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Mountain Oyster Night brings the oyster-lovers out to Tub’s Pub
by Betty Sayers, Pam Soreide, Phil Soreide
Rocky Mountain oysters are what is left over when you turn a young bull into a steer.
Also known as calf fries, prairie oysters, cowboy caviar, or Montana tendergroin, they are usually peeled, breaded, pounded flat and grilled or deep fried. Although they undoubtedly evoke the “eeeeww” factor in some, they are considered a great delicacy by many, and are undeniably a huge draw on Mountain Oyster Night at Tub’s Pub.
Of course, we didn’t realize it was a special night. We’d just been told to check out Tub’s Pub in Sumner, about half an hour north and west of Kearney on Highway 40.
As we drove into the town, we asked each other if anyone had thought to bring the address, but not to worry. In a few moments we noticed rows of cars – well, actually rows of pickup trucks – parked outside one building. Now if there is one piece of advice we all know when looking for the best place to eat, it’s follow the cars. We knew we had found our spot.
As with many of our Rural Foodies adventures, the outside of Tub’s Pub is unprepossessing – brown siding with a white sign announcing its name above those of the owners, Doug and Carol. Inside, even though it’s a Wednesday, Tub’s is vibrant and packed with people, noise, conversation and the smell of good food. It was especially packed with men. Big men, with cowboy hats and boots or seed caps and work pants who stood in line in the middle of the restaurant at what appeared to be the salad bar. We thought that was unusual, but the reason soon became clear. We had arrived on the fourth Wednesday of a month containing five Wednesdays: Mountain Oyster Night.
A culinary dilemma
We thought we might have to wait, but they found us a table under a Budweiser sign and a deer head, and we sat down to look over the menu. There is a full array of choices from fish and chips to steaks to choose from, but much of the menu is devoted to colorful descriptions of the Wednesday night specials. The first Wednesday is Spaghetti Night, the second is Taco Night, the third is Burger Night, and the last Wednesday of the month is for prime rib. If there are five Wednesdays, the fourth is Mountain Oyster Night.
As we studied the menu, the one male in our party started to waver. Part of him wanted to join that line of manly men filling their plates with the mountain oysters and French fries on the buffet table; part of him remembered what happened the last time he’d overindulged in that particular delicacy. He stood up and went over to inspect the offering. Looked good, he thought. Nicely breaded, golden brown, and certainly the men in line weren’t shy about piling them high on their plates. But when he came back to the table, he went for the smothered chicken dish, a Tex-Mex treatment with a spicy gravy. We also ordered Chaddy’s Big Catch (breaded tilapia), the rib eye steak, and one of the Tub’s Pub’s signature dishes, the chicken fried steak. Chicken fried steak is one of the best guilty pleasures of a Midwestern life.
The quest continues
We started our meal with drinks…this is a pub after all. There wasn’t a huge beer selection, though they will stock requests for regulars, and they feature Mac’s Creek wines. The cocktails were generous, and of course, on our never-ending quest for the best onion rings, we had to try a plate of those for the table. Excellent, by the way, but not a clear winner in the category. The quest continues.
In hindsight, we might have tried some of their more interesting appetizers, including breaded green beans, gizzards, corn nuggets and something called munchers, all served with ranch dressing, barbecue sauce or honey-mustard.
A trip to the salad bar was included with all the meals, along with choice of potato and Texas toast. The salad bar was well-stocked with the usual offerings, but there was one salad we had never seen before…a sauerkraut salad. Pam asked the woman in line in front of her what it was, and was told it was sort of like a relish. We all had to try it and it was a hit…light and crispy with bits of crunch added by red and green peppers, onions and maybe celery with a sweet and sour dressing. Delicious and unique.
A chat with Tub
When our meals arrive, we ask the server if we might be able to talk to Tub and Carol for a few minutes. It was busy evening, but as we finished up with dinner around 8:30, the place was starting to slow down and Tub – real name: Doug – joined us at the table, soon followed by his wife, Carol.
Tub told us how he had graduated from Sumner High School and joined the Navy, where he was assigned to run the ship’s store and soda fountain. He found he liked that kind of work and when he returned from his stint in the military, he married Carol, a local girl also, and together they bought Marge’s Pub, which at the time was a very small bar.
They started serving food, and then gradually expanded. As they became known for their hospitality and good cooking, Tub got a loan, remodeled and added additional space. Soon, they had a solid niche, not just in Sumner, which is too small to support them on its own, but drawing clientele from Kearney, Grand Island, North Platte and a wide swath of central Nebraska.
Tub opens the restaurant at 7:30 a.m. with coffee and rolls, and serves as the day cook offering noon specials that are very popular with the locals. Carol takes over in the kitchen in the evening while Tub mans the bar. The party room at the back is reserved months in advance.
As the last of the oyster-eaters filter out, Tub and Carol seem calm and serene, grateful for a life well-lived in serving others. It’s that kind of place. It feels like home to Tub and Carol, and they make it feel like home for you, too.
Who to Contact
Tub and Carol Hoos
107 West 5th Avenue
Sumner, NE 68878