The end of a long drive should have some kind of reward. After hot-tailing it from Kansas City to Grand Island, Nebraska, we were famished. Before we could even think about touring the local sights, we needed something to get us revved up. Right as we were rolling into town we spotted Thunder Road Grill. Situated just off the main drag, it looked like a good option for starting our engines. After refueling the car, it was time for us to get a little octane boost.
Welcome to Grand Island
Grand Island lies along the I-80 path, as it crosses Nebraska. This city of almost 50,000 residents is home to the Stuhr Museum of the Pioneer Prairie. This was the draw that brought us to the city, but we knew that we would need sustenance to carry us through a visit. Being from a NASCAR city with its own unique dining experience, the sight of a race car on the roof certainly caught our eye. Since we were already stopped, we decided to check it out.
The King of NASCAR
Stepping into Thunder Road Grill was like immersing yourself in race day. Everywhere you look there are signs and artifacts associated with racing. We quickly learned to look up, as well as around. Spotting the iconic “43” of Richard Petty sent chills up my spine. After all, he wasn’t crowned The King of NASCAR without good reason. He was the first driver to win the NASCAR Cup Championship seven times, which is an accomplishment only achieved by two others. Seven seemed to be his lucky number, as that is also how many Daytona 500 wins he amassed. That is only fitting, since his father, Lee Petty, was the first-ever Daytona 500 winner.
After finding a seat, I had to do some more exploring. I’m sure Crystal gets a little tired of me wandering off, but at least she had some fresh coffee to sip on. With my camera in hand, I headed out to explore this space. In a separate area, I discovered a video game room that was the perfect setting for attaching a car to the ceiling. Whoever designed this place certainly wanted to take it to another level of fun.
Starting Our Engines
My explorations were interrupted by our meal being delivered. My appetite overtook my curiosity, so I sat down to refill my tank. After the nearly five-hour car ride, the smell of brunch was starting our engines. Crystal had ordered the Stuffed Biscuits & Gravy, which has a mixture of breakfast classics. After stuffing two buttermilk biscuits with eggs, cheddar cheese, and bacon, they ladle on a heaping helping of sausage gravy. This made my Pancakes, Eggs & More look rather tame. Oh well, the important thing was we needed to refuel for the day’s activity. The way we scarfed down our meals, you would think we had just crossed the entire prairie.
While we dined, we took an opportunity to check out our surroundings. The designers of this space made sure to incorporate the artifacts to best engage with customers. Sure there are plenty of pieces hanging static on the walls, but they added a few extra twists. How about dining under a motorcycle crashing through a plate-glass window? Or setting up a family-sized seating arrangement underneath a classic hot rod? This is the kind of “out of the box” design that really draws the customers into the scene.
Pit Stop Perfection
After we finished our meal, I took a few moments to do a little more scouting. These are the quiet moments when Crystal likes to savor her last sips of coffee. As I looked around the space, I noticed that they had included pieces with local interest. Mounted on the wall opposite of Petty’s car was a local stock car. It was a reminder that the birth and development of new race car drivers happens on these smaller venues, which often include dirt tracks. With many of these large sporting events in a state of flux right now, this place was able to offer a NASCAR fix for those needing to start their engines.
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