our blog is a blog, but its features are far from the features presented on the Nebraska Foodie blog. Check out their blog!
You can read Nebraska Foodie’s LeadBelly review here.