Angry Beaver tops the food chain in Beaver City
When a town only has one restaurant, you might think your options are limited. But that’s not an issue at the Beaver Bar and Grill in Beaver City. Its culinary monopoly does not make it a mediocre business. Instead, it makes the restaurant strive for greatness.
Setting the bar high in the restaurant business has always been a requirement, never an option, for Doris Wentling, restauranteur and owner of the Beaver Bar and Grill. A native of Beaver City, Wentling wore many hats professionally before reluctantly settling into the restaurant business when most people her age were thinking about retirement. She partnered up with her son, Randy, and together they owned and operated the Branding Iron, a steakhouse in Beaver City that had a reputation for good food which stretched far beyond the city limits.
After 15 years at the helm of the Branding Iron, Wentling sold the business and thought her days of seasoning prime rib and baking potatoes were over. It was finally her time to enjoy eating out. Shortly after the sale of her business, a fire broke out and demolished the restaurant Wentling and her son had worked so hard to create.
“After the fire there was no place to eat in Beaver City,” she said. “Everyone in town felt the loss.”
Den mother to the rescue
Acting as a sort of den mother to her community, Wentling knew it was her responsibility to step up and fill the void left by the absence of the Branding Iron. Her son found a building on the town square and renovated the interior while her daughter utilized her talents to help market and brand the new restaurant. Wentling showed up with her dry sense of humor and arsenal of tasty recipes and got to work.
“I did it for the town,” she said. “People deserve a great place to eat.”
Clearly, retirement will have to wait.
The Rural Foodies ventured down to the Beaver Bar and Grill in search of some comfort food on a cold winter’s day. We didn’t need our GPS to find the restaurant because the congregation of patrons and pick-up trucks was a clear sign of good food being served. We arrived shortly after noon and you could quickly tell this place was the hub of the community.
A complete renovation has left the Beaver Bar and Grill bright and clean. It’s less like walking into a restaurant and more like walking into a home. Wentling’s home to be exact. This is the kind of place that when you enter, people turn to see who you are and then flash you a smile even if you are a stranger. Wentling was standing by the bar and waved us in as if we were long time regulars.
Runza casserole won’t last long
The menu was well designed, a detail often overlooked in rural restaurants, and offered something for everyone. Wentling assured us everything was excellent and pointed out a few favorites, advising that if we wanted to order the special we had better let our waitress know right away. The lunch special was a Runza Casserole with Seasoned Green Beans and if you are from Nebraska, you will know why that offering wasn’t going to last long. We made sure to secure a special before it was gone and also put in an order for Beaver Balls, a cleverly named appetizer created by Wentling’s son. We also decided upon the Angry Beaver burger with a side of Sweet Potato Fries.
We continued to look over the menu and it was refreshing to see that a lot of thought had been put into the food selection. When you are the only game in town, you have to be willing to cater to the needs of your clientele. It becomes less about your own culinary vision and more about community service.
Other customer favorites have resulted in weekly specials. The Beaver Bar and Grill goes south of the border on Wednesday nights with a selection of Mexican food and Friday evenings are reserved for their famous pizza. I recommend you add sauerkraut to any one of them. You won’t be disappointed. That being said, it’s the Prime Rib and Crab Legs on Saturday nights that brings in Wentling’s biggest draw of customers. Her many years at the Branding Iron solidified her reputation as a master at cooking a perfect steak and that becomes a thing of legend here in rural Nebraska. People drive from miles away for her food.
“When I owned the Branding Iron we had a large out-of-town clientele and we are slowly getting them back here to eat at the Beaver,” Wentling said.
Rustic starter with unique flavor profile
Shortly after our drinks arrived, so did the Beaver Balls and they were a welcomed surprise in a region where appetizer usually translates to something deep fried. Although the name can be somewhat overwhelming, I can assure you that if you come to the Beaver Bar and Grill for anything, let it be for the Beaver Balls. They are bite-sized pieces of roasted chicken breast topped with Provolone and a thin slice of jalapeno, all wrapped in crispy bacon. It’s a rustic starter that has a flavor profile so unique, it might become a new Nebraska staple. Watch out Runza!
Speaking of Runza, our lunch special arrived and the casserole highlighted all of those familiar ingredients we have come to expect in this traditional German dish. The locally sourced ground beef, onion and cabbage lay beneath a pastry crust so buttery and flaky you would swear your grandma made it. Wentling tends to have that effect with food.
The Angry Beaver was as memorable as its name. Topped with spicy BBQ sauce, jalapenos, breaded onion chips and pepper jack cheese, this was not your typical small town burger. And as any hamburger aficionado will tell you, a burger is only as good as the beef that it’s made from and this beef is supreme. Wentling sources all of her meat from a local butcher and picks it up herself to ensure excellent quality. The Sweet Potato Fries were hot and crisp and came with a surprising side of Marshmallow Cream, a note of sweetness to balance the heat of the burger.
Wentling kept us company during most of our lunch, pausing the conversation occasionally to chat with regulars and make sure they enjoyed their meal. Some patrons waved to her with a smile as they exited while others came up and patted her on the back. Wentling is modest and shakes her head at the idea that she is doing something special in Beaver City. In her mind, it was her duty to step up and feed the community.
And that passion comes through in every bite.