few years ago, the couple made the decision that they would be
selling the restaurant and pub, but at the same time they were in no
big hurry. They wanted to find the right people to take up the torch
and lead the restaurant into the future.
Just before the onset of the Covid pandemic, the Blackburns had good
prospects for that future goal. But the lock down and shut down of
many businesses took its tole on the new owners, and soon the Blue
Dog was closed and there were no immediate prospects.
In the meantime, Val Carnes and Paul Sabo were dipping their toes in
the waters of restaurant and bar management. Sabo was operating the
Frothy Bottom, and Carnes took on management of the village owned
New Holland Café. The two worked together in both ventures, and soon
found they had an appetite to do something more.
At the ribbon cut on Monday, and on several other occasions, Sabo
explained that when he and Val moved to Lincoln about five years
ago, the Blue Dog Inn was the first place they ate in the city.
Afterward, they continued to patronize the business for as long as
it was open.
Now, as they explored their options for the future, ownership of the
Blue Dog became an exciting dream, and one that the two felt could
come true. After a lot of work with real estate Agency ME Realty and
Gaynor Goodman of that office, with help from their good friend and
banker Annie Coers with Tremont Bank and with plenty of support from
others, the dream morphed into ownership.
During an interview last week, Sabo said that the two
loved the Blue Dog as it was, but also saw that they could lead it
into the future as the Blackburns had hoped. Those who visited the
eatery in the first few days of its opening found many of the
traditional food items on the menu, but also some new options
including the made-to-order steaks and a food bar with an all you
can eat option or a one trip option.
The interior has been redone but not to the point that you feel like
you are entering a place where you have never been.
The large dining area where meetings can be held is
basically the same, but with a slightly different blue color scheme.
In the front room of the business, the booths have been removed and
replaced with tables for a roomier feel.
But, the booths are still available. They have been
relocated to the back half of the first room. Carnes said that the
goal is to have that back dining area reflect the original Blue Dog
with the booths in place and photos and other items to bring to
remembrance the Blue Dog Inn of the Blackburns.
Monday morning, joining Carnes and Sabo behind the ribbon were
several of the restaurant’s 21 staff members, John and Barb
Blackburn, Annie Coers, Gaynor and Seth Goodman, Jaimie Vaughn with
Prairie Land Title, 2023 Logan County Fair Queen Ellyn Martinez,
Alice Roate and Lexie Groves with the Logan County Tourism Bureau,
Lincoln City Clerk Peggy Bateman, Lincoln Ward Three Alderwoman
Wanda Lee Rohlfs, and Chassidy White and Karen Castelein with
Lincoln Daily News. Nila Smith with LDN served as the emcee for the
Smith opened with comments about why it is important to hold ribbon
cuts. It is a chance for members of the community to show their
support and voice their support for new businesses, business owners,
or businesses celebrating significant achievements. She said it is
also an opportunity for those owners to celebrate their own
achievement and at the same time acknowledge those who have been
behind them, cheering them on and supporting them through the
One such supporter for Carnes and Sabo was Annie
Coers whom Carnes referred to as not only a great business
associate, but moreover a wonderful friend. Coers said that the day
was about Val and Paul and she was pleased to be able to
congratulate them on their hard work and ultimate accomplishments.
Gaynor Goodman was acknowledged as the person who had been with them
hand in hand through the purchase of the Blue Dog building. She said
that she had come to love Sabo and Carnes and was very proud to have
been part of their journey.
Jaimie Vaughn was also recognized by the pair as one who had been
very supportive during the purchase process.
The Blackburns were asked if they wished to comment.
John Blackburn said that he was happy that they found someone to
take on the Blue Dog and wished them the best for the future.
Mayor Tracy Welch was unable to attend, so Alderwoman
Rohlfs spoke on behalf of the city. She told Carnes and Sabo that
she is the representative of Ward Three and their business in
located in her ward. She said she had many fond memories of the Blue
Dog and frequented it many times when it was owned by the Blackburns.
She said she was looking forward to future visits with the new
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Turning to speak directly to Carnes and Sabo she said
that she was always available to them as their ward representative
and would be happy to help them through any questions from the city
When it was time for the owners to speak, Sabo began,
noting that the couple moved to Lincoln five years ago. As had been
mentioned many times, he said that the Blue Dog was the first place
they had eaten even before they had a home in town. He said they had
a love for the Blue Dog and a love for Lincoln. He added that the
long-term plan had not necessarily been to stay in Logan County long
term. The goal had been to eventually move further south to a warmer
climate, but now, they knew that they had found their long-term
home. He said that buying the Blue Dog was “just one of those crazy
ideas Val came up with and I went along, and now here we are.”
Then it was time for Carnes to speak. She began by
saying thank you to all those who were a part of the transition. She
called several people by name including Coers and the Blackburns.
She said, “Lincoln means a lot to us.” She said they have a staff
that is phenomenal. She thanked the community and the customers who
had been supportive and patient with them in the first two weeks of
being open. She said the restaurant had its fair share of glitches
in those first two weeks, but guests had been kind and had forgiven
them any of their shortcomings.
Following Carnes, it was time for the posed pictured
and the traditional count down when Sabo and Carnes together snipped
the ribbon on their business.
The steakery opened at 11 a.m. and in was about one minute before as
everyone filed back inside.
Many of those at the cut stayed for lunch including
the Blackburns. Before noon the place was hopping with business and
wait staff was on the run keeping up with all the guests.
The food was served hot and delicious. Many enjoyed the food bar
while others took advantage of the lunch time sandwich menu that
includes hamburgers, BLT’s a variety of pork and beef sandwiches
along with turkey and chicken. The food bar includes French Onion
soup daily and a second soup of the day. The baker for the
restaurant is David Carter and fresh bread is made daily along with
other delightful items.
The restaurant also offers the K-9 and the Puppy
Shoe, a wink to the horseshoe, with grilled toast, fries, a choice
of meats including grilled tenderloin, chicken or hamburger, and a
house made cheese sauce that is mild and flavorful.
The evening menu features a variety of made to order steaks, with
other options as well.
All the food is made from scratch daily. And nothing is pre-cooked.
Sabo had commented that a freshly grilled steak takes a little
longer, but the taste compared to one that was cooked at the
beginning of service and held in a warmer until it is ordered, makes
the wait well worth it.
The Blue Dog Steakery, located at 111 South Sangamon in Lincoln, is
open seven days a week. Monday through Thursday the hours are 11
a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and
on Sunday, the restaurant is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.