Tag Archives: Obviously Omaha

Local Speak-Easies Harken to Olden Days

March 4, 2018 by
Photography by Doug Meigs and Provided

As hard as it is to believe now, a small group of extremists once managed to take over the United States government. Their goal was simple: make everyone stop drinking liquor. Prohibition lasted from 1920 to 1933, and during that time, no American who really wanted a drink went without one. For example, Benson resident Katherine Warner was arrested in 1922 while storing large amounts of homemade gin and whiskey for local consumption, as well as counterfeit labels. In many cases, people just paid a little more—and made a lot of criminals wealthy. One of the more memorable ways to have a night out was to go to a technically illegal nightclub known as a speak-easy. Omaha had a few “speaks,” most notably the third floor of King Fong’s, but the romanticized ideal was barely necessary. Ask any Omaha bellboy or cabbie where to get booze, and they would set you right in short order. Today, speak-easies make for a nice theme. But the legal context is vastly different. (Joslyn Castle even has a sold-out speak-easy series running from January through April on the third Thursday of every month.) Here are a few bars and clubs fitting a loose contemporary definition of “speak-easies.”

Wicked Rabbit
1508 Harney St.
Facebook: @thewickedrabbit

Frequently referred to as one of Omaha’s hidden gems, Wicked Rabbit is the archetypical, modern speak-easy and was dubbed “Omaha’s intimate speak-easy” by the Omaha Visitors Center. They serve creative, delicious Prohibition-era cocktails with a speak-easy feel and a semi-secret entrance. Just go through the Looking Glass Cigars & Spirits, tell the clerk the secret passphrase, and you’re in. Check out their Facebook page for details because they have no website.

Osteria Segreto
3910 Farnam St., Suite B

Osteria Segreto means “secret tavern” and that’s a great description for a bar “hidden” beneath Blackstone Social where one can ask for directions to the basement entrance. Be sure to also ask what the secret knock is. The Osteria Segreto website is notably lacking information. Good luck making a reservation as no telephone number is listed. It’s romantically lit, as discreetly located as any Blackstone District business can be, and it positively oozes quality.

The Mineshaft
1715 Leavenworth St.
Facebook: @omahaminingcompany

If you don’t know the Mineshaft, you are not alone. The Mineshaft is located in the basement of The Omaha Mining Co. behind a locked door. It is the bar’s sanctum sanctorum and not for everyday use. The Mineshaft is a special events/party room today, but in the past, when alcohol was not the only thing served on the down-low, places like this allowed gay men a room of their own and a quick escape out the back when raided. The Mineshaft has an air of mystique. It resembles nothing so much as a ’60s-era rumpus room decorated with homoerotic art perfect for gear night, club meetings, socials, or just hanging with the fellas.

6109 Maple St.
Facebook: @kaiteibenson

There is charm in discovering something off the beaten path. Located in the basement of Ika Ramen in Benson is an izakaya called Kaitei. An izakaya is a small, casual, signage-averse, Japanese-style pub. It is entirely possible to eat at Ika and never realize there is a bar in the basement behind a nondescript door in the dining room. Kaitei is always in flux and embraces the risqué, according to owner Alex Diimig. Diimig says he is not fond of the term “speak-easy,” but he does like the semi-secrecy and sense of adventure Kaitei evokes. It’s not off limits, just not advertised. It is far enough off the road most taken to add a sense of mystery to your evening. Weird people welcome.

Down Under Lounge
3530 Leavenworth St.

Down Under Lounge recently moved from its location near 38th and Leavenworth streets. Its basement speak-easy is equipped with a grand piano and a door to nowhere. It also brings a bit of history in the form of half the bar from the old location. Yes, it was cut in half from the old Down Under Lounge, and now resides in its new underground home. This speak-softly lounge is currently open for special occasions, shows, and their DU fondue parties.

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

Winter Excursions

December 22, 2017 by
Photography by Contributed

Got cabin fever? Make plans to venture into the blistering cold for some fun this winter, but don’t forget to bundle up. Whether you’re an experienced athlete or looking to burn a few of those lingering holiday calories—your winter adventure awaits!

Mt. Crescent
17026 Snowhill Lane
Honey Creek, Iowa

There’s a mountain in the Omaha area? Well, kind of. If your heart yearns for rolling hills covered in a thick blanket of immaculate snow, there is no need to venture more than 15 miles outside of Omaha. Mt. Crescent Ski Area is the perfect place to hone your skiing abilities or learn how to ski and snowboard for the first time.

UNO Outdoor Venture Center Trips
6001 Dodge St.

Located in the campus wellness center (aka the HPER Building), Outdoor Venture Center hosts an epic Minnesota winter excursion with dogsledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing (Jan. 2-6); a Wyoming snow skiing and snowboarding trip (Jan. 12-15); and wilderness first aid program (Feb. 17-19). The trips are open to UNO students and the general public. Register on the OVC page of the UNO website. The center also rents snowshoes and skis to the public.

Ice Fishing
Visit Nebraska Game and Parks’ website for seasonal ice fishing updates.outdoornebraska.gov/fishing

Grab an ice auger, poles, bait, and a bucket to sit on. If you or a friend have a heated ice hut, then you’re in luck. Ice fishing is fun for the whole family. Just make sure there are 4 inches or more of ice. Ice fishing is the perfect way to spend a cold winter day. The variety and quantity of fish in Standing Bear Lake makes it one of Omaha’s best locations for ice fishing. Other local ice fishing destinations include Lake Manawa, Cunningham Lake, Lake Zorinsky, and any other popular fishing waters.

Top Sledding Hills

Omaha is home to some of the state’s best sledding hills. Take the kids or unleash your own inner child. Memorial Park (go to the north entrance off 56th Street and Underwood Avenue) is one of Omaha’s go-to sledding hills. Alternatively, visit Spring Lake Park in South Omaha and see which of your friends can make it to the bottom of the hill first. If there isn’t enough snow outside for sledding, race down hills of man-made snow at Clemmons Park in Fremont.

Loess Hills Snowshoeing
27792 Ski Hill Loop
Honey Creek, Iowa

Stop by Hitchcock Nature Center with your snowshoes and engage in one of winter’s more tranquil outdoor activities. Hitchcock Nature Center consists of 1,268 acres with a trail running through the Loess Hills. Walk through freshly fallen snow and take in the winter wonderland scenery. Register online for winter snowshoe hikes led by Pottawattamie Conservation staff (snowshoe rental included with $5 admission).

Cross-Country Skiing

Did someone say cross-country skiing in Omaha? You don’t have to travel outside of the city to hone your skiing skills. Test your endurance at Elmwood Park’s golf course (situated nearby the UNO Outdoor Venture Center, if you need rental gear). Try cross-country skiing on the 770 acres of Zorinsky Lake Park, or venture out to Eugene T. Mahoney State Park for some of the best snow-covered trails in Omaha area.

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

New Year’s Eve Parties

December 8, 2017 by
Photography by provided | Reverb photo by Joi Katskee

Where should you ring in the new year? Local options range from downtown dance parties to kicking it cowboy-style in the suburbs and everything in between. No matter if your preference is champagne and cocktail dresses or margaritas, one of these suggestions will take you into 2018 with style.

The Max
1417 Jackson St.

Omaha’s original gay nightclub will once again host its annual New Year’s Eve bash. Every corner of the club will be decorated with balloons and other festive décor. Bartenders will sling drinks at all five bars, but be sure to arrive to this celebration early. Party-goers will pack both dance floors, and lines overflowing onto downtown streets are also part of the tradition. The party starts at 9 p.m.

Voodoo Bar
304 N. 168th Circle

Did someone say, “free champagne?” You heard right—Voodoo Bar will continue its tradition of a free champagne toast for party people this New Year’s Eve. Guests will also be treated to free hors d’oeuvres and a DJ. Dancing, drinks, and music begin at 9 p.m.

Reverb lounge
6121 Military Ave.

Count down the final hours of 2017 with EDM duo String Theory at Reverb, one of several local bands that will bring the year to a close in the heart of Benson. Dance, drink, and celebrate the connecting powers of music with dazzling performances. The bash will begin at 9 p.m.

Bushwackers Dance Hall
and Saloon
7401 Main St., Ralston

If your perfect party includes line dancing, say “howdy” to this Ralston favorite. Two-step into the new year with hip-hop and pop hits thrown into the primarily country-music mix and drink specials from 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. City slickers and country folk alike will get a kick out of this celebration.

New Year’s Eve Fireworks Spectacular,
Gene Leahy Mall
14th and Farnam streets

While you’re out and about this New Year’s Eve, don’t forget to stop by Gene Leahy Mall. The spectacular fireworks show is expected to draw over 30,000 people—so be sure to arrive early. If crowds aren’t your thing, then head into the park for a quiet stroll with loved ones or simply enjoy the glimmering holiday lights. Fireworks start at 7 p.m.

This article was originally printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Fall 2017 Brew Tour

September 22, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs and provided

When temperatures drop and leaves crunch underfoot, Midwesterners crane their necks at the gray sky and try not to think of daily commutes soon to be spent in darkness. The wind is picking up, and the days grow shorter and shorter. Winter is coming, fellow Omahans. It’s time to find refuge from the cold.

Where better to stay cozy than in one of the metro’s growing number of microbreweries and affiliated brewpubs?  Read on for a complete list of venues producing and serving local beer (listed in alphabetical order). Choose a barstool, lest you are left out in the cold.

Benson Brewery
6059 N. Maple St.

Adorned with wood floors and hipster lamps, Benson Brewery is situated in a remodeled space that was once home to a movie theater (in the early years of the 20th century). Enjoy a cold Karha-T as your body warms inside; this English ale is spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and vanilla, and is the perfect autumn beverage. Or choose one of the other nine beers or hard cider on tap.

Brickway Brewery & Distillery
1116 Jackson St.

Also a distillery, this brewery has the unique ability to age their beers in whiskey barrels and their whiskey in beer barrels. Brickway keeps their Oktoberfest traditional, and this amber brew is featured at their Oktoberfest event, where attendees get to drink this beer straight from the tank it was brewed in.

Farnam House Brewing Co.
3558 Farnam St.

After years of traveling Europe to study the best beers, the owners of Farnam House emphasize Old World-style brews with a Belgian and German influence. Thus, it is no surprise that they are proud of their Oktoberfest brew, aged for six weeks for a well-rounded and mellow finish. Their Spiced Tripel is another fall favorite packed with gravity.

Granite City Food & Brewery
1001 N. 102nd St.

A national brewpub franchise, Granite City locations brew beer on location. From their Batch 1000 Double IPA to Broad Axe Oatmeal Stout, Granite City has something for everyone. They offer an Oktoberfest and a Vanilla Porter on a seasonal basis, so get it while it lasts (and maybe snag some waffle fries, too).

Infusion Brewing Co.
6115 Maple St.

Southwest Omaha
6271 S. 118th Circle

A meat market turned brewery in downtown Benson, Infusion Brewing Company prides itself on adding unique ingredients—such as vanilla or cocoa—to their beers. In 2016, they also added a second brewery/tap room location on the edge of Sarpy County. Look out for their fall favorites: Infusionfest and Red X IPA. Vanilla Bean Blonde Ale is their top-seller through the year.

Jaipur Brewing Co.
10922 Elm St.

Located in Rockbrook Village, the Jaipur restaurant features a fusion of authentic Indian cuisine and on-site brewing of several unique beers. Their Jalapeño Ale offers a hot “kick” particularly appropriate for cold days. The restaurant’s owner says Jaipur has been selling beer since first opening in 1992—making it Nebraska’s first and Omaha’s longest-running craft brewery.

Kros Strain Brewing Co.
10411 Portal Road, Suite 102

Brand new to the La Vista area in 2017, Kros Strain Brewing is “Nebraska Fresh,” a motto that is featured on their 24-foot mural that highlights beers set for release. Try one of their startup brews: Helles Creek, Dark Paradise, Fairy Nectar, and Supa Juice.

Lucky Bucket Brewing Co.
11941 Centennial Road, Suite 1

Lucky Bucket Brewing Company hit the ground running in 2008 with their Pre-Prohibition Lager, perfected over time spent experimenting with barrel-aged beers and unique flavors. This eventually developed into five year-round beers and four seasonal favorites (including an Oktoberfest, which they boast “even Bavarian Prince Ludwig would trade his bride for”). Their Conspiracy Series also offers limited batch beers, and the brewery’s sister distillery—Cut Spike—offers craft liquors at the tap room.

Nebraska Brewing Co.
La Vista (tap room)
6950 S. 108th St.

Shadow Lake Towne Center (brewpub)
7474 Towne Center Parkway, Suite 101

Nebraska Brewing Company’s six standard beers offer year-round easy drinking for those who enjoy the hoppier side of the spectrum. If that’s not your ballgame, no worries. They also offer more than a dozen seasonal brews, along with several high-end craft options in their bottled Reserve Series. For those seeking something truly unique, there is the experimental Inception Series—barrel-aged beers that come in limited supply with names such as “Ninja Gnome” and “Fuchsian.”

Pint Nine Brewing Co.
10411 Portal Road

Named for the traditional pint and nine ounce bottles that came to us from Europe back when we had to depend on them for good beer, the folks at Pint Nine appreciate a good German lager or English ale. But that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate innovation. All you have to do is check out their Pink Peppercorn Wit or Hot Burst Blonde to realize that. The Papillion tap room just opened summer 2017.

Scriptown Brewing Co.
3922 Farnam St.

Do you know about “session beers?” Scriptown specializes in these brews, which feature a lower ABV than other craft beers, allowing for hours of drinking, conversation, and fun. If you’re looking for something a bit stronger, try Dmitri’s Revenge, a Russian Imperial Stout at 9.4 ABV.

Soaring Wings Vineyard & Brewing
17111 S. 138th St. (Springfield)

This vineyard is more than just grapes. Soaring Wings offers nine specially brewed beers, ranging from a light, American-style lager to their hefty Imperial Stout, aged in wine barrels for six months and tipping the scales at 10.7 ABV. Be sure to enjoy the covered deck and beautiful vista of the Nebraska countryside while the weather permits.

Thunderhead Brewing Co.
13304 W. Center Road, No. 126

From humble beginnings in Kearney, Nebraska, Thunderhead expanded eastward to the Big O in 2016. Enjoy beers with clever names like “Your Argument is Invalid” in their lovely indoor and outdoor spaces.

Upstream Brewing Co.
514 S. 11th St.

Upstream Brewing Company has been open since 1996. They boast of being Omaha’s “original brewpub,” and they offer on-site brews and a rotating selection of cask-conditioned ales. While this brewery specializes in ales, they always take the time to age their popular Oktoberfest brew, which is malty and smooth.

Vis Major Brewing Co.
3501 Center St.

Vis Major, Latin for “act of God,” boasts of treating craft brewing as an art form, emphasizing intricate nuances of taste and complexity. Their Proverbial Pumpkin ale is the go-to for fall, sporting hints of cinnamon and other spices. Their tap room opened in between Field Club and Hanscom Park during 2017.

Zipline Brewing Co.
721 N. 14th St.

Born in Lincoln, this 5-year-old brewery opened a satellite Omaha location next door to Film Streams’ downtown location in 2017. Zipline emphasizes adventure, sustainability, and connecting with customers. Try something dark this fall with their Coconut Stout, or go the more traditional route with their Oktoberfest inspired Festbier, a crisp lager to match the weather.

This article was printed in the September/October 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.