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Gastronomic Fight Club SM

Mischief. Mayhem. Soup.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

RECIPE: Omaha Reuben Sandwich

posted by snekse
Original Reuben Sandwich story and My Best Recipe
About a week ago I was contacted by the producers of "Food Wars" on The Travel Channel. They wanted to do an episode in Omaha and considered focusing on either The Reuben Sandwich, or steak. Though the steak won, it piqued my interest tremendously to determine what happened to the rich heritage of the famous sandwich and who claimed the crown from the Blackstone Hotel (purportedly the origin of the Reuben Sandwich) for having the best in Omaha. [Side Note: This *will* be a category in next year's Best-ter-est of Omaha Awards.]

I'm not sure there's a clear answer for who the successor is. Our poll was very inconclusive, however, when combined with the data from Yelp, UrbanSpoon and other resources, it looks like The Crescent Moon might have the best Reuben Sandwich in Omaha. At least as far as restaurants go...

While doing my research, I stumbled across a thing of beauty. Thick, moist, tender looking corned beef atop a dark rye bread and a nice line of sauerkraut across the top. To make things even better, there was a story behind the photo. The grandmother of the person making this work of art claimed to be the sister of a waitress who worked at the Blackstone Hotel! And to do one better, her sister: Fern Snider; the lady who can probably be credited for bringing national attention to the sandwich. Anyway, you can read Shannon's grandmother in his own words on Flickr.

I also asked Shannon if I could re-publish his photo and recipe to share here. His recipe is really more of some guiding principles, so I've condensed/paraphrased it a bit, but you can always check out his original instructions to check my accuracy. If you're a Flickr member, take some time to thank him over there.

My Best Reuben Sandwich Recipe

by shannonpatrick17

Seek out the the best ingredients to get the best flavor!
  • Try to get a point cut brisket from a real butcher or deli
  • Avoid vacuum sealed brisket from mass market grocery stores
  • Always use your own pickling spice, even if using vacuum packed brisket
  • Try making your own dressing
  • Look for artisan bread when possible

  • Beef Brisket (point cut)
  • Fresh Ground Pepper
  • Caraway Seeds
  • Kosher Salt
  • Hungarian Paprika (hot)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Garlic
  • Cabbage
  • Emmental Swiss Cheese (or close substitute)
  • Some type of Rye bread (e.g. Dark Rye,Pumpernickel, Marble)
  • Russian or Thousand Island dressing

Start with a dry rub of fresh ground pepper, then apply caraway seeds, kosher salt, and hot Hungarian paprika. Brown the brisket in a large cast iron pan with a small amount of EVOO. After browning, throw in some rosemary, garlic and thyme to heat, but not scorch. Course chop half a cabbage, then add it to a slow cooker. Add the brisket with all the dripping and set the cooker to "low".

Use two pieces of a local bakery Rye bread or some variation of it. Select a Russian or 1000 Island dressing that suits the sandwich or make your own. Use an Emmental Swiss cheese or something similar that is not too sharp and without a lot of "feet" funk, such as a baby Swiss cheese. Look for something that hasn't been aged long and has smaller holes. Find a Sauerkraut you like or make your own. Be sure to drain the Sauerkraut as much as possible to avoid a soggy sandwich.

Build your sandwiches between the two pieces of bread. Ratios for balance of ingredients are important, so avoid the ginormous pile of meat you often see on TV. If you add too much, the sandwich falls apart and will not heat in the center.

Heat your sandwiches in a the large cast iron pan. If making more than 2-3 sandwiches, consider using a 2nd pan. Preheat the pan with some EVOO over medium-to-medium-high heat so the oil shimmers, not smokes. Add the sandwiches until toasty "golden brown".

Crescent Moon Alehouse @ Beer Corner USA

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Best-ter-est of Omaha Restaurants Award Winners - 2009

posted by snekse
Best-ter-est of Omaha 2009
We've closed the polls and tallied the votes. Once again a lot of great local restaurants took many top spots, while national and regional chains didn't fare as well in most categories. Several categories had big changes, several where very dispersed in votes and the new categories this year, especially the broad categories towards the end, were fascinating to see (I love the Most Overrated category).

Voter turn out was not what we were hoping it would be, but that's a bit of a dilemma. We don't publicize much beyond our readers in order to keep the results of a higher quality. Finding really good food requires us to lean on those who are really passionate about food. We figure if you heard about this poll through our limited promotion and felt moved enough to vote, then you were a true foodie. This was always meant to be a poll for foodies, by foodies, so thank you to all the foodies who voted. We hope you enjoy the results as much as we did.

Some quick notes about our notes. By some categories, you might see a [NOTE] in brackets that gives you some insight into that category beyond the winners ranks. For those, we urge you to take a look at the raw data to get a peek at all the votes. You'll also see the same kind of notes by individual restaurants. This is to give you an idea of how things have changed since last year and/or key you into decisive wins.

Best-ter-est of Omaha 2009TM

Best American Bistro in Omaha [All Local]

Best Appetizers in Omaha [Big Changes]

Best Bagels in Omaha

Best Bar-B-Que in Omaha

Best Breakfast in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Buffet in Omaha

Best Burrito in Omaha

Best Chinese Restaurant in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Coffee Shop in Omaha

Best Desserts in Omaha

Best Family Restaurant in Omaha

Best French Fries in Omaha [All Local?]

Best French Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Fried Chicken in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

  • Jack & Mary's
  • Chi Town Chicken (Tie ~ 2nd) [NEW]
  • Millard Roadhouse(Tie ~ 2nd)
  • Time Out Foods (Tie ~ 2nd) [NEW]

Best Greek Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

  • The Greek Islands
  • Katie's
  • Jim & Jennie's Greek Village

Best Hamburgers in Omaha [All Local]

  • Dinker's
  • Stella's
  • Louie M's Burger Lust [NEW]

Best Hot Wings in Omaha

Best Indian Restaurant in Omaha [Contentious Category; All Local]

  • Jaipur
  • Mother India [NEW]
  • India Garden
  • NOTE: Though there were clear vote winners, this was still a highly divided category.

Best Italian Restaurant in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Japanese Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Korean in Omaha [Low Vote Count; All Local]

  • Han Kuk Kwan
  • Korea King
  • Korean Food Restaurant

Best Mexican Restaurant in Omaha [Contentious Category; Big Changes; All Local]

Best Onion Rings in Omaha [No Clear Winner]

Best Pasta in Omaha [Big Changes; All Local]

Best Pizza in Omaha [Contentious Category; All Local]

Best Sandwiches in Omaha

Best Seafood in Omaha

Best Soup in Omaha

Best Steak House in Omaha [Contentious Category]

Best Sunday Brunch in Omaha

Best Sushi Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Thai Restaurant in Omaha [Contentious Category; All Local]

Best Restaurant in Omaha for a Business Lunch

Best Restaurant in Omaha for a First Date [All Local]

Most Romantic Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Most Overrated Restaurant in Omaha

Most Underrated Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best New Restaurant in Omaha [All Local]

Best Chef in Omaha [Low Vote Count]

Best Restaurant in Omaha

NOTES AND COMMENTS: Since the form fields were free form, we tried to interpret the results as best we could (e.g. We might count Radial Cafe towards Lisa's Radial Cafe). If you'd like to double check our work, feel free to look at the raw data. No member of the GFC team voted. Since this was such a small sample size and some of the categories were so close, some of the results would be different if our votes were counted.

Best-ter-est of Omaha 2010TM

Of course we plan to do this again next year, so please leave comments below with your thoughts about what you like and don't like about the categories, results, promotion, etc.... We would like to include some "Best Dish" categories, but I think the votes would be so unique that we wouldn't have a clear winner for any category. I'm very open to ideas around this. Here are a couple of examples that came out in the voting.
  • Big Horn Mountain BBQ: Beef Brisket
  • Upstream: Smoked Gouda & Blonde Ale Soup (x3)
  • Upstream: Tomato Basil
  • Mai Thai: Tom Yum Gai Soup
  • McFoster's Natural Kind: Roast Tomato Soup
  • Jaipur: Mulligatawny Soup
  • Grisanti's: Tomato Tortellini Soup
  • McFoster's Natural Kind: Sweet Potato Fries
  • Taste: Sweet Potato Fries
  • Smashburger: Smashfries (w/ Garlic and Rosemary)
  • Barrett's Barleycorn: Kitchen Sink Burger
  • Dinker's: Haystack Burger
  • Ethnic Sandwich Shop: The Irish Coned Beef Sandwich
  • Hiro: Husker Roll
  • Chinatown: Veggie Fried Rice
  • Whole Foods: Creme Brulee French Toast
  • Dixie Quick's: Oatmeal & Ice Cream
  • Mark's Bistro: Bread Pudding
  • Dario's: Banana and Brown Sugar Ice Cream

Closing Thoughts

For the most part, I'm very pleased with the results and I think they are a good representation of the Omaha food scene and the spots that foodies tend to favor. Next year we might try to clean up some of the categories, or at least define them better. I'd like to find a way to get restaurants like Peru, Mucho Gusto nominated for something, but it, like many other restaurants, don't fit well into any of our current categories really. One thing that I noticed while looking at the results is that there are some great opportunities for restaurants to step up and fill some voids. Categories that were dominated by chains or just plain didn't have many votes would be a good place to start. So if you had been planing on opening a Korean soup-and-sandwich shop or a breakfast spot offering a burrito-on-a-bagel, you might have something going for you.

On a personal note, while looking at the results, I realized the need for us to cover the Omaha restaurant scene more. Though I've been to well over half of the places on this list, we've reviewed just a fraction of them. Maybe you can help us with that problem.

On a related note, we'd like to send out window clings to all of the restaurants you see above. If you make window clings or know someone who does, contact us. If you're a person who would like to help us design our decal, contact us. If you are a business owner who would like to offer something to the winners (such as Joe Frost from Elify who will be offering free online strategy consultations), contact us. If you just want to contact us, contact us :-)

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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

WANTED: Food Writers in Omaha, NE

posted by snekse
So it's a new year, and with that new ambitions and a renewed focus. And some clarity. Here's what's become clear: I need your help.

I've always wanted this site to be a collaborative effort, but I haven't aggressively sought out contributors in the past. That is going to change a bit this year. I am very aware that I don't have the ability to dine at and review nearly as many restaurants as I'd like, let alone cover the many other interesting food topics that I'd like. That is where I'm hoping some of you come in.

If you have an interest in food writing, please contact me with your areas of interest (e.g. Restaurant Reviews, Cooking/Recipes, Eating Local/Sustainable, Chef Interviews, etc...) and preferably a sample of your writing. No English Literary degrees required, just a passion for food. Hopefully we can find some great additions to our team.

Here's to a great new year at Gastronomic Fight Club. *cheers*

Food Writer: Mark Kurlansky

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Vote in the 2009 Best-ter-est of Omaha Restaurant Awards!

posted by snekse
Last year we launched our annual Best-ter-est of OmahaTM awards with results that were better than almost anything we could hope for. Hopefully that list has helped you find some cool new places to try. But a year has past and it's time to crown some new winners. A chance for real foodies to stand up and be heard, hopefully creating the authoritative source for finding good food in Omaha.

Voting will stay open until Midnight, December 31st, 2009. The results will be announced shortly there after.

Submit your authority here.
2009 Best-ter-est of Omaha voting ballot

Need to refresh your memory? Review our list of Omaha Restaurants.

Oh, and while you're at it, why not submit some ideas to the 100 Things to Eat in Nebraska Before You Die list!

2008 Best-ter-est of OmahaTM Awards
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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Master Sommelier Introductory Course - Midwest Location

posted by snekse
When I found out that Jesse Becker was going to be offering part of the Master Sommelier curriculum here in Omaha, I was excited and intrigued. I asked him to share some of the details about the course so there would be more awareness for those who might be interested. Here is the information he had to share.

Gastronomic Fight Club has invited me to share the details of the Master Sommelier Introductory Sommelier Course, the first ever offered in Nebraska, being held at the Omaha Hilton hotel on November 11th and 12th. The course is intended for hospitality professionals, but is excellent training for anyone involved in the retail and wholesale wine trade. Even if you aren't in the wine trade, consumers will also benefit greatly from this course, because it places emphasis on improving tasting skills, and the lectures will thoroughly cover all the major wine-producing regions in the world.

Joining me are Wayne Belding, MS of Boulder, Colorado and Ron Edwards, MS of Charlevoix, Michigan. Wayne and Ron represent two of the top educators in our organization and have a true wealth of information and experience. I always look forward to teaching with them because I learn from them as well.

The Master Sommelier Introductory Sommelier Course is the first tier of education and testing conducted by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Candidates receive intensive instruction on product knowledge, beverage service, and blind tasting. We intend to provide hospitality professionals with well-rounded beverage expertise at the most rigorous standards.

The two-day educational course will include lectures on viticulture, vinification, and all of the world’s major wine-producing regions. Additional lectures will cover the production method of spirits and sake, proper wine service, social skills, wine legislation, and food and wine pairing.

Students will be trained extensively in blind tasting, a wine tasting skill that enables you to recognize typical characteristics of wines and to detect basic faults. This is the method we use to assess candidates for the Certified, Advanced, and Master exams.

At the end of the two-day educational course, candidates take a multiple-choice theory examination for which a passing grade of 60% is required. The Introductory Sommelier Course is a prerequisite for the Certified Sommelier Exam.

Please follow the link below for registration:
Thank you and I look forward to seeing you in Omaha.
Jesse Becker, MS

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

INTERVIEW: Chef Jessica Joyce - Confluence Bistro

posted by snekse
Chef Jessica Joyce, of Confluence Bistro (which closed Dec 31st, 2009) in Bellevue, NE, recently won the Comfort Food Classic challenge.  This year's challenge was to create a gourmet potato dish.  Chef Joyce won with a Gnocchi poutin. She has agreed to share her winning recipe with us which we'll be publishing later this week, but first we wanted to share our interview with her. Enjoy.

20-ish Questions with Jessica Joyce

You won with potatoes; What should the next Comfort Food Classic Challenge be?
Ice cream or soup! When I am feeling the need for comfort I lean one way or the other.

Had you made your winning dish before? Can you tell us more about your background with the dish?
Yes and No, I had made all of the components before but had never combined them. I’m an expert on eating poutine and try to grab a bite every time I am home. My favorite poutine comes from Johnny’s Fish and Chips on High Street in Sutton Ontario. The chips are huge-- skin on, the sauce is thick and as dark as molasses, the curds are perfect and every table has a full bottle of malt vinegar and ketchup!

Did you cook growing up? What inspired you to become a chef?
I took classes in high school and held jobs in restaurants since the age of 15. The yearning to know how to make everything really pushed me into the direction of formal training

Where did you gain your experience and training (Schools, jobs, etc)?
3 influences have had a major impact on how and why I cook the way that I do today.

1)The Institute for the Culinary Arts equipped me with a wide range of tools and skills, professional development and established a significant culinary community.

2)Travelling and experiencing food opened my eyes and my palate. Being exposed to eateries all over the world ultimately helped me to develop my culinary preferences and style.

3)Darwin Bistro, the team, the success and the expertise and guidance from Executive Chef Paul Urban fulfilled a dream and really showed me where I wanted to be.

Do you have any interesting/amusing kitchen incidents that you're willing to share?
I once got my hand stuck inside a can of truffle shavings and had to twist it out (slicing my hand in the meantime). I was so embarrassed, why I didn’t use a spatula I’ll never know! I guess I really wanted those truffles.

Who do you consider your mentor(s)?
Chef Paul Urban is the first person I call whenever I have a question.

Chef Kathleen Koesters, she was my first Chef in culinary school and she instilled values that I’ll never forget.

What is your philosophy on food and dining?
Taste everything. Don’t forget to enjoy it.

What advice would you give to aspiring young chefs?
Don’t forget the basics, check your ego at the door and seek out a restaurant that has a Chef who is willing to mentor you. A great mentor is invaluable.

What are your favorite dining spots and/or dishes in the city? Why?
Shucks because of their clam chowder. My mom would often make a gallon or so of clam chowder in a giant gray pot, 9 out of 10 times the pot never even left the burner. My brother, sister and I would eat 2-4 bowls each until that pot was empty. I guess their clam chowder reminds me of home. I am happy there.

What cities/restaurants/chefs have you always wanted to try food from?
El Bulli in Catalonia Spain. I became interested in their techniques in 2003 and have been really curious ever since. I simply just want to experience it.

Favorite kitchen tools or gadgets (besides your knives) and why?
Spoons!?! I use way too many during a shift just tasting tasting tasting. Every time I adjust I reach for a spoon and I taste.

Your 3 favorite knives in your bag (Brand, style, size, etc)?
8" Global cooks knife because it was my first knife and it fits my hand the best.
10" Shun cooks knife.
6" Wusthof carving.

Favorite or new food/spices/cuisines/techniques you're incorporating into your dishes at the moment?
Different vinegars/acids. They can really brighten a dish.

Any suppliers you'd like to give a shout out to because their product just blows you away?
Plum Creek Farm chicken, Branched Oak Farm cheeses and Rotella's for their delicious wheat berry bread.

What food/dish/whatever will never make it on your menu? Why?
Angel hair pasta because it makes me gag! Oh, and stuffed green peppers, for the same reason!

What trends do you see emerging in the restaurant industry now (nationally and/or locally)?
I’ve seen a really big jump back toward local and going green. It makes me happy to see. However, I’ve noticed that consumers need some time to adjust to the higher prices, especially in this economy.

Do you read food blogs or forums? If so, which ones?
I mainly read gastronomic fight club and chowhound. I’ll often search for local products, see what is in season in Nebraska and check out other chef’s/restaurants/clubs on facebook.

What function do you feel these sites play in the food world?
They extend the culinary community and allow cooks to access information after hours, which is important in our field.

What are your thoughts on the Food Television Network?
After an exhausting day the food network provides us with a somewhat reiterative form of educational entertainment. Although often, it is simply there as a default channel.

When at home, what do you like to eat? Do you do the cooking?
If I am at home and just cooking something for myself I will reach for vegemite with peanut butter on whole grain toast. It is the best but I have to pace myself because it is difficult to get vegemite in the states so I have to consider how much I have left and when I’ll be getting my next supply. I love it and eat it often.

What might surprise people to find in your fridge or cupboards?
Way too many sweets! My roommate, Amy Ewing is a Pastry Chef and she’s always filling up the fridge with icing or icing related goodness. Also, my other roommate just made a killer tater tot casserole that we’ve been enjoying, with the addition of hot sauce!

Best piece of advice you would give a novice or home enthusiast?
Encouraging group cooking is a good way to keep things positive. The internet is a great tool as are books but there is nothing better than sharing ideas and food face to face with friends. Seriously, find some friends to experience food with. My boyfriend and I host "Top Chef Wednesdays" where everyone contributes, we eat, we watch Top Chef together and we talk about cooking.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Peru, Mucho Gusto - Omaha NE - Review

posted by snekse
"Peru, Much Gusto? Are you sure you read it right? A Peruvian restaurant in Omaha?"

Peru Mucho Gusto, Omaha NE
Those were basically the words I used when my co-worker told me a Peruvian restaurant opened in Omaha. It just really caught me off guard. I'm not sure why. I mean we have an Ethiopian restaurant which I was sure was going to be the last cuisine to make it's debut here. But my curiosity was peaked to say the least. Sure enough, within a week we were on our way to try and find the place (thanks in part to an online Entertainment book coupon).

When we got there, the interior looked like most small locally owned ethnic restaurants. It was sparsely decorated with that kind of "temporary residence" kind of look. It's not really a concern to foodies, but I had to mention it.

Before this meal, I'd only been to one other Peruvian restaurant, La Furia Chalaca in Oakland, CA. Therefore I am far from an expert on Peruvian cuisine, but given that the chef/owner Raul Atencio is from Peru, I think it's a safe bet to assume the food is fairly authentic. Though they try to source everything locally, the fish and some of the spices are flown in from Peru when a good substitute cannot be found.

We started off with the Papa Rellena. Cooked mashed potatoes are formed around seasoned beef, eggs, raisins and Peruvian spices, then deep fried and served with a spicy salsa criolla. Being a potato dish, and a fried one at that, I enjoyed this dish. My wife did not. It was too spicy for her palette - a reoccurring theme throughout the meal.

Yucca Frita at Peru Mucho Gusto
We also got an order of Yucca Frita (Fried Yucca) that was served with a creamy garlic "Mojo" (I think?) sauce. The yucca was a little hit and miss. Some of them seemed under done in the middle requiring some water to get them down. The outsides were pretty much all hit. I ended up eating a couple like corn on the cob to get those crisp outsides and tender fluffy insides together. And the garlic sauce was all miss, at least for us. We were told this stuff is like ketchup in Peru and people put it on almost anything.

For our entrees, we asked our waitress for guidance. She ended up recommending some of the dishes we were considering anyway, so we ordered the Lomo Saltado and the Ceviche De Pescado. They were out of the Seco De Carne Con Frijoles (beef cooked with Inca corn beer) that I wanted to try.

Lomo Saltado is a dish we had before. It's pieces of ribeye sauteed with onions, tomatoes and french fries, served with steamed rice in case the fries aren't enough carbs for you. It's a little odd to see the fries basically stir fried with the beef then doused with a broth, but it's actually a good dish. The seasonings give the dish a little kick, but as I said, that's the norm. Unfortunately the beef wasn't as tender as I'd expect ribeye to be. It might have something to do with how it's prepared as it has almost a steamed appearance.

Cevice at Peru Mucho Gusto
If you're bothered by the spice in the Lomo Saltado, stay far away from the cevice. The bountiful fish on your plate certainly won't leave you hungry - if you can finish it all. I was unsuccessful at that task. The fish is marinated in lime juice and Peruvian chilies. This made it really spicy and really acidic. It was very enjoyable, but palette fatigue set in about half way through.

As we finished we had a chance to talk to owner Mimi Atencio. She and her entire staff were extremely friendly and helpful. Service can often be a problem with places just starting out, but it didn't seem to be an issue here. In talking to her, we learned they have live music on Friday and Saturday nights. We also learned, after inquiring about the Asian influence on the menu, that Peru had a large population of Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Much like Hawaiian food, Peruvian food has adopted many of their ingredients and techniques. I'll have to try the fried rice next time.

Rating: 82+

Peru, Mucho Gusto
77th & L St. (Ralston)

7755 L St. (Map)
Ralston, NE 68127

Phone: (402) 932-0049

Email: Peru.Muchogusto@hotmail.com

  Open daily from 11:00 am - 9:00 pm

Peru, Mucho Gusto on Urbanspoon
Chef Chat: Myriam Atencio from Peru, Mucho Gusto

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Omaha Coupon Book helping the Omaha Food Bank

posted by snekse
In June we mentioned that The Omaha Food Bank was to become the primary beneficiary of our charitable efforts at Gastronomic Fight Club. This is the first step towards that mission. We have partnered with the Savings Sidekick Omaha Coupon Book to make the Omaha Food Bank one of the available charities on their site that can benefit from sales of the discount books. When selected as the donation recipient the Omaha Food Bank will receive *at least* $10 from your $20 purchase. When purchased through the link below, they will get $11! And of course you get the benefit of not only helping the Omaha Food Bank, but you will also get those nifty BOGO coupons to a good number of Omaha restaurants.

Help the Omaha Food Bank
Buy the 2010 Savings Sidekick Omaha Coupon Book


We thank you for helping us support the Omaha Food Bank. If you have other ideas of how everyone can help, please submit your ideas in the comments below.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Where's the best Mexican food in Omaha

posted by snekse
I am constantly amazed at how often this question comes up. Omaha has a surprising number of good Mexican restaurants, but most of the one's that seem to get recommended are not "the Best Of". If someone tells you the best Mexican restaurant in Omaha has several locations, they probably don't get out enough. The same would go for any location West of 60th street, save a couple a unique places like Rivera's. In general, it is really hard to go wrong with any of the Mexican restaurants on 24th street between L Street and Q Street. There are also a couple of restaurants in Q Street between 30th and 36th that are pretty good. Beyond those, Nettie's, Howard's, Riveria's and Guaca Maya are all solid choices.

The winners of our 2008 "Best-ter-est of Omaha" awards were Alvarados, El Aguila, Guaca Maya and La Mesa, but honestly, I think a lot of people (including myself) haven't fully explored the South Omaha area. Without doing so, I don't think one can declare a "Best Mexican Restaurant" in Omaha, only recommend what's been the best they've found so far.

With that said, I'll be updating this map with the places that I've tried, or have heard from trusted sources, that are some of the restaurants in Omaha to find truly great authentic Mexican cuisine (though I reserve the right to include any Latin American restaurants).

Map of the Best Mexican Cuisine in Omaha

I also encourage everyone to share your favorite spots. I'll use those recommendations as my TODO list when trying to decide where to eat next.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

New Omaha Food Bloggers - Q3 2009

posted by snekse
As more foodies start blogging and existing food bloggers move to Omaha, our list of Omaha Food Bloggers continues to grow. I'll be updating the list occasionally as we find these new blogs. We also have one subtraction since Greg Bullard has moved to Austin, TX. Greg is still doing some reviews of Omaha restaurants, so keep an eye out for those. Now check out our latest additions:

Omaha Food Bloggers

Tweet it out for #FollowFriday

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Omaha Food Bank - O! What a Duck Race 2009

posted by snekse
O What a Duck Race Logo
We've decided to make The Omaha Food Bank the primary beneficiary of our charitable efforts at Gastronomic Fight Club. We hope to share more information about that in the coming months. Right now, however, everyone can help the Food Bank with their largest fundraiser of the year which is just starting to ramp up this weekend.

The Omaha Food Bank's 2nd Annual
"O! What a Duck Race!"

July 25, 2009
Adopt a Duck ~ Feed the Hungry

Over 50,000 ducks will be dropped into the lake at Heartland of America Park and will race for a quarter mile until one duck is the Grand Prize Winner of a Nissan Versa! And one lucky duck will have a chance to win One Million Dollars!

Nissan Versa

The day will start with FREE family-friendly activities for all ages, great food, live music, and will culminate in the racing of the derby ducks for a grand prize of the Nissan Versa!

Date: July 25, 2009
Where: Heartland of America Park
Schedule: Stay tuned for race day details!

Grand Prize: Nissan Versa
Sponsored by: Nissan of Omaha

Funds raised benefit The Food Bank and the thousands of people struggling to put food on the table for their families.

Adopt a Duck

$5 "Just Quacky" (1)
1 Duck Adoption

$25 "Six Quack" (6)
Adopt 5 Ducks, Get 1 Free

$40 "Sack of Quacks" (10)
Adopt 8 Ducks, Get 2 Free

$100 "Max Quacks" (25)
Adopt 20 Ducks, Get 5 Free

Get more information on adopting ducks for "O! What a Duck Race!".

Why Adopt a Duck?

All proceeds go to the Omaha Food Bank to support their many local programs. The food bank has set a goal of getting 50,000 derby ducks adopted for this fund raiser. The derby ducks will be dropped into the lake and the first six to cross the finish line will be the winners. The Grand Prize is a 2009 Nissan Versa, with an Alaskan Cruise and family membership to Prairie Life Fitness also among the prizes.

More importantly, consider the benefits provided by your donation.

What does "Adopting a Duck" Really Mean?

$5 spent adopting ducks feeds a family of four for 1 day.
$25 spent adopting ducks feeds a family of four for 1 week
$100 spent adopting ducks feeds a family of four for 1 month.

The Food Bank is more than a faceless building or a lifeless warehouse. The Food Bank is a lifeline to children, families and senior citizens...and they are The Food Bank. In the past few years, they have distributed between 5 and 7 million pounds of food to over 360 member agencies in eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa. In addition to the food distribution, The Food Bank supports four direct programs:

* The Senior Outreach Program
* The Food for Kids BackPack Program
* Kids Cafe
* Mobile Pantry

A huge thanks to everyone who is able to help with this effort.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sage Bistro - Spring 2009

posted by snekse
We had a great time meeting everyone at Sage Bistro on the 16th. I just wanted to say Thank You to all of those who were able to attend and to the staff at the Institute for the Culinary Arts for making our event very enjoyable. We'll be having more events like this in the future, so keep your eyes peeled or subscribe to our email updates to keep informed. Of course you could always suggest a foodie gathering yourself if you're interested in doing something sooner rather than later.

Thanks again to everyone.

Sage Advice 2: The Aftermath @ What Greg Eats

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Join us at Sage Bistro

posted by snekse
It that time of year again. ?There's one for you, nineteen for me. 'Cause I'm the taxman?

Some of you will be getting a nice rebate check and want to do your part to help stimulate the economy. Others will be feeling the hurt and are looking to pinch some pennies. Luckily we can do both at a place like Sage Bistro.

So join Gastronomic Fight Club, The Foodies of Omaha Discussion Board, some of our fellow Omaha Food Bloggers and other foodies in general for some great food and an even better time! [Note: Sage does not have a liquor license, but you can bring your own wine which they can serve.]

Prix Fixe by Student Sous Chef, Betty Gomez

five layer dip
cilantro salad
fresh corn chips

coquille st. jacque

langostine thermador
lobster "tamales"
broiled tail
black bean & cactus nage


Event Details

Date: Thursday, April 16th, 2009
Time: 6:00 PM - Meet and Greet; 6:30 PM - Dinner
Cost: $28 plus tax (Non-alcoholic drinks included)
Place: Sage Bistro
  N 30th St & Fort St. (map)
  Metro's Fort Omaha campus
  Building #10
  Omaha, NE 68111
Phone: (402) 457-2328


You can R.S.V.P. using this form or on Facebook (Please don't double up). I'll leave the form open until about April 8th. We can only accommodate 80 people, so don't wait too long to reserve your spot. After you R.S.V.P., make sure you add the event to your calendar.The RSVP window for this event has closed. Thanks to everyone who could make it.

See you there!

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Monday, February 02, 2009

REVIEW: The Boiler Room Restaurant - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse


The Boiler Room Restaurant Omaha NE
When we made our reservation, I had no intention of writing a review for a restaurant that had just opened it's doors. They had only been open for 2 days when we went, so we weren't expecting a whole lot. What we got is likely to be a our new favorite restaurant in town.

To be honest, I was worried about the Boiler Room before they opened. Being outside of the main Old Market quad blocks, I wasn't sure they would get enough traffic to keep their doors open. I no longer think that's going to be a problem. I think they set the bar high enough that people won't forget about it, and those not in the downtown area will be willing to make the trek beyond just those special occasion nights.

Unfortunately my first impression wasn't exactly favorable. Parking was difficult, even on a Thursday night. We ended up in the parking garage on Jackson Street. They might want to start offering parking validation if they're unable to find another solution.

As we stepped into the restaurant, I was reminded of how cool the inside is. One of the first things one will notice is the general layout. The main dining room is situated above the bar and kitchen with an open view to both. It provides great visual interest complemented by the exposed brick and support structures. I think they did a good job of mixing the historic patina of the original space with the more modern elements.

The other thing that is hard to miss is the gigantic photographic prints on the walls. The still lifes, altered to look much like paintings, feature various food items in various states of preparation. For example, our table was situated in front of a work displaying a pig's head on a table with some flowers. Though my wife conceded that it was a nice picture, she could have done without a large eye socket looking at her all night.

As we were seated, I was surprised by two things. First the chairs - which I'm still undecided about. When you first sit down, they tilt back very quickly and deeply. I felt as if I was going to get dumped on the floor, though no such thing was going to happen. Butt cheek muffin top, however, did happen. The actual seat is rather shallow and doesn't align with the back of the chair, so if you're sitting back all the way, expect some hang over. That said, the chairs were very comfortable for the almost 2 hours we were there.

Table setting at the Boiler Room
The second thing that surprised me was seeing the white tablecloths. I was under the impression that The Boiler Room was going to be a little more casual. The dress and interaction of the wait staff confirmed I was a little misguided. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but I'm glad I didn't show up in a T-Shirt and tennis shoes. On the flip-side, I would have felt over-dressed in a suit.

The service was about what I would expect for a restaurant that's only been open for two days. Most of the issues we had were minor and were overshadowed by some pleasant surprises in how attentive the service was.

To help with the service, The Boiler Room has brought a Master Sommelier into the fold. The wine list is large with an emphasis on French producers. Having a sommelier to assist in navigating such a list adds an extra dimension that some diners will really appreciate. The wines that Jesse Becker picked for us were excellent and complemented our dishes well [2007 Dr. Loosen "Dr. L" Riesling, 2005 Domaine De Fonsainte Corbières]. And though I didn't take a look at their cocktail menu, you may want to since I know chef Kulik is trying to do some interesting stuff in that area.

The Menu

crudo of sablefish
We started off with the crudo of sablefish ($8). The buttery sablefish was laced with braised or grilled radicchio, shavings of a delicious piave de vecchio cheese and a drizzle of tomato oil. This was a nice way to start the meal. It was clean and light, though it took awhile to figure out the correct portion of radicchio and cheese to accompany the sablefish without overpowering it - thus loosing the delicate flavor of the fish. The most impressive thing about this dish was that it was one of the weaker dishes of this meal! I'd rate this dish about an 86/100.

honey glazed pork belly
Our other appetizer was probably the strongest dish of the night. The june farm honey glazed pork belly ($10) was cooked almost to perfection. I say almost because one of the bottom meat fibers was crisped so well that it almost pierced my tongue. I did like how the bottom was crisped though, while the fat layers had rendered and the other layers of meat were tender and succulent. It provided a nice contrast in flavors and textures. To further the complexity of flavors, pickled crimini were served atop the pork belly. The acid from these very tart mushrooms provided a great foil to the unctuous pork fat. I'd venture to guess this was a trick chef Kulik picked up while staging at Avec in Chicago. The dish was finished with an intensely flavorful cauliflower puree that is one of the best I've had. It wasn't overly creamy or mounted with obscene amounts of butter, so the essence of cauliflower was really all you tasted. And I have to also mention the sauce on the plate - it tasted exactly like the roast duck in Oakland's Chinatown - yumm. I'd rate this dish about 93/100.

About the only misstep we saw from the kitchen was my wife's risotto ($18), parts of which was undercooked. The kitchen re-made her risotto which came out much better the second time. In fact, it was one of the better risotto's we had ever had. Creamy, tender, but nowhere near runny. And surprisingly, they replaced the entire dish. It would have been easy, and possibly justifiable, for them to place her original brisket in the replaced risotto, but they sent out a new piece. The very large hunk of brisket was very beefy, and dare I say, briskety tasting, though the very outer layer seemed a little dry to me. My wife also noted that the 2nd bowl seemed to have more risotto in it, but less truffle oil scent. The risotto was finished with a fried egg and braised kale.

Pork Collar
While the kitchen remade the risotto, my wife and I dug into the milk braised pork collar ($19) that I ordered. The generous section of pork was served with parsnips and charred Brussels sprouts swimming in a nice broth, while eggplant caviar rested on top of the collar. One of the first things we did was to try the eggplant caviar on it's own. It was bitter and not very enjoyable, but then we tried it with the pork collar. To my delight, I thought it actually enhanced the pork collar and made it more enjoyable. My wife didn't completely agree, but did find they went well together. Mixing the seeds into the broth and pulling apart the collar made a wonderful stew of sorts. Oh, and Brussels sprouts are just under utilized - period.

saffron panna cotta
We decided to skip the cheese cart and head straight for dessert. Sadly, they only had one dessert on the menu the night we went. Funny enough, it was the one dessert that my wife has stated is too difficult to find in Omaha: panna cotta. The rendition for the night was a saffron panna cotta with jun farm prairie honey and blackberries ($6). This was an interesting dish. Again, neither of us cared for the flavors of the panna cotta on it's own, but with the sweetness of the honey, it was very enjoyable. It was also executed very well. Often panna cotta gets too much gelatin that turns it into something else entirely. The Boiler Room got theirs right, at least on this night.

Final Thoughts

I can honestly say that I was very surprised - on several fronts. As I said, the table settings and service wasn't quite was I was expecting, but that's not a big deal. The clientele will dictate the service down the line and from what we saw, the clients seem to want to keep the food upscale, but the vibe relaxed. Of course, relaxed is a relative term. The vibe I saw was coffee house with pan roasted monkfish.

The best surprise was the food. It was just their second day being open to the public - are you kidding me? Yes braising and roasting can be very forgiving techniques, but the execution of every dish was done very well. Even more impressive were the dishes put together by chef Kulik. Minimal basic ingredients combined with intelligence and prepared simply. Occasionally you'll see something slightly exotic thrown into a dish to add a needed unique dimension, but I doubt you'll ever see a laundry list of luxury ingredients for a single dish. Chef Kulik seems more focused than a lot of chefs are able to force themselves to be.

A final parting observation. My wife has a saying about Blue Sushi: "It's where all the pretty people go" - referring to the trendy label mongers that frequent the West Omaha location. She also came up with a similar saying for the Boiler Room: "It's where all the intelligent pretty people go" - referring to the smartly dressed young professionals and artistic types in the crowd. I think it fits and I can live with that.

DISCLOSURE: I knew both Chef Paul Kulik and Jesse Becker before this restaurant opened and they knew we were coming in that night, so it is possible our experience was not typical, but I do not believe that to be the case.

Rating: 93+

The Boiler Room - Make a Reservation
11th & Jones St. (Omaha Old Market)

1110 Jones Street (Map)
Omaha, NE 68102

Phone: (402) 916-9274

Hours of Operation
  Open Tuesday through Saturday
  Closed Sunday through Monday
  Kitchen ~ 5:30 pm - 11:00 pm
  Bar ~ Open until 1:00 am

The Boiler Room on Urbanspoon

Chef Paul Kulik Video Interview
Jesse Becker joins The Boiler Room
OWH Review

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Boiler Room's Opening Day Menu

posted by snekse
I normally don't do posts like this, but I had to share.

Have you seen The Boiler Room's opening day menu?

The Boiler Room - Dinner Menu - January 28th, 2009

I'm actually giddy. I don't get giddy - or at least not easily.

We have reservations for tomorrow night, so expect an update this weekend.

INTERVIEW: Paul Kulik - Boiler Room - Omaha
The Boiler Room's Sommelier - Jesse Becker
The Boiler Room Website

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Monday, January 19, 2009

2008 Health Ratings - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse
Time for an update to the ever popular Douglas County Food Facility Sanitation Ratings.

Once again, the list isn't too surprising, and once again, that's unfortunate. Congratulations and thanks to HUHOT, KOBE STEAK HOUSE, JOE TESS PLACE, UPSTREAM BREWING CO. and V MERTZ for continually demonstrating a commitment to quality and their customers year over year. Sadly, there are many places on this year's minimally passing FAIR list that were in the same condition last year and the year before.

Again, the trends in the bottom seem to be Ethnic restaurants, cheap eats and bars that just happen to also serve food. The surprises to me are the bakeries, grocery stores, butcher shops, hotels and food service vendors that just do enough to not get closed down. I guess I just have higher expectations for those groups.

Have a happy and healthy 2009!

NameAddressAs Of Date
JOE TESS PLACE5424 SO 24 ST6/3/2008

Name Address As Of Date
SIZZLER STEAK HOUSE #0413 2822 NO 88 ST 6/27/2008
FERD'S BAKE SHOP 8927 J ST 9/24/2008
GOYI STORE 1024 SO 74 PLZ 5/29/2008
AMIGO'S 8412 WEST DODGE RD 8/26/2008
BAILEY'S 1259 SO 120 ST 5/20/2008
BILLY K'S CAFE 12025 BLONDO ST 8/11/2008
BOONDOCKERS 5222 NO 120 ST 8/26/2008
BREAD OVEN (THE) 1202 SO 119 ST 7/30/2008
CARLISLE HOTEL 10909 M ST 8/9/2008
CECIL'S CAFE 4971 DODGE ST 9/10/2008
CHINA GATE 7923 BLONDO ST 5/20/2008
CLANCY'S PUB 777 NO 114 ST 7/2/2008
DONUT PROFESSOR (THE) 1222 SO 71 ST 10/1/2008
DONUT STOP 1256 SO 13 ST 6/18/2008
DRAFT HOUSE 1203 SO 180 10/1/2008
EL ALTENO 1052 PARK AVE 7/3/2008
EL QUETZAL 1941 VINTON ST 7/14/2008
HONG HING 5411 NO 90 ST 3/7/2008
HONG KONG CAFE 664 NO 114 ST 6/16/2008
HOUSE OF HUNAN 2405 SO 132 ST 9/19/2008
HOUSE OF POULTRY 4111 NO 30 ST 9/3/2008
JACK & MARY'S RESTAURANT 655 NO 114 ST 9/25/2008
JUST GOOD MEAT CO 4424 SO 84 ST 7/17/2008
LA CHIRIPA 1920 VINTON ST 6/2/2008
LA FLOR DE MEXICO 4808 SO 24 ST 6/18/2008
LITHUANIAN BAKERY 5217 SO 33 7/8/2008
MANDARIN FUSION 4412 SO 42 ST 9/29/2008
M'S RESTAURANT INC 422 SO 11 ST 7/16/2008
NORTH STAR 8509 NO 30 ST 7/3/2008
PIC'S SIX 13328 MILLARD AVE 9/19/2008
PIZZA HUT 011018-036 7519 PACIFIC ST 6/12/2008
SHIRLEYS DINER 5325 SO 139 PLZ 8/26/2008
SKEETS RIBS 2201 NO 24 ST 9/12/2008
SONS OF ITALY 1238 SO 10 ST 5/1/2008
TACO JOHN'S 8303 MAPLE ST 5/1/2008
TOKYO KITCHEN 14132 ARBOR ST 4/15/2008
TRINI'S 1020 HOWARD ST 9/5/2008
VINCENZO'S RISTORANTE 1818-22 NO 144 ST 5/21/2008
W C'S PLACE 3520 F ST 4/25/2008

Rating List Information

2007 Health Ratings - Omaha, NE
2006 Health Ratings - Omaha, NE
Douglas County Food Facility Sanitation Ratings

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Wednesday, January 07, 2009

REVIEW: Bailey's Breakfast & Lunch - Omaha, NE

posted by Foodie-E
Baileys Logo
Breakfast at Bailey's
In my family, I am the breakfast maker, because if it were up to my husband we would have cereal or scrambled eggs and toast every weekend. So, once in a while my wonderful hubby takes making breakfast off my hands and takes us out. Now, you have a ton of choices if you want breakfast in Omaha, however, we have a young child and our list of options then become more like a strategic tactical plan than a list of places to eat. We have to consider general noise of the restaurant, atmosphere, speed of service, the restaurant's acceptance of tables with young children, and of course food. Lately, our breakfast joint of choice has been Bailey's.

Bailey's is the type of diner that most of it's patrons would like to keep a secret. (Sorry everyone, they are too good not to write about.) When you're sitting at your table and look around, you can see couples, families, friends - this is an awesome place for families. Their menu is adventurous enough for the adults with things like Guerrero Benedicts with chorizo sausage, refried beans, and cotija cheese and they still have awesome standbys for the kids like pancakes and waffles. We've been there 3 times since we found it, each time with our daughter and each time has been a great experience. The waitresses all loved her and smiled at her even though she gave them the stink eye. The first time we went, they surprised us by bringing a dish of Goldfish crackers. At first, I was mad, because I am the type of mother that is overly prepared for everything so I already had things for her to munch on and I would prefer that my daughter eat freeze dried apples or raisins instead of cheesy Goldfish crackers before breakfast. But then I was able to see the intent of the waitress and appreciated the thought that the establishment puts into serving their customers and I calmed down. (For those of you that want to know, my daughter ate Goldfish before her breakfast that morning...she had already seen them and it wasn't worth the tantrum for what was meant to be a nice gesture.) The second time, she was already eating something when our order was taken, so it wasn't an issue. The third time we went, I was able to have my husband head the waitress off on her way to our table so we didn't get any Goldfish crackers but made sure that my nephew did - he loves his Goldfish. :)

The menu offers options from Belgian waffles, to a bagel with lox, to a beef tenderloin Benedict. None were overly done up as they could have been and all were delicious. The food is simple, but the flavors are well thought out and interesting. I tend to order the more plain or traditional items off the menu so I can share with our daughter, but that leaves the others at the table to be more adventurous in their ordering...which I get to taste of course. I will recount our most recent trip first and then follow up with some key things I remembered from our previous trips.

The waffles are light and fluffy, not too sweet and not too plain. My daughter enjoyed them thoroughly as she packed over a quarter of it into that 17 month old tummy of hers. The waffles also came with 2 eggs any style and 2 pieces of bacon or sausage so I definitely wasn't lacking any food. Also among the traditional entrees ordered were the classic trucker's breakfast and a sausage omelet with a biscuit. Both were as to be expected, which in a way is a good thing, because our expectations are not just to have the food 'not suck,' but to actually taste good and be cooked correctly. I am happy to report that our expectations were met.

Crab Benedict
Another diner at our table had the crab and avocado eggs Benedict and they were delightful. The mixture of the creamy avocado and the sweet crab was a combination that made me wish I made my husband order the waffles. I would also like to say that the Hollandaise sauce is made fresh daily and is very thin, light, and zingy unlike your typical thick and gloopy sauce in chain restaurants. I normally shy away from eggs Benedict because of the subpar Hollandaise sauce in most establishments, but I love them here. One bite was not enough. I wanted more. I couldn't have more, because it wasn't my plate. Humph. Moving on.

Also at the table was a bagel with cream cheese, lox, tomato, red onion, and capers. Delish! I could eat a pile of it. The smoked salmon was firm and had just the right amount of smokiness and you know it's fresh since Bailey's is owned by the folks at Absolutely Fresh which is a nice thought to think about while you order seafood from a restaurant in the middle of the country. Here's a little Omaha fish fact, Absolutely Fresh also owns Shucks which just opened another location at Legacy out West.

spinach and cheese quiche
On our first visit, I had the special which was a spinach and cheese quiche, a fruit cup, and a muffin. The quiche had good flavor, however, I did not expect the texture which was more like a custard or silken tofu than a quiche. In my experience quiches tend to be more of a dense omelet type of a texture, but this one was light without air, but none the less light. The fruit cup was as to be expected, same old restaurant fruit cup with honeydew melon, cantaloupe, and grapes. The muffin was a Morning Glory muffin which had carrots, raisins, and walnuts in it. It was very moist and I probably could have eaten 3 of them, but I love anything baked and bready. You see, I am hard core and I have the 'nads to order cake for breakfast. (Anyone know where that came from? Leave a comment if you do!)

Some last words of advice. Go early and beware of the Goldfish if you don't want them. We usually get there before 9 am and we have yet to wait, but usually within a few minutes of being sat and ordering the waiting area is full of people salivating over your food and trying to decide what they want to order for themselves. If you find yourself in need of a breakfast place for company or just plain don't want to cook, this is a definite recommend.

Rating: 90

Bailey's Restaurant
120th & Pacific

1259 S. 120th Street (Map)
Omaha, NE 68144

Phone: (402) 932-5577

Hours of Operation
  Monday - Sunday: 7:00 am - 2:00 pm

Bailey's on Urbanspoon

Photos from Bailey's - 3 separate sets
Breakfast and Brunch in Omaha
Omaha Brunch Bunch: Part 1
Omaha on $40 a Day

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