Monday and Tuesday: Closed
Wednesday and Thursday: 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. & 5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Friday: 11:00 a.m. -1:30 p.m. & 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Saturday: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
Passion for Serving Quality Nebraska Food Found at Cambridge’s Town Talk
In 2013, Nebraska Rural Living interviewed Richard Barnes, chef and business owner of the Town Talk restaurant in Cambridge.
“The restaurant business is demanding, and I plan everything, do it all, and often feel shorthanded because I need to do more,” Barnes said at that time. “But the advantage is that I do it my way.”
Jennifer Barnes and her husband, Richard, are now laughing out loud at the “do it my way” phrase because since the two joined as partners in life and in the restaurant business, he and she do it “their” way.
While Chef Richard Barnes was sweating through the work and responsibilities of both chef and front-of the-house manager, his future wife and business partner, Jennifer Withrow, was developing her career in nearby McCook in the popular and progressive Eagle’s Club, where she managed the food and bar services.
Richard and Jennifer met by chance at the Eagle’s Club on a stormy winter eve. Their conversation clicked with a lively synergy.
“Jennifer was managing the Eagles in McCook when we met,” Richard said. “I stopped in one night on my way home from a meeting in McCook to see some guys I know. Jennifer was running the bar. We met and talked. I enjoyed our time together and asked if I could see her again. She answered, ’I might be available for a couple hours on Thursday of next week.’ I took that as an affront,” Richard said.
He left the door open for her to call him, which she did a few weeks later.
The relationship blossomed in part because as they said, “We both understand the kind of hours and the work involved with restaurant management, and we both feel a passion for sourcing, cooking and serving the best of rural Nebraska foods to our friends and neighbors.”
When two like minds meet, the two often become friends, and sometimes partners in life, and once-in-awhile partners in a business. At the start of their business partnership, their road was rocky, which is probably typical of all partnerships.
“In the beginning, everything had to be his way, and he was a control freak, and I am too,” Jennifer said. “Now, we manage the Town Talk in our own spheres of interest. I take care of the front, and he takes care of the back.”
When the couple co-mingled their talents in the restaurant business, the menu evolved into more dishes and more time for Chef Barnes to create in the kitchen and the grill.
“Town Talk serves more fish on the menu than restaurants in a 100-mile radius of Cambridge,” Richard said. “A favorite menu item is Barramundi, an Asian Sea Bass. Barramundi fillets are firm and white similar to cod with a mild taste. We grill it, and our customers come back for more. Walleye fillets appeal to our customers, too. They like walleye grilled or fried in a light batter.”
Town Talk also is recognized for its succulent shrimp cocktails made with a generous display of plump, cold and tender shrimp accompanied by a perfectly seasoned Creole sauce reminiscent of New Orleans cuisine.
Chef Barnes specializes in steak. He apprenticed at the Tony & Luigi Corporation, a famous Lincoln steak house, where he acquired the art and skill of a perfectly grilled ribeye, sirloin and New York strip.
“We buy certified Angus beef steaks, prime rib and hamburger,” Barnes said.
Jennifer specializes in training and furthering the goals of their young wait staff.
“Servers in the restaurant come here with talent, and many of our employees are amazing,” Jennifer said. “We train them and expect them to offer the diners not only fine food, but the whole dining experience: good food, good drink, camaraderie and a genuine welcome. We want our guests to feel special and to enjoy our good atmosphere, meaning a pleasant mixture of colors, lighting, music and dining ambience.”
Jennifer speaks proudly about Town Talk customer service.
“There are no strangers here,” she said. “Customers quickly become friends.” Jennifer has the odd ability to remember a favorite drink or menu item of a former customer from years ago.
“Are you still drinking Miller Light?” she will ask a customer. Or, she will simply say, “Your ribeye steak will be coming right up.”
“I don’t know how I do it,” Jennifer said. “I simply remember them as friends from the last time I served them.”
Town Talk features prime rib on the Friday and Saturday evening menu.
“I’m particular about the quality of each serving,” Barnes said. “I don’t put out a piece of meat that is marginal, not every cut on a rib is as good as the others. People expect a $25 prime rib to be superior, and I make sure of it.”
Town Talk Weekly Specials:
Wednesday – Mexican cuisine, including burritos filled with shredded beef or pork
Thursday and Friday – Italian cuisine including pizza and pastas – all prepared in-house
Friday and Saturday – Seafood including: grilled Chilean salmon, grilled mahi-mahi, orange roughy, grilled Barramundi, grilled or fried tilapia, jumbo butterfly shrimp, grilled or fried Canadian walleye
Also on Friday and Saturday – Prime rib
Sunday Buffet – Three meats (fried chicken, roast pork, chicken enchiladas), potatoes and gravy, two vegetables, desserts, salad bar, dinner rolls
Every day, the Town Talk features 10 hamburgers and chicken and pork.
Town Talk patrons relish the bounty of Jennifer and Richard’s garden. The salad bar bursts with color and the crisp texture and homegrown flavors of garden vegetables. The garden produces cucumbers, eggplant, tomatoes, sweetcorn, radishes, peppers, summer squash and onions. Chef Barnes and Jennifer also serve their own homemade salsa.
Finding a line cook is the proverbial problem for rural restaurants.
“Some can cook but can’t work the line,” Barnes said.
The restaurant business is affected by the farm economy and sports. When teams play in our region, our customers follow their team, and they don’t eat at the Town Talk.
The Town Talk catering business is growing. “We pass on a few offers because they are so big that we have to shut down the restaurant, and at this time we think it better to take care of our people,” Barnes said.
They are considering adding a freezer display of meats at the restaurant’s entrance to sell the high quality steaks and hamburger that they serve. They are also considering adding homemade pastas and making more fruit pies and cream pies.
Jennifer and Richard Barnes’ rich and long history in restaurant management and fine food adds up to a seamless food experience for patrons of Town Talk. The savory flavors, innovative cuisine and fresh ingredients draw return customers.
Plan an Octoberfest of your own and drive Highway 6 & 34 to charming Cambridge to experience Town Talk cuisine and meet Chef Barnes and Jennifer. Good times and fellowship await your visit.