Driving home through Nebraska from Cedar Rapids, we’d planned to return to the
we’d found on the way there in Grand Island—a name so topographically off it might as well have applied to the local landmark that was the stand-alone buffet at the Holiday Inn, oozing dressings, gravies, glazes & fillings over every dish like lava covering straw huts. But upon reaching city limits sooner than expected, we decided to press another 40 min. onward to the Holiday Inn in even smaller Kearney—picturing all the while an even downhomier buffet whereupon the average item would surely boast an average of 2 products made by Smucker’s, Durkee &/or Kraft, sometimes 3.
Checking in, though, I was intrigued by the relative luxury of the lobby: matching armchairs, a flickering fireplace, chessboards & coffee table books strewn among ornate
I was even more intrigued when I got a load of the mod logo on the dining voucher the receptionist handed me—
good for 1 free drink or 10% off our meal. Was this some kind of show of class?
Short answer: yeah, ish!
contemporary glass vases in fun colors & shapes
contemporary art vaguely reminiscent of
Long answer: we started with wine from a real live list, with non-merlots & everything,
served in logo-etched glasses
with focaccia that erred a little on the airy side, & came with butter rather than olive oil, but still, warm & fresh, it was a nice try.
Snobbishly uncomfortable with being mildly impressed so far, I ordered some crabcakes with remoulade & honey-jalapeno dipping sauces, envisioning breadcrumb-coated breadcrumb patties accompanied by ramekins filled with some ratio of Smucker’s to Kraft (what, no Durkee?) that I could ridicule with relieved abandon.
Instead I found myself chowing down on the real thing—not without a little filler, but not without sufficient crab flavor either; & as for the dips, both were quite distinctive, creamy with a subtle touch of sweetness & a stronger one of heat.
The Italian chopped salad I followed it up with was likewise the real thing—the exercise in balance that a main course salad should be, with generous amounts of salami, pepperoni, hard-cooked egg & tomato (along with lesser portions of cucumber & parmesan), but plenty of green as well; housemade croutons were a bit salty, but their cornbread-like texture was a pleasure.
The Director’s medium-rare filet mignon, meanwhile, was almost special, with a fierce sear, a magenta interior & a side of remarkably fluffy piped garlic–white cheddar mashed potatoes. Meat & potatoes are meat & potatoes until they’re not.
Practicing my recently espoused philosophy of sugar-snarfing, I asked to see the dessert list; our waitress returned with a sample tray. At a Holiday Inn on I-80 in Kearney, Nebraska, they’re bringing round the silver like it was the Savoy. Such an incongruous gesture of formality was touching, but not because it was delusional; my peanut butter mousse cake was lovely, really—the layers very chocolatey, not merely sweet, & the filling very peanutty, not merely creamy.
Much to my own sheepish amusement, I really have to recommend Venue. I don’t recommend I-80, but if you’ve got to take it, you might as well do it in style.