Tag Archives: M’s Pub

Chase Thomsen

February 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A former Dundee-area eyesore is now one of the hottest places in Omaha to scarf down eggs and waffles.

For years, a decaying, vacant service station sat near the roundabout that connects Seward, Happy Hollow, and 50th streets. But this past summer, the building began to undergo a metamorphosis. The exterior got a slick, black lacquer-like paint job. The 5-foot hole inside the building was filled in. And for a final touch, a hot pink neon sign boldly displayed four letters: SCBC.

Today, visitors to the Saddle Creek Breakfast Club can expect at least two things: a sweet or savory breakfast in the $10 range, and about a one-hour wait. The breakfast-themed restaurant is the vision of executive chef Chase Thomsen and his wife, Niki. The restaurant serves up high-end takes on standard greasy spoon fare: biscuits and gravy, chicken-fried pork, as well as sweet offerings such as banana pancakes or a waffle that’s topped with candied macadamia nuts. They also have a vegan menu, which, like their primary menu, is seasonally adjusted.

Chase’s restaurant experience came at an early age. His godfather, Malcolm Thompson, was the former owner of Taxi’s Grille and Bar. Chase took his first job at age 15 at the now-closed Yo Yo Grille, which was located around 120th and Pacific streets. Then he went to the University of Nebraska-Kearney to study graphic design, but dropped out to work full time as a chef.

In 2007, he worked at Taxi’s. In 2009, he was in charge of that restaurant’s back-end kitchen. He later went to work at Plank, then, after returning to Taxi’s for a brief time, he worked at The Market House. While at The Market House, Chase worked with executive chef and fellow Millard North alum Matt Moser, who now co-owns Stirnella.

“Chase is an extremely talented and hard worker,” Moser says. “I can see why he’s getting the press and reviews he is getting.”

Both chefs’ culinary careers took a radical shift on Jan. 9, 2016, when an early afternoon explosion ripped through M’s Pub. Chase had a dinner shift at The Market House, which was adjacent to the beloved Omaha institution. On that frigid afternoon following the fire, he thought they’d be closed for dinner at most.

“We were still thinking that he may have to work the next day,” his wife Niki says. “Obviously, by the next morning, there was another story.”

Sitting at one of the tables at SCBC, Chase ran his fingers down one of the strings in his dark-blue hoodie and recalled the first thing he thought after hearing The Market House was damaged beyond repair. “I have to find a job,” he says with a laugh.

He took a job as a food consultant at a senior living community to pay the bills. During that time, his son, Lennon, was born. Throughout 2016, Chase and Niki began to come up with the concept of a breakfast-themed restaurant. Niki knew contractor Jeff Hubby, who ended up turning the old service station into what is now an eating hot spot on the northeastern edge of Dundee. The entire construction process took less than five months, Chase says.

Niki worked on the interior theme. Some of the inspiration for the design came from stuff she saw on Pinterest. When she heard the tile work for one of the walls would cost more than $20,000, she went to tile stores to get the white, black, and grey diamond-style design she wanted.

“Every decision we made was honestly dictated by budget,” Niki says.

Doing a breakfast-themed restaurant serves two needs for Chase. First, it gives him the opportunity to focus on his favorite meal. Second, it provides the opportunity to be at home in the evening for his family. With half a year into operation, he’s still trying to fulfill that second need. For the first few months after its October opening, he found himself getting home after midnight, even though service stops at 2 p.m.

“Our son is 1 now. I’m thinking, ‘Get this place open, become a morning person, and be able to have evenings at home,’” Chase says. “We’re not quite there yet.”

Saddle Creek Breakfast Club is located at 1540 N. Saddle Creek. Visit @scbcomaha on Facebook for more information.


This article was printed in the March/April 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Big Easy in the Big O

March 17, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

One of America’s great food cities, New Orleans, is steeped in history, culture, and fantastic flavors. From beignets to étouffée, the Southern city’s distinctive cuisine attracts food lovers worldwide. Perhaps the best way to satisfy one’s Cajun and Creole cravings is with a trip to N’awlins. But if that isn’t in your plans, a visit to Herbe Sainte offers a taste of the Big Easy without leaving the Big O.

The Aksarben Village cocktail bar and restaurant, which opened in late October 2016, is the creation of longtime restaurateur Ron Samuelson and his nephews, Aaron and Justin Halbert. For decades, Samuelson co-owned M’s Pub, the iconic Old Market restaurant that was destroyed in a January 2016 fire. His focus is now on Herbe Sainte and other new projects, including a French-focused eatery that he and the Halberts are working on.


For Herbe Sainte, the trio took inspiration from the food and drink of the Crescent City. “New Orleans has a great cocktail culture,” Justin Halbert says. Seafood purveyors from several Gulf Coast states supply the restaurant with fresh shrimp, crawfish, and oysters. Halbert, who used to live in Florida, says seafood from the region, particularly Gulf shrimp, boasts exceptional flavor and texture.

Shrimp is the star of one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes, NOLA shrimp. One of a dozen items on the small menu, it features plump, succulent shrimp smothered in a rich, luscious sauce made decadent with cream, butter, and wine. It’s served with crusty French bread to sop up the sauce, which is sparked with a Creole seasoning blend for a palate-tingling heat. I would have liked a bit more spice, but I thoroughly savored each bite.

raw oysters

Executive chef Jeff Owen leads the kitchen, showcasing an appreciation for the nuances of New Orleans cuisine while putting his own twists on the classics. The shrimp roll features boiled shrimp lightly dressed with Cajun remoulade, lettuce, onion marmalade, and cornichon. Lack of breading and frying allows the shrimp’s firm, meaty texture and sweet, clean flavor to shine. We liked the filling but thought the bun needed to be warmed or toasted a bit.

Oysters are abundant in New Orleans and on Herbe Sainte’s menu. They’re available shucked and served on the half shell, as well as broiled. For non-seafood lovers, there’s muffuletta (a signature New Orleans sandwich stuffed with cold cuts, cheese, and olives) and a cornbread and sausage plate. It features sliced boudin (pork-and-rice sausage), mustard, pickles, slaw, two types of cornbread, and honey butter. The restaurant’s boudin has a soft, crumbly texture and was milder than I expected.

Enhancing the dining experience is a stylish interior with local artwork, modern-meets-rustic décor, and an eye-catching bar with custom wood shelving. Several couches, coffee tables, and armchairs invite guests to linger. The high-ceilinged space is intimate enough for date night yet lively enough for after-work cocktails. “We wanted it to be really eclectic,” Halbert says.

The establishment’s name comes from Herbsaint, an ingredient Sazerac cocktails.

The drink menu offers classic New Orleans cocktails, such as the Sazerac. Bold yet balanced, it includes brandy, Peychaud’s bitters, simple syrup, and the restaurant’s namesake, Herbsaint, an anise-flavored liqueur used as an absinthe alternative. The long, spacious bar provides plenty of room to whip up craft cocktails and develop house-made ingredients.

Together with their design team and bar and kitchen staff, Herbe Sainte’s owners have created a delicious, inviting spot to savor a taste of New Orleans and let the “bon temps” roll year-round.







Visit herbesainteomaha.com for more information.

NOLA shrimp

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

Food for Thought…

April 25, 2016 by

Omaha is a foodie town. Sure, we love our steaks, but we also love sushi, ramen, farm-to-table fare…you name it. Omahans always knew this, but what about people outside the city? Liz Claman, FOX Business Network anchor for “Countdown to the Closing Bell,” also loves eating in Omaha.

“Honestly what’s so interesting everywhere I’ve eaten has been so amazing,” says Claman.

She says her crew is just as particular, and they have had a similar reaction. Claman, among tens-of-thousand others, is coming to town this week and will interview Warren Buffet on May 2 following the Berkshire Hathaway weekend. She eats at her favorite restaurants, which often align with local favorites.


“We have to stop at the Twisted Fork on our first day,” she says. “There and Stokes. We love it (Twisted Fork). We call it The Fork.”

Like many locals, one Old Market spot, and its signature appetizer, tickled her tastebuds. 

“The crew will be so disappointed to hear about Ms because we loved the lavash,” says Claman upon hearing it burned down in February. She also noted she liked to purchase her “annual pair of jeans” at Nouvelle Eve.

Claman claims one reason she loves the food scene in Omaha is because it can accommodate her diet through the entire trip.

“I am a Californian so we try to eat as healthy as possible,” Claman says. “I always get the Good for You salad at Stokes. How easy is that? I make sure I do lots of veggies and lots of protein.”

Her schedule involves working 20 hour days during the annual shareholder’s weekend. If she eats unhealthy foods, particularly sugar and starch, she crashes. She admitted, however, to treating herself each Sunday night with the meatloaf and mashed potatoes she orders from the Hilton’s room service.

Claman also listed Crescent Moon as a favorite for their service.

“We’re treated so nicely. We feel so welcome, and it just puts the cherry on top of everything every time we come to Omaha.”

As for steak?

“We have about seven places we like,” Claman says. “801, Passport, Omaha Prime, Happy Hollow when I can with Warren. V. Mertz is incredible. There’s a little Omaha Steaks store at the airport, so on my way home I always order about 15 filet mignon for home. I have a contrail of great steaks that follow me.”

So how are local favorites also favorites of a New Yorker-via-California?  She bypasses Yelp and the hotel concierge and asks locals where they like to eat.

“That’s how we found The Fork,” Claman says. “We were in Nouvelle Eve and asked where to eat. And we love it.”

Claman and her crew think that Omaha is one of their favorite places to visit, and the food scene is a big part of that.

“We sink our teeth into Omaha both figuratively and literally.  The people and the atmosphere make it just as wonderful of an experience for us.”

Like this story? Join us tonight at Salt 88 as we launch The Food Issue.

Launch Party Invitation

Ode to M’s Pub

March 25, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann


Covered in lives

And streaked with assignations and carrots on buns and snails and fine wine and fruit in vodka jars as large as your darling’s eyes spying on you from that perfect angle across the room

(M. baked a cake once an amaretto cake a cake so soaked I was drunk in a bite and happy and amazed by the flavors of her life)

Back steps down to more


Ruts tread into the wood as deep as the Oregon trail down into an underworld worthy of Orpheus and furtive sounds and hidden rooms and back up again into the urgent fragrances of conversations just beyond understanding and


Reflecting you back to you

And then, yes, we know, fire and smoke and shouts and hoses and nothing nothing that could stop the offering to the January sky and the cathedral of memory takes flight and lands here and there as cinders locking away tiny atoms of the secrets and


Like all the mirrors melted and gathered on the stone

A new mirror

I still see myself there once and once again

All my old friends and my M.


The Old Market Business Association

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Potential business owners often dream of being independent and making their own decisions. Businesses in Omaha’s Old Market district have that freedom.

“We’re not in a mall where one management company organizes us,” says Troy Davis, the group’s president. Davis has owned Curb Appeal Salon & Spa at 10th and Jackson streets for 17 years.

At the same time, the business owners are not isolated. The common thread between these independent companies is the Old Market Business Association (OMBA).

The OMBA has neither office nor staff. But the nonprofit does have 50 members who meet monthly and share information about what’s going on in the historical business district. There are two member categories. An active member must have a business located at either side of 10th to 14th streets and Leavenworth to Farnam streets. Businesses outside the area can join as associate members.

Troy Davis

Troy Davis

They’ve got each other’s backs. In January, when a fire destroyed M’s Pub and devastated nearby businesses, the OMBA immediately jumped into action. Member David Kerr of The Tavern started a crowd funding page for the displaced employees within 12 hours of the disaster. Members called an emergency meeting and discussed how they would help.

“We’ve always been a tight-knit group, but it really shows in times of tragedy,” says Davis. “The whole Old Market community came together for the businesses, their employees, residents, and everybody who was touched by the tragedy.”

Shoplifters in the Old Market also face a band of brothers and sisters. “Within minutes, the police department notifies the Old Market Business Association, and we immediately notify members,” says Davis.

Sharing information at the group’s monthly meetings are representatives from the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau, MECA, the Downtown Improvement District, and the City of Omaha. Representatives from major events, such as concerts or conferences, also attend.

“We learn what groups are coming to Omaha, where they are staying, the demographics and how many [people], so we can be better equipped to take care of those people,” says Davis.

Another major member benefit is the website—oldmarket.com—which collected more than 170,000 visits last year. The website is a perk for members who can advertise their business and promote specials.

The group’s largest and best-known event is the annual “Old Market Trick or Treat.” Held the Sunday before Halloween, the event is a partnership with Metro Area Transit, Metro Community College, the Literacy Council, and a private donor. It provides children a safe place to trick or treat.  A unique event-within-the-event is “Books Are A Treat.” In October 2015, 12,000 new books—all from a private donor—were handed out to families.

Independent but united through the Old Market Business Association, the active businesses are an eclectic group ranging from galleries to restaurants. Contributing to this independence is the decision by property owners not to rent to franchises in the Old Market district, except those that are locally owned or businesses that started in Omaha.

“Unique, small, independently owned businesses are what makes the Old Market have the charm it has,” says Davis.

“That’s why the Old Market is cool. And the place to be.”

Visit oldmarket.com for more information.

M’s Pub

March 8, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Boasting some of Omaha’s oldest and most popular restaurants, the Old Market has been a popular dining destination for decades. With 40 years under its belt, M’s Pub is definitely on the list for casual diners seeking a night out on the town.

Co-owner Ron Samuelson has operated M’s Pub with business partner Ann Mellen for 27 years. After so much time, it could be easy to take success for granted, but Samuelson continues to try to appeal to his customers by offering quality food at an affordable price.

“The main thing that I hope anybody gets out of a visit here is that they’ve been served something that has been prepared lovingly,” Samuelson says. “We take a lot of care in making sure every dish that goes out of the kitchen has been prepared properly and is a good value.”


On a recent visit, M’s was in full swing serving casual families, couples on anniversary dinners, and business associates. I ended up sitting at the bar with my dining partner and having a pleasant conversation with a few businessmen about the specials menu. I love sitting at the bar at M’s—it’s usually a more inclusive dining experience.

I started off my meal with the charcuterie special: hand-cured duck and soppressata with warm, fresh bread, red onions, caper berries, and a spicy mustard that really pulled the ingredients together. Samuelson says that M’s is working toward offering hand-cured charcuterie specials on a more regular basis. This special definitely indicates a positive future for the new menu item.

We ordered the fresh whole artichoke appetizer to share. For entrees, my dining partner ordered the gluten-free chicken pesto pasta, and I ordered the lamb burger from the mainstay menu. Although the artichoke was a bit challenging to eat at first, it turned out to be an interesting addition to the evening’s meal—the accompanying lemon aioli and curried mayonnaise were exceptional.

The chicken pesto pasta received a thumbs-up from my dining partner, and the lamb burger was delicious, topped with fresh tomato and lettuce that seemed too good to be true for the winter months.

For dessert, I ordered one of the brand new mini-dessert specials: a salted caramel pudding minus the accompanying toffee bits due to my tree-nut allergy. Although I felt like I was cheating on my favorite sour cream pound cake, this mini dessert was a flawless execution of sweet and salty flavors.

Throughout our meal, the waitress was incredibly accommodating to my dining partner’s gluten intolerance and my allergy. She went the extra mile to help guide us through the extensive menu to create a cohesive dining experience.

Consistency with service is something that has been integral to M’s success in the Old Market and has ensured a full house, even on a cold weeknight. At M’s, no one is shoving you out the door if you just want to stop in for a glass of wine and dessert. When you ask for a suggestion or an honest opinion, you’ll get one without an uncomfortable up-sale.

As a long-time fan of M’s, I was pleased to experience the same sense of consistency and familiarity I was used to, along with a few nice surprises.