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bob's bar

A couple of Fridays ago some friends and I took the hour long trip to an off the beaten path “dive bar” in Nebraska—Bob’s Bar in Martinsburg, Nebraska. As you can see in the photo above it’s not much to look at from the outside. Even when you get in the place it’s not that great—a pool table, a bar, and some tables shoved together in the back. The plates are mismatched remnants of what seem like 1950’s tableware, and the giant fan blowing in the back means quite a bit of yelling. The place used to be a favorite hangout for Dordt students. They’d make the trip for the $4.95 burger that dwarfs the bun, cheese balls and fries sold by the pound, and the cheap beer. (Although, wait long enough and cheap beer becomes hipster beer. They had bottles of PBR.) Sadly, students don’t seem to make the trip anymore.


There’s something about places like this that help us get over ourselves a little bit, to let go of our incessant desire to meet expectations or live up to some kind of social or cultural standard. These places are good for the soul—a place where no one knows your name, your job, your family, or even your church affiliation. They’re usually filled with boisterous noise, the sounds of people having a good time. This is what happened the night we went—way out in the middle of the beautiful Nebraska landscape we ate cheese balls, gizzards, and over a half pound of beef, laughing the entire time.

I wonder if there is something about being protestant that makes it difficult for us to have a good time. It might be that we’ve so imbibed the modernist emphasis on progress and self-improvement that we think drinking a cheap beer while eating a pound of cheese balls is some form of heresy. I know the cheeseburger violates Levitical law, but the cheeseballs?The point of course isn’t the beer or the greasy food, they’re merely the conduit for laughter—an excuse to drive an hour in order to get together with friends. It’s unhealthy to constantly try to hold our “stuff” together, to constantly live into the social and cultural facade of “everything is ok”, or the obsessive inventory of continuous improvement. We need time to play, we need time to dance, and we need time to laugh until we cry. So this morning I thank God for places like Bob’s Bar—sanctuaries of laughter and friendship in an increasingly flattened world of uniformity. A place from which you return home with a full stomach, sore ribs and cheeks from the laughter, and a sweet t-shirt.


  • Daniel Meeter says:


  • Bob Hann says:

    Yep indeed. This reminds me very much of Gwendolyn Bounds’ account of a bar in Garrison NY in the days post 9/11, that she named, in the same spirit, “Little Chapel on the River.” Worth reading if you resonated with Jason’s post.

  • Fred Merkle says:

    Reminds me of one of my favorite Luther quotes, “Accordingly if the devil should say, ‘Do not drink,’ you should reply to him, ‘On this very account, because you forbid it, I shall drink, and what is more, I shall drink a generous amount. Thus one must always do the opposite of that which Satan prohibits. What do you think is my reason for drinking wine undiluted, talking freely, and eating more often, if it is not to torment and vex the devil who made up his mind to torment and vex me.” By the way, Bob’s Bar burger is listed in USA Today’s best burger in every state.

  • It would be less fattening (and the feeling I get when I am waaay too full) to gather in a group to watch Mr. Bean episodes. Lots of laughter without the gluttony … maybe … 🙂

  • Zeek says:

    People don’t go there any more because it doesn’t look like that any more. I don’t know how old those photos are but last time I went the hamburger was wayyy smaller than it used to be and the fries didn’t come by the pound, finished my order of cheeseballs and had to order more which used to be unthinkable here it would feed 5 people. Just honestly wasn’t a reason to go back after that I was very disappointed.

    • donnie says:

      zeek, i dont know what bar you are going to, but it wasent bobs bar in martinsburg NE
      . i live 20 minutes from there and been a regular there for 20 years. they have never changed to the smaller preportions. if you can eat a 3/4 pound cheese burger and 2 pounds of cheese balls, an order of at least a pound of fries and need to order more, well enough said…………

    • Keith says:

      Overlook burgers slow service. No recognition when you walk in. Just kinda unorganized. Super friendly people. Maybe an off night!

    • Ethan says:

      I live in martinsburg lol and ate there just a few weeks ago and you could feed five people with a couple burgers and some fries. but you don’t have to take it from me

    • Same here the onion rings were hard to bite into , the mozz cheese sticks were seasoned and couldn’t finish even one. We sat in back near the TV and there the counter it sat on was coated with dust and dead flies the napkin holder were coated with caked on dirty finger frints. We wont be going there any more.

    • Ken S says:

      that place always has tons of fries or tots or cheeseballs. and burger is always bigger then the bun.have went there and ate many times/./ always have a great and filling meal and generally someone there to bullshit with and share a story or two.

    • DERECK says:

      Not true because to this day 09/12/2016 i have friends that went out there a month ago and there food order looked just like these pics because they posted them on FB.

    • Vikki Bennett says:

      I don’t know what bar you were going to or if you just have a grudge against someone. Everything is the same if not BETTER there!
      Fries and cheese balls overflow the baskets and are to die for. Never in my life have I seen a burger that big!
      Love Bob’s!!!!!

  • Anon says:

    From someone that lives in the area, most of the people there are regulars and everyone knows everyone from there. Its an amazing place that everyone loves. Plus you can never get food like Bob’s trust me I’ve tried.

  • Andrea Wilson Hoffart says:

    It has been 20 years now since I was at Wayne State College and we would make the trip to Bob’s Bar, but I will never forget the laughter and memories of a bunch of girls piling in one car to save on gas money so we could enjoy fattening food for super cheap! Awesome place!

  • Chris Chernock says:

    Glad the author had a good time. Bob’s is what all places are if you strip away the phony, pretentious bullshit. Good place. been going there for years. There is no sign or banners on the front anymore and the beer sign quit lighting up a long time ago. Great time to be had by all.

  • bre says:

    Wow … This article is way to deep and over analytical, we are talking about a restaurant/bar here ! This article screams pretentious,

  • Been all over the world. Never had a burger with more character!

  • ashley says:

    Best bar with the best food for your money . I remember trips as a kid to eat there I loved it an always wanted to go . I think a trip back is needed especially now that I’m tall enough to play pool ? plus my kids would enjoy it!

  • kristi says:

    We love going to Bob’s Bar best food and people can’t beat the burger’s and cheese ball’s!!!

  • david gregg says:

    been there many times with my uncle deroy and I will go back

  • My bicycling friend from Arizona and I do an annual ride to Bob’s Bar from South Sioux City. It’s a 50 mile round trip. Then on the way back we stop at the Lariat in Jackson, NE. Makes a nice day.

  • facebook says:

    Kinda reminds me of Bud and Mary’s in Oskaloosa.

  • Cathy says:

    You are spot on….the best. Have been around the world and none can compare. Live in AZ now and go back several times a year, never miss Bob’s. Any friends I bring back with me I take to Bob’s to impress. He hasn’t failed me yet. Grew up at Bob’s and will always be a big fan. Was there last month and the banner was up. ??

  • April says:

    My home town <3 <3 <3

  • A C Gueck says:

    This reminds me of a great place to eat that use to be in Harrison, across the state from Wayne. Sioux Sundries, use to have a Coffee Burger that was so huge, if you ate one solo, you got an award worthy of the wall. Sadly it has been closed for several years, but I heard rumors that perhaps, some where between Harrison and Crawford they have resurrected the burger.

  • karla says:

    My sister was visiting from California with her 3 young boys and we went to Yankton dam. On the way home my uncle suggested we stop for a burger at Bob’s. Oh Lord! All 6 of us ordered a burger and fries! I remember I had to wash my hands in a sink outside of the restroom. Best of times we had there!!! And lotsa doggie bags for home!!

  • Shozy says:

    I took my family there and couldn’t believe it. It’s bar food that came out of the freezer. You can get that anywhere. The place was dirty. I’d say it was like eating your supper in a gas station bathroom. Nothing special.

    • Sandy says:

      Iv’e gone there before Bob took it over from his inlaws and I haven’t died of food poisoning and that’s over 50 years.

  • Jason Kneifl says:

    Bob’s is 10 miles from the farm I grew up near Newcastle. My brothers and I make this a must stop every time we head back to the farm for deer and pheasant hunting weekends. Stay humble, this place will help.

  • DELETE Herschlag says:

    My family is from that area. Was there last weekend for a family reunion at the fire hall. Bob’s was hopping like always. When we go up there every time we stop to eat and meet family members for lunch or dinner. Love my hometown.

  • Nothing like it anywhere else. Good food at a good price. The outer appearances mean nothing…not to me anyway. But I’m not high maintenance, never was. Nevertheless, i guess you can’t please everyone. Must try and visit if you get the chance.

  • Mark Bolie says:

    One of the best places to go. Great food, great fun and great times.

  • Amy says:

    Outside looks a little different now, because they have a wheelchair ramp built on now. The bar isn’t fancy by any means. But if your that picky my be you shouldnt be going to a small town bar for food anyways. I live in the area and my extended family always wants meet up there. Their food is really good, plates are still overflowing with food. If you don’t leave full somethings not right. And prices are still awesome for all the food you get. Love BOB’S BAR!!

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