Tag Archives: Gorat’s

Obviously Omaha

July 9, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For many food lovers, there’s nothing like a good steak. A steak with plentiful marbling and a ton of flavor. A steak perfectly cooked with a seared crust and tender, juicy center. While local gourmets and gourmands have embraced an influx of new restaurants, many still crave the city’s long-standing steakhouse tradition. For a timeless dining experience, it’s hard to beat a classic steakhouse dinner at one of these 10 spots (listed in alphabetical order) exclusive to the Omaha metro.

Anthony’s Steakhouse
7220 F St.

The family-owned-and-operated business has been satisfying steak lovers since 1967, when the late Anthony “Tony” Fucinaro Sr. opened the restaurant. A giant fiberglass steer hangs out front. Inside, diners savor tender, flavorful cuts of Nebraska beef, which the restaurant expertly dry-ages and hand-cuts. Pasta, seafood, chicken, and pork are also on the menu. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Anthony’s gets better with age.

Brother Sebastian’s Steakhouse & Winery
1350 S. 119th St.

Opened in 1977, this West Omaha eatery boasts some of the best rib-eye steaks in town, as well as an extensive wine list and classic steakhouse sides. Skip the baked potato and get the mashed spuds—they’re ridiculously good. Adding to the restaurant’s appeal is its monastery theme. Gregorian chant music echoes in the parking lot, and servers wear monk-inspired garb. The dark interior is divided into multiple dining rooms warmed by fireplaces and adorned with casks, bottles, and books.

Cascio’s Steakhouse
1620 S. 10th St.

The sons of Italian immigrants, brothers Al and Joe Cascio opened the steakhouse south of downtown in 1946, and a third generation of family members runs it today. Cascio’s uses certified Angus beef that’s hand-cut and aged. High-quality steaks, scratch-made soups and salad dressings, breadsticks baked on-site, and spaghetti sauce simmered for hours have kept the local landmark filled with faithful diners for decades.

The Drover
2121 S. 73rd St.

Generations of steak lovers have walked through the heavy wooden doors of this rustic, cozy central Omaha spot. It opened as a Cork ’N Cleaver in 1969 and became the Drover in the late ’70s. Featuring cowboy/Western decor, the restaurant is known for its whiskey steaks, which are soaked in a secret whiskey-based marinade for 15 minutes. A warm loaf of bread and a trip to the salad bar, complete with chilled metal plates, prime the appetite.

Farmer Brown’s Steak House
2620 River Road Drive
Waterloo, Nebraska

Located on Omaha’s outskirts, this popular Waterloo steakhouse has been wooing diners with slow-roasted, tender, and flavorful prime rib since 1964. That’s when Charles and Daphne Stenglein opened the steakhouse, which their sons now run. Customers love the no-frills, homey atmosphere and menu of comfort foods. For several decades, Daphne Stenglein and her identical twin, Dagmar Luenenburg, were fixtures at the restaurant, lending a hand and greeting guests. The sisters were inseparable and died 10 months apart in 2001 and 2002. A second Farmer Brown’s operated in Papillion for a number of years before closing, but the original is still going strong.

4917 Center St.

A meat lover’s mecca since 1944, Gorat’s is among Omaha’s old-school Italian steakhouses. Louis N. Gorat Jr., known as “Pal,” the son of founders Louis and Nettie Gorat, sold the business in 2012 to Gene Dunn. The beloved midtown spot—one of Warren Buffett’s favorite local restaurants—continues to attract locals and out-of-towners, including Berkshire Hathaway shareholders who dine here during the company’s annual shareholder weekend in May.

Jerico’s Restaurant
11732 West Dodge Road

Diners have been sliding into the button-tufted booths and digging the old-school vibe at Jerico’s since 1978. For many Omahans, this is the go-to spot for prime rib. There’s also New York strip, filet mignon, rib-eye, porterhouse, and sirloin. Bacon-wrapped shrimp makes a great starter, and a slice of house-made chocolate, banana, or coconut cream pie is the perfect finish.

Johnny’s Cafe
4702 S. 27th St.

An Omaha landmark, a time capsule, and one of the city’s oldest independently owned restaurants, Johnny’s has been operated by the Kawa family since the early 1920s. Guests love the succulent steaks, well-made cocktails, and kitschy décor, such as saddle-shaped bar stools. The longtime dining destination was featured in Alexander Payne’s 2002 filmAbout Schmidt.

Omaha Prime
415 S. 11th St.

An Old Market fixture since 1995, this upscale spot offers USDA Prime beef, the highest rating. Operated by local restaurateur Mahmood “Mo” Tajvar, Omaha Prime features an extensive wine list, attentive service, and an elegant ambiance. From the second-floor dining room, guests can enjoy their meal while taking in lovely views of the Old Market Passageway below. Seafood, chicken, and lamb are also on the menu, but steaks are the star. The restaurant’s star clientele includes Oracle of Omaha Warren Buffett and retired New York Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez, who dined here together in 2006.

Pink Poodle
633 Old Lincoln Highway
Crescent, Iowa

It takes a bit of a drive to get here—about 20 minutes from downtown Omaha—but diners don’t seem to mind. Steak lovers of all ages have been coming to the Pink Poodle for more than 60 years. The casual, independently owned spot offers unfussy food in a modest setting. The longtime Crescent restaurant is known for its slow-cooked, deeply flavorful prime rib, but there’s also rib-eye, sirloin, seafood, chicken, and numerous side dishes. While waiting for a table, take a few minutes to check out the décor—an eclectic collection of dolls, pianos, knick-knacks, and, of course, pink poodles.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Entertainer

June 30, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Young Derek Ventura could usually be found spellbound in front of the radio. Mesmerized by crooner kings and R&B queens, music so enlivened him that he never really decided what to do with his life, he just always knew.

“Music was always my passion,” says Ventura. “My mom said that from age four I was fixated on the radio—singing along, dancing, banging on pots and pans.”

DerekVentura3Ventura, a self-proclaimed “creature of habit,” took his predilection for music into adulthood, working as a singer, songwriter, musician, and producer. He also dabbled in acting.

“I like to answer to ‘entertainer’,” he says. “You don’t hear that term much anymore—someone who does it all: sings, dances, plays an instrument, emcees.”

That young, music-hungry boy parked in front of the family radio in 1950s NYC never guessed he would tour with the same musical heroes whose recordings he so cherished.

Like a childhood daydream come true, Ventura went on to sing lead tenor with The Drifters (“Under the Boardwalk”) from 1972-1984, and with Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers (“Why Do Fools Fall In Love”) from 1984-1986.

The Drifters’ Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame profile says the group “could not have chosen a better name, as members drifted in and out of the band from the very beginning.” In fact, due to fierce in-fighting, the iconic ensemble had several splinter groups over the years, each featuring early members.   

Ventura slammed into The Drifters featuring Dock Green like a tidal wave. In the span of just two weeks, he was hired by them, amicably left his disco group Touch, and flew off on a European tour.

“Suddenly, I’m sharing stages worldwide with groups whose records I bought,” he says. “Here I am, in the dressing room with The Temptations, Little Anthony & the Imperials, The Shirelles. That’s engraved on my brain forever.”

After 12 years touring rigorously with The Drifters, Ventura came on with tourmates Frankie Lymon’s Teenagers. While he’d lived by the creed that there were always “more worlds to conquer,” he grew weary of perpetual touring.

DerekVentura2Life and love then took Ventura to Denver, where he formed a successful 12-piece orchestra. In 1998, history repeated when love landed Ventura in Omaha, where he transitioned from a 12-piece to one-man band, created popular Husker music, was a house entertainer at Gorat’s, and performed classics for seniors.

“My passion now is keeping music alive for my generation,” he says. “I can’t begin to tell you the reward in seeing seniors light up at hearing their favorite songs, singing along, or even crying if it’s a sentimental number. To me, that’s priceless, because everyone needs to be touched by music. Everyone. I see myself as a conduit.”

Ventura embraced modern music technology but never abandoned the classics. He laments the loss of certain genres on local stations due to corporate radio’s homogenization. Though he strives to “give a voice” to golden oldies, Ventura names Beyoncé and Ne-Yo among his favorite artists, alongside Johnny Mathis and Smokey Robinson, both artists around whom he’s currently creating tribute acts.

“There aren’t too many of us in this life who get to live their dream and make a living at it, even still as they approach their twilight years,” he says. “That’s heaven to me. The passion now is as strong as when I was a kid.”