Today A month ago (this took a bit to finish writing, it turns out) I read a blog by Lou Plummer about the town he lives in: Fayetteville, NC. I thought it was a nice little look at his view of what makes his town nice to live in, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on my own town, too. I've lived in Lincoln, Nebraska, since coming here to start college in 2012, so over a decade now! And I really, really like Lincoln.

Lincoln is the second largest city in Nebraska, with a little under 300,000 people. On a Husker football game day at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), Memorial Stadium holds more people on its own than any other town in Nebraska other than Lincoln and Omaha. UNL is the flagship state college, with two campuses: one sitting on the north edge of downtown, and one a little further east of downtown called (no surprises here) East Campus, where the majority of the agricultural-focused courses are held.

It's been a "refugees welcome" city since the 1970s, and that's something I really love about it. There's a vibrancy and multiculturalism that you don't see always see in Midwestern cities of this size. Lincoln Public Schools serves about 3000 students who are learning English, who collectively speak about 125 different languages.

# Food

Thanks to all this immigration over time, the various ethnic food restaurant options in town are many, and they are all pretty much phenomenal. We can get great Mexican, Ethiopian, Thai, Vietnamese, Persian, Mediterranean, Indian, sushi, ramen... It's a nice place to eat, let me just put it that way.

Some of my favorite restaurants around town are:

# Lunch & Dinner

  • Asian Taste Thai - I get the panang curry which includes squash, with tofu as the protein. Add on the extra tofu!
  • Blue Orchid (Thai), where I usually order the Sweet Pineapple Stir Fry with tofu. Go at lunch and get a couple Thai rolls with your order! They do a "first course"/"second course" menu deal for lunches. The menu doesn't tell you this, but the Thai rolls are described as having chicken, but you can get them veggie-only instead if you prefer. (Sometimes I do, sometimes I get the chicken.)
  • High Peak Burmese & Thai, where you can't go wrong, but I usually go for the Burmese pad thai. The samosas are mind-blowing.
  • Daffodil Mediterranean Cuisine which honestly deserves a whole post at some point, because it's just so lovely. The owner, Narges (whose name means 'daffodil'!) immigrated here from Iran over 30 years ago. She is so sweet, with warm grandmother-y vibes as she welcomes you to the restaurant and shows you what she is keeping warm in her many roasting pans that day, lifting the metal lid off each one in succession and telling you what's in it. Once she's gone through them all, she will say "what do you want to try, my darlings", and then she will make you a little sample plate with a bite of whatever looks interesting, before you commit to a full meal. It will be hard to choose because everything she makes is delicious. Most of the dishes include meat or fish, but there is typically at least one or two vegetarian options. You can often find Daffodil serving at the Sunday Farmer's Market at College View, if you're in town on a summer Sunday and hungry! Here's a profile of Narges.
  • El Chaparro is my neighborhood favorite for Mexican food, and it's also one of the few places in Lincoln that's open pretty late. You can call ahead for a pick up order and it will be ready in 10 minutes or less.
  • The Oven's upscale Indian cuisine is consistently delicious. If you're dining in, try one of the thalis (available in vegetarian or non-) to sample a bunch of different dishes in one go.
  • Copal is a more upscale or 'reimagined' option for Mexican food.
  • Toast in Fallbrook has pretty standard American fare - you're really there for the fried green beans, trust me.
  • Piedmont Bistro is another great spot for American-style food, whether that's brunch, lunch, or dinner. The filet tortellini is one of the priciest options on the lunch/dinner menu, but dang the steak-infused cream sauce is so savory and rich.
  • The Eatery is a diner-style place we really enjoy for breakfast or lunch. There's something on the menu for everyone, and one of the few remaining salad bars in town.
  • Honest Abe's has very good burgers on the "classic burgers" (always available) menu, but I check the rotating menu frequently in search of "The Count": a burger topped with ham, raspberry preserves, a fried egg, and cinnamon cream cheese. (You barely notice the cinnamon; it melts into the other flavors, just adding a nice complexity.)

# Coffee/Breakfast-y Stuff

The coffee shop culture is one of the best parts of Lincoln in my experience. And friends who have lived in other places, from upstate NY, to Washington DC, Austin Texas and even the Bay Area, report that the coffee shop scene is these other cities is just nothing like what's available in Lincoln. There are many different places you can go, and it's normal at most of them to set up with a laptop and work for a few hours, as long as you make regular purchases. It feels like I run in to someone I know basically every time I'm out at one of my favorite coffee shops.

  • Early Bird Brunch opened a Lincoln location recently. Dang good breakfast! Go on a weekday; the lines out the door on weekends are pretty intimidating. This is not a bring-your-laptop kind of place.
  • Hub Cafe is the place to go farm-to-table style brunches & lunch. You wait in line to order first, then find a table to wait for your food. Weekends get pretty busy here too! There's not a ton of outdoor seating, but there is some, either facing the street or overlooking the Antelope Creek spillway-park/bike trail.
  • Cultiva on 11th is good for coffee and crepes. On weekends, expect to wait an hour or so if you're ordering food. I like working from here sometimes during the week.
  • The CoffeeHouse downtown was much more present in my life pre-pandemic and when I was a student, but it's still going strong serving up coffee and places to sit and talk or work.
  • Meadowlark is another central-Lincoln standby. Close to downtown, but ample parking and no need to actually be downtown if that's not what you want. (See: Husker game days, especially.)
  • The Mill has several different locations around Lincoln; the main ones of interest for me are the Haymarket Mill and the Telegraph Mill. Both have lots of seating outdoors, and great drinks whether you're looking for coffee, tea, smoothies, or even alcohol later in the day. The wifi is always reliable and there are plenty of spacious tables.
  • Indigo Bridge is primarily a bookshop, but actually their seasonal drinks the last year or so have been awesome! The section with tables for drinking your drink & working or reading are usually not very busy, so it's a nice quiet alternative to some of the others mentioned here.

# Walkability, Trails, and Biking

Lincoln has a pretty extensive trail network, though it's not as connected with the streets network as I would like. The city government & major funders think of the trail system primarily as recreation spaces, rather than a part of the transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, while they are very nice trails, wayfinding in particular isn't great if you aren't already familiar with how to use the trails to get to where you'd like to go. But, if you do want to get across town by bike, or just want to go for a long ride or walk, there is probably a trail you'll take for some of the way!

Downtown and in the neighborhoods surrounding downtown where I have lived, biking on the streets is fairly convenient and feels decently safe for my riding tolerance. I like how many places I can go without needing the car, though most people in Lincoln do find life much easier if they have a car to use at least sometimes. Many friends have also chosen to live in neighborhoods like Everett, South Salt Creek, and the Near South, so there are often friends to go see in walking or biking distance. I can bike to the grocery store, the pharmacy, the dentist, a plethora of coffee shops, bars, and restaurants, the library, daycare drop off... it's nice!

# Local Government Accessibility

Lincoln is a good place to be if you want to attempt to influence local government in a grassroots, everyday-citizen kind of way. The unicameral (one house; not both a senate + house) state legislature meets here, in the Nebraska State Capitol building (which is also a lovely place to take visitors, for the art & architecture inside). Every bill being considered in the Nebraska legislature gets a public hearing that anyone who shows up can testify on in front of the committee of legislators. (Though recent high profile & contested bills have had time-limited hearings, where more people showed up than got to speak to the committee. This is pretty rare & seemed new to in-the-know observers, and people were very upset!)

At the city level, public comment on items up for debate at the city council is similarly open to the public. Any item on the agenda can be commented on by anyone who shows up, and one city council meeting a month includes an open comment period where people can speak on any issue that is not set to appear on an upcoming agenda. Over the years, I've seen advocates and activists use these opportunities to great effect.

# Activists, Art, & Radical Community-Making

A big part of what I love about Lincoln is not just that structurally, there's the ability to try to influence local government. There also is a very strong culture of actually doing it, particularly (for my interests) among people who are very thoughtful and care very deeply about making Lincoln a better place to live for everyone who lives here.

Lincoln has such a rich history of people doing what I endearingly deem "weird shit": community projects, grassroots art spaces or initiatives running on near-zero funding, interesting clubs and pop-up events, etc etc. If you start talking about the ones you remember and loved, chances are, whoever you're sitting with may start rattling off other things you didn't even know about that were also cool, and maybe had some of the same people at the forefront that are still up to weird shit today. Or maybe an entirely different set of people was doing weird shit in that way at that time, and I am honored that I and so many friends walk in that noble, weird, radical lineage.

Some of my favorites (honestly each deserving its own post or longer discussion; I'd love to some day collect many of the stories and first person accounts of the last several decades of Lincoln weird shit):

  • The Commons, a community space and event venue. Here's a 2016 profile of The Commons, and here's another 2016 Commons profile. See also this 2024 panel discussion which touched on the Commons as well as the formational experiences community members had during the Occupy movement, when Lincoln's Occupy camp was one of the longest running occupations in the country.
  • The Colonel Mustard Theatre Troupe, very good theater performances performed (at first, at least) in the attic of a yellow house
  • Do It Ourselves Fest - a community-driven, community-centric festival held in 2013, 2015, 2017, and 2022, filled with skill-sharing, music, and art. I spearheaded the return of DIO Fest in 2022. Vice wrote covered the 2017 DIO Fest!
  • One time a friend was having a going away party at The Hot Mess, a local bar favored by beloved weirdos & radicals. The space next door had been recently vacated after being used by the Nebraska Right to Life. So my friend & many other friends held a (parody? serious? you decide) Satanic ritual in that space in order to ritually profane it and bring the building back into cosmic alignment with justice.
  • The Dandelion Network sprang out of a Mutual Aid Disaster Relief workshop, with the initial intent of organizing & preparing for mutual aid during disaster or emergency situations. It's not super active now, but over the years, has been a community through which I have built deep, meaningful friendships, have given and received mutual aid and care, and have learned so many new skills and developed capacities collectively to respond to an uncertain world.

Webmentions: 20 Likes 11 Retweets

2 Replies

R Scott Jones R Scott Jones

@cassey I was expecting a Penis on the Plains reference… ???? source

Chris De Jabet Chris De Jabet

@cassey Oh heck yes, I love Asian Taste Thai. So good. source

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