Where Maple Street passes through the Benson neighborhood is arguably one of the most exciting urban revitalizations currently happening in Omaha. It seems like every month there’s a new retail store, restaurant, or bar opening up. In spring of 2012, Mantra Bar & Grille became the latest restaurant to part of this thriving Benson area. Mantra owner Mac Thompson, no stranger to the Omaha restaurant scene, is well-known for his other, highly regarded restaurant, Taxi’s Grille & Bar.
Located at 6913 Maple, Mantra is toward the west end of the budding Benson scene, affording patrons plenty of parking—something which is very scarce five blocks further east. From the outside, Mantra has a very smart look to it with an inviting patio and artsy facade. Inside, the restaurant is drop-dead gorgeous with a modern, industrial look to it that’s well-designed and really catchy. There’s a bar that runs the entire length of the restaurant, as well as several flat screens for watching sports. The sound on the TVs is pretty much off, so you can hear the well-curated playlist of classic rock (which I just happen to love) played at a comfortable volume. The restaurant has booths along one wall; in the center, brushed-aluminum tables add to the restaurant’s striking appearance.
The menu at Mantra has a nicely balanced variety of selections. There’s an assortment of small plates, salads, sandwich, light entrees, and some very enticing specials. Many of these menu items look very familiar to past meals I’ve had at Taxi’s, which by all means is a good thing.
On a recent visit, my dining partner and I started with the Dijon Shrimp Appetizer ($9.50). These were served in an escargot-style dish and were drenched in garlic butter and topped with bubbling havarti cheese. It was served with some of their fresh-baked sourdough baguette. The combination was incredible! We also tried the Bacon and Tomato Flatbread ($8.95). This concoction featured a perfect thin crust, goat cheese, roasted tomatoes, pepper bacon, and some kind of a maple, balsamic drizzle. This is one stellar dish and now, one of my personal favorites.
For dinner, I ordered the Blackened Tuna Tacos ($14.95) off the specials list. This dish is comprised of three tacos made with small corn tortillas, cole slaw, green salsa, avocado, grated jack cheese, and a generous portion of flash-seared tuna. It also comes with some Mexican-style rice and beans. These were some of the best fish tacos I have had in some time. My dining partner tried the Chicken Piccata ($17.95). The tender chicken breasts were seasoned and cooked perfectly. The piccata sauce was well-executed, making this a memorable dish as well. For dessert, we tried the Pistachio Cake French Toast ($6.50). It’s served with ice cream and maple syrup. After a couple of bites, it was obvious why this is their signature dessert. All I can say is, be sure to save some room.
The service at Mantra was spot-on. Our server was very knowledgeable about the menu and made some excellent recommendations. We were never left waiting for anything, nor did we feel rushed. The beer and wine list features some great selections, and there’s also a full bar with some interesting-sounding signature cocktails. All of these things combined to make for an excellent dining experience, and one that I’m ready to repeat.
Mantra Bar & Grille
6913 Maple St.
RATING (5 Stars Possible)
Food & Beverage: ****