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RESTAURANT REVIEW @ GFC

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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

INGREDIENTS
  • 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

DIRECTIONS
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".

RELATED LINKS:
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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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!

RELATED LINKS:
2008 Best-ter-est of OmahaTM Awards
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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

HOURS:
  Open daily from 11:00 am - 9:00 pm
  CLOSED MONDAYS

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

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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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Monday, February 02, 2009

REVIEW: The Boiler Room Restaurant - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse

Expectations

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.

risotto
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

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

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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

RELATED LINKS:
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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Sunday, January 04, 2009

WINNERS: Best-ter-est of Omaha 2008

posted by snekse
***UPDATE***
Find the latest Best-ter-est of Omaha Restaurant winners here:

GUIDE: The Best Restaurants in Omaha


Best-ter-est of Omaha 2008
Well the polls have closed [BUT THE 2009 POLLS ARE OPEN!]and I have to say, the results were interesting and just what we were looking for. There were lots of great restaurants that came out on top, while the chains didn't fare so well, except in categories where you'd expect them to. Voter turn out was respectable considering we didn't really publicize this much beyond our readers. 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.

Best-ter-est of Omaha 2008TM

Best Bagels

Best Bar-B-Que

Best Bowl of Soup

Best Breakfast

Best Buffet

Best Burrito

Best Coffee Shop

Best Desserts

Best Family Restaurant

Best French Fries

Best Fried Chicken

  • Jack & Mary's
  • Millard Roadhouse(Tie ~ 2nd)
  • Popeyes (Tie ~ 2nd)

Best Hamburger

Best Pasta

Best Pizza

Best Sandwiches

Best Seafood

Best Steak House

Best Sunday Brunch

Best Sushi Restaurant

Best Chinese Restaurant

  • O Dining (Tie ~ 1st)
  • P.F. Chang's (Tie ~ 1st)
  • China Road (Tie ~ 2nd)
  • Golden Palace (Tie ~ 2nd)
  • Rice Bowl (Tie ~ 2nd)

Best Appetizers

Best French Restaurant

Best Greek Restaurant

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

Best Indian Restaurant

Best Italian Restaurant

Best Japanese Restaurant

Best Mexican Restaurant

  • Alvarados (Tie ~ 1st)
  • El Aguila (Tie ~ 1st)
  • Guaca Maya (Tie ~ 1st)
  • La Mesa (Tie ~ 1st)
NOTES AND COMMENTS: Since the form fields were free form, we tried to interpret the results as best we could. 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. Cafe De Paris, Elada, and Trovato's each got at least one vote, despite being closed.

Best-ter-est of Omaha 2009TM

With such a great response, we plan to do this again next year, with some new additions thanks to comments from our voters.
  • Best American Bistro
  • Best Thai
  • Best Korean
  • Most Overrated
  • Most Underrated
  • Best New Restaurant
  • Best Restaurant - Period
We might also include some "Best Dish" categories. Dishes that were singled out this year include:
  • Grandmother's: Clam Chowder
  • Upstream: Smoked Gouda & Blonde Ale Soup (x2)
  • Upstream: Tomato Basil Parmesan Soup
  • Mai Thai: Tom Kah Chicken Soup
  • Don & Millie's: Baked Potato Soup
  • Burger Lust: Bleu Cheese Burger
  • Hiro: Avocado Rolls
  • Crescent Moon: Pickle Chips
  • Crescent Moon: Hot Wings
  • The Sportsman: Onion Rings
RELATED LINKS: Photos from the Best-ter-est of Omaha winners RESTAURANT REVIEW: Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob RESTAURANT REVIEW: Bailey's Breakfast & Lunch RESTAURANT REVIEW: Dario's Brasserie RESTAURANT REVIEW: Dinker's Bar & Grill RESTAURANT REVIEW: The Drover RESTAURANT REVIEW: Roja, Bianco and Blue RESTAURANT REVIEW: Shuck's Fish House & Oyster Bar RESTAURANT REVIEW: Sushi Japan Yakiniku Boy Omaha Restaurant Reviews WEBSITES: Omaha Restaurants Tags || | | | | | | more... |

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Drover Restaurant - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse
And now for the most boring restaurant review ever. I have no pictures; no real insight; little to say.

So why bother doing a review? The story is typical. Friends or relatives are visiting from out of town and they want steak. And not just any steak. They want the steaks that Omaha, Nebraska is famous for. And like most locals, I find it hard to decide where to go because I'd rather just go to a local butcher and make my steaks at home. The big chains like Fleming's and Johnny's Italian Steakhouse might make a pretty good steak, but it's not very representative of the city. And unfortunately, the city is slowly losing it's old school steakhouses that helped build the reputation. Mister C's closed over a year ago, Gorat's just isn't that good, so what's next on the list? Well for me, it was the Drover based on recommendations from several people, and most recently based on a strong showing in our still running Best-ter-est of Omaha voting.

I now understand why it received so many recommendations. They make a good steak. They are famous for their Whiskey steaks, which adds a uniqueness that I really enjoyed. I'm not usually a fan of steak marinades, but this one was subtle and worked well. The steaks without the marinade were tender and flavorful as well, but if you're here instead of being at some other steakhouse, the Whiskey steaks are probably the reason why.

So great steaks are always a good thing; but what makes the Drover such a great place to bring visitors is it's Midwest character, both in decor and in the menu.

Let's start with the menu. It's boring. Seriously. This place is about steak and not much else. They make no apologies for that fact. Sure you can order salmon or pork chops, but the menu is dominated by beef. All dinners are served with soup or salad bar. The salad bar was one of the plainest salad bars I've seen in a very long time. Hard boiled eggs were about the most exciting thing I saw in it. You also get your choice of a baked potato, french fries, rice or vegetable with your dinner. The fries were barely average, but the potato was enjoyed, despite it being just a basic baked potato made gooey with lots of butter and sour cream. The wine list was nothing special, but respectable and priced reasonably - which was a bit of a surprise. So meat, potatoes, and not a lot of need for things that aren't needed. Midwest sensibility at it's finest.

You might make the same argument for the decor. It's worked for so long, why change it. The decor is not boring though. It's actually kind of fun in an old late 70's dark restaurant/lounge kind of way. It has a bit of a wild west cattle trail feel, which draws from the Drover name. The ambiance that is created is just another reason it's a popular destination place to bring your out-of-town guests. I guess for some, this is their vision of the Midwest left behind the times.

You could easily make an argument that the boring menu and cliche decor are negatives, but the Drover works both of them well. And for some, that's exactly what they're looking for.

So a boring review for a justifiably boring restaurant that is hard not to enjoy. They would have gotten a 90+ rating if they would just spruce up their salad bar a bit. Cutting a notch out of their prices could help too, but it's hard to argue with one of the best steaks in Omaha and a recipe that works.

Rating: 89++

Drover Restaurant & Lounge
50th & Center

2121 South 73rd Street (Map)
Omaha, NE 68124

Phone: (402) 391-7440


Hours of Operation
LUNCH:
  Monday - Friday: 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
  Saturday - Sunday: CLOSED
DINNER:
  Nightly: From 5:00 pm

Drover on Urbanspoon

RELATED LINKS:
Opinions on Yelp
Quality steaks drive Drover
Reviewed: Anthony's Steakhouse
A cut above the rest

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Chicago Dawg House - Omaha, NE

posted by snekse
I'm not from Chicago, so I can't vouch for the authenticity of the "dawgs" at Chicago Dawg House. I can, however, vouch that it's a tasty dog. And the fact that they ship in most of their product from the windy city has to account for something.

Given the name of the place, the main draw is probably the TRADITIONAL CHICAGO-STYLE HOT DAWG. I can't say it reminded me much of the Chicago dog I had when we visited several years ago. The Omaha version is better and from what I can tell, more authentic. The sport peppers add something really unique - almost like a hot pickle. Of course the bright green relish is another signature of the famous Midwest frankfurters.

Of the things I have tried so far, the traditional is my favorite. Everything else has been good, but nothing really unique that you couldn't find elsewhere. The traditional Chicago hot dog also seems to offer more value than the rest of the menu. I think $2.49 for a corn dog (CUBBY KID) or $4.99 for a polish sausage is a bit too pricey. Add $1.99 for fries and a drink and you're looking at a somewhat costly lunch for what is still just a hot dog. Though it is certainly cheaper than driving to Chicago.

And the prices haven't been keeping people away. Each time I've been there for lunch, the place was pretty packed. Granted the authentic "long bar" wall seating might make it feel more cozy than it really is. Or maybe not. The owner mentioned he'd like to expand if an adjoining bay opened up. Or maybe he'll just open another location since Omaha seems to enjoy the bit of Second City he has brought us.

Rating: 85

Chicago Dawg House
108th & Maple

3113 N. 108th St. (map)
Omaha, NE 68164
Phone: (402) 504-1234

Hours of Operation (Call first)
  Monday-Thursday: 10:30? AM - 9:00? PM
  Friday-Saturday: 11:00? AM - 1:00? AM
  Sunday: Noon - 7:00? PM

RELATED LINKS:
GFC in Chicago
Good Dawg: A taste of Chicago you won't soon forget by the Omaha World-Herald

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Mijori Japanese Restaurant - Oakland, CA

posted by snekse
Whenever we travel to California, one of our "TO DO" items is to gorge ourselves with sushi. When it costs about half as much as it does in the Midwest, you can afford to do so.

Since Mikado on Grand has closed, we had to search out a new regular spot. If you are looking for the best sushi in the Bay Area, at least several prominent chefs agree the place to go is Sushi Sam's Edomata in San Mateo. However, the proper way to experience Sushi Sam's is to get the chef's menu, so be prepared to shell out $50-$100/person.

Since we weren't looking to spend that kind of money, we looked for alternatives. Usually our second choice for sushi in the East Bay is Sushi House in Alameda. We were looking to try something new though, so we searched Yelp to seek the wisdom of the masses. And I learned a valuable lesson in doing so. Read the reviews - don't just look at the average score. It saved us from being very disappointed.

Two of the highest rated sushi restaurants in the east bay are rated high for good reasons, but did not fit our needs. Coach Sushi buys itself a 4 1/2 star rating because they offer bottomless sake for $3.50. Yume Restaurant got rave reviews, but the entire restaurant only seats 12 people and no more than 3 people per party. The one that did seem to fit our needs was Mijori.

It's a bit odd that we've never tried this place since it's about 2 blocks down from where Mikado used to be. I can't really say if this would have become our regular spot if we had tried it, but I think it might now become our regular spot. The prices are reasonable, the food is good and the atmosphere is kid friendly without being overly kid friendly - if that makes any sense.

I wish I could say they had the best sushi in town, but I think Sushi House had a little better quality sushi and I certainly think Sushi Japan here in Omaha has better fish. I think there's just so much competition for fish in the Bay Area that it might be hard to get your hands on the best. I did think they had some of the best tonkatsu I've ever had, and their tempura was also very good. The gyoza was a bit lacking in crunch and flavor, but I think that was about the only fault I found in the food. I was also happy to see some less common Japanese dishes on the menu, such as nabemono.

The only other downsides I can think of would be the seating and service during busy times. And my guess is they're busy most of the time. We visited on Wednesday at 6 pm. We made it just before the rush. By 7:00 there was a wait list at least 3 parties deep. This rush impacted our service. Getting our bill, TOGO boxes and paying took more time than what I'd consider acceptable. And because they try to maximize their seating, there are some tight fits between tables that result in waiters wiping your table with their butt cheeks as they take orders from the table next to you. Not really a huge deal to me, but if you don't like a little derrière with your nigiri, you might want to sit at the bar.

Rating: 87

Mijori Japanese Restaurant
3260 Grand Avenue (MAP)
(Grand Ave./Lake Merritt)
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 465-8854

RELATED LINKS:
Photos of Mijori Japanese Restaurant and Sushi Bar
Yelp Reviews
Mijori Sushi on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Korea House - Santa Clara, CA

posted by snekse
I'm a big fan of Korean food. I became a bigger fan after eating at Korea House near San Jose. I've only eaten at a handful of places, so my exposure to the cuisine is a bit limited. Almost all of them have been good, but never have I been to one that executed as well as Korea House.

Now I'm sure there are debates that rage on about what makes a great Korean restaurant. Is it how well they prepare the star dishes found in every restaurant, such as Bulgogi, Galbi and Bibimbap? Or is it the lesser known dishes that you can't find at most other restaurants? Or is it the Banchan - those addictive side dishes that come out in swarms and keep coming as you ask? And if so, is it because of the sheer number of different dishes that crowd your table, or is it because this place does Kimchi better than that place?

I'd argue all of the above in almost equal importance. How disappointed would you be if there was no Banchan? And is it worth going to a place that can't deliver good Bulgogi? And I'd also argue that a place that doesn't have some harder to find dishes probably doesn't make the easy to find dishes as well as other places in town.

So where does Korea House fall into this spectrum? I'd say they lean on their Banchan. Some of the best and most interesting I've had so far; not to mention the most. And even the common side dishes tasted better than I'm used to. The menu also had several dishes that I've never seen before, mostly of the seafood variety. Of the classics, I can't say they blew me away, but they were no worse than I'd find elsewhere, so as a whole, that puts them a notch above every other Korean restaurant I've been to so far. So that puts it in both the top and bottom 5 :-)

Rating: 87

Korea House
Santa Clara, CA (El Camino Real/San Tomas Expy)

2430 El Camino Real (MAP)
Santa Clara, CA 95051
(408) 249-0808

RELATED LINKS:
Korean Side Dish (Banchan) Recipes
The characteristics of Korean food
Yelp Reviews
Korea House on Urbanspoon

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Omaha BBQ Review - The Best BBQ in Omaha

posted by snekse
When Erik Totten of Food & Spirits Magazine asked GFC to be part of a review to find Omaha's best barbecue, my answer took about 3/10th of a second to spit out. I must have been tired. As he told me more of the details, the more I salivated at the opportunity. A real competition amongst the local barbecue joints in an attempt to crown a winner - brilliant. Why in Kamapua'a's name has no one done this before?

Now a BBQ shoot out that pits barbecue pit against barbecue pit is one thing. The ensuing meat orgy that awaited us is quite another. Ribs, brisket, pulled pork, sides - from each of the ten participating restaurants...

I'll let you read all of the gory details and find out who the winners are for yourself. I will say, however, that I was a little disappointed in the lack of really good barbecue to be found. Only two restaurants achieved what I consider truly respectable scores. Congrats to those places (see the winners).


RELATED LINKS:
Food & Spirits Magazine: Volume 1, Issue 1
Food & Spirits Magazine: Volume 1, Issue 2
PHOTOS: Food and Spirits Magazine: Omaha BBQ Ribs Shootout
Greater Omaha Barbecue Society

Thanks to the following restaurants for participating in this challenge: Bones, Brew and BBQ, Big Horn Mountain Barbecue, Doc and Eddie’s BBQ, Famous Dave’s, Hartland Bar-b-que, Harkert’s BBQ, Jim’s Rib Haven, McKenna’s Blues, Booze & BBQ, Red Zone BBQ, and Skeets Ribs and Chicken.

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