In Lincoln, NE when you want to eat local there’s one place you must go. Chef Kevin Shinn and his wife Karen have owned and operated this wonderful space on the edge of the Historic Haymarket District, Bread & Cup, for just shy of 8 years. Prior to moving to Lincoln, this was the first restaurant recommendation I was given, and for great reason. Simple food & drink is their mantra and they bring this to the table with meticulous care and passion. The Shinns have also maintained a local sourcing mindset in creating their seasonal and sustainable menus, from produce to the local craft beers on tap.
I usually enjoy stopping in for lunch or a dinner and they also have a phenomenal breakfast menu as well. Tonight I ventured in alone to indulge myself in their weekly Market Meal. The farm to table and from scratch approach is definitely executed day in and day out here, but this weekly Saturday menu option intrigued me with it’s truly ‘ bought the morning of ‘ local sourcing from the farmer’s market just down the street, where they also serve coffee and breakfast fare as well.
I walked in past the open kitchen and took a seat at the bar. I was excited to get out of the August heat and humidity and start of with a libation to cool me down. The menu looked intriguingly fresh and delicious, filled with delicious market fare including fruits that would be sure to quench my hunger as well as my thirst. It being just shortly after 5:30 I decided to imbibe in a featured Cucumber Collins that was incredible refreshing and the perfect touch of boozy.
Already being set on the market meal before walking in the door made everything simpler decision wise except for the choice of entree. Tomato Braised Chicken Thighs with Rosemary, and Fingerling Potatoes or Stuffed Eggplant with Peppers, Onion, Barley, Carrot Sauce, Baby Veg make this a very difficult task. I was drawn to the eggplant dish, certainly one I would not later regret. The entire menu was enticing with the overwhelmingly awesome list of local sources noted at the bottom, no substitutions needed.
I continued to let the gin cocktail and water refresh me as the first course arrived. It was a fresh baked loaf of brioche with olive oil and roasted garlic. With Bread in the name they certainly have it down to a science. The warm loaf was a great way to start. The texture of the perfectly roasted garlic was similar to that of butter making it easy to spread on and soak up the peppery olive oil.
After finishing the first course a couple had just sat to my left at the bar perusing the wine and cocktail menus. They mentioned they were travelling through on a road trip from Minneapolis and were given a recommendation to pop in for a drink. Just then my second course arrived in fine fashion.
A fresh grilled peach filled with pesto and plated with tomatoes. Needless to say anything with pesto is spot on in my book. In this case it was superb pesto, but again the play of texture and flavor was excellent with the grilled peach almost stealing the show. By this point the couple from out of town were now debating if they should indulge in the Market Meal as well and not just stop at their libations. I reinforced their sentiment as we started talking and my next course arrived. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, this sweet corn needed nothing more than the butter and the smoked salt it was seasoned with. It truly felt like summer in Nebraska enjoying those ears of corn.
I took a pause from this delicious treat to engage in a conversation with my new acquaintances that moved from the gameday routines around Husker football to food sustainability and great restaurants. Bread & Cup was certainly included and they marked it for a stop on their way back from Colorado. This proved that the growing appreciation for great food and drink created with care and consciousness is not slowing anytime soon.
As they departed and wished me well in my triathlon the next day I enjoyed this treat. A simple melon martini that was a great contrast and transition from salty to naturally sweet. The fresh melon medley and the sweet melon syrup were incredibly refreshing. After finishing this course I had the privilege to visit with the chef.
It was great to discuss his focus that was clearly present in not just taste of his dishes, but also texture and all aspects of a dish coming together in its creation. After mentioning that I had chosen the vegetarian main course we continued to discuss the growing role of vegetables in a person’s diet and in his current concepts, as well as those to come. We agreed the focus of food is changing and moving away from meat being the anchor of a dish or a diet to more sustainable options. Kevin also hinted at some new concepts that will also be vegetarian focused not just for the sake of being so, but instead to be sustainable and delicious menu creations.
As the space started to fill up, Kevin went back to continue crafting in the kitchen. A few minutes later he brought my entree which was a an eggplant stuffed with a locally sourced strain of Egyptian or e-barley, sweet corn, onions and peppers and topped with baby squash and plated with a carrot sauce. The flavor of this dish was incredible and definitely affirmed that it was the right choice, although I’m confident I wouldn’t have been disappointed with the meat option either. The eggplant was cooked perfectly and with the stuffing had the dish had the texture of a meat protein with the salty flavor mixing with the savory carrot sauce. I had finished my Cucumber Collins about halfway through and opted to pair this with Infusion Brewing of Omaha’s Radial IPA.
After thoroughly enjoying this impressive main course I was pleasantly full. I was then reminded that I still had dessert on the way! The baked summer apple arrived in a bowl and resembled a scoop of ice cream. The flavor was amazing with the texture of the pecan brittle and butterscotch syrup. Here I found one incredible aspect of flavor that added a twist to this perfect end to the meal, Mint! It was very subtle, but the fresh mint left a lasting memory as I took the final bite.
It was nice to sit back and take in this beautiful meal I was privileged to enjoy. As I was leaving I thanked Kevin and his crew for an excellent experience. I surely will be back, and look forward to the next time I indulge in their Market Meal. Thank you again to the Shinns for continuing to bring a local, sustainable, and enjoyable experience to the Lincoln community.