Tag Archives: cocktails

A Taste of the Great Gatsby

November 3, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs

The Monarch Prime & Bar resembles a scene from The Great Gatsby. Bartenders whip up whimsical cocktails; servers dance around with trays of food and drinks; meanwhile, poshly clad guests enjoy a whirlwind of happenings.

Omaha Magazine attended a preview dinner of the restaurant at Hotel Deco on Oct. 26. My dining partner and I sampled dishes composed of grasslands game meats and produce from local farms.

While waiting to be seated in the lounge area—connecting Hotel Deco’s lobby and the Monarch Prime dining area—my eyes fell on the top-shelf spirits, which included some of the most sought-after Japanese whiskies, such as Yamazaki and Hibiki.

A view of the bar

Although I normally prefer my whisky neat, Monarch’s “Blood & Sand” cocktail was tempting. Mixed with Johnnie Walker Black, Cherry Heering Cocchi di Torino, and fresh orange juice (with orange peel and olive garnish), the cocktail turned out to be an excellent aperitif.

My dining partner and I were escorted to our table through a short tunnel-like passage separating the lounge and dining area. A butterfly mural on the back wall provides the focal point of the restaurant. Other decorations include butterfly specimens displayed with preserved insects. Our server explained that the interior design incorporated themes of nature and royalty (after all, a monarch is a butterfly as well as a supreme ruler).

A view of the main dining area

On the main floor, tables are arranged intimately. Those who seek privacy, however, can reserve booths with curtains tucked into the arches. I particularly like the thoughtful lighting of the dining area; mono-point lights illuminate dishes in front of diners in an otherwise dimly lit, romantic atmosphere.

The menu features different courses in categories that range from “to begin,” “to continue,” “to dévour,” “to carve,” and “to add.” As our server told us about the game meats available and proudly introduced their in-house meat drying facility, the menu’s “elk osso bucco” and “30-day bison strip loin” piqued our interests.

She recommended we try the “potato and trout,” but we were torn between duck confit and chicken pate for an appetizer. We decided to go with the duck, “Monarch Burger with lamb bacon,” bison, adding a side of smoked maitake mushrooms, and ending the meal with donuts for dessert.

Meat aged on site

The duck was prepared by sous vide for 30 hours, rendering in duck fat, resulting in a creamy veloute formed into croquettes, lightly breaded and fried. Accompanied by a vibrant and sweet carrot puree, along with some crisp carrot and celery pickles, the duck is both rich and savory—my favorite dish of the night.

Our Monarch Burger, bison, and maitake mushrooms arrived at the same time. We dug into the bison immediately. Meat of bison is typically leaner and sweeter than beef; Chef Patrick Micheels grilled the aged bison and paired it with a light sauce that did not overpower the meat flavor. It reminds me of beef tataki and went really well with the earthy maitake mushrooms side dish.

Lamb bacon burger, bison, and maitake mushrooms

The burger came with frites and spicy aioli made of peppers from Spain. The ketchup, which they called “green tomato jam,” was a rich green and sweet with slight tang. We ordered lamb bacon with our burger—the bacon’s gaminess and fat added complexity to the flavor and aroma.

One note: you should always start with the burger before diving into other dishes as the house-made bun may soak up the cheese mornay sauce and become a little soggy—which is a shame, because their house-made bread tasted absolutely fantastic.

Our bill totaled about $130 before tip—including three dishes, two cocktails, one beer, and a dessert. While many of the items on menu were not yet available (or supply ran short on the night of our preview), we look forward to trying other game meats and unique desserts such as lemon goat cheesecake next time.

Visit monarchprimeandbar.com for more information.

Duck confit croquettes

Patricia Regan

June 2, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

After 30 successful years, Patricia Catering and Cocktails gets a lot of repeat business—some of it even multigenerational.

“Customers and guests at events remember us and seek us out even years later,” owner Patricia Regan says. “We currently have one bride coming to us to cater her wedding reception because we catered her parents’ reception years ago, and they loved the service. We have been doing business with some of our corporate clients for well over 20 years.”

The team is knowledgeable, respectful, helpful, and takes tremendous pride in both product and presentation, Regan says.

“We provide food and cocktails for corporate needs and special events,” she explains. “We also provide professional and timely service for our customers, from delivery and set-up to full-scale events with linens, china, bar service, and everything else that is needed for the success of our customers’ events.”

In the catering business, Regan says that relationships are paramount. “We look at each customer as a partnership in success,” she says. “Success for them is success for us, too.”

patriciacatering.com

Mexican
 Perfection

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Anthony Bourdain was asked what food trend he would like to see in a Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything), he said, “I would like people really to pay more for top-quality Mexican food. I think it’s the most undervalued, underappreciated world cuisine with tremendous, tremendous potential.”

At Hook & Lime Tacos + Tequila, North Downtown’s newest addition, you will find that top-quality Mexican food and all kinds of potential, though you won’t necessarily have to pay more for it.

Owner Robbie Malm says after selling his share in Dudley’s Pizza and Tavern, he wanted to do something smaller and more creative. With a little help from his wife, Erin, and his brother, Tim Malm, he has done just that.

Hook & Lime’s menu has a selection of a la carte tacos, small plates, and tortas, all for under $20.

But if you do want to spend some money and have a more decadent experience, you can try the family-style tacos or the tasting menu (with or without tequila).

For the family-style tacos, you can choose between the whole fish, which is currently fried, striped bass, or bone-in barbacoa, which is cooked for 72 hours, crisped in the oven, and sent to the table for you to pick apart.

Head chef Alex Sorens says the tasting menu is something he’s excited about because it gives his crew the opportunity to create dishes and test things out. If they’re good, they’ll go on the next tasting menu.

“It’s stuff that we wouldn’t normally serve to the public,” he says. “It will be a select amount of these things, and when we run out, we run out.”

The menu features a lot of fish, hence the “hook” in Hook & Lime. Sorens says he gets their fish from Seattle Fish Co. out of Kansas City, Missouri. He uses their program Whole Boat Harvest for some of the dishes, like the ceviche. The program sells the “leftover” fish from hauls, fish that would normally go to waste because they’re not as well-known as others.

“The reason for that is because I’m trying to do my part to not be in that same group that’s using all those super popular, over-fished species that are going on endangered lists right now.”

Sorens also tries to support other environmentally conscious businesses, getting a lot of their ingredients from local producers like Plum Creek Farms and Jon’s Naturals.

Malm says these are things you might normally only find at “higher-end, white tablecloth places.” He says their goal is to make that food available to everyone.

“We have this amazing menu, these amazing items, that we’re able to bring to people who normally wouldn’t get to experience them,” he says. “We’re trying to take that food, that approach of sourcing locally and treating these items with respect, and make it more approachable. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a suit and tie or flip-flops, we welcome everybody here.”

Malm says he has been “very, very fortunate” in finding the team to do that.

“Everyone seems to be really excited about their role in this,” he says. “So I quickly found out that my best role is really to enable them to just dive in.”

This enthusiasm extends to the front of the house, where bar manager Brian van Egmond works to create original cocktails using ingredients made in house.

“It’s a fusion between speed and craft,” he says. There will be a couple margaritas available on tap, but the fresh juices are added after they’re poured.

So far, van Egmond says they’ve made their own orange brandy, orange liquor, syrups, and crème de cassis. He is currently working on a strawberry tequila for their strawberry margaritas. They also have a hibiscus-infused reposado, which is used to make the Roselle cocktail.

“That’s one I think both Negroni and Cosmo fans will appreciate.”

Van Egmond says they also have a well-curated spirits list, and plenty of beers to offer, including many from local breweries. There are also several wine options.

Of course, if what you’re really looking for is some straight up, premium tequila, Hook & Lime has you covered.

“Tequila is my favorite thing to drink,” Malm says. “It is my favorite thing to drink,” he repeats, laughing. “And I’m a fairly recent convert.”

But once he fell in love with tequila, it became a little bit of an obsession. He talks excitedly about touring tequila distilleries in Mexico with his wife. He says they toured five different spots, including Cuervo and Herradura.

The restaurant’s offerings reflect his enthusiasm, with more than 100 tequilas on their list and four different styles of flights available if you want to do a little sampling before you commit.

“They say there’s no zealot like a convert,” Malm says. “And that is definitely true when it comes to tequila.”

Undoubtedly, Hook & Lime will do their share in creating converts, both to tequila and to a greater appreciation of top-quality Mexican food.

Hook & Lime is open Sundays through Wednesdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Thursdays through Saturdays.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Obviously Omaha

August 26, 2016 by and
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As the air turns crisp, and leaves begin to fall, mugs of cold beer start flowing for Oktoberfest. Actually, those mugs of Oktoberfest beer will flow throughout September. The event began as a public wedding celebration for Germany royalty on Oct 12, 1810. Subsequent celebrations have traditionally begun on the third weekend of September and concluded on the first Sunday of October. In Omaha, however, you can find festivities all month.

1GerdasGerda’s German Restaurant and Bakery
5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, Sept. 9;
4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 10
5180 Leavenworth St.

One of Omaha’s largest Oktoberfests, this event has been going for more than 20 years. The celebration runs late into the night with music from the Dave Salmons Polka Band. Wash down a variety of German beers with Bavarian-style baked chicken, schweinshaxe (ham shank), or spaetzle, the German-style noodles made by the German-born Gerda herself. No admission.
gerdasgermanrestaurant.com

2LuckyBucketLucky Bucket Brewing Co.
6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 9
11941 Centennial Road, Suite 1

The beer is brewed on site. There are also sausages, pretzels, cocktails from Cut Spike Distillery (which shares a building with the brewery), and live music by Barry Boyce Band. Walk-in admission is $5 per person. Ticket bundles are selling on Groupon for $12 dollars (admission for two with two commemorative glasses) or $22 (admission for four with four glasses). Commemorative glasses do not come filled with beer.
luckybucketbrewing.com

3GermanAmericanSociety132nd German Day Celebration and Oktoberfest at the German-American Society
5 p.m. to midnight Friday, Sept. 16;
11:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, Sept. 17
3717 S. 120th St.

The German-American Society of Omaha was founded in 1884 as the “Omaha Plattdeutscher Verein.” Ever since, the organization has held a Deutsche Tag, or German Day, every year. Deutsche Tag is now celebrated in conjunction with their Oktoberfest. This event for the whole family (not just the 21-and-up crowd) features games and face painting. The food menu features roast pig, schnitzel, and German potato salad. Admission is $5 each day for adults, which does not include beer or food. 402-333-6615
germanamericansociety.org

4HuberHausCrescentMoonCrescent Moon and Huber-Haus Oktoberfest
4 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday, Sept. 23;
noon to 2 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 24
3578 Farnam St.

The Huber-Haus, adjoining the Crescent Moon, celebrates Oktoberfest for the 15th time this year. They serve Hofbrau, Spaten, Warsteiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr, and Weihenstephaner beers on tap along with plenty of favorite German foods. Admission is $5 for adults ages 12 and older and does not include food or beer.
beercornerusa.com/huber-haus

5BensonGardensBenson Oktoberfest
6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30
1302 North 60th St.
The annual fundraiser for the Benson Community Garden gives new meaning to term “beer garden.” Grilled brats and live music—with performances by the Polka Police—will entertain the whole family. Children under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. Admission is $5 per person.
bensongardens.org Omaha Magazine

Ben Rowe

June 10, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Benjamin Rowe creates cocktails that, quite frankly, say, “drink me.”  They are magical, but they won’t make you smaller. The magic comes from the fact that they are crafted with a lot of thought and care.

“I couldn’t quite decide what I wanted to do for a living,” Rowe says of starting as a career bartender. “Bartending was something I had always done on the side.”

Rowe has worked in the bar industry for more than 10 years, and through that time he’s seen several changes.

“It’s only been in the past few years that you have been able to see bartending as  a career. It’s not just about slinging drinks anymore. It’s about being professional. I think it’s good for the industry to have someone in it for 20 years and impart that knowledge on to others.”

BenRowe1

He’s worked in several places, but came to the forefront of the bartending profession with an opportunity to work at the Dell in 2006, which, he says, had the best bartenders in the city then.

“It was a great opportunity to learn from who were at the time the masters of bartending,” Rowe says.

After learning from the best in Omaha, Rowe eventually wound his way to a bar that became synonymous with craft bartending and themed parties—the House of Loom.  The new wave of craft bartending reinvigorated Rowe for the profession.

“For me it really was the culture of The Loom that did it,” Rowe says. “From the beginning the motto at the Loom was ‘we care.’ We care about the customer experience, we care about the music that’s playing, we care about the cocktails that go across the bar.”

That care began to show in the passion he gained for the profession. He began wanting to know more about the spirits, about the ingredients. The House of Loom focused on a seasonal menu that encouraged people to try new drinks every quarter.

“For us it was more important to have you try a new drink. We put a lot of time and effort, and money, to develop these cocktails,” Rowe said. “They are still making great interesting seasonal cocktails.”

These days, Rowe can be found behind the bar at the Wicked Rabbit, a speakeasy near Hotel Deco serving a wide selection of pre-prohibition style drinks.

“Wicked Rabbit is a different animal,” Rowe says. “We find it is very much about the cocktails. It’s very much about the quality of the cocktails, right down to the glassware we choose to serve it in.”

While customers can, and are encouraged to, try a new cocktail, they can also serve the standards.

“A lot of this bar is about suspension of disbelief,” Rowe said. “You don’t go and watch Schindler’s List and then read it and expect the same thing out of it. Just to get into the bar you have to walk into a store, and then you have to walk through the shelf. That sets the tone for the bar. The rest of the experience should take you down that path. That being said, we don’t want to tell someone who has been drinking whisky and Cokes for 20 years that we can’t serve it.”

That attitude of serving what guests want was especially helpful when they first opened.

“We are technically a hotel bar,” Rowe said. “We get a very eclectic mix here. I appreciate that. The first week we were open there was a convention here that had something to do with farming. So they came in and looked around, and at first they thought they were a little out of place. But you put a whisky in front of them, and you chat with them, and soon they had a great time.”

But it’s the specialty cocktails that keep patrons coming back, and Rowe continues to create new specialty cocktails.

“As I progress, I want to push the boundaries of what is a great cocktail…At the end of the day, it’s liquid in a cup. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of some of those bars that give out the best liquids in some of the best cups in the city.”

Whether someone wants to drink their standard cocktail or to try something new, Rowe’s commitment to caring about cocktails means he wants every patron to enjoy themselves.

“We want anyone who wants to experience this journey to come here and have a great time. I don’t care what walk of life you’re from. Anyone who wants to come here should be able to come here and have a great time.”

Weekends are for Waffles

May 29, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article was originally published in May/June 2015 edition of The Encounter.

In a society were the graphic tee is king, it’s only natural to spot one reading Weekends are for Waffles. Even with the growing population of millennials living downtown in the Old Market, NoDo, Little Italy, and surrounding areas, it’s proving to be a lot more than just designer-tee-wearing hipsters and your typical waffles and syrup. If you’re looking for a way to spend your weekend morning, it’s clear downtown boasts some great mid-morning eateries that will excite even the crankiest morning person.

Waffles, yes. Bloody Marys and Mimosas, yes. Poached eggs on a bed of homemade corn beef hash, yes. And of course, a group of your closest friends for a good gossip session called ‘brunchin.’

This easy-to-follow route for your downtown brunchin’ crawl is not your typical Easter or Mother’s Day brunch, which the urban dictionary defines as a breakfast and lunch usually occurring around 11 a.m. for snobs who like tea and jam. Brunchin’ is just an excuse for anyone who wants a cocktail before noon when it’s not football season in Huskerland.

The queen of the world of brunchin’ is the Bloody Mary. Whether you are working through a hangover or just like to drink you vegetables, this cocktail is a sure-fire thirst quencher and hangover mitigation device. Almost any restaurant hosts their own version of this popular drink, but Stokes Grill & Bar at 11th and Howard allows you to build your own. The buffet line features a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar with different tomato juices, spices, vegetables, pickles, shrimp, and even bacon. Yes, we said bacon. Squeeze in a lime, head out to their patio and lounge in the sunshine on comfy couches, and wait for your order of the chocolatiest chipped pancakes this side of the Missouri River.

If fruit juices are more your thing, J’s on Jackson at 11th and Jackson runs a weekend special of $4 mimosas and Bloody Marys if you have a group. The special runs all day long. Bring your pooch because their patio is dog friendly. They will even bring your furry friend their own bowl of water!

A favorite of soccer fans is Wilson & Washburn at 14th and Harney. Opening at 10 a.m., the owners are aware of the time difference between

the United Kingdom and the central United States and will air almost all of the English Premier League soccer games with a newly developed brunch menu. (Yes, sure, Americans and fans of sports involving the arms are welcome, too). The smaller menu consists of a few traditional items, but with their own funky twist. It’s your choice if you want to pair the smoked peanut butter and berry-compote-topped French toast with a hot French press coffee, or, one of their brunch cocktails. We suggest the Dirty Wicked, a cold brew coffee with bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters that will have any brunchin’ patron cheering. If you’re not in the mood for something sweet, try the hangover-slaying, homemade corned beef hash topped with two soft poached eggs and horseradish aioli.

Wheatfield’s Eatery and Bakery at 12th and Howard is a natural stop for a brunchin’ crawl. They offer a large, basic brunch menu. Perk up with a creamy, whipped-topped, hot hazelnut latte. This is a great meeting place with early-bird specials starting as early as 6 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday morning. Pair your coffee with eggs, eggs, and more eggs. Not for the small stomach type, the Grandma’s Scrambler is ham, eggs, and potatoes scrambled with a drizzle of Hollandaise sauce. Did we mention it comes with a very large side—Ron’s Large Hot Cinnamon Roll?

If you’ve done the downtown brunchin’ crawl right, your stomach is about to burst, but your once-throbbing head isn’t. What better way to get a proper late start to a weekend day?

Brunch1

Borgata Brewery

March 28, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Before breweries became all the rage, there was another craft alcohol manufacturer that was king in Omaha: whiskey distilleries. For example, Willow Springs, the third-largest whiskey distillery in the nation, once stood at 4th and Pierce. But once Prohibition hit, that niche of Omaha’s craft spirit industry took a hit.

Last December, former Lucky Bucket Brewery owner Zac Triemert and fiancée Holly Mulkins mixed a little bit of Omaha’s past with the present when they opened Borgata Brewery & Distillery, a new full-production brewery, production distillery, and craft cocktail tasting room at 11th and Jackson.

It’s not just another business for Mulkins and Triemert—they want Borgata to become Omaha’s beer and whiskey.  To do so, they’ve relied upon a network of people who are just as passionate about craft alcohol as they are.

“Borgata is an old Italian word for family,” explains Mulkins. “Anybody that shares in what we make and what we’re doing is also a part of our extended family.”

Borgata is the first full-production distillery in Omaha since Prohibition, and Triemert and Mulkins say they’re excited to add their own page to Omaha’s “incredible distilling history.” In fact, Borgata will be brewing a batch of an old recipe from the family behind the Jetter Brewing Company, the Omaha concern that closed one year after Prohibition ended.

“We’re literally going to be tasting history, which is kind of amazing. And doing what we’re doing with the whiskey, it’s history in the making so to speak,” says Mulkins.

Triemert and Mulkins have been hard at work perfecting their craft. Triemert, in addition to his two master’s degrees in distilling and brewing, is a diligent student in the field. He has three notebooks at home, containing recipes and revisions dating from the first batch of beer he ever brewed in college more than 15 years ago.

“It’s a terribly fun thing to have to study and learn about,” Triemert admits with a grin.

The studious crew of Triemert, Mulkins, and bar manager Brian Gummert have spent the past year and a half traveling and tasting in order to perfect their menu. They say Borgata will offer a wide variety of craft beers, whiskeys, and cocktails that will please both alcohol aficionados and customers who are new to the craft world.

On the beer side, Borgata’s flagship is their pilsner, which Triemert describes as “easy to drink, flavorful, nice, hot character with a great, thick, lacy, white head on it.” Borgata will also feature a “Bison series” that will contain beers with higher alcohol content, such as a double IPA.

Moving on to something on the stronger side, Borgata’s whiskeys will feature an “all-malt whiskey”—made of a group of single all-malt whiskeys, blended with Borgata’s own single-malt whiskey. According to Mulkins and Triemert, it’s a whiskey that’s never been done before in the United States.

Finally, Triemert, Mulkins, and Gummert are getting a chance to showcase their in-house spirits with their craft cocktail room.  One of their latest concoctions? Beer cocktails. Mulkins’ personal favorite includes champagne mixed with a stout, which she describes as a “kind of celebration drink.”

Perhaps fitting with their desire to be different, Borgata has faced some unusual setbacks. Originally scheduled to open at the beginning of November, Borgata’s permit approval was delayed because of the government shutdown.

Nonetheless, Mulkins and Triemert made the best out of the situation. They sent letters to President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, promising them their first two cases of beer if they came to an agreement. The effects of the shutdown have been long-lasting. Though Borgata has been able to serve its signature pilsner in its tasting room, its unaged white whiskey wasn’t available until very recently due to the delayed permit. An aged whiskey and a small food menu are still in the plans for the future. Despite the problems they’ve faced, Mulkins and Triemert continue to have fun with what they do.

“There is just so much that has happened, that is going to happen, and that is happening right now that we get to be a part of,” says Mulkins. “You could never get bored of this industry.”

Small

Choose Your Own Adventure

August 27, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ted and Wally’s. Tannenbaum Christmas Shop. The Passageway. These are staples of Omaha’s historic Old Market neighborhood. But what if you looked beyond the traditional to find the hidden heart of downtown? Do you dare venture down the road less traveled to find the secret spaces and hidden gems of the Old Market?

You are traveling down 10th Street, looking for an outdoor space to spend the warm, fall afternoon, when you stumble upon Lucile’s Old Market. This historic, two-story, brick building is wrapped with an iron gate and was originally owned by Lucile Schaaf, an architectural salvager. You remember being told there is a courtyard somewhere near her home, but all you see is a 10-foot-high brick wall.

You sneak down the alley between Jackson and Howard streets, only to find a large, locked, wooden gate. Disappointment seizes you, until you notice an iron grate in part of the brick wall. You decide to take a peek.

Terracotta landscape pavers line the three-tiered garden, and ivy consumes each wall. Grass and beautiful flowers overflow the 2,600-square-foot space, sharing occupancy with architectural pieces like two griffin wings, salvaged from the old First National Bank building. The wings form a walkway to the third level of the garden.

You hadn’t noticed, but the owner of Lucile’s, a man named Brian, has come up behind you.

“We have the only private backyard in the Old Market that includes grass and flowers. It’s just priceless; it’s literally priceless,” Brian says. He goes on to tell you that the courtyard is only accessible if you have a private event at Lucile’s. You decide to go on with your day, content with having enjoyed a view into the small paradise.

You’ve had enough of walking around, and decide that catching a movie sounds nice. Unfortunately, there is no movie theater in the Old Market. But you have heard about a tiny theater inside Fairmont Antique & Mercantile Store on 12th and Jackson streets.

Winding through stalls of vintage signs and retro clothing, you come across the theater, a walled-off section complete with marquee, deep in the heart of the store. It plays movies on Saturdays and Sundays. You recall what a friend, Alicia Smith Hollins, told you about her experience seeing Jack White play in the theater last August.

“The small, vintage venue felt more like where you should see Jack White play than a big auditorium. It was the coolest thing I have ever seen in Omaha,” says Smith Hollins, who was previously unaware that the theater existed.

After sitting through The Goonies, you are ready for a night on the town. You call up a few friends and decide to go bar-hopping. However, none of you are keen on anything rowdy or loud, so you attempt to confirm rumors about a speakeasy-type place. It’s hidden under the Indian Oven restaurant at 10th and Howard streets.

When you and your friends arrive at the restaurant, you notice that two horse statues are lit in the window. You’ve heard that this means the basement bar is making drinks that night. You enter the basement to find a cozy, newly renovated space.

“It’s a calm atmosphere that’s about celebrating the drinks and the conversations going on,” says Binoy Fernandez, the I.O. Speak’s owner and bartender. He talks with passion about how the I.O. Speak focuses on craft cocktails, drinks that go beyond standard two-ingredient mixers and that take a little longer to concoct.

Fernandez chats with your group to find out what each of you are looking for in a drink tonight. This is standard practice in the bar, he explains. Based on what customers enjoy drinking, he can provide recommendations from his list of pre-Prohibition and Prohibition-era drinks. For such special cocktails, he and other bartenders only use fresh-squeezed juice and syrups, bitters, and even ice made inhouse.

“[Old Market residents] are a great set of people that have, throughout the years, shown a willingness to try new things out, and, in a large way, to be the trendsetters of what’s happening in the Omaha community,” Fernandez explains as he makes your drinks. “Them, and the history of the Old Market, when speakeasies were running down here, make this the perfect place for my concept.”

You head home from the bar, content in knowing that you took the road less traveled. You found the Old Market’s diamonds in the rough.

Good Drinks, Good Music, Good People

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“We keep it mellow but fun,” says Joanna Murzyn, one of the owners of Myth, a martini bar in the Old Market at 11th and Howard streets. “We like to have a calm feel. Nothing dancey or headbanging.”

Guests sit back on chocolate-leather couches and converse over craft cocktails while acoustic or jazz sets play in the lounge’s front window every Thursday night. The club sends out events news and promotions to anyone who texts “Myth” to (402)-965-0230, or guests can check Myth’s Facebook page to find out who’s playing next. If it’s the first Thursday of the month, you’ll find local musician Chris Saub with his guitar, a microphone, and folk rock sung with slight gravel. “It’s a sort of relaxed kind of rock,” says regular John Lewenthal. “He plays his own music, but occasionally he’ll mix in a cover.”

Myth is a rewarding place to be a regular. “We have a great crowd here,” Murzyn says. “You really develop relationships over the years.” Regulars know they’ll have a place to escape the downtown crazy on New Year’s Eve, and a special rum stays behind the bar for the only patron who drinks it. “Only one customer wants it, and we get it for him,” she says.

Owner Brian Murzyn

Owner Brian Murzyn

Murzyn credits her husband and co-owner, Brian, with a talent for bringing guests back for more. She recounted the story of someone freshly moved to Omaha who walked into Myth one night. “He said he knew he had to force himself to get out and meet people,” Murzyn recalls, “and there was Brian behind the bar. He’s been a regular for a couple years now.”

Regulars and newcomers alike should feel free to ask the versatile bartenders to make them something off-menu if none of the Myth suggestions sound quite right. “They love that,” Murzyn says. She estimated that roughly 80 percent of the cocktails served over the stained concrete bar are unique to the lounge. The Mystique, for example, has been a favorite since Myth opened in May 2007. The sweet pink drink is comprised of X-Rated Fusion Liqueur, mango rum, and pineapple.

“They have a really good feel for various drinks,” Lewenthal says. “They have such a large repertoire of things they’re able to put together, even for somebody that may not know they enjoy drinks like that.” The average cost of a Myth cocktail is $9, though there’s wine and beer (bottled and draft) for those with simpler tastes.

A couple menus from next-door restaurants are kept under the bar in case patrons need a pizza from Zio’s or an appetizer from Stokes to go with their cocktails. There is one TV behind the bar, positively small in comparison to what you’d find at a sports bar, for taking a break in conversation to check a score.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Myth is no longer open.

brix Breaks New Ground

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

After more than 20 years traveling the country selling E&J Gallo wine, Dan Matuszek was ready for something different but still very familiar.

An entrepreneur at heart, it had been his ambition for several years to open his own wine and spirits retail space—but he didn’t want it to stop there. His business vision included a bistro where people could meet, have dinner, and drink some great wine, as well as offer an events center for parties and gatherings throughout the year.

It took him a couple of years to put all the pieces together, but Matuszek realizes his dream every day he goes to work at brix in Village Pointe. His second location—currently under construction in Midtown Crossing and due for its grand opening January 10th—will have a similar vibe but with a very different layout and intent.

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“We are responding to the market need in that area for this type of business where people have a place to meet after work or on the weekends, have some great food and drinks, or stop by on their way home to grab a couple of bottles or whatever they might need,” said Matuszek, relocated to Omaha from his native Wisconsin with his wife, who is from the area, in 1992.

“We have a great young chef, Erik Rickard, and our focus in Midtown is going to be to provide a great dining experience first. The location (former Republic of Couture spot) has a great veranda that holds 150, where people can sit and listen to Jazz on the Green or just relax with a meal and a great glass of wine.”

Unlike the Village Pointe location, which opened in 2009—first with the retail space and then the bistro and events center followed several months later—all three spaces will open simultaneously at the Midtown Crossing restaurant.

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In addition to the usual fare—including imported Enomatic dispensing machines that allow guests to sample various wines by using a prepaid smart card—the Midtown spot will have more than 28 varieties of draft beer (unavailable at the Village Pointe location) and a mixologist for custom cocktails and craft drinks, a growing national trend.

Originally, Matuszek was looking to open a second location in the Old Market but couldn’t find the right building and location that would work for his brand. He was approached by Midtown Crossing more than a year ago about opening there, but, again, the right location wasn’t available at the time.

When the Republic of Couture closed in July—offering the right amount of space and built-in traffic—Matuszek and his business partners snatched up the location within a few days and started remodeling the space in August.

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“Our new location will have the largest selection of beer in the city, great wine selection, a full menu, and a full experience,” Matuszek said. “The time is definitely right, and where else but in America can you build a locally owned business from scratch like brix? I wake up every day and never have to go to work because I love and believe in what I do. We want our guests to experience that same feeling when they come to enjoy a meal or glass of wine at brix.”

For more information about brix, including upcoming specials or to rent space in the events center at either location, visit brixomaha.com