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• CRAVE

STORY BY KARA SCHWEISS | PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSHUA FOO

• mQUARTERLY

classy and casual • CRAVE REIMAGINED When mother-and-daughter owners and brand ambassadors Jeannine J. Lane and Jacqelle Lane took over CRAVE Omaha restaurant in Midtown Crossing two years ago, they were not experienced restauranteurs. But the two women knew something about feeding the world. “Our background is in agriculture,” Jacqelle said. “We have corn and soybeans and cattle. We raise Angus cattle, grass-fed beef. We know how it begins.” The Lane family (which includes Omaha native Jim, Jeannine’s husband and Jacqelle’s father) has owned 15 farms with operations in both Nebraska and Iowa along with a west central Nebraska cow-calf operation for more than 20 years. Soon premium beef from the Lanes’ own herds—“It’s the best beef around.”—will be on the menu as a specialty item, Jeannine said. But their farm-to-table approach is just one of the many personal touches they’ve brought to CRAVE, from upgrades like fire-pit seating and outdoor large-screen TVs for the patio to implementing a hands-on, communityoriented focus to the operations. With its hand-blown stained glass, beautiful chandeliers and tasteful artwork, the atmosphere is as elegant as past patrons will remember. “We want you to celebrate and we want to share those special moments with you,” Jacqelle added. The restaurant definitely has a romantic vibe, making it a notable spot for important personal events from first dates to wedding proposals and receptions. The Lanes said they also want people to know that although CRAVE is still a destination for special events, the restaurant is welcoming to everyone. “What people want from a restaurant is ‘friendly,’” Jeannine said. “When people get together with their family or with their friends, we want them to say, ‘That was a great experience; we had a great time.’” CRAVE draws a diverse crowd that includes casual patrons in shorts and yoga pants and families with children as well as special-occasion diners. The patio is even “puppyfriendly.” CRAVE’s tagline “American Kitchen & Sushi Bar” highlights its top-notch, plentiful sushi offerings, but “we appeal to a variety of palates,” Jacqelle said. “We have a myriad of options on our menus.” “If one of you wants the ribeye or a hamburger, they can have that and the other one can have sushi,” Jeannine explained.

The scratch kitchen uses the finest ingredients from certified Angus beef steaks to fresh seafood flown in from around the world to seasonal vegetables from area farms. Even the cocktails are expertly made with handmade purees and premium liquors, the wine list is highly regarded, and craft beers include carefully sourced local and national selections. “We take a lot of pride in the execution,” Jacqelle said. Specials include weekday happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and “reverse” happy hour daily from 9 p.m. to close; half-price sushi Sundays and Mondays from 4 p.m. to close; half-price wine bottles on Wednesdays; and all-day happy hour, bottomless mimosas and a kids-eat-free special on Sundays. CRAVE even offers a loyalty program with online enrollment. CRAVE opens at 11 a.m. Monday through Saturday, closing at 10 p.m. except for Fridays and Saturdays, when it stays open until 11 p.m. Sunday brunch runs 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and the restaurant is open until 9 p.m. Reservations aren’t required, but “We’re Open Table-supported, so guests can book right online,” Jacqelle said. The restaurant also offers carryout, delivery (free to Midtown Crossing residents) and full catering options. A large private dining room for business meetings or special events can seat up to 66 people, and the patio can accommodate 100. Guests can even rent out the entire restaurant for large events. The various spaces are versatile, Jeannine said, and suitable for any function from a business meeting to a formal wedding reception. And the restaurant hosts occasional events of its own, like sushi and mixology classes.

Like family Over the last two years, the Lanes have cultivated an outstanding staff, Jeannine said, emphasizing that “we are only as great as the team and the staff, and recruitment and retention is vital.” She praised the leadership of Executive Chef William Thompson and General Manager Tyler McCleary, saying, “We are so proud of the execution, from the hostess to the wait assistant to the servers to the chefs—to everyone—and we are so proud of the team that is with us. The cohesiveness and collaboration of this group, they really are like a family to us; their loyalty is phenomenal.” In turn, “we make sure our staff is very happy. You can’t train someone to smile and be friendly; it has to come from inside. They have to be happy… our staff feel secure, and they feel our presence. They know we are vested enough to care about them as people.” The restaurant is also fully supportive of the community in general and Midtown Crossing in particular; in fact, the Lanes are residents of the area.

Fresh, vibrant and American Menus are available online for local diners to peruse before their next visit, and the Lanes have included special options like gluten-free, vegetarian and even ‘mocktail’ menus. A few of the restaurant’s signature items include the Bamboo Bite (sushi) Roll, the S’more Brownie, and poke bowls that Jacqelle explained are “a growing trend. It’s very simple but it’s a Hawaiian dish that’s been around for centuries. It’s healthy, delicious and totally unique.” A sampling of other signature items from the abundant menu include Firecracker Shrimp, CRAVE Wings, Lemon Garlic Chicken, Caprese flatbread, Bourbon New York Strip, Pomegranate Molasses Salmon, Mexican sushi and Godzilla sushi. 22

“Jacqelle and I are very vested in community and we do believe in Midtown Crossing,” Jeannine said. “We definitely appreciate their efforts to market and bring things in. We feel very strongly about the local ownership, the commitment we’ve made and the opportunity at Midtown Crossing.” “We feel very blessed. We are the longest-standing restaurant here; we’re here to stay and we’ve proved that,” Jacqelle added. “We’re adding to and improving the already thriving, vibrant atmosphere of Midtown Crossing.” mQUARTERLY • AUG/SEP/OCT 2017

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