Yia Yia’s: Pizza with Pizzazz. Or just pizza if you want it.

Once more we find ourselves in one of the Dowtown/Haymarket area restaurants. Yia Yia’s is clearly a pizza place that is trying something new. For one, they boast both Lincoln’s largest selection of pizza and beer, a surprisingly odd, yet at the same time great idea of a combination. Not only that, but Yia Yia’s also includes a nice little roll of bread with any slice of pizza bought. I can only assume that this is so because they have some of the most topping-loaded and exotic pizzas out there that people just need a little more of the pizza bottom flavoring when they eat. For those culinarily-otherwise inclined, different options exist as well. Emily, Meredith, and I all opted for these fall back pizzas. Having looked at their dishes and my own -The Northern- how different I could tell that whoever came up with the names for these things had no fond or, as a matter of fact, any memories of anything in the north.

"The Northern" - Yia Yia's

“The Northern” – Yia Yia’s

It was like a cheese pizza with just a little more cheese. Now, I knew what I was getting into here; I hate a pizza that’s so laden with topics that I’m unsure it’s even a pizza anymore. A cheese pizza is my best bet any day, and this one happened to be really good. If you’re not exactly the most adventurous with your food, or just your pizza, Yia Yia’s is still a great place to eat.

I’d also say it’s definitely more of a dinner place, you know? Sure, if you wanted you could visit or lunch or maybe even a late breakfast, but pizza always feels best late in the day with a football game on. I wouldn’t exactly equate Yia Yia’s with a sports bar, but once again it’s hard not to put pizza and football in the same sente- I mean, restaurant. The partly lit room coupled with how many different kinds of beer they serve jut kind of screams sporting event to me. Still, even if you’re not really into that scene, Yia Yia’s is a great place for everyone to enjoy the next step up in pizza.


Yia Yia’s: A “Hipster” Pizzeria

We ventured out into the December chill one more time last week as we walked to our very last restaurant: Yia Yia’s Pizza.  The walk to Yia Yia’s was much shorter than the treks to the other restaurants we visited in the Haymarket.  Yia Yia’s is just three blocks south of the Student Union on O Street between 14th and 15th streets—downtown.  The pizzeria offers outdoor seating, but the near-single digit temperatures pushed us to the warmth inside.  WARNING: Be prepared to feel a little out of place if you have never visited the restaurant before and you are with no one who has visited before.  Luckily, I have some experience at Yia Yia’s so I know how the system works, but I was thrown a little off guard when we went on Wednesday night: there was no line.  Typically when I have visited the restaurant there has been a line to order nearly out the door, but then again I have never been on a weeknight.  There are menus scattered around the bar near the front door and dining tables line the walls to the back of the restaurant where there are pool tables for those looking to shoot a quick game while munching on some pizza, and sipping some drinks with friends, I guess.  When there is a line to order, customers pull a menu off the bar and pick their pizza and order before seating themselves, but we picked up a menu and took it back to our table where we chose our pizzas.  Back up at the bar, we placed our orders with the kind individual running the cash registers behind the counter.  Once we placed our orders, we went back to our booth and listened carefully for our names to be announced over the intercom indicating that our plates were ready to be picked up back at the bar.

I ordered a slice of The American: barbecue sauce, chicken, jalapeños, corn, and jack cheese.  The pizza is served with a side of bread…a large piece, some people call it a small loaf!  One slice of pizza and the bread will completely fulfill your appetite, so do not let the low price on your ticket make you think differently; a little more than $4.00 will make for a great meal!  The American oozes with barbecue sauce and perfectly grilled chicken.  The corn and jalapeños add the perfect crunch and spice to the pizza.  I will admit, there are quite a few jalapeños on the slice…I had to take a sip of water after each bite to wash down the spiciness.  The thin, grilled pizza crust also adds to the crunch of the corn and jalapeños.  I would suggest The American if you are looking for some spiciness along with a fairly classic taste (barbecue chicken).  If you are not so fond of spicy things, there are several other options listed on the menu, and if those options do not appeal to you either, there is always the opportunity to create your own personal slice…or an entire pizza.

"The American" - Yia Yia's

“The American” – Yia Yia’s

Yia Yia’s is a fun option for a light meal with some friends, but if you are looking for a fancier option, do not let the restaurant’s funky name real you in—the atmosphere and food will not be what you are looking for.  Yia Yia’s is a perfect option for all college students (free Wi-Fi too!) and an even better option for the budget of college students.

Yia Yia’s: Around the World Pizza

In downtown Lincoln, located on O Street, near 14th, is Yia Yia’s Pizza.  Like other restaurants we have been to, like LeadBelly and Ivanna Cone, one of my favorite things about Yia Yia’s is that it’s an original, local restaurant.  While I do enjoy eating at chain restaurants like Olive Garden and Texas Road House sometimes, I love to explore new places that are one-of-a-kind and unique to the city I’m in.  Local restaurants always seem to have so much more character and just a different vibe altogether than chain restaurants, and Yia Yia’s has just those things.

The set-up of Yia Yia’s was different than any of the other restaurants we’ve gone to for our blog.  Instead of a server bringing menus to the table, taking your order, and delivering your food, the process is more of a fend-for-yourself approach, similar to that of a fast food restaurant.  After we first walked in, we picked up a menu off the bar and found a table.  Yia Yia’s features Around the World pizzas, which include combinations of toppings that you don’t find at most pizza places.  The pizzas that follow the Around the World theme include pizzas like the Greek, which has oil and herbs with red onions, pepperoni, spinach, black olives, bruschetta, feta and parmesan, and The Mediterranean, which is topped with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, onions, chicken, almonds, green olives and feta.  If you aren’t feeling too adventurous, or if you’re feeling a little creative, you can also make your own pizza, choosing the type of sauce, cheese, meat, and veggie toppings you want.  You can get any of the pizzas as an individual slice, a 12 inch, 16 inch, or 20 inch pizza.  You go up to the bar to order and then wait at your table for your name to be called so you can pick up your pizza.  I decided to go for a slice of The Western, which was vegetarian with marinara sauce, mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes and mozzarella.  The slice was pretty big, but it had a thin crust so it was just the right amount and very tasty.  The combination of vegetables made for a good flavor, all the ingredients seemed really fresh, and it wasn’t greasy like a lot of pizzas are.  Each slice comes with a piece of bread.  It seemed kind of strange to me to serve pizza with a giant hunk of a bread, but it tasted good so I won’t complain.

"The Western" - Yia Yia's

“The Western” – Yia Yia’s

When you’re finished, you clean your plate off and drop it and your silverware at a counter, cafeteria-style, and take your glass back to the bar.  I enjoyed Yia Yia’s with its very relaxed atmosphere, and I would love to go back again.

Lazlo’s: Good Food. ‘Nuff said.

Like the majority of the other restaurants we’ve reviewed so far, Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill can be found in the by now all-too-familiar Haymarket area. In fact, it’s about the same distance away from campus as both LeadBelly and Vincenzo’s, seeing as they’re all on the same block. Although it’s in such a central location, it boasts a fairly large number of seats. This meant that even though we came to eat close to lunch time on a weekend, there was no line whatsoever and we were seated immediately.

Another thing I really liked about the place is that despite one having to be seated and the restaurant obviously already having established a name for itself, it was a very casual place. I guess I would call it a happy middle ground between a fast food place and a fine dining establishment in terms of atmosphere. It’s somewhere you could go for a more formal night out, but also a place where jeans and a t-shirt wouldn’t be out of place.

About five minutes after being seated with our menus, we were greeted by a very friendly waitress. I, after careful consideration, decided to go with what seemed to be a staple of the restaurant chain: The Lazlo Burger. The meal consisted of one bun topped with monterey jack, honey mustard, lettuce, some tomato, red onion and another bun as well as a side of french fries. It was excellent. A general rule of thumb for me is that whenever a restaurant offers different choices of how you want your meat, I can expect a good meal. I was certainly not disappointed after asking for a well-done burger. My dad has always had this saying that there’s no better burger than one you’ve grilled yourself, but I’ll disagree with him here; the Lazlo Burger was almost definitely better than anything I could have grilled up myself. They even offered some of their special sauce to go with my fries.

All in all, the service was great, the food even better, and the general atmosphere exactly what it needed to be for a college student. Couple that with decent prices and little to no wait for food and viola: the perfect “every-now-and-then” restaurant is created. New to UNL? Looking for people to hang out with? Invite me to Lazlo’s and you’ve got yourself a new friend.

Lazlo’s: A Simple, Relaxed Dining Option

Unfortunately I was unable to visit Lazlo’s with Emily and Felix however, I was able to visit the same weekend with a group of friends.  Many of my friends were going to the John Mayer concert at the Pinnacle Bank Arena and wanted to eat dinner before the concert so I just tagged along for a non-dorm food dinner.  Parking was a bit of a struggle as it was a Friday evening and the concertgoers made for a larger than normal Haymarket Friday night crowd.  We had to resort to garage parking about four blocks north of Lazlo’s.  Here’s a suggestion: If the weather is bearable and you live on UNL campus, WALK to the Haymarket because parking on Friday and weekend nights is limited.  You will end up spending just as much (or more) time finding a parking spot than it would take you to walk from campus, and you will not have to pay for parking.

We arrived at Lazlo’s around 5:15 with a party of 14 and were seated immediately.  Had we been just about 20 to 30 minutes later, there would have been an extensive wait, especially for our party of 14.  Shortly after the hostess led us to our table, we were greeted by our server for the evening.  He took our drink orders and returned back with our glasses.  He asked if we were ready to place our orders, but we were waiting on the last few people to show up, so we asked him to return in about five minutes to take our orders…turned out to be closer to 15 minutes before he returned.  That wait was very frustrating since my friends were pushed for time in order to get to the arena for the concert.  Once we did place our order, our food was served within about 20 minutes.  As we waited, we were served complimentary beer bread…be sure to ask for the bread and then your server will bring it out, free of charge!

My order of baby back ribs was AMAZING.  And not only did I feast on my half-rack, I also had to leave room for my two sides: a heaping pile of mashed potatoes and fresh applesauce.  The ribs were hickory-smoked and lathered in Lazlo’s own barbeque sauce, which has a very distinct sweet and tangy taste.  Even though they were served lathered in sauce, I chose to lather them even more with the side of barbeque sauce served with the meal.  I have to admit that I am often reluctant to order ribs when I am paying for myself since it tends to be one of the most expensive dishes on the menu, but these ribs are definitely worth splurging for!  My ticket was just a little over $15 and that was after the gratuity charge for such a large party and my personal tip.

"Baby Back Ribs" - Lazlo's

“Baby Back Ribs” – Lazlo’s

Lazlo’s is the perfect dinner spot for a simple, reasonably priced American meal; they also serve their own freshly brewed beers, which my dad and uncle claim to be very good.  Its Haymarket location is convenient for UNL students, people attending concerts and games at the new Pinnacle Bank Arena, and especially for many Husker fans on football Saturdays.  Next time you are in the area, try Lazlo’s for lunch or dinner!

LeadBelly (More Like FedBelly): A More Extensive Review

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

“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

“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

“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.

Lazlo’s: Great For Any Occasion

Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill is another restaurant located in the Haymarket.  It is actually located right across the street from Ivanna Cone on the corner of P and 7th, so again only about a ten or fifteen minute walk from campus.  From the outside, Lazlo’s looks like an old brick, almost warehouse-style building.  It also has an outdoor seating area that looks like it would be a great place to sit in the spring and summer.  Lazlo’s had a nice yet casual atmosphere, similar to restaurants like Applebee’s or Granite City.  It seems like the kind of restaurant that would be perfect for any occasion, whether it’s a causal meal with friends or a special celebration dinner.  We went for a late lunch on a Sunday afternoon, and we didn’t have to wait at all to be seated.  The menu had a pretty big variety, including soups, burgers, seafood, sandwiches, steak, and more.  Our waitress was friendly, and I was impressed by her ability to describe each of the specials in detail.  The service was great, and our food came within ten or fifteen minutes after we ordered.

I got the Smoked Turkey Bistro, which was smoked deli turkey with provolone cheese, basil pesto, spinach, tomato, and red onion served on toasted honey wheat bread, and a side of fries.  The sandwich was delicious.  There was also a lot of basil pesto on the sandwich so that flavor was a little strong, but I still thought the sandwich was very tasty.  There were a lot different options for sides, including baked beans, mashed potatoes, and homemade applesauce.  I decided to go with the French fries.  French fries are one of my favorite foods, and I haven’t encountered many that I didn’t like.  I thought the French fries at Lazlo’s were exceptionally good.  They were covered in pepper and another kind of seasoning that gave them a really good flavor and spiced them a little bit but not too much.  Lazlo’s was also a pretty reasonable price, with most of the meals between $7 and $10 and only a few dishes closer to $15 or $20.  I really enjoyed the atmosphere and food at Lazlo’s, and I think it would be a great place to eat with a group of friends or family.

Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill