If not for the tall sign on the sidewalk, I might have walked right by the place.
My hosts at the unique Barn Anew B&B in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, recommended that I head into town for dinner at Emporium Coffeehouse and Café. The name wasn’t exactly indicative of fine dining, and it didn’t suggest a destination for the large, hearty, Midwestern meal that I was craving after driving across the state for more than 400 miles.
Housed in an ordinary three-story building that appears to be a house with an attic in downtown Scottsbluff, Emporium looked like nothing more than a pleasant little stop for, perhaps, an espresso and a scone. But looks can be deceiving.
I opened the entrance gate, skirted around a few customers sipping coffee at the outdoor tables, and stepped inside. I continued past the coffee bar, the busy barista, and the Murano chandelier on my way into the classy dining room. The hostess seated me under one of the largest windows, with a deep sill occupied by tall candlesticks inside red glass holders. Before me, framed boards of wine-bottle corks adorned the wall, and the hanging oversized paintings of artichokes, grapes, and pears stirred my appetite. Only later would I discover that Emporium is often ranked as one of Nebraska’s top restaurants—an accolade it has definitely earned.
Try This: Start with a Heartbreaker—a mixture of gold tequila, mango purée, and a blend of citrus juices and orange liqueur on the rocks. For an appetizer, the tasty pomme frites—hand-cut fries tossed with truffle oil and parmesan cheese — come in a giant mound that could keep you noshing for an hour. The sirloin of Colorado lamb with a crispy potato pavé, roasted carrots and mushrooms in a Marsala cream sauce achieved perfection on every level for a main course, but piscivorous patrons can also take to the faraway sea and enjoy some Atlantic salmon with ricotta gnocchi, roasted brussel sprouts and pancetta, served with a sweet onion purée and pickled onions. For dessert, sample one of the seasonal cupcakes or, even better, a heavenly slice of moist, flavorful blueberry-lemon cake with a flawlessly sweet frosting.