When the world knows you for one thing, it takes a while to change your image. That’s the goal for Crane Coffee Café & Bar, the new concept from the people who brought you seven Crane Coffee locations around Omaha. It offers the familiar coffee bar, a full kitchen serving three meals a day, and even drinks in the evening. Crane Café opened in the Paxton Building downtown in August. I visited with my wife and son on a Saturday night in November. I tried the Wagyu Kobe Burger ($11), featuring a 6 oz. patty topped with onions, tomato and garlic aioli. Wagyu cattle produce beef that is densely marbled, with a smooth texture. This was one of my favorite burgers in recent years. It’s leaner and less messy than the typical local burger, but with abundant flavor. My wife loves Reubens, so she gravitated toward the Blackstone Reuben sandwich ($9), with the familiar corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and Russian dressing on rye bread. She liked the crispy bread and thin slices of corned beef, but was more impressed by the Sweet Potato Tater Tots side dish, which comes in a brown sugar and Dijon mustard sauce. We were not offered a children’s menu, so our 9-year-old son had the Lasagna ($11), with pork and ground chuck layered with pasta and a bright red marinara sauce. The house-made mozzarella cheese was excellent and our son devoured his order quickly. We later learned that Crane does offer a children’s menu, but it worked out well, because our son was forced to order something other than his usual chicken strips. We experienced a few more service problems. We tried to order the Hot Damn Shrimp appetizer ($9), which features shrimp in Cajun butter with biscuits. Unfortunately, our server forgot to place the order. She later apologized profusely, and offered a free dessert. Good Midwesterners never turn down something free, so we tried the Mixed Berry Cobbler ($5). It featured a great deal of whipped cream on top of strawberries and blueberries, with a minimal pastry crust. The mix of hot berries and cool topping provided a nice contrast, and the serving size would be more than enough for one person. We paid about $50 for three entrees and two drinks. Dinner at Crane Cafe focuses on sandwiches, burgers and comfort foods, along with a complete bar. M any of those items also appear at lunchtime. Owner Lori Foerster says a Half ’n Half option ($8) is most popular at midday; customers choose two half sizes of anything from a list that includes sandwiches, soups, and entrees. Breakfast offers traditional morning choices, along with a selection of casseroles. Foerster said she opened the café in an attempt to diversify. “The coffee business is pretty saturated,” she says. “To make this a long-term venture, we had to expand. We were going to do limited service, but the more we looked at this space, we wanted something unique. We wanted a new concept.” The L-shaped 30-table space might be too big for Crane’s purposes; blocking off some sections at different times of the day could help create the right atmosphere. Foerster said lunch business is strong, with a growing following at breakfast. Crane’s relatively new dinner service remains a work in progress. “Dinner is a little slow right now,” Foerster says. “When theater is going on (at the Orpheum), we are busy. We are working on some new things for dinner.” Her efforts include a “Two Dinners for $25” special that is being advertised on billboards. Crane Café reminds me of a coffee shop in San Francisco where I once ate dinner. The fare is familiar but well made, with good coffee early in the day and drinks at night. I am told that Omahans used to eat dinner in coffee shops, but that idea died out late in the 20th century. I hope Foerster succeeds in bringing back the coffee shop meal. Downtown could use a spot like Crane Coffee. It’s a reliable option for any meal, and it’s perfect for groups before or after an event. The key will be convincing Omahans that Crane is more than coffee. Crane Coffee Café and Bar, 1403 Farnam St., is open Mon.-Thurs. 6:30 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 6:30 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sun. 7 a.m.-2 p.m. Call 884.0900 or visit cranecoffeeomaha.com. http://cranecoffeeomaha.com

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