A Stay Like You’ve Never Had Before
With fall in full frenzy, we were looking forward to a little “staycation” at the much talked about Graduate Lincoln. For those who haven’t heard the buzz, Graduate Lincoln recently opened in June of this year. The 16-story, 231-room Graduate Lincoln, located in the Haymarket District in downtown Lincoln, infuses the city’s unique sense of style into each detail while playfully paying homage to Nebraska’s vast parklands and grand landscapes.
Upon arrival, we were attracted to the warm and welcoming ambiance of the lobby, with the eye-catching, one-of-a-kind décor immediately making an impression. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, as you’ll find so many cool nuances of Nebraska’s history and culture throughout Graduate Lincoln. It sort of feels like you’re in the midst of bygone eras with the throwback art and color palette, however, the amenities are modern and sleek. They nailed the juxtaposition of all elements to create a signature vibe; it’s quite interesting and has an abundance of character.
Graduate Lincoln is fun and charming and even though we are considered locals, we found it to be a complete staycation spot. If you opt to leave the hotel, which you certainly don’t need to by any means, Graduate Lincoln is conveniently located within walking distance to the Historic Haymarket and The Railyard entertainment districts, which boast an abundance of dining and nightlife options that cater to just about everyone.
That being said, at Graduate Lincoln, you’re certainly welcome, even encouraged, to hang out and have a good time. The open space on the main level provides gathering areas for guests and is often used for business meetings, and the same holds true for the other common areas throughout the hotel. There are even games to play, like vintage arcade games in the lobby area, and the foosball and ping pong tables. These are all complimentary – no spare change required!
Once we got to our room we were pleasantly surprised with our accommodations. Again, the décor is quirky and distinctive, but everything else is considerably luxurious. We stayed on the fourteenth floor with a spectacular view overlooking the UNL campus, Memorial Stadium, Haymarket Park, and the Pinnacle Bank Arena. Just standing at the window and imagining the view from any of those rooms on a Saturday game day in Lincoln is enough to give you goosebumps.
We then made our way down to the restaurant located on the main level just off the hotel’s lobby, John J’s Chow Hall. Here classic American fare is served up for breakfast and dinner daily, and then there’s the talk of the town, brunch on the weekends complete with live music. John J’s Chow Hall is a celebration of camaraderie, Americana, and good times. Harkening back to the 1940s, the restaurant is reminiscent of a stage scene for a play set in the South Pacific army barracks, complete with retractable garage doors that allow open breezes to blow through. The menu features characteristic American fare, like country steaks and fried chicken, with a drink menu of tiki-inspired cocktails.
For cocktail hour we ordered the Major Rassieur, Major General MacDonald, Staff Sergeant Johnson, Colonel Franzen, and Corporal Alford. The drinks are exactly what come to mind when you think of expert craft cocktails. The presentation is just as good as the contents! Served up in an array of glassware – even in ceramic tiki glasses and a cowboy hat that’s similar to the classic “fishbowl” – with fresh garnishes that are paired well for an explosion of color, the drink creations combine ingredients you wouldn’t expect to like together, but end up loving. Graduate Lincoln had just introduced an appetizer menu so we sampled several items, and we highly recommend giving that a try too!
For dinner, we ordered the Meat & Three, which includes your choice of one entree and three sides. As just one example ordered, the combination of grilled salmon with macaroni & cheese, mashed sweet potatoes, and grilled asparagus was particularly satisfying. We also ordered the Prawn Cobb Salad, which exceeded our expectations. Every table also receives family-style portions of fresh cornbread. The food was delicious and the service was great!
For brunch the next morning we ordered the Stuffed Bread Pudding French Toast, topped with lemon ricotta, berry compote, and whipped cream, and the Country Fried Steak and Eggs and Steel-Cut Oatmeal. As expected from our experience the night before, our meals were hearty and delicious.
Graduate Lincoln stands out above the rest as this is not your ordinary hotel experience – it is so much more. There is absolutely nothing traditional or boring about this place all the way down to the front desk and lobby, an area that’s generally considered to be mundane. The décor was eclectic yet modern in a millennial kind of way, although appealing to just about any person out there. It’s a neat venue for us Nebraskans who appreciate our state’s rich history, but also a curious spectacle to be enjoyed by travelers hailing from anywhere. Furthermore, all of the hotel staff we encountered were courteous and accommodating hosts. They were also very knowledgeable about all aspects of the hotel; we were curious about quite a few things and they had answers for all of our questions – these hospitality professionals are serious trivia experts.
With a boutique hotel feel that you can truly appreciate, Graduate Lincoln is altogether quite the concept – it’s such a charming place! We had such a great experience at Graduate Lincoln and would recommend it to anyone. There’s no doubt it’s here to stay, and we will definitely be back!