Tag Archives: NoDo

Destinations

August 31, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Everyone knows drinking beer is good for you, right? Turns out when you have a cold one, it’s good for others, too. You can prove that Sept. 7 at the 11th annual Brew Haha, supporting Habitat for Humanity of Omaha. Some of the Big O’s best breweries and restaurants will distribute samples from 5-9 p.m. in Aksarben’s Stinson Park. Tickets are $50 in advance, $60 day of event.
aksarbenvillage.com

BENSON

The pizza gods taketh and the pizza gods giveth. It didn’t take long for Benson pizza partisans to have that giant hole in their pizza-loving hearts filled after the March closing of longtime favorite Pizza Shoppe. Satisfying the void at 6056 Maple St. is Virtuoso, operated by David and Brenda Losole. If the surname founds familiar, it should—David is a member of the family that runs South O’s Lo Sole Mio restaurant. He knows Italian fare, but he really knows pizza as the only certified pizzaioli—pizza maker—in Nebraska to graduate from Tony Gemignani’s International School of Pizza. Virtuoso is promoted as Omaha’s sole artisan slice house—you can only get the stone-baked pizza by the slice.
facebook.com/virtuosopizza23

BLACKSTONE DISTRICT

Emerging as one of Omaha’s most popular street festivals, the Blackstone District’s Farnam Fest blows up the neighborhood Saturday, Sept. 16. The annual event celebrates the district, its patrons, and all the businesses that call it home. The fun starts at 11 a.m.—music at 4 p.m.—in the parking lot behind Mula at 3932 Farnam St. The 2017 slate features local and national acts, including Timmy Williams of the Whitest Kids U’ Know, Shannon and the Clams, White Mystery, Miwi La Lupa, and BOTH. Craft beers, food, and fun also on tap.
blackstonedistrict.com

CAPITOL DISTRICT

A place to park. A place to visit. A place to live. What a difference the change from spring to summer made in the Capitol District, which opened three facilities in June. First came the 500-stall parking garage along Capitol Street between 10th and 12th streets. Then the Capitol District Apartment models opened and pre-leasing began. The 218-unit structure offers tons of first-class amenities, including wicked views of Omaha. Finally, in July, the district’s anchor feature opened its doors—the 12-story, 333-room Omaha Marriott Downtown at the Capitol District.
capitoldistrictomaha.com

DUNDEE

Kevin Alexander knows burgers. That’s why thrillist.com sent the food and travel site’s “national burger critic” on a year-long odyssey to find the best beef between buns. He hit 30 cities and downed 330 burgers. Alexander’s stops included Omaha, where he crowned the cheeseburger at Dario’s Brasserie in Dundee as No. 1 in O-town. No wonder given the creation’s “salty-and-peppery outer crust,” Gruyère cheese, caramelized onions, and toasted bun. Don’t buy it? Go try it: Dario’s is at 4920 Underwood Ave.
dariosbrasserie.com

MIDTOWN CROSSING

“Night, the beloved. Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again.” Okay, chances are French novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wasn’t talking about the Turner Park Night Market when he wrote that. But Turner Park will come alive Sept. 22 when it hosts a mash-up of live music, games, a mini food festival, and arts, crafts, and produce vendors.
midtowncrossing.com

NODO

UPDATE: After the September/October issue went to press, the Stoned Meadow of Doom Fest moved to Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

It will be a couple of really loud nights Sept. 29-30 at Slowdown for the second annual Stoned Meadow of Doom Fest. The name originated with a YouTube channel that features the world’s largest subscriber base for underground rock artists. But why stream when you can get it live? Stoned Meadow of Doom Fest will feature 26 independent, underground, and metal bands from across the United States. The lineup includes Bongripper, Cambrian Explosion, Telekinetic Yeti, Year of the Cobra, and others blasting away at Omaha’s premier music venue.
theslowdown.com

OLD MARKET

Nothing on the calendar for Sept. 1 or Oct. 6? Then book the Old Market’s First Friday art crawl right now. The free event is held 6-9 p.m. on the first Friday of each month and celebrates creativity with a visit to galleries and with artists. Get creative while exercising.
facebook.com/OmahaOldMarket

SOUTH OMAHA/VINTON STREET

The oracle has moved to Vinton Street. No, not that oracle (the one with billions). Rather, Oracle Art Supply, which opened shop at 1808 Vinton to provide artists of all levels and abilities everything they need to get their Bob Ross on. They also offer a book-lending library—with free checkout—and one-on-one customer service.
oracleartsupply.com

NORTH OMAHA/24TH & LAKE DISTRICT

Put on your walking shoes and take a trip down the historic “Street of Dreams” in the 24th and Lake District. The North 24th Street Walking Tours begin at 11 a.m. at Dreamland Park at 24th and Lizzie Robinson Drive. Hosted by Restoration Exchange Omaha, the tour features more than two dozen points of interest, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cornerstone Memorial, Love’s Jazz and Arts Center, the Carnation Ballroom, the Omaha Star, and plenty of other stops where history was made—and still is. Tour cost is $10 per person or $15 per couple.
restorationexchange.org

Destinations

July 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Like music? Of course you do—you’re cool. That’s why you’ll want to boogie woogie to Aksarben Village (67th and Center streets) for the Saturdays @ Stinson Concert Series that began in May and runs on most Saturdays into August. The lineup includes the Confidentials (July 8), Hi-Fi Hangover (July 22), The ’70s Band (July 29), Jimmy Buffett Tribute (Aug. 5), and the Personics (Aug. 12).

aksarbenvillage.com/event

BENSON

The Waiting Room Lounge is takin’ it to the streets—and hometown favorite Conor Oberst will be among those helping the Benson rock club hit the pavement as it marks 10 years offering all sorts of jammage. The Waiting Room (6212 Maple St.) earlier this spring announced the launch of a new outdoor concert series on nearly an entire city block that can host up to 3K music lovers. Oberst takes the stage July 13 with Big Thief (just four days after another native son, Matthew Sweet, hosts the second of two shows inside the Waiting Room). Also playing street music are Blue October (June 24) and Fleet Foxes (Sept. 29).

waitingroomlounge.com

BLACKSTONE DISTRICT

Finally, something for those of us who love running—and beer. Scriptown Brewing Company (3922 Farnam St.) hosts the Scriptown Running Club every Thursday. Runners meet in the tasting room at 6 p.m. then toodle their way to the nearby Field Club Trail for a stretch of the legs. Then it’s back to Scriptown for a discounted pint. Oh, and those who get hungry can run down the street to Noli’s Pizzeria (4001 Farnam St.)—it has moved into new digs (with a new oven) at the corner of 40th and Farnam streets.

scriptownbrewing.com

nolispizzeria.com

CAPITOL DISTRICT

Imagine that you and a special someone meet at DJ’s Dugout (1003 Capitol Ave.). Imagine you hit it off and book a second date at Local Beer, Patio and Kitchen (902 Dodge St.). Now imagine things get serious, and the two of you start having a regular date night at Nosh Restaurant and Wine Lounge (1006 Dodge St.) where, one day, the two of you get engaged. Imagine you host your wedding at One Thousand Dodge (1002 Dodge St.). No imagination is needed, though, to know all this can happen right in the ever-emerging Capitol District.

capitoldistrictomaha.com

DUNDEE

Dundee denizens have something to get giddy about with a new project from the Giddings Group of Augusta, Georgia. A real estate development firm, Giddings has started construction on a 283-multi-family-unit apartment building rising along 46th Street between Dodge and California streets. The project is named “The Duke” similar to other apartment complexes Giddings has built in Nashville, Tennessee, and Victoria, Texas. The Dundee Duke is expected to open in 2018.

MIDTOWN CROSSING

There’s proof that Midtown Crossing is better than ever. Namely, Proof, a new upscale lounge specializing in a generous whiskey selection and craft cocktails. Proof opened in May in the former Grane space (120 S. 31st Ave., Suite 5105) They weren’t the new kids on the block very long, though. In June, Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings also opened in the Grane space (Suite 5103). In addition to their signature fare, the family owned business offers a specialty sandwich popular in Western New York—“Beef on Weck” sandwiches—thinly sliced roast beef steeped in au jus and served on a kummelweck roll.

midtowncrossing.com

NODO

Omaha Fashion Week celebrates 10 years Aug. 21-26 at the Omaha Design Center (1502 Cuming St.). Thirty-three designers will showcase their work on the runways. SAC Federal Credit Union will award nightly prizes of $500 to the designer with top scores for the evening. As part of the anniversary celebration Friday, Aug. 25, previous designers have been invited back for a special show that features curated collections representing each year of Omaha Fashion Week’s history highlighting the most iconic looks to hit the catwalk as well as some fan favorites.

omahafashionweek.com

Yes, there are good things in Lincoln, Nebraska. But one of those—Zipline Brewing—is now in Omaha, too, with a newly opened taproom (721 N. 14th St.).

ziplinebrewing.com

OLD MARKET

Finally, delivery is in sight for a new venture in the former postal building at 10th and Pierce streets. Work is slated to begin this summer on Tenth Street Market, positioning itself as a year-round indoor market offering fresh food and goods from all-local vendors, plus places to shop, eat, drink, learn, and meet. The market is expected to open by fall 2018.

tenthstreetmarket.org

SOUTH OMAHA/
VINTON STREET

How did they roll back when the Vinton Street Historic District was becoming—historic?  With bowling balls, of course. And they still do at Chop’s Bowling (13th and Vinton streets) and ICC Bowlatorium (24th and Bancroft streets). The former starts a 26-week Thursday night league Sept. 21. But if you want a spot, get signed up now. The latter is enjoying a retro renovation that gives the Catholic church-owned alley a look much like it had in the 1950s—when things really were rolling.

chopsbowl.com
bowlatorium.com

NORTH OMAHA/
24TH & LAKE DISTRICT

Just as there was no better place to catch early jazz than in Omaha’s 24th and Lake District, there’s no better place to catch the evolution of jazz—with hip-hop and soul—than at Love’s Jazz and Art Center (2510 N. 24th St.). The center offers live music July 15 with Sidewalk Chalk, a Chicago group offering “powerful vocals over dope electric horns and beats.” Time to jump in the Lake.

ljac.org

Destinations

May 5, 2017 by

AKSARBEN VILLAGE

Every spring, everyone in Aksarben Village gets a spring in their step. No wonder, given all the walks and runs that take place there in spring and summer. Beginning in May that includes the Aim for the Cure Melanoma Walk (May 6), Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Walk (May 20), Glow ‘N Go 5K (June 2) and Relay for Life (July 15). Walk—or run—to aksarbenvillage.com for details. Oh, and get ready for lots of fresh veggies. Aksarben hosts its first every-Saturday Omaha Farmers Market of the season May 7.

BENSON

The second annual all-ages Memorial Day Massive music festival will be held May 27 outside The Waiting Room (6212 Maple St.) MDM showcases national acts specializing in danceable, electronic music, ranging from hip-hop to trap to “vomitstep,” an EDM subgenre created by Snails, the headliner of the event, which also features performances by Boombox Cartel, ARMNHMR, and PRXZM. The outdoor show will be followed by after-parties at The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge (6121 Military Ave.). Space Jesus, a psychedelic hip-hop producer/performer out of Brooklyn, will be at The Waiting Room’s all-ages show. Reverb is 21 and over only. The outdoor show is all-ages, unless you want to be a VIP, then you must be 21 to play. But no matter your age, you’d better bring your dancing shoes, because there’s no messing around here. These acts are here to make you move.

BLACKSTONE DISTRICT

What’s new in Blackstone? What isn’t. There are new hours at the Nite Owl, 3902 Farnam St. (5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday-Thursday; 3 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday-Sunday ), a new tenant at 3906 Farnam St. (TSP Architects) and a new website for the district (blackstonedistrict.com).

CAPITOL DISTRICT

Shamrock Development is closer to making a reality of the Capitol District, an expanse stretching from the Riverfront west and north-south from NoDo to Leavenworth. The space, anchored by the Omaha Marriott Downtown, will feature mixed-use buildings and lots of open space. It’s a concept similar to Lincoln’s Railyard—including, Shamrock hopes, open-carry alcohol wherever visitors go.

DUNDEE

The future still looks bright for a public-private partnership that will bring the past back to Dundee—a $1.6 million project to restore the historic Sunken Gardens along Happy Hollow Boulevard. What is known to locals as “The Sunks” is envisioned to be a safe community green space with a formal garden in the center, a sledding zone, open sports field, and more. Organizers say they’ve met all their quarterly fundraising goals. See drawings and more at omahasunkengardens.org.

MIDTOWN CROSSING

Nature hates a void—and it didn’t go over so well in Midtown Crossing, either. Fortunately for Midtowners, the void left by the sudden closing of Brix didn’t take long to get filled. Longtime Omaha restaurateur Ron Samuelson indicated the spot will be filled by Della Costa, a seafood-inspired Mediterranean concept featuring dishes from the coasts of Italy, France, Spain, Morocco, and Greece. “It opens up a whole new range of opportunity for oysters, clams, and whole-grilled fish,” Samuelson
told midtowncrossing.com.

NODO

This is Omaha, right? Yup. But soon, a taste of Lincoln is coming NoDo’s way. Lincoln-based Zipline Brewing Co. is expected to open a tap room where the Saddle Creek Shop once was, between Film Streams and Slowdown. And it will be bigger than either of the places they have down in Huskerville. Boo-yah.

OLD MARKET

You know those little baby carrots don’t grow that way, right? Get the good stuff— and gobs of other fresh, locally grown produce — when the 23rd annual Omaha Farmers Market kicks off May 6. Hosted 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. every Saturday through Oct. 14, OFM includes baked goods, flowers, and more as nearly 100 vendors fill 11th Street from Jackson to Howard streets. See the lineup at omahafarmersmarket.com/old-market.

SOUTH OMAHA/
VINTON STREET

Project Project might be a nonprofit, but in February it was all about the green stuff for the independent, DIY contemporary arts space in the historic Vinton Street Business District. Green slime, that is. Project Project was host to Omaha Slime Fest, a fundraiser for Omaha Zine Fest. The former featured several unique competitions, the winners of which were dumped with buckets of slime a la Nickelodeon. Find out more about Project Project on Facebook or at projectprojectomaha.com.

NORTH OMAHA/
24TH & LAKE DISTRICT

Many of Nebraska’s best athletes began their dreams in and around “The Street of Dreams,” Omaha’s 24th and Lake Street area. Now, many of those famous athletes can be seen at the Omaha Rockets Kanteen Restaurant, named after a one-time Omaha baseball squad. The eatery (2401 Lizzie Robinson Ave.) pays homage to the Negro Leagues and is home to the Nebraska Black Sports Hall of Fame. Owner Donald Curry partnered with Black Hall co-founders Robert Faulkner and Ernest Britt so that the Kanteen now showcases memorabilia of Omaha greats like Bob Gibson and Marlin Briscoe alongside Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson.

This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

Immature Art for Mature Audiences

December 30, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Since time immemorial, bored teen boys have been drawing a certain part of the male anatomy on anything they can set pen to. Identification of such “artists” usually leads to their detention. However, for Mike Bauer and Dustin Bythrow, doodling juvenile outlines of phalluses was the stepping-stone to their artistic careers.

bzy-lps2

Together known as Bzzy Lps, the two have spent the past eight years bringing an artistic touch to subject matter that most consider crass. From turning a childhood image of Lindsay Lohan into a Juggalo to splicing together bizarre online conspiracy videos, their work is always fresh, unique, and never without controversy. The group’s name is a term borrowed from a hip-hop jargon dictionary that refers to a woman who enjoys fellatio. 

 “We became friends after discovering we have a mutual enjoyment of drawing stupid pictures,” Bythrow says.

When the two first met, Bauer was attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha for a degree in art, and Bythrow was working at a gas station. Mutual friends introduced them knowing Bauer would enjoy Bythrow’s side art project—a hand-drawn book of convenience store items: i.e., big gulps, churros, and overdone hot dogs talking back to customers.

 Following their instant connection, the two would regularly get together to draw and drink (and yes, sometimes this included illustrating parts of the male reproductive system). During each boozy hangout, they’d collaborate on images to see where their creative and liquored-up minds would take them. Soon these quasi-creative brainstorm meetings became a regular thing, and they decided to start illustrating content others could enjoy in zine form.

 “Zines were an easy way to get all our drawings into one place at one time,” Bauer says.

 At last year’s Omaha Zine Fest, Bzzy Lps hosted a table of their independently published content, with their Juggaluminati Hachetmanifesto zine quickly selling out. Inside the illustrated book are popular pop culture icons—Judge Judy, Yogi Bear, and Rob Lowe to name a few—painted to look like fans of the Insane Clown Posse. For next year’s Zine Fest, Bythrow is working to develop character concepts of his Mouse Boy, a Mickey Mouse-esque superhero with a really rotten attitude, into a comic.

bzy-lps

While these inventive cartoons and illustrations are Bzzy Lps’ specialty, they also have created T-shirts, stickers, and dabbled in video art. For the independent art venue Project Project, under Bythrow’s lead, the two made a three-hour-long video installation that stitched together nonsensical content found on YouTube.

 “I didn’t sleep for weeks and just went down the rabbit hole of the internet,” Bythow says. “But we got asked back again, which was a first for Project Project.”

 During an unseasonably warm October day on a NoDo patio, in between drags of cigarettes and a rather heated discussion on the underrated roles of Nicholas Cage, the two weigh where they’d like to see their careers develop. Visions of drawing professional comics and developing content for Adult Swim dance in their heads.

 “All that stuff on Cartoon Network, it’s nice to see other people who draw dumb cartoons and care about it,” Bauer says. “We just don’t want to go back to drawing dicks again.”

Visit bzzylps.storenvy.com for more information.

The Emburys

August 26, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Drew and Mandy Embury had already fully experienced the advantages of traditional homeownership as well as its not-so-good points—like the four-season property upkeep and the inconvenience of two major remodels—so when it came time to find a new residence a few years ago, they were ready to go in a different direction, both literally (as in east) and figuratively (as in new lifestyle).

“We were kind of unique where we were empty nesters at 38-years-old when our daughter graduated high school and went off to college,” Drew explains. “We wanted to live that downtown lifestyle, to get rid of snow removal and taking care of a lawn, and everything that comes with owning a home.”

Emburys1

“We were done with that,” Mandy agrees.

The couple found a move-in ready, two-bedroom condo in the 1000 Dodge Building located at 10th and Dodge streets in the emerging Capitol District. The $6 million Shamrock Development project renovated a circa 1928 food warehouse into 12 residences and several commercial spaces in 2004. The basement level provided space for conversion into underground parking, and a third floor was added to the two-story building . Most of the exterior features were preserved, and the structure is instantly recognizable in historic photos.

“Although we’re in an old building, we’re on a new floor, which has some advantages,” Drew says of the couple’s third-floor unit. “And one of the things we liked about the unit was that we didn’t have to remodel.”

Emburys4The couple were not the original tenants, but they embraced the condo’s open, 2,000-square-foot floor plan that features wood floors, 11-foot wooden plank ceilings, a walkout balcony, and a gourmet kitchen. They have enjoyed using building amenities, such as an exercise room and rooftop deck. What really sold the Emburys, they say, was the location.

“We’re kind of equidistant between the CenturyLink Center and the NoDo area,” Drew says. The Slowdown—a favorite music venue for the couple—is just blocks away. TD Ameritrade Park, the Old Market, and an array of other attractions are within reasonable walking distance year-round, he adds.

“It’s all right there…you don’t have to even plan your day, there’s always something going on,” Drew says.

The Emburys also enjoy the fact that the Capitol District is not right in the thick of some activities. Drew says, “It has proved to be a very good location; it’s probably a little quieter at night, especially on the weekends. We don’t get the exuberant bar crowds that get out at 2 a.m.”

Now that they have a few years of downtown living behind them, the Emburys say the low-maintenance lifestyle they envisioned has lived up well to their expectations.

“I just enjoy that I’m not living to care for my home. I was at the point, when we were still in our house, that taking care of the yard took so much out of the week. I love that I don’t have to think about it,” Mandy says. “And now we just watch the city plows drive by and clear the snow. I don’t have to do it.”

“Now we just sit there and smile,” Drew adds.

The Emburys also have another front-row perspective: they are literally witnessing the district develop from a view that overlooks Dodge Street.

Emburys3

“I’d like to see a few more restaurants in the area, in the Capitol District,” Drew says. Mandy, who likes to cook, is admittedly impatient for a major grocery store. Drew still commutes west during the work week (he’s a founding partner of P&L Technology Inc., a technology services company recently acquired by Harland Technology Services), but he says he looks forward to a future where he and his neighbors—as well as downtown visitors—have even more employment, entertainment, residential, and transportation options.

“Having a vibrant cosmopolitan city center is important, even for people who don’t want to live that lifestyle,” he says. “They can come down and enjoy those things that it has to offer.”

Drew, a member of the board of directors for the Omaha Downtown Improvement District Association, also sees the ongoing development of his and surrounding neighborhoods as an important part of a bigger picture.

“That type of development is critical to connecting NoDo to the Old Market—NoDo, Capitol, Old Market—then the Riverfront will be the next area that they’ll really try to redevelop and get connected. The development in the Capitol District, specifically, will play a big part in connecting those areas of the city…The more that happens, I’m hoping the more interesting the neighborhood will be. It’s cool to be down here and be a tiny part of that big project.”

Visit capitoldistrictomaha.com for more information. Encounter

Emburys2

Being True Blue to Friends Old and New

August 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

True Blue Goods and Gifts looks a bit like the popular web-based store Etsy set up a storefront in NoDo. True Blue is a retail store stocked with handcrafted goods from local and regional makers, as well as national vendors creating products not found elsewhere in Omaha. Jewelry, quirky handmade cards, vases, and baby onesies promoting “The Good Life” line shelves.

TrueBlue3It is beyond Etsy, though. Not even a year old, the store one-ups the online site with a gallery of rotating shows and regular classes offered for adults and children. Owned by Omahans Melissa Williams, Jessica Mogis, and Jodie McGill, the store is set up to showcase local artisans, providing them with a brick and mortar outlet in which to sell their wares that eliminated shipping costs.

A stack of soy candles by The Wild Woodsmen are made by a 12-year-old boy named Nic. Nearby lays jewelry by Heather Kita. Kita’s jewelry is one of the most popular items in the store. “She’s become a good friend,” says Williams.

Friendship’s a theme that carries throughout the store. “We had a lot of help from people—friends and family,” says Mogis. They sell bags made by Cody Medina, a friend who also built their display tables. The hanging pots in the front window are by their pal Andrew Bauer. The owners convinced Bauer to sell his goods at their store after seeing one of his handmade gifts.

The three women are first time entrepreneurs—Mogis was a teacher and Williams worked in hospice. McGill continues her law practice. “We wanted a change,” says Mogis.

TrueBlue2

The setting, located in the Saddlecreek Records complex, fits their needs and personalities. The shop’s loft doubles as inventory storage and a holding corral to entertain the owners’ children while their moms manage the shop downstairs.

The storeowners started out selling goods from their friends—who happened to be talented artists—and creatives they encountered at different markets. Artists now approach True Blue with their wares.

TrueBlue4Williams, Mogis, and McGill curate their store with the eyes and minds of art gallery owners, intentionally maintaining the vibe of a boutique from the coasts. A rotating gallery of fine art fills one wall of the store. Each showing is kicked off with an opening night event.

Like artwork, many items sold at the store have “Meet Your Maker” signage explaining the artists’ backgrounds. The ladies behind the counter will fill in the missing details as you shop, explaining how the collage-maker from Ashland used pages from an old dictionary found at Bud Olson’s Bar, or how the store’s popular Brucie Bags are handmade by Williams’ dad.

The jovial relationships the storeowners have forged with their vendors also extends to customers. On a recent afternoon, a woman walked into the store and Williams cheerfully greeted her like an old friend. There’s no long history between the two—she’s a regular customer who’s been folded into the family that is True Blue.

Visit truebluegoodsandgifts.com for more information.

l-r, Jodie McGill, Melissa Williams, Jessica Mogis

l-r, Jodie McGill, Melissa Williams, Jessica Mogis

Weekends are for Waffles

May 29, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article was originally published in May/June 2015 edition of The Encounter.

In a society were the graphic tee is king, it’s only natural to spot one reading Weekends are for Waffles. Even with the growing population of millennials living downtown in the Old Market, NoDo, Little Italy, and surrounding areas, it’s proving to be a lot more than just designer-tee-wearing hipsters and your typical waffles and syrup. If you’re looking for a way to spend your weekend morning, it’s clear downtown boasts some great mid-morning eateries that will excite even the crankiest morning person.

Waffles, yes. Bloody Marys and Mimosas, yes. Poached eggs on a bed of homemade corn beef hash, yes. And of course, a group of your closest friends for a good gossip session called ‘brunchin.’

This easy-to-follow route for your downtown brunchin’ crawl is not your typical Easter or Mother’s Day brunch, which the urban dictionary defines as a breakfast and lunch usually occurring around 11 a.m. for snobs who like tea and jam. Brunchin’ is just an excuse for anyone who wants a cocktail before noon when it’s not football season in Huskerland.

The queen of the world of brunchin’ is the Bloody Mary. Whether you are working through a hangover or just like to drink you vegetables, this cocktail is a sure-fire thirst quencher and hangover mitigation device. Almost any restaurant hosts their own version of this popular drink, but Stokes Grill & Bar at 11th and Howard allows you to build your own. The buffet line features a do-it-yourself Bloody Mary bar with different tomato juices, spices, vegetables, pickles, shrimp, and even bacon. Yes, we said bacon. Squeeze in a lime, head out to their patio and lounge in the sunshine on comfy couches, and wait for your order of the chocolatiest chipped pancakes this side of the Missouri River.

If fruit juices are more your thing, J’s on Jackson at 11th and Jackson runs a weekend special of $4 mimosas and Bloody Marys if you have a group. The special runs all day long. Bring your pooch because their patio is dog friendly. They will even bring your furry friend their own bowl of water!

A favorite of soccer fans is Wilson & Washburn at 14th and Harney. Opening at 10 a.m., the owners are aware of the time difference between

the United Kingdom and the central United States and will air almost all of the English Premier League soccer games with a newly developed brunch menu. (Yes, sure, Americans and fans of sports involving the arms are welcome, too). The smaller menu consists of a few traditional items, but with their own funky twist. It’s your choice if you want to pair the smoked peanut butter and berry-compote-topped French toast with a hot French press coffee, or, one of their brunch cocktails. We suggest the Dirty Wicked, a cold brew coffee with bourbon, simple syrup, and bitters that will have any brunchin’ patron cheering. If you’re not in the mood for something sweet, try the hangover-slaying, homemade corned beef hash topped with two soft poached eggs and horseradish aioli.

Wheatfield’s Eatery and Bakery at 12th and Howard is a natural stop for a brunchin’ crawl. They offer a large, basic brunch menu. Perk up with a creamy, whipped-topped, hot hazelnut latte. This is a great meeting place with early-bird specials starting as early as 6 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday morning. Pair your coffee with eggs, eggs, and more eggs. Not for the small stomach type, the Grandma’s Scrambler is ham, eggs, and potatoes scrambled with a drizzle of Hollandaise sauce. Did we mention it comes with a very large side—Ron’s Large Hot Cinnamon Roll?

If you’ve done the downtown brunchin’ crawl right, your stomach is about to burst, but your once-throbbing head isn’t. What better way to get a proper late start to a weekend day?

Brunch1

The Hip Hop Transformer

November 18, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

A man wearing a backpack walks up to the stage where a DJ sets up a turntable. He sets his backpack down, takes a swig from his water bottle, and checks the microphone once, twice, three times. When the lights dim, he is no longer “the guy with the backpack” to the audience. He is Marcey Yates (Op2mus).

Yates, 28, was born and attended school in Omaha. He studied at University of Nebraska-Omaha for four years but found himself often escaping class to make music. “I tried the music program at UNO, but it wasn’t as advanced in mixing and recording music.” So he headed to Arizona, where he attended the Conservatory of Recording Arts & Sciences for two years. There, Yates learned studio engineering, sound production, recording, and more. But when he finished, he realized his true passion was making music, not just producing it.

That’s why he returned to the Omaha music scene in 2011. Compared to the music on the West Coast, Yates saw progression in Omaha, and that was a huge draw. “I would rather be a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond,” he says. “I wanted to bring something to the table and represent hip hop here.”

Yates started performing under the stage name “Op2mus” when he was in college. The name, he says, came from one of his three kids. “My son likes to play Transformers. So we’d be playing, and he’d call me Optimus [Prime].” The name just seemed to fit since Yates longed to transform hip hop music.

Over the last few years, however, he’s been trying to wean himself off the moniker. That’s when he adopted the name “Marcey Yates,” which, by the way, is not his real name. If you try to ask him what his real name is, he’ll just smile and shake his head. “I wanna brand myself as Marcey Yates. That’s how people know me.”

The backpack, on the other hand, has remained his thing. He wears it everywhere. He even wore it when he performed on KMTV’s “The Morning Blend.” In it, he carries whatever he needs—laptop, notes, music. But above all, the backpack reflects his transformative journey as a student of life, he says.

“He’s out there, he’s talking to people, he’s working. That’s what’s really special about Marcey Yates. He understands that, to get it, it takes work, not the easy decisions with the hard consequences.” —Rick Carson

It’s that journey that permeates his latest album, The MisEducated Scholar, according to Theardis Jay. “It’s about his story through school, through going to Arizona, through it all.” The graphic designer has seen a good deal of Yates’ story, helping to brand his albums since 2009. “I try to just help him any way I can. I remember I went over to his apartment for the first time, and I saw his studio in his basement that he put together himself. No one taught him that or showed him that.”

Today, Yates produces, writes, and performs hip hop. His most recent work includes writing and producing The MisEducated Scholar, and producing the hip hop album Eat, Drink & Be Merry for Blk Diamond out of California. Currently, he’s working on producing several new records for other artists and writing new songs for upcoming albums of his own.

“I don’t write songs for other [artists],” he explains. “Sometimes, I’ll ghostwrite if I’m in a studio session and an artist needs help. Otherwise, I write for myself.”

Listening to Yates’ music, you can hear various hip hop and rap influences. Kanye West is one that comes to mind. But Yates has taken those influences and breathed some fresh air into them. And “fresh” is exactly how he describes his music. “The genre’s so muddy,” he explains. “I feel like hip hop has been saturated with a certain sound. So when I write, I write against it.”

“Vinyl hip hop that’s smooth and soulful” is what Yates wants his music to sound like. The track “Soda N Cream” off of The MisEducated Scholar is the perfect example of this sound, as Yates raps over a doo-wop mix in the background.

Even more interesting is that he wants to get away from the whole “gangster” feel of the genre. “I wanna use the platform for something good. If you’re speaking in this outlet, don’t waste it with feeding listeners garbage. Feed them positive things that make them think, you know?”

“The thing about Marcey Yates is he’s one of the only people out there making real hip hop but also party music.” Rick Carson, owner of Make Believe Studios, pauses before going into detail about the artist whose records he mixes. “A lot of people get into hip hop to just talk [crap] on each other. I’ve never seen that from him.”

20130910_bs_0922

Yates respects rappers who don’t need to cuss to sell records. “If you do it, it’s gotta have meaning. Don’t just do it to do it. Like I only have four songs where I cuss, and I dropped a full-length record with 19 tracks. You gotta step up your game by stepping up the substance.”

“He grinds,” Carson emphasizes. “He’s out there, he’s talking to people, he’s working. That’s what’s really special about Marcey Yates. He understands that, to get it, it takes work, not the easy decisions with the hard consequences.”

You can find Yates performing all over Omaha. Barley Street Tavern in Benson, The Slowdown in NoDo, and House of Loom in the Old Market are some of his frequent stages. He has done a few showcases and business openings as well. Lately, he’s performed with bands instead of other hip hop artists, which he says he likes because he can introduce his music to a completely different crowd. “I’m just trying to market myself a lot,” he says.

“He put together a plan, and he’s stuck with it,” Jay adds. “There’s a system to it. It’s an exciting time to see what happens when you work so hard.”

A tour in the Midwest is Yates’ five-year goal. A Grammy® is the big game for him though. “I want this. I’m not just doing music to say I’m doing it.”

 

Find Marcey Yates’ music at op2mus.bandcamp.com or on YouTube by searching “Marcey Yates Op2mus.” Follow him on Twitter @op2mus or find him on Facebook.

Welcome to William’s Nightmare

September 3, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Mystery Manor

The entryway of the 19th-century home is cramped, musty-smelling, and dark. A thunderstorm rolls appropriately in the background. Bloodstains spatter the wallpaper, and the portrait of a resigned-looking woman hangs on the wall.

“This—” Wayne Sealy bangs the head of his ax next to the portrait “—is Greta Hall. Murdered here by her loving husband—” bang! “—William.”

Wayne, the owner of Mystery Manor, warms to his performance in Downtown Omaha’s permanent haunted house at 18th and Burt streets. He spins the house’s official yarn about William Hall, who was later murdered by Greta’s brother. “To this day, William still walks these halls with his ax, looking for a pretty gal to join him in his garden party. FOR WHICH YOU QUALIFY,” Wayne booms impressively. “Please enter through this door right here.”

296110_10150332860426939_1801025956_n

The first three rooms of Mystery Manor detail the story of William and Greta Hall, until “William” confronts guests in the flickering light of a parlor. “Dead as dreams, a new nightmare began,” the murderer intones. “Go! Behind you! Enter my nightmare.”

Nine scenes take guests through William’s torment, up and down three stories and across 6,000 square feet. Over the course of about 25 minutes, more than 30 volunteers make it their mission to deliver a good, old-fashioned Halloween scare.

A veteran actor himself, Wayne explains that a good scare consists of three stages. First is the set-up, the actor setting the scene for how guests will encounter him. Second is the approach. “Guests either approach you, or you approach them,” he says (don’t worry, actors never intentionally touch guests at Mystery Manor). The third part is, in his opinion, the most critical element of the scare and one that an inexperienced actor may neglect: the disengagement.

“Once you do what you do, it can go to crap in a second because now you’re just a man in a costume. You have to get out of Dodge,” Wayne explains. “As soon as you turn around to leave, you become eye candy.” The guest’s focus is now on the departing actor, “and now they’re all set for the next guy to come around and nail ’em.” As soon as a second actor has the attention, the first one can double-back for another scare.

308105_10150294568076939_280614510_n

But it’s not just actors in place to bring the fright. Animatronics, projections, monitors, careful lighting, and themed soundtracks round out the experience. For example, an animatronic dog jumps out to within six inches of a tight hallway in a Deliverance-themed zone. His name is Fluffy.

“We try to treat it like a rollercoaster,” says Mark Sealy, Wayne’s son and manager of Mystery Manor. “You need to have peaks and valleys.” He describes a scene with a gypsy fortuneteller. “She calms you down, she takes your hand, and she does a little fortune read. So you’re cresting the rollercoaster before plunging down again.”

“Give credit to the public,” Wayne points out. “If they’re not interacting, we’ve got nothing.” What actors can do, he says, is try to hit phobias, and the house is arrayed to touch on them all. Guests should avert their eyes in the zombie apocalypse room or suffer the consequences. A possessed circus includes a tunnel here and a back door there, enabling clowns and fortune tellers to slink around unseen until the last moment. A 60-foot slide spits guests out into a slaughterhouse. The child’s room is slowly burning. “It’s…pretty creepy,” Mark admits. “We did buy some new props this year for this room.”

Other less commercial elements add to the creepiness of the house, though the paying public may never notice them. “The building has stuff happen all the time,” Mark says as he walks down a behind-the-scenes staircase. “Every once in a while, we’ll find the teddy bears from the child’s room lined up here on the stairs. They just get put here. We think the ghost uses this almost as the house’s lost and found. If someone loses a baseball hat the night before, we’ll find it here.”

317873_10150334775231939_1992741573_n

Kind-hearted volunteers?

Mark shakes his head emphatically. “I’ve been here alone, and…that’s not it.”

And the ghost? Who is it? Because William and Greta Hall are fake, right?

Mark shares that in the late 1800s, No. 716 was actually a house of ill repute. “We do know, we have it documented, that one of the women who worked here was murdered along with her kid,” he says. “We don’t normally tell that story because it’s not very family-friendly. So that’s not the story we go off of.”

So. Say hello to “Greta” the next time you visit Mystery Manor.

Mystery Manor opens for the season on Fri., Sept. 13. For more information, visit mysterymanoromaha.org.

Just the Facts, Ma’am

  • Mystery Manor has been running for 30 years.
  • Over 100 volunteers act in the house per season.
  • Some actors have been volunteering for as long as 29 years.
  • The flow of the house hasn’t changed in 27 years.
  • Staff, including volunteers, can empty the house in less than 53 seconds for a fire drill.
  • It takes two hours a night to get all actors in makeup, including
  • prosthetics, latex, special effects makeup, and airbrushing.
  • It takes volunteers a month of bi-weekly training sessions to learn to
  • navigate the house.
  • Each of the house’s nine zones has its own exit. Only nine groups are
  • allowed in the building at a time, enabling each group to have its own exit.
  • Each group consists of no more than six people.
  • Engineers check the house annually for structural soundness. (Still, leave the heels at home. Uneven surfaces abound.)
  • In the Pharaoh’s tomb scene, hieroglyphics actually spell out insults about Mystery Manor actors.

Bringing Bali to Nebraska

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Concrete floors and 26-foot ceilings. A spiral staircase up to the loft where Stephanie Francois has made her “comfy-couch room.” Vast windows. A huge balcony with an honest-to-God cabana, drapey white curtains billowing from the canopy over the outdoor sofa.20130514_bs_5751_Web

Francois’ travels have inspired the exotic décor. She loves Asia—her favorite place is Bali. Drawn to the culture and the food (her favorite to eat and to cook), she felt immediately at peace and at home there. That same feel is what she wants to bring to her apartment in the Residences at the Slowdown near 14th and Cuming streets. Francois is well on her way to capturing the simple, open, clean-line look of her Bali dreams. “I want it to be almost like a boutique hotel,” she says.20130514_bs_5831_Web

She’s only lived in her place since mid-January. She sold the house she bought two and a half years ago, when she felt she’d reached that time in life where she was supposed to buy a house. A little farther west (near 78th and Pacific), it had an in-ground pool and five bedrooms.

Soon, Francois realized that it was all a lot of maintenance, especially since she travels so much and spends a lot of time at work.20130514_bs_5737_Web

Plus, she wanted to be back in the action. She chose her location in the North Downtown district because it’s close to a lot of things, but far enough that she wouldn’t find herself out too often. (She does spend quite a bit of time at House of Loom and the conveniently close Blatt Beer & Table.)20130514_bs_5739_Web

Francois also keeps herself busy with her restaurant, Stella’s Bar & Grill in Bellevue. Her great-great-aunt was Stella, and Francois bought the place from Stella’s son six years ago. A Bellevue native, Francois says that even though running a restaurant can at times be stressful, “to have a tradition—I mean, it’s 76 years old—it’s worth it to keep a staple in the area.”20130514_bs_5743_Web

In the summer, she loves to ride her moped scooter to Bellevue (and everywhere else). During previous colder months, the red, shiny beauty sat in the middle of her main room, calling her name. Francois also owns an older yellow moped—a 1973, she thinks—but so far it’s been another cool decoration.

20130514_bs_5908_Web

The rest of her décor has been recently picked up from CB2, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, online boutiques, Amazon, and, of course, Nebraska Furniture Mart. When she sold her house, Francois also sold all of her furniture.

“My house was so big, I just kept buying stuff to fill it,” Francois says. “That’s why I decided, ‘I’m just gonna sell everything.’ You collect that much stuff, and then it just drowns you.”20130514_bs_5757_Web

The fresh start has allowed her a more minimal style, closer to the Bali feel she wants. “It’s not where I want it yet,” Francois says. “But it’s getting there.”