Tag Archives: Monarch Prime & Bar

Chef Patrick Micheels

January 3, 2019 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s not easy to stay humble when everyone keeps talking about how great you are. But Patrick Micheels manages to steer nearly every compliment right back to other people. “I have a team in the kitchen that crushes it every day,” Micheels says when asked about the success of Monarch Prime & Bar. “I am so lucky.”

Actually, Omaha is lucky to have Micheels. Anyone who has dined at Monarch Prime knows as much. “I want to let the rest of the country know that Omaha’s not messing around,” he says.

Nebraskan by birth, Micheels hails from Scottsbluff. He grew up unusually curious about food, partially thanks to a mother who was willing to run to the store to buy the ingredients Micheels requested after watching cooking shows.

“I wanted more,” he says. “I was never really satisfied. I had a real love of cooking.”

Hunting trips with his father and brother also had a profound effect on his burgeoning curiosity about food preparation. “I learned to appreciate the whole animal. Killing a large animal is a big deal. It’s sad but rewarding. A lot of chefs don’t know about that.”

In 2005, he moved to Omaha to attend Metropolitan Community College’s Institute for the Culinary Arts. He was a chef at Dario’s Brasserie before taking on executive chef duties for Hotel Deco, the home of Monarch Prime.

The meat served at the sumptuous  restaurant (on the lower level of the renovated hotel at 316 S. 15th St., built in 1930 and listed on the National Record of Historic Places) is only there because Micheels spent a great deal of time deciding if it’s worthy. Locally sourced meats come from farms that Micheels himself spent hours visiting to ensure the animals are well taken care of. “These are small farms trying to make it for their families,” he says.

The meat must be fresh, he says, and then aged to perfection on-site at the restaurant. He’s spent a great deal of time figuring out the ideal aging for each type of meat.

Locally, he’s considered a pioneer in dry-aging meats on-site at Monarch Prime—if one can be a pioneer of an age-old practice. As Micheels explains, “It’s one of the oldest processes. To dry-age meat is super old school. People used to hang meat at the base of the mountain; it’s the way meat should be eaten.”

“Society is so impatient,” he says. Dry-aging takes time, but the benefit is enormous. When meat ages, Micheels explains, “it’s losing water. Think about it like sauce reducing on a stove. The water evaporating out of the meat condenses the flavor.”

Chef Patrick Micheels

“It has to be the freshest product possible—never frozen. The humidity has to be right, the wind speed has to be right, and the temperature has to be right. After that, it’s easy. Just wait.”

Wait for what? “Bacteria and enzymes break down the meat and make it more tender,” Micheels says. He’s echoing what he studied extensively and learned through trial and error. “We have an approachable dry-aging program,” he says. “We’re taking meat, putting it in coolers, and making it taste better.”

His star is rising, though he doesn’t seem to have allowed his growing fame to inflate his ego much. Recently praised and quoted in a New York Times article titled “An Omaha Restaurant Redefining the Steakhouse Experience,” he also appeared in a commercial for MCC.

He is involved with community projects, such as the Big Muddy Urban Farm Gala and the popular Pinot, Pigs & Poets annual event. “Giving back is one of the foundations of being a chef—it’s so important,” he says. He occasionally returns to the high school he graduated from in Scottsbluff to do demos for students.

Though he likes returning home occasionally, he’s developed a real fondness for Omaha. “I love the Omaha dining scene,” he says. “It’s so aggressive. We’re always looking for what we can do next.”

Micheels speaks about other Omaha chefs with admiration and a sense of camaraderie. He says he has often called upon chef buddies from The Boiler Room or V. Mertz for an assist preparing a special event (like a birthday or wedding), and they’re always eager to help.

“All the chefs in Omaha make me want to work hard,” he says, crediting his network of fellow chefs for helping him advance his skills and knowledge.

Beyond enthusiastically praising his kitchen team at Monarch Prime, Micheels is quick to express gratitude to his parents for encouraging him to pursue cooking—and for not growing tired of his tireless culinary curiosity as a kid.

He’s also quick to point to his motivation nowadays: his wife and son. “The reason I work so hard is because of them,” he says.

And in case you’re wondering, his 2-year-old son hasn’t yet started demanding exotic cuisine. Dad will be ready when he does.


Visit monarchprimeandbar.com for more information.

This article was printed in the January/February 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Bold and Bonded

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Don’t call them a power couple, but Ethan and Susan Bondelid definitely fit the mold.

Through their development company, Maven Social, the Bondelids have built an impressive brand by starting up some truly creative businesses that run the gamut from hair salons to speak-easies. Their most recent startup is Monarch Prime & Bar, an upscale restaurant located inside
Hotel Deco.

“I’ve been opening businesses as long as I can remember,” Ethan says. “I’ve only been in the bar and restaurant business for seven years now.”

Despite being a newbie, Ethan and company (along with Susan, he’s had several partners) have made a big noise in Omaha’s fast-moving and thriving hospitality industry.

House of Loom was one early success, followed by The Berry & Rye. Maven Social then began the salon Victor Victoria, before opening speak-easy Wicked Rabbit, pizza parlor Via Farina, Laka Lono Rum Club, and now Monarch.

“Ethan has been an entrepreneur since the day I met him when we were only 20 years old,” Susan says. “His ambition and proactive nature have been inspirations for me since day one.”

A fierce attention to detail has been another key to success. Maven properties are uniquely designed and incredibly decorated down to finest minutiae, such as the rabbit coat hooks at Wicked Rabbit.

“We are about creating unique experiences,” Susan says. “Life is hard. We want places for people to go to take a breather and relax, maybe get inspired, and then take on their next day with new energy.”

Vital to creating those experiences is finding the right employees to help pull it off. “I think the No. 1 challenge facing new business today is talent. And taxes,” Susan says.

Why is Omaha such a good investment for new business?

“For us, Omaha has always been incredibly supportive of people trying to do something, both in the arts and in business,” Ethan says. “Omaha also makes it easier to get started. Resources needed can be more accessible, and the level to entry is lower than in some markets.”

It doesn’t hurt, Susan adds, that Omaha’s her hometown. “We love the people and the spirit,” she says. “We’re in the midst of a major growth and it’s super exciting. We’re right at the beginning of our potential, and everyone here has the opportunity to shape the city.”

Operating a thriving business and being a couple does have advantages, but it takes commitment. “You have to know when—and always remind each other—to turn it off and switch gears for family time,” Ethan says. The Bondelids have two children, Cai and Ava. “We need to also be conscious of how it can be difficult for other team members to navigate a husband-and-wife management.”

Susan says it helps that they share a basic foundation of support. “And we have each other’s backs,” she says.

What advice would the Bondelids give to first-time business owners?

“It depends on the business type of course, but ultimately it will always come down to the teams you surround yourself with,” Ethan says.

Susan urges new business owners to seek out other business owners and ask questions. “There’s a great support network in Omaha to utilize, and we’re all hoping for the best for each other,” she says. “The more unique, successful businesses, the more we look attractive to the nation as a whole and the more we’ll grow. Also, get your important people in place, such as lawyers, accountants, insurance agents. They’ll help your business in more ways than one.”

Ethan refuses to pick his favorite startup. “That would be like picking a favorite band,” he says. “They all have their share of victories and heartaches.”

“House of Loom is and will always be my favorite,” Susan says. “It was my first business baby and we all poured our hearts into it, from the Victorian furniture to the menu to the unique music/cultural programming. Ethan and I learned the service industry firsthand from paperwork to barbacking to bartending. We learned the difference of using fresh ingredients in cocktails and really strived to make all peoples heard and known. We had an amazing family there. Also, it was a…ton of fun.”

Visit mavensocialgroup.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Retro Glamour

January 12, 2018 by and

The new Monarch Prime & Bar lends itself to bold and polished looks. Sleek silhouettes, tailored fits, a little bit of romance and everything that sparkles and shines make for a lush escape from the ennui of overly casual day-to-day.

 

Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Location at Monarch Prime & Bar
Modeled by Lynlee B., Brian H., Develop Models
Hair (Lynlee) by MJ Hartig Curb Appeal Salon and Spa Makeup (Lynlee) by Jared Spence
Wardrobe Styling & Creative Direction By Jared Spence Clothing (Lynlee) by Lion’s Mane Vintage, H&M, stylist’s own; Clothing By (Brian) model’s own

 

 

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Encounter.

Monarch Prime & Bar

December 22, 2017 by
Photography by Joshua Foo

Perhaps it’s fitting that downtown’s newest dining establishment, Monarch Prime & Bar, opened on Halloween weekend.

First, there was a trick—flipping the space used by the two previous restaurants with the event space to call Hotel Deco XV home.

Then when the doors opened, there definitely was a treat. Lots of them, in fact. But perhaps none so tantalizing as the 60-day-aged, 45-ounce Wagyu tomahawk chop cut of beef encompassing the ribeye and filet served still on a “flintstone.” It will feed a whole table, and even at $150 its sales are brisk.

“We sell out of them every day,” says Monarch partner Ethan Bondelid. “It’s very popular.”

Just as the steakhouse is becoming in its brief tenure. “The opening has been good,” Bondelid says. “We have been slowly ramping up night by night. The reviews have been positive.”

That hasn’t come easy. Monarch occupies space in Hotel Deco (316 S. 15th St.) once filled by other tenants. Bondelid and his team along with Aparium Hotel Group reimagined the space and “flipped the whole property around.” The kitchen was completed first, earlier in 2017, to serve hotel needs.

When Monarch opened, the kitchen served up Chef Patrick Micheels’ eclectic menu focused on dry-aged “meats from the grasslands” procured through Micheels’ relationships with Midwest farmers. The tomahawk stars, of course. But there’s also a 14-day aged duck breast, a 30-day-aged, 8-ounce bison strip loin, and elk.

“The chef and his team are doing great,” Bondelid says. “Knocking it out of the park.”

From the dining room, customers can see it all aging in the finishing locker. There’s lots more to the menu, which features two pricing tiers (the tomahawk being the top level). Also available is the Monarch Burger topped with lamb bacon, short rib meatloaf, striped bass, pork shoulder, and starters, including chicken pate, potato and trout, seasonal soups, seared maitake mushrooms, and more.

Bondelid—who owns Victor Victoria, Laka Lono Rum Club, and Maven Social—helped create Berry & Rye, Wicked Rabbit, and Via Farina. He says Monarch is his most ambitious project to date.

“We’ve been working on it a long time,” he says. “It’s good to see it come to fruition.”

A real treat, you might say.

monarchprimeandbar.com 

This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Encounter.

 

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