STANTON — Yankees or Red Sox? Ginger or Mary Ann?
Wolf's Den or The Uptown?
It may not rank up there with some of the most important coffee shop debates, but in Stanton and some of the area towns where the two restaurants' customers come from, it can spark a lively discussion.
Stanton, which has a population of about 1,500 residents, features two sit-down restaurants that also feature bars.
There are enough similarities and distinctions between the businesses to provide strong opinions among residents about their favorites.
Both establishments have loyal customers, attract patrons from beyond Stanton and are known for certain dishes. They also are located on the same block.
Laura Forker of Stanton said the town is fortunate to have two good restaurants.
“My son loves the Wolf's Den,” Forker said. “It's a place where he can meet up with friends and have a bite to eat. It's a great place to hang out.”
But Forker said she and her daughter prefer The Uptown. It's a place where they can have a quiet lunch and enjoy the atmosphere.
“If Jeff (my husband) and I want to have a three-hour meal and take our time, we can do that at The Uptown,” she said. “If we want to have a quick meal, we tell them and we can do it quick. I've never had a bad bite of food there — not one.”
Forker said she also appreciates the cultural activities The Uptown offers, such as Scotch tasting. They're the kind of events that probably otherwise wouldn't be offered in Stanton, she said.
Don Vietor of Norfolk, formerly of Stanton, said he enjoys both places but probably prefers the Wolf's Den.
“It's kind of like being at home,” Vietor said. “We have fun being here.”
Larry Nutter of Stanton added that the food is usually served hot and fast at the Wolf's Den.
“The hamburgers here are the best in America,” Nutter said. “They're huge. People know it and come from five or six towns away.”
When it comes to attracting customers from beyond Stanton, The Uptown might be one of Northeast Nebraska's best-known “destination restaurants.” With a menu that includes roast duck, prime rib, burgers and crab cakes, it features a diversified menu not usually found in small-town restaurants.
Rosalind Lamson, who co-founded The Uptown with Adam Staib in 1981 in downtown Norfolk, said their Normandy Tomato Bisque is still the top seller, followed by prime rib.
The Uptown also had one of its waitresses, Rachel Liester, play a waitress in the movie, “Nebraska.” Several scenes were shot in the restaurant.
The movie crew and actors ate at The Uptown, which also hosted a cast party where Will Forte sang, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” during some karaoke time.
The Uptown moved to downtown Stanton in 2001. The two-story brick building originally was built by the Storz Brewing Co. as a barrel house in 1906. Storz also recently began brewing beer again, and The Uptown offers Storz to customers on tap.
One of The Uptown traditions that has continued from when it operated in Norfolk is offering a Sunday buffet.
Another Stanton restaurant, Tony's Steakhouse, was located five miles north of town and had been a fixture on Highway 275 since the late 1970s. It burned shortly before Christmas in a fire believed to have been caused by a space heater.
Other places to eat in Stanton include the VFW, which offers lunches; Subway and Casey's.
The Wolf's Den is operated by Brandi Easley, who purchased the business from her mother, Lynnette Raasch. Easley has worked at the restaurant since she was 16.
Bob and Diane Wolf owned the business before Jim and Lynnette Easley purchased it in 1981. Lynette Easley has since remarried and is now Lynette Raasch.
“We kept the same name because it was a good name,” Raasch said. “In April, it will be 33 years I have been working there.”
Both Easley and Raasch said the best part of owning the restaurant is doing the cooking.
The Wolf's Den serves breakfast from 6 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., including omelets and other egg dishes, French toast and pancakes. On Sundays, breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The bar and grill has daily specials at lunch, such as hot beef sandwiches, spaghetti and Texas toast, chicken-fried steak, meatloaf and pork chops.
It's probably best known, however, for its hamburgers.
Raasch said one of the things that makes the hamburgers great is that they are never frozen.
“We used to get the hamburger from IBP and now it's Tyson,” Raasch said. “We go through about 500 pounds of hamburger every week.”
Raasch said the only thing she enjoys more than cooking is visiting with customers.
“I also like that we have good customers who compliment us and appreciate our variety,” she said.
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