Tag Archives: drinks

Lenten Fish Fries

March 16, 2017 by
Photography by Joshua Foo

Lent in Omaha—a time of repentance and moderation for devout Catholics—is synonymous with crowded lines of happy, drunken people waiting for heaping piles of deep-fried fish.

Parishioners and non-churchgoers alike rejoice with the approach of Ash Wednesday. Non-Catholics who have never joined in the fun should not hesitate. All are welcome. Lenten fish fries (complete with raffles, pickle cards, and bake sales) are the biggest fundraising event of the year for many Catholic churches, schools, and charities in Omaha.

The beer-infused Friday fry-day gatherings are a popular annual ritual in Midwestern cities with robust Catholic communities. Omaha’s large Catholic population means that several dozen churches will host fish fries throughout the 40 days of Lenten fast (six weeks). Meanwhile, there are plenty of other community groups, such as the local Disabled American Veterans, hosting their own Lenten fish fries.

Some start the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Most begin after Ash Wednesday formally initiates the Lenten season. Some conclude after only a few weeks; others continue for the entire duration of the Lenten fast, including Good Friday two days before Easter.

Not all of them are bacchanals, with children running wild while parents and young adults socialize. A few are alcohol-free. But all are genuine family-friendly celebrations of community.

Expect to spend a few hours standing and waiting in line at Omaha’s most-popular fish fries. The long wait—and the chance to meet new friends while drinking beer—is sometimes the most fun part of the evening.

Omaha Magazine has compiled a list of six must-try fish fries for every week during Lent. But the list is hardly exhaustive. Other excellent fish fries are plentiful in the Omaha area. For those in a hurry, seeking out lesser-known gatherings might even save on the wait time. Or you might just discover a new Lenten favorite.

HOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

2901 Fontenelle Blvd., Omaha, NE 68104 . 402.451.6622 . holynameomaha.org

Omaha’s oldest Lenten fish fry event, the Holy Name “Fryday” is famous for its jam-packed line, fried Alaskan pollock, french fries, coleslaw, and Rotella’s bread. The BYOB line makes the event especially unique for the 21-and-over crowd. Those arriving at 6 p.m. can expect to find a line stretching out the church, through the adjacent Holy Name Elementary School, and circling around the building. A wait time of three hours is not unusual. The initiated come prepared with coolers full of beer to sustain drinking through the long wait. Upon entering the main building, a free cup of beer is offered. Another free cup of beer is offered if there’s a line out the cafeteria. More beer is sold inside the cafeteria, and a storeroom accommodates winter coats and coolers. Nebraska politicians are known to make appearances at the event, which averages an attendance of 2,300 people per night. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7

MARY OUR QUEEN CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

3405 S. 118th St., Omaha, NE 68144 . 402.333.8662 . maryourqueenchurch.com

A packed line meanders through the halls of Mary Our Queen School, where intermittent refreshment tables allow visitors to replenish their beer pitchers/cups in one of Omaha’s most-popular Lenten fish fries. Young volunteers walk up and down the school’s hallway to collect emptied pitchers. Popcorn is available in the line near the cafeteria. A drive-through allows motorists to avoid the packed halls. Food options include: fried or baked fish, macaroni and cheese, spudsters, fries, coleslaw, bread, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH OF ELKHORN (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

20500 West Maple Road, Elkhorn, NE 68022 . 402.289.4289 . stpatselkhorn.org

The fish fry at St. Patrick’s features fried or baked catfish and/or pollock. Margaritas and a variety of beers offer a change of pace from the adult beverages typically available at area fish fries. Cheese pizza, fries, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, and dessert round out the available food options. There’s a drive-through, and there are clowns and face-painting for the kids inside. Fridays (5-9:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL CATHOLIC CHURCH

14330 Eagle Run Drive, Omaha, NE 68164 . 402.496.7988 . svdpomaha.org

A cheerful and welcoming atmosphere radiates from the jam-packed line snaking through the halls of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. The event features $3 cups, $8 bottles of wine, and $8 pitchers of Boulevard, Lucky Bucket, or Bud Light beer. For those seeking better quality beer on the cheap, St. Vincent de Paul’s fish fry is an excellent choice. Food options include fried or baked fish, cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and fries or baked potato, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Credit cards accepted. Fridays (5:30-8:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. JOHN’S GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH

602 Park Ave., Omaha, NE 68105 . 402.345.7103 . stjohnsgreekorthodox.org

Alcohol is not sold at the event; however, St. John’s offers possibly the most delicious food available at any Omaha area Lenten fish fry. The church also offers historic tours of its Byzantine-style building from 5:30-6:30 p.m. A kitchen full of volunteers (some of whom grew up in Greece and migrated to the United States) cook and serve plaki—a Greek baked cod with Mediterranean sauce. Also available: panko-fried cod, breaded-fried shrimp, baked salmon, and vegetable moussaka (an eggplant lasagna), spanakopita (a pie filled with spinach and feta cheese), and piropita (cheese baked in phyllo dough). Specialty cheesecakes and baklava sundaes await at the dessert bar. Fridays (4:30 to 8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

HOLY GHOST CATHOLIC CHURCH

5219 S. 53rd St., Omaha, NE 68117 . 402.731.3176 . holyghostomaha.com

Clam chowder is one of the unique offerings at Holy Ghost Parish’s annual Lenten fish fry. The varied menu offers: shrimp, baked or fried cod, macaroni and cheese, or a combo dinner. Each dinner comes with baked potato, salad, fruit bar, and a drink. Beer, margaritas, and “watermelons” (a mixed drink) are sold. While the line is long, the wait is neither the longest nor the most beer-soaked in town. Expedited takeout service is available at the west end of the church. Fridays (4-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7.

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

The Tavern

March 13, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Before September, potential patrons looking to get a drink might have stopped just short of The Tavern—not realizing that a bar was down the street. However, after a few renovations and a name change, patrons can now clearly see the updated bar.

Formerly The Old Market Tavern, the bar has changed more than just its name since David Kerr and Dave Haverkamp purchased it in July. One of the most unique changes is the addition of a 105-year-old Brunswick bar.

“It was in the Muehlebach Hotel, and Elvis Presley, the Beatles, and every president from when it was installed until Ronald Reagan stayed at that hotel when they were in Kansas City, so you have to assume that many of them probably sat down at that bar,” Haverkamp says.

Still, the addition of the historic bar was only part of the changes the duo made. In a whirlwind six days, Kerr and Haverkamp closed down the bar to begin renovations that included getting rid of a platform that split the bar in half lengthways, creating a congested area for guests trying to get a drink.

“We had the floor redone as well,” Kerr says, “and we brought in church pews as a part of the furnishings, and we took a wall down as well in the back. It was like a small dart room, so we knocked that wall down, and we renovated the bathrooms as well. It was a diet of pizza and Red Bull just to get through the six days, but it was good.”

Kerr, who has a background in both hospitality and marketing, also decided to light the awning outside and revamp The Tavern’s logo to give the bar a more modern feel. Kerr added a colored, flashing LED light above the logo as well so that patrons can see the bar from 10th Street.

20140120_bs_3514

Both Kerr and Haverkamp took a bartending class in South Beach to revamp their bartending skills. They usually bartend once or twice a week now at The Tavern, but bartending or not, they’re at the bar every day talking to customers. They claim it’s their favorite part of the day. Both owners are proud of their famous Moscow Mule and hope to add more specialty cocktails and perhaps even a food menu. But they’re most excited about the Scottish soda-infused cocktails.

“There’s a soda from Scotland which outsells Coca-Cola, and I’ve had that shipped over from Scotland,” Kerr says, “so we can actually start using it in cocktails. You can’t miss it. It’s bright orange.”

When Kerr and Haverkamp bought The Tavern last July, they ran the bar the way it was for two months to learn about the customers and to get a feel for what changes needed to be made. One result of this observation period was to change the name only slightly from The Old Market Tavern to simply The Tavern. “The reason why we didn’t completely change the name is because we really want this to be kind of a local place to go. That’s how we envisioned it,” Haverkamp says. “Yeah, it’s a neighborhood bar, but we wanted it to be homey. But the products are good, and the cocktails are good, and you know…we offer something a little bit different,” Kerr says.

Amy Mather

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

“People fascinate me.”

So says Amy Mather, adult program manager at Omaha Public Library and host of the podcast
“Whatever Mathers.”

Friends and acquaintances had been telling her to post her knowledge of the city, about the food, the art openings. “A lot of people told me I should blog, and I really hate writing,” Mather says, “I overthink it, whereas if it’s coming out of my mouth, it comes out once.”

When fellow Design Alliance Omaha board member Bryce Bridges told her she should do a podcast instead, “it took about six months for me to really consider it seriously,” she says. But after the first episode aired in September 2011 with the help of Clete Baker of Studio B, Mather embraced the idea of documenting what’s happening in the city now. “I think of it as curating Omaha,” she says with a smile.

“I find people super interesting. There is a creativity explosion happening here. It’s an important thing to capture.”

Bridges, who has a family background in radio, finalizes the themes and gathers the guests for the podcast’s three-speaker panels as executive producer of “Whatever Mathers.” “I wanted to sit people at a table and poke and prod and ask why they’re doing what they’re doing,” Bridges says of the podcast’s raison d’etre, “The only thing missing is alcohol.” He adds with a laugh that such lubrication is unnecessary thanks to the way Mather handles the hour-long conversations. “Amy has a great way of letting people just be honest. When we sit people around the table with her, good things happen.” He adds that there’s not even much editing, just a few outtakes of jokes at a podcast’s end.

“I find people super interesting,” Mather admits. “There is a creativity explosion happening here. It’s an important thing to capture.” She typically asks three questions of her podcast guests, an example of which is “What do you think creativity is?” from her second podcast entitled “You don’t take sand to the beach.”

“It’s a very basic question to ask, but you get so many different answers,” Mather says.

Guests of “Whatever Mathers” have included local designer Steve Gordon, Design Alliance Omaha founder Tom Trenelone, acupuncturist Donna Hubert, and Anne Meysenburg of Kent Bellows Studio, just to name a few. Mather ends each podcast by asking her guests about their Big Love, encouraging them to reveal one thing they’re really excited about or have fallen in love with recently. The kale salad at Lot 2 has come up twice.

Despite living in several other states for many years and only being in Omaha for five, Mather states with delight that Omaha is the center of the universe. “I mean, in five years, I’ve met tons of amazing people, and there’s all this stuff happening,” she says. “I love Omaha, and I’m really proud of it. I just want to show, you know, we’re a bunch of badasses here. Look at what we’re doing.”

Interested listeners can visit whatevermathers.libsyn.com or search for “Whatever Mathers” on the iTunes store and subscribe to the podcast to hear new and old episodes.

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.

Cantina Laredo

November 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Cantina Laredo

Looking for a warm atmosphere during the cold winter months to get away with your girlfriends for some drinks and mouthwatering food? Look no further than Cantina Laredo in Midtown Crossing!

This Mexican restaurant boasts a relaxed dining area with a cozy fireplace, upscale bar scene, outdoor patio, private dining room (no room fees!), and seven flat-screen TVs. As for the fare, Cantina Laredo creates beautiful plates of Mexican gourmet made with traditional techniques. Anyone familiar with traditional Mexican cuisine will be taken back to a past vacation along the Mexican coast or countryside. The authentic experience is also made complete with a wide variety of imported tequilas and Mexican beers.

Margarita special, Her'Rita

Margarita special, Her’Rita

Try the chips and top-shelf Guacamole appetizer (made fresh tableside) with a Casa ‘Rita (house margarita), which is a premier blend of Giro Silver Tequila by Sauza, Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed lemon and lime juices. Or indulge in the most popular entrée, the Enchiladas Veracruz—chicken enchiladas filled with spinach and Monterey jack cheese topped with tomatillo sauce, marinated vegetables, and queso fresco. And, of course, you can’t forget about the rich Mexican Brownie sizzled in Mexican Brandy Butter with your choice of vanilla or cinnamon ice cream for dessert!

If you’re just meeting up for drinks, however, and feel like mixing it up, ask for the Her ‘Rita, which was carefully created to celebrate women making a difference in Omaha! The authentic Mexican cocktail combines a premier blend of Giro Silver Tequila by Sauza, Triple Sec and fresh-squeezed pomegranate, lemon and lime juices to create a delicious anomaly of flavors to please any woman’s palate.

Cantina Laredo featured entree, Enchiladas Veracruz

Cantina Laredo featured entree, Enchiladas Veracruz

Every Thursday from 4pm to close, Cantina Laredo hosts a Ladies’ Night with half-off house margaritas and wine by the glass for every woman who walks in the door. And Happy Hour runs from 4-7pm on weekdays with large house margaritas for just $5!

Cantina Laredo
120 S. 31st Ave., Ste 5107
402-345-6000
cantinalaredo.com

brix Breaks New Ground

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.

Untitled

“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.

20121105_bs_1800 copy

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.

20121105_bs_1853-Edit copy

“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