After eyeing several options for a second location, SchillingBridge Cork & Tap House has had to hit pause. The restaurant, which opened in Lincoln’s Fallbrook development on the northwest edge of the city in 2014, has been battling the current talent crisis.
The Cork & Tap has about 20 employees, but like many restaurants it is short-staffed.
“Everyone’s feeling it,” President Kelly Bletscher said. “We decided to stay closed on Monday and Tuesday, which we started during the pandemic. We want to take care of the staff we have and make sure they have a solid two days off to spend with their families and aren’t overworked or stressed.”
Last year The Cork & Tap received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which helped the firm give raises to its staff.
True Scratch Kitchen
Almost everything on SchillingBridge’s menu is made in-house.
“We cook with an infused wine and beer in almost all of our menu items,” Bletscher said. “French fries are the exception. We have a passion for creating higher-end comfort foods, infusing them with beer and wine. Our beer cheese is one of our most popular things. We have beer bread and caramel beer bread pudding. We make our own caramel sauce with our Scottish ales.”
All of the pork is farm-to-table. Bletscher and her husband, Mitch, live on a farm near Falls City where they raise purebred Berkshire hogs. The hogs are quartered and transported to the restaurant where they are broken down.
“You can choose whether you want pork or beef on any of our burgers,” Bletscher said. “One of our most popular appetizers is drunken nachos. We make our own tortilla chips, then top them with either brisket or pulled pork, beer cheese, and our beer barbeque sauce.”
The Cork & Tap is a spinoff and expansion of SchillingBridge Winery and Microbrewery in Pawnee City, which Bletscher’s parents, Mike and Sharon Schilliing, opened in 2005.
“We planted a huge garden at the winery and were able to bring up a lot of fresh vegetables [to the restaurant] and that really decreased our cost for food and also created a better product,” Bletscher said.
An Inviting Space
In 2014, Bletscher said they settled on Fallbrook because it was “the perfect spot,” having plenty of room for growth in the area.
“NEBCO manages that property, and they were committed to developing the area and making it ‘a little town center.’ It reminded us a lot of Pawnee City,” she said.
Bletscher credits the restaurant’s success in part to its “phenomenal” staff.
“No one will go to a restaurant again with a grumpy server,” she said.
The other booster is live music during the summer on the Cork & Tap’s patio, which Bletscher said is one of the Lincoln’s largest.
“It has a great view,” she said. “Sitting [on the patio] up at Fallbrook, you can see the capital. It has definitely pulled us through COVID when people were nervous about dining inside. [The Patio] was an extra comfort level. It really helped us pull through last summer when people were skittish about coming out and dining, even with all of the precautions.”
The Cork & Tap hosts several events throughout the year. One of the largest is Gravel Worlds, a three-day event in August.
“We team up with the Pirate Cycling League to do that,” Bletscher said. “They put on a huge gravel bicycle race that attracts people from all over the world. They had over 1,500 riders this year. We offer food and music.
“We would like to host some more events. We contacted a few different organizations. Fallbrook is such a neat area. We have a lot of open space and a lot of parking, which is what you need for large events. With COVID, everyone’s a little touchy this year, but we hope by next year everything will be ironed out more and we’ll be able to host more events.”
Bletscher graduated with a business administration degree from Nebraska Wesleyan in 2006. She worked full-time at her family’s winery before opening the ShillingBridge Cork & Tap with her brother, Dallas Schilling, who is the on-site manager. Bletscher, her husband Mitch, and their three girls live on a farm near Falls City. Dallas Schilling, his wife Crystal, and their two daughters live in Malcolm.