Lunch: Tuesday-Saturday 11:30-1:30 p.m.
Dinner: Tuesday-Saturday 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Closed: Sunday and Monday
It’s easy to be well fed at Cunningham’s Feed
If charm could be served on the menu, then Cunningham’s Feed could certainly charge full market price.
The Rural Foodies went in search of more than just a good meal at a fair price. Needing a break from blue plate specials and bar fare, we set our hopes on finding a restaurant that offered thoughtfully sourced ingredients, unique menu options and great ambiance; expectations that can sometimes result in a scavenger hunt in a rural setting. Not wanting to be disappointed, we headed down Highway 6 in the direction of Arapahoe to Cunningham’s Feed, a restaurant that has been serving up a first class dining experience since Kevin and Mitzi Urbom opened the business in 2009.
Nestled into the heart of the Republican River Valley, Arapahoe is a shining example of what every small town hopes to be. Outfitted with charming amenities like a pharmacy with a functioning soda fountain and string lights that zigzag across a wide Main Street, this town seems like the perfect place for an unexpected culinary experience.
Neglect swept away by meticulous renovation
We entered Cunningham’s Feed early on a Friday night and the place was already buzzing with a crowd. This building once served as a feed store under the same name and then sat neglected for years until the Urboms purchased the property in 2001. Eight years of meticulous renovation resulted in the current space which serves as a bakery, restaurant and bar. Dining in a space that has been revitalized to celebrate and maintain a community’s heritage makes the experience about as decadent as the evening special scribbled out on the chalkboard at the front door.
We were shown to a booth and quickly welcomed with a menu and a friendly smile. Customer service is one of those rare things that Cunningham’s Feed has perfected, just like their homemade bread and seared Certified Angus Beef. While we got settled, we ordered a glass of Cabernet and a pint of Nebraska brewed Third Stone Brown from the Empyrean Brewing Company, just one of the options from the well curated beers on tap.
The waitress returned with our drinks and two buttermilk biscuits fresh out of the oven with honey butter as an accompaniment, a rural amuse-bouche if you will. We decided to get our dinner started with the Firecracker Shrimp, an unusual menu choice when you are situated in the middle of Cattle Country. As we waited for the appetizer to arrive, we sat back to enjoy the view, and at Cunningham’s Feed, the view is always good. The place was now full as booths and harvest tables seemed to be the setting for long awaited family gatherings and romantic date nights.
Homemade makes all the difference
When the Firecracker Shrimp made its appearance, we could barely contain ourselves from taking a bite before we placed the rest of our order with the waitress. The jumbo shrimp with a spicy Asian-inspired marinade wrapped in wontons was near perfection. Lightly fried, it was crisp and there was a nice amount of heat coming from the marinade. It was served with a house-made egg roll paired with a sweet chili sauce. I quickly realized I had never had a homemade egg roll before Cunningham’s Feed and the difference was clearly noticeable. You could actually taste the freshness of the crisp vegetables and the flavor of the dough. Often times, deep frying food strips it of its flavor profile but I find when the ingredients are fresh, it only elevates the components.
We decided to share two entrees and after a bite of each, it was hard to think of doing a plate pass. The Horseradish Crusted Salmon was well executed and had a dill caper cream sauce drizzled over the top. I am usually hesitant to order fish in rural Nebraska because chances are it was frozen and the person preparing it has had little or no practice in cooking it properly. This is not the case at Cunningham’s Feed. Kevin Urbom has devised a foolproof way to offer up amazing fish in a rural restaurant. If he keeps the selection limited and the preparation simple, customers will order in a frequency that allows him to get fish delivered daily. As a result, the salmon was fresh and tender and needed nothing else besides the sautéed vegetables to make it memorable.
But it’s mostly about the beef
However, like most restaurants in this state, people tend to be frequent patrons because of the beef. Quality steaks that are perfectly prepared are what keep restaurateurs in business and Cunningham’s Feed knows that all too well. All of their meat is Certified Angus Beef and Urbom is meticulous about training his chefs to cook a steak to the desired temperature of the customer. Our hand cut rib eye was a testament to that precision. Seared, hot and flavorful, this steak had all the markings of perfection. The twice baked potato along for the ride was light and airy yet grounded by the light topping of grated cheddar and bacon. It also served as a way to soak up the juices left behind by the steak.
To our surprise, Urbom sent out a dish he was working on for his Valentine’s Day menu: Steamed Mussels in Linguini with White Wine Sauce. The al dente pasta combined with the brininess of the mussels and the spice of the chili flakes was simple in its design yet complex in its nature. If I had a date, I would totally be here on Valentine’s Day and this is what I would order.
Even though we didn’t have much room left, the Rural Foodies are not in the business of passing up homemade dessert when it’s offered. As the waitress rattled off a list of sweets, one sounding better than the next, it was ultimately the final mention that grabbed our attention: Homemade Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce. The menu states that with simple ingredients like freshly baked bread, eggs, cream and cinnamon, this bread pudding is “just like Grandma should have made.” That statement couldn’t be truer. Initially we said we would only take a bite yet we ended up scraping the last bit of caramel sauce from the plate.
As we departed the restaurant, we mentioned that this dining experience was exactly what we had been looking for and then we laughed at the fact that we say this every time we come to Cunningham’s Feed. The restaurant industry is filled with inconsistency and it’s nice to know that some places get it right — every single time.
And the fact that a place like this exists in a rural setting only adds to its charm.