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Flashbacks loves Ravenna, Ravenna loves Flashbacks
by Betty Sayers, Phil Soreide and Pam Soreide
Every small town in Nebraska could use a place like Flashbacks Neighborhood Grille in Ravenna. Flashbacks is the place that stays open after the basketball game; it’s the perfect spot for a business lunch or a family dinner; and for date night with your sweetie, it has a full bar and a nice steak-and-seafood kind of menu.
But more than that, Flashbacks celebrates Ravenna and isn’t shy about showing its love for the town. In addition to historical posters, the walls are hung with pep squad, cheerleader and band uniforms worn by Ravenna students throughout the decades. Under the glass tops of the booths are history lessons cut from the pages of the Ravenna News, each booth themed with stories from a particular decade from the 1950s through the turn of the Century. To keep the stories fresh for regulars, they are changed every couple of months.
The night we visited, the restaurant buzzed with patrons talking and laughing and chef and owner Craig Loeffelholz told us that since the harvest was over the restaurant was full nearly every night. After we’d had a chance to explore the menu and soak up the ambiance, we weren’t surprised.
A complete restoration
We’ve had the pleasure of visiting a number of restaurants that had to be completely renovated before the first order could be taken. Like the Sandstone Grill, Cunningham’s Feed and the Country Neighbor, Flashbacks was taken down to the bare walls and rebuilt as a charming and cozy space with exposed brick walls, lots of wood and antique details, and a striking black-and-white ceramic tile floor. It took two years, but Craig and his wife Stacie teamed up with their relatives and friends to repurpose an old warehouse in the Ravenna city center with a 12-foot hand-rubbed cherry wood bar and six spacious wood booths, set off by nice tables and an antique sideboard for the salad bar.
Craig had been employed at John Deere for nineteen years before they opened the restaurant a few years ago.
“I loved working at John Deere and I miss it,” he said, “but I wanted to get into my own business, and Stacie and I and my family decided the restaurant business was the business we wanted to start. I look forward to every day at Flashbacks because I’m working with a great group of people. Our boys, our parents and our friends in the community all help out and the community supports us.”
We peruse the menu
Although we were there for dinner, Flashback’s sweet spot is lunch. The noon menu features hearty, deli-sandwiches and hamburgers, of which a Nebraska classic, the Reuben sandwich is a favorite. The French dip, a Philly steak and cheese, and a turkey club also are popular choices, although Craig says, “We serve a lot of hamburgers.”
Flashbacks is open for lunch and dinner six days a week. Sundays between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. they prepare a traditional Sunday dinner such as, ham, turkey, hot beef sandwiches. “We have to make mashed potatoes on Sunday,” Craig said.
The Big Onion, a roast beef sandwich seasoned with chili pepper, sage and a Worcestershire sauce was invented in Ravenna. Featured at Flashbacks, the Big Onion sandwich has become a tradition at the annual Annevar (Ravenna spelled backward) Celebration, set this year for June 14-17. (See the schedule of 2012 events at www.ravenna.ne.us.)
The bar serves honey wheat and dark wheat beer from the Thunderhead Brewery in Kearny and Lucky Bucket beer brewed at the Lucky Bucket Brewery in LaVista, Nebraska, among other selections. Their wine list includes Cedar Hills wine, a local winery, as well as a variety of California wines.
A man who knows meat
Craig takes meat seriously. “I grew up on a farm and we grew, butchered and aged our own meat. We only serve the highest quality meat at Flashbacks, and I like the meat to speak for itself in flavor and tenderness.“ Sauces and seasonings are served on the side.
Every night the menu features a sirloin steak, an Omaha Steak Santa Fe tri-tip, baby back pork ribs, and grilled walleye. Chicken fried steak is the Friday night special and prime rib is served Wednesday and Saturday nights. The salad bar features a broccoli salad, four pasta salads, cottage cheese and fresh mixed lettuces with a nice variety of add-ins.
We ordered the Walleye, which was served grilled with sliced almonds, garlic butter and lemon; the prime rib, which was succulent and a very generous portion; the baby back ribs, which were falling-off-the-bone tender and had a flavorful sauce on the side; skewers of grilled shrimp with a dipping sauce on the side; and a whiskey-marinated sirloin, which was reportedly juicy and just the slightest bit sweet.
The dessert menu also looked interesting, but we each only had room for a one-fifth share of a brownie made in-house and served with vanilla ice cream.
A place to come back to
Flashbacks was happy to see us as I’m sure they would any out-of-town visitors, but they are really not pitched to us. Flashbacks is about Ravenna, and judging from the number of people who were clearly regulars, Ravenna is about Flashbacks. If you lived in the area, we imagine Flashbacks would be one of your regular restaurant haunts too.
We like to see the restaurants that make an effort to be as good as they can be; the ones not willing to just coast along on a few staples; the ones where you can see the pride they have in their food and their operation. Flashbacks in one of those. If you’re in Ravenna – or even nearby – it’s worth a stop.
Who to Contact
Flashbacks Neighborhood Grille
Owners/Chef Craig and Stacie Loeffelholz
209 Grand Avenue
Ravenna, NE 68869
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday
11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday