Tag Archives: tradition

60Plus Opener

June 21, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Who doesn’t love reading about food?

When I had a real estate company, we printed an annual cookbook with recipes from clients and salespeople. I still enjoy cooking some of the recipes.

I have to share a family favorite—it’s for turkey casserole. When my children were young, I served my family chili and oyster stew on Christmas Eve until one of my sons became ill after eating the chili.

The next year, I decided to change the menu and saw this recipe in Better Homes & Gardens. It became a popular Christmas Eve tradition at our house, as well as a favorite dish all year long.

I served the casserole alongside barbecued meatballs, green salad, croissants, and lots of Christmas goodies. My sons called to request the recipe when they left home, and we all still make and serve the dish often.

Turkey casserole

• 2 cups shredded turkey breast (I like to use canned turkey, which is more moist.)

• 2 cups diced celery

• 3/4-1 cup English walnut pieces

• 3/4 cup pimento-stuffed olives, sliced (slice whole olives—don’t buy pieces)

• 3/4 cup real mayonnaise

• 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

• 1 teaspoon salt

Mix together and spread in a greased 9-by-13 casserole dish.

Top with a mixture of 2 cups crushed potato chips and 1 cup of grated sharp cheddar cheese.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. You want the dish to be hot but the celery to stay crisp.

(You can use chicken breast if you cannot find turkey breast.)

There are many other interesting recipes in this issue—try some.I do not cook much any more, but I might try making some of these.

Enjoy!

Gwen

Gwen Lemke is the contributing editor for 60Plus In Omaha

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

Obviously Omaha

February 23, 2017 by
Photography by Provided

It’s not mere luck that Omaha was ranked third overall of the nation’s best cities for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations (according to wallethub.com in 2016). If there is one thing our city is known for, it is rallying together to celebrate with friends, both old and new. Omaha has rich Irish heritage, and Omahans are eager to boast their love of the local Irish population. So, of course, the city turns green with pride on St. Paddy’s Day—from east to west. Festivities range from live Irish entertainment and personal pub food tours to black-and-tans and parades of whisky shots. Head to any of these highlighted hot spots to celebrate in local Irish style.

01. Central Omaha
Clancy’s Pub
Clancy’s Pub has a longstanding tradition as a must-stop visit for St. Paddy’s Day. While the Pacific Street location has undergone new ownership within the last few years, it has still proven itself to be full of that Irish spirit patrons have grown to love.
(7120 Pacific St.)

Brazen Head Irish Pub
If you are determined to settle in at the most authentic Irish pub in Omaha, look no further than Brazen Head. Named after the oldest pub in Dublin, this Omaha gem will transport you to the Emerald Isle. The Brazen Head opens its doors at 6 a.m. for a traditional red flannel hash breakfast. The day continues with authentic Irish entertainment and food (including fish and chips as well as corned beef and cabbage).
(319 N. 78th St.)

02. Benson
You’d be remiss not to stop by Benson’s oldest, continuously running bar and only Irish Pub—Burke’s Pub—for drink specials and their famous apple pie shots. While a few bars along the Benson strip (on both sides of Maple Street from 59th to 62nd streets) serve up green pitchers and Jell-O shots, neighborhood staples like Jake’s, Beercade, and St. Andrews (which is Scottish) feature specials on authentic Irish beers, such as Kilkenny, and Irish whiskeys.

03. Leavenworth
The Leavenworth bar crawl has become somewhat of a year-round tradition, especially on St. Patrick’s Day. Locals call it a convenient way to pack in a handful of bars in one strip—beginning at 32nd Street at Bud Olson’s or Alderman’s and continuing on a tour down Leavenworth toward The Neighber’s on Saddle Creek.

Marylebone Tavern
The Marylebone is one of two Irish bars on the tour, recognized by the giant shamrock painted out front on Leavenworth Street. The bar is known for its cheap prices and stiff drinks.
(3710 Leavenworth St.)

Barrett’s Barleycorn Pub & Grille
Barrett’s Barleycorn, the second of the two Irish bars on the tour, opens its doors at 8 a.m., serving sandwiches in the morning followed by a hearty lunch next door at Castle Barrett, with beer and specials flowing all day long. Barrett’s closes the parking lot to create an outdoor beer garden, while inside tables are cleared for what usually turns into a packed wall-to-wall party.
(4322 Leavenworth St.)

04. Old Market
The Dubliner
Toting the tagline, “If you can’t get to Dublin to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, there’s a little piece of Ireland nestled underground at 1205 Harney Street in the Old Market,” on the front page of their website, The Dubliner is one of Omaha’s oldest Irish pubs. Pull up a bar stool at this Harney Street haunt for a breakfast of Lucky Charms and Guinness and be sure to stick around for the Irish stew, corned beef sandwiches, and live music.
(1205 Harney St.)

Barry O’s Tavern
Slip onto the patio at Barry O’s to mingle with the regulars and the O’Halloran clan themselves at this family-run bar. Enjoy drink specials and stories from some of the friendliest characters you’ll meet. St. Paddy’s Day usually brings an entertaining mashup of regular patrons and “Irish-for-the-day” amateurs.
(420 S. 10th St.)

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

The Scratch & Sniff Method

May 8, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Article originally published in May/June 2015 Omaha Magazine.

I meet Chad Lebo at Whole Foods early on a Wednesday evening. He’s made his way to the café section by way of the store’s cured meats area, and he’s unexpectedly teaching me about nitrates.

The longtime subject of controversy regarding their possible toxicity, nitrates give cured meats their pink color and signature flavor, Lebo says. They also occur naturally in many green vegetables—kale and spinach, for example. Thus so-called nitrate-free meats cured with celery powder aren’t actually nitrate-free, Lebo says, and from there, we launch into a tangential discourse about food humans crave, and why.

It’s not really a surprise that the interview begins this way. Lebo is, after all, the owner of Cure Cooking, through which he leads private cooking classes and, from a commercial kitchen in Fort Calhoun, sells ham, bacon, cheeses, spices, and more. In all cases, Cure Cooking’s food is made with heritage techniques—the kind your grandparents’ grandparents used. The kind that, in the case of bacon, involve nitrates; in the case of bread, sourdough starter. He stops short of teaching people to make sauerkraut in crocks.

“We make sauerkraut in a bag,” he says. “We’re not just teaching real traditional ways, but traditional ways you can do in your own kitchen.”

The culinarily curious can invite Lebo into their own home kitchens, visit Lebo’s own kitchen in his Dundee home, or head to Fort Calhoun to learn traditional food preparations that include curing and smoking, fermentation and pickling, canning, cheese and chocolate making, sourdough bread baking, and cooking a pizza from scratch—read: making the dough, cheese, and sauce from scratch. Each class is three hours; Lebo provides ingredients and any equipment he thinks attendees might not have already.

Lebo adds that he’ll soon be offering intermediate-level supervised cooking sessions at his Fort Calhoun kitchen for those who’d like to make sausages, bacon, cheddar cheese, and other foods in larger quantities to take home. Cure also serves its own creations Saturdays at Too Far North in Fort Calhoun.

During each session, Lebo also delves into the science and history of the process in focus. At the end of the class, participants leave with their own finished products, plus recipes.

“These are things I think people are afraid to learn just from a book or YouTube,” Lebo said. “It’s more of a scratch-and-sniff kind of thing.”

And Lebo would know. Though he grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country amid Mennonite relatives, he didn’t start learning traditional cooking methods himself until he and his wife, a geneticist, moved to Madagascar in 2008. What was going to be one year turned into six—and the prospect of not having readily available bacon wasn’t one Lebo wanted to face. So he learned to make it. Then he learned to make cheese. And eventually, he learned enough to make things he and his wife—and his neighbors—wanted to eat.

“The idea of self-sufficiency and taking care of yourself isn’t hipster—it’s what you do,” Lebo says. “Food is a trade. It’s a skill, not an art. For most of the world, it’s what you can get that day. I feel bad calling it an art. We’re lucky we can do it in a craft way.”

And based on the interest the classes have garnered, Lebo said locals want to get back in touch with the slower, more detailed methods in the kitchen. Class attendees want to know where to get local ingredients and how to support local farmers. And while they might not have three hours every night during the week to utilize what they learn in class, they can extract practical techniques, Lebo says—making bread on the weekend or making fresh ricotta in about five minutes.

“There’s something great about that,” Lebo explains. “It’s the tradition, and it’s made by you and it’s cheaper. You control the complete process. These are things you can do.”

ChadLebo1

Culprit Cafe sticks to the basics.

January 29, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Espresso and bread might not sound like much of a restaurant menu, but for Culprit Cafe owner Luke Mabie, those are the only two things he needed.

When designing the menu for his new restaurant, now open at 16th and Farnam streets, Mabie turned to the basic elements of a traditional bakery and cafe.

“My palate is always looking for more with less,” says Mabie. “We wanted to bring everything back to its original element.”

While simplicity reigns supreme at Culprit, that doesn’t mean customers get just a cup of coffee and a slice of bread. Rather, Mabie aims to focus on perfecting the simplest elements of Culprit’s variety of drinks, sandwiches, and baked goods.

Culprit was inspired by Mabie’s love of classic bakeries, as well as his experiences in New York City honing his craft as a pastry chef.

“Too many people focus on having that one recipe where it’s just like, ‘Oh yes, I have this thing, nobody else has this,’” says Mabie. “You come to realize that there’s never going to be a recipe that is so special or stands out so much that everybody’s going to be jealous of it. Because it’s all about the experience as a whole.”

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Owner and pastry chef Luke Mabie is all about more taste with a simple menu.

 

You aren’t going to find novelty drinks and secret menus at Culprit Cafe—what you see is what you get, and Mabie makes sure to keep Culprit’s offerings simple yet satisfying.

Take, for example, their cappuccino. Culprit sells their cappuccinos in one size only. As Mabie explains, a cappuccino is meant to consist of one-third espresso, one-third foam, and one-third milk. If you make cappuccinos bigger, the espresso can be overpowering, so Culprit keeps their cappuccinos at their original 6 oz. size.

This thoughtfulness shows up everywhere on Culprit’s drink menu. All syrups are made in-house, so that “the customer has a closer relationship to what we do,” says Mabie. On a recent visit, the vanilla latte and drip coffee were surprisingly smooth and not too bitter, perfect for both the coffee addict and the casual sipper.

While Mabie enjoys coffee and knew he wanted it to be a fundamental part of his business, he actually had no experience with it before opening Culprit. So he took the same approach that he does to baking and focused on the craft. Mabie traveled around the Midwest, tasting different coffee roasters, eager to educate himself on coffee as much as he could, before settling on Broadway Cafe and Roasting Co. in Kansas City, Mo.

Broadway account manager Brian Phillips worked with Mabie, and was impressed by his dedication to educating himself on coffee.

The open-face veggie sandwich pairs well with a salad of candied walnuts, feta, and balsamic reduction dressing.

The open-face veggie sandwich pairs well with a salad of candied walnuts, feta, and balsamic reduction dressing.

“When I got the phone call from Luke, I could tell that he was really passionate about coffee, but didn’t have the technical vocabulary,” says Phillips. “But I knew right away, when he was talking about his work, with the way that he makes bread, there was a lot of crossover.”

A quick glance at Culprit’s bakery display emphasizes the work Mabie puts into his classic baked goods. Pies and cakes at Culprit aren’t just served as slices from an hours-old display but rather as individual portions. The apple brown butter cake with a honey cinnamon buttercream frosting was basic yet satisfying, just like the rest of Culprit’s menu. Containing the perfect ratio of cake to frosting, the cake wasn’t loaded with the sugars and sweeteners found in many foods nowadays.

The bread at Culprit is just as much of a labor of love. Mabie bakes his at 3 p.m. every day, so that it’s fresh for customers who come right off of work.

The bread is more than just an accent on Culprit’s sandwiches and salads. It’s the foundation for which Mabie provides lunch fare with a variety of flavor profiles and textures, to please everyone from meat lovers to vegetarians. Once again, it’s back to the basics for Mabie.

 

Now That’s Italian

January 21, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s a bustling Thursday afternoon at the Sons of Italy hall on South 10th Street. The hum of conversation is punctuated by greetings from the regulars, and by 11:15 a.m. the hall is near capacity. Downtown business professionals mix elbows with construction workers at family-style tables. During campaign season, the Thursday lunch draws politicians like flies to honey—make that cannoli.

They are all here for the traditional Italian fare served up with a genuine smile and occasional wise-guy crack. Today’s menu: spaghetti and meatballs, salad, and fresh bread. Quintessential Italian but far from ordinary. The sauce has been simmering for over 24 hours, its seasonings taking on a richer, more complex flavor, just like the neighborhood. The troupe of volunteer cooks never work off a recipe. Rather, the sauce is a happy combination of a few family recipes adapted over the years. Over 240 gallons are made for these Thursday lunches, a tradition that dates back 50-plus years. The men have cut over 200 pounds of lettuce for the salads and hand-rolled 2,000 meatballs. And if the early crowd is any indication of the late lunch numbers, they will need every morsel of this copious amount of food.

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The Sons of Italy is not much to look at from the outside. The only nod to its Italian heritage is the green, white, and red striped awning over the front door. But once inside, the hearty aroma of tomato sauce, the cheery red and white checked tablecloths, and ever-present laughter make you feel like you’ve walked into an Italian family reunion.

“It’s like coming home to Nana’s kitchen,” says Rich Mengler, who has been working the Sons of Italy lunches for 14 years. “I’m the kid here,” the 77-year-old quips. And if the name Mengler sounds more German than Italian, it is. “I’m an IBM,” he jokes, “Italian by Marriage.”

 Settlement Days

The first wave of Italian immigrants arrived in Omaha in 1893. The railroads, stockyards, and meatpacking plants provided the promise of work. Most came from Sicily—in particular, Carlentini—and settled in the area bounded by Pacific and Bancroft streets to the north and south, respectively, and from the river to 13th Street. They built businesses and wrote to family in Italy to come to the American Plains’ burgeoning Italian community.

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By the time immigration from southern  and eastern Europe was cut off, more than  5,000 Italians called Little Italy home. “It was almost like a separate small town” within the larger city of Omaha, says Mike DiGiacomo, member of the Santa Lucia Festival committee and trumpet player in its marching band.

Ties to the old country were strong, so strong that residents turned to their heritage to stave homesickness for Sicily. In 1925, Little Italy residents hosted the first Santa Lucia Festival, a New World version of the centuries-old festival held each year in Carlentini. They managed to raise an astounding $2,000 to replicate the statue of St. Lucy in Sicily for use in the Omaha festival.

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The Santa Lucia Festival gradually evolved into a three-day party, including Mass at St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, a parade down 10th Street, music, rides, games, food, and the crowning of a queen at Lewis and Clark Landing. It is one of the Midwest’s oldest festivals, running continuously for 90 years, save the four years of World War II.

DiGiacomo says tradition and heritage have kept the festival afloat: “While many of these types of festivals have died off, the Santa Lucia Italian Festival has continued to defy the odds. The people who grew up with it, who are part of it, are so dedicated to St. Lucy and what the festival stands for. This festival is what gives the city character, a sense of community.”

 New Development with a Historic Foundation

The passing of time brings change. It’s inevitable. One of the neighborhood’s revered institutions, Caniglia’s, closed its doors in 2006. And when Frank Marino decided to finally retire at 80 and close the 13th Street grocery store his father had started 88 years prior, people lined up to buy the last of his homemade Italian sausages and ravioli.

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But there is also continuity in Little Italy. Orsi’s Bakery, at 7th and Pacific, is still going strong. Owner Jim Hall spent much of his childhood at the bakery. His Little League coach was a driver for Orsi’s, so Hall would help him make deliveries on the weekends. In 2010 Hall purchased Orsi’s with his wife, Kathy. “It has such a longstanding history. I didn’t want to see it close,” he explains rather matter-of-factly.

Orsi’s offers a variety of Italian meats, homemade Italian sausages, pastas, and olive oils, but bread from old Orsi recipes is the foundation of the business. Pizza is take-out only, or as old Mr. Orsi used to say, “Get it and hit it.”

Hall now sees a revitalization of Little Italy. DiGiacomo concurs: “While there was a feeling that the neighborhood was deteriorating in the late ’80s and ’90s, that feeling is no longer present. Recent development has helped the neighborhood grow again and redevelop that sense of community.”

The Santa Lucia Hall is under renovation. Out of the ashes of Caniglia’s Steak House has risen a community of town homes called The Towns, developed by Bluestone Development. Its clapboard exterior recalls the siding popular with most of Little Italy single-family dwellings. Driveway names like Lucia and Caniglia Plaza acknowledge the neighborhood’s heritage. Twenty-something urbanites gravitate toward Bluestone’s apartment complex at 8th and Pacific.

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The neighborhood’s price point and feel are appealing, says Bluestone’s Christian Christensen. “The vibe of Little Italy is very connected,” he says. “It’s a longstanding neighborhood and eclectic with 25 to 55 year-olds hanging out together.”

To wit: Fork Fest, a neighborhood festival centering on music, a bocce ball tournament and scavenger hunt, camaraderie, and food (of course). Andrew Marinkovich is one of Fork Fest’s founders. Its success, he asserts, is a communal effort. “You become part of the neighborhood’s fabric” when you move there, Marinkovich says. “You are so close to everyone, you are forced to interact.”

A tight-knit, historic neighborhood is what Michael Giambelluca and his wife, Donnamaria, were seeking when the couple relocated to Omaha this past summer after Michael accepted a job as Creighton Preparatory School’s new president. “Little Italy still seems to have that old-fashioned neighborhood feel that Donnamaria and I had growing up in our own respective areas of New Orleans,” he says. “People know each other and look out for each other. And people have a real pride in the place, that it has deep roots, and wonderful tradition.”

Resolving New Year’s Resolutions

December 30, 2013 by
Photography by Katie Anderson

I don’t go out on New Year’s. I’m a mom, so the minivan and I prefer to stay home. About halfway through the Dick Clark New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special, I get nostalgic and start thinking of what New Year’s resolution I should come up with.

Whether you set New Year’s resolutions or you don’t, let’s be real, either way—you never keep them. I’ve never seen a weight loss success story where the thin bombshell proclaims, after asked how she did it, “It was my New Year’s resolution!” Not gonna happen. Ever.

By February, I’ve not only failed at the resolution, I’ve forgotten what it was all together. When someone asks me what my resolution is, I will respond with: “I’ll tell you my resolution if you can tell me what yours was last year.” It’s a time-honored tradition—no one can even remember.

For the record, let’s review why no one can remember a resolution: You were out partying when you told all your drunk friends what your resolution was. Your friends can’t hold you accountable if they can’t remember where their phones or keys are.

A few years ago, I set out to eat clean for an entire year. I was determined. I’m proud to announce that I lasted all the way through April. Think about it. That’s like the Heisman Trophy of New Year’s resolutions.

When my kids asked me what a New Year’s resolution was, it changed things. Do I want to teach my kids to set unattainable goals? Do I teach them to wait until midnight on New Year’s Eve to set a goal? Do I teach them to come up with something they hate about themselves so they can change it? As always, my kids’ curiosity changed my perspective on the entire purpose of a New Year’s resolution. How do I pass down this tradition to my kids and make it a positive experience?

Last year, I decided my New Year’s resolution would be to try something new each month. It could be anything. So one month I wore eye shadow every day. The next month I drove a different way to work for a week. Another month I went for a week without makeup. Each new thing may seem slight and not as noble as you think. But I had fun with it and learned something fun about myself each time. By May, I forgot to proclaim my monthly something new to try. Then again, I still find myself trying new things. The resolution stuck as a practice, hopefully throughout my life and not just for a year.

And so, at our house, I think we’ll come up with something fun and positive for our New Year’s resolutions. It’s the less grandiose resolutions that stick better and make a bigger difference, after all. My kids bring insight to the success of a New Year’s resolution.

 

Read more of Murrell’s stories at momontherocks.com.

Jeannie Ohira and Joseph Pittack

June 20, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Summer is in full swing in the metro, bringing the kind of heat that make us all want to scream for some good old-fashioned ice cream. Jeannie Ohira and Joseph Pittack, the brother-sister duo and proud owners of Ted and Wally’s Premium Homemade Ice Cream at 12th and Howard streets, can accommodate those cravings with their all-natural ice cream available in some tantalizing and daring flavors.

Both Omaha natives, Ohira and Pittack began their ice cream careers by working at Ted and Wally’s under previous owners Dave Kirschenman and Julie Gilbert. In 2001, Kirschenman and Gilbert decided to sell the shop and Ohira and Pittack were up for the adventure.

“I called Joe, who had moved to Lincoln to go to school to become an English teacher, and said ‘Hey, do you want to come back, try to get a loan, and run this?’” Ohira says.20130506_bs_3374_Web

Her brother was onboard, and the two quickly rolled up their sleeves, staying faithful to the founding philosophy of quality and community but making some modifications along the way. The partnership proved to be not only ambitious but successful, too. Under Ohira and Pittack’s ownership, the shop switched to using all-natural ingredients purchased fresh from local merchants. In order to accomplish this, they created their own recipe for the ice cream base to replace the previous one purchased from Hiland Dairy. The result was a more costly and labor-intensive process but one that has earned awards for Ted and Wally’s, as well as loyal customers both locally and out-of-state.

“It’s a product we make in-house, made from scratch, and nobody else has our recipe,” Pittack says. “Ted and Wally’s in the Old Market has been doing it since 1986, so it’s an Omaha tradition. We have generations of people that come in here now.”

Ted and Wally’s unique flavors are what garner the most attention. Sure, the shop offers traditional flavors, such as chocolate and vanilla, but Ohira and Pittack tend to showcase more creative selections they’ve invented themselves. Sometimes, shop employees and the public chime in with flavors they’d like to see.20130506_bs_3379_Web

To date, Ohira and Pittack have created more than 1,000 ice cream flavors, not including variations. Some public favorites include Monica’s Unicorn Farts, a cotton candy-marshmallow-cake mix with Lucky Charms and sprinkles. Suggested by a Ted and Wally’s employee, the flavor was a big hit, as was Mr. Cigar, a cigar-flavored ice cream celebrating the birthday of Mr. Cigar at S.G. Roi Tobacconist. Another customer favorite is Quit Yer Job and Eat Chocolate, a concoction of chocolate mousse ice cream with chocolate chips, brownies, and Oreos. But those flavors, albeit tasty, are tame compared to some of the other creations Ohira and Pittack have come up with.

Some of the more unusual flavors have been bacon, fish, and prime rib. Sriracha ice cream has been on the chalked menu board, as well as jalapeño. Recently, Ohira created a new flavor featuring grilled octopus, which, she admits, “is probably not going to be a big seller.”20130506_bs_3462_Web

As for what inspires these nontraditional flavors, everything is game. Sometimes, a friend’s story will spark an idea; other times, it’s a book. Ohira says she must’ve created at least 100 new flavors after reading Eat Me: The Food and Philosophy of Kenny Shopsin. But most of all, Ohira and Pittack credit their culturally diverse family—as well as their own preferences for variety and newness—with being big inspirations for Ted and Wally’s unique selection.

“I get bored doing the regular stuff and like to try different things,” Ohira says. “I remember people used to say that we have weird flavors. One of those was cotton candy, which isn’t that far out there. But now it’s way more fun and people are a lot more receptive.”

Ted and Wally’s Premium Homemade Ice Cream
1120 Jackson St.
402-341-5827
tedandwallys.com

Dicey Riley

April 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Douglas County public defender Tom Riley wakes up every weekday morning, puts on a suit and tie, and heads to his Downtown Omaha office where he’s greeted by depositions and a packed schedule full of impending court hearings. But after 5 o’clock, it’s a whole different story.

Riley has been playing traditional Irish folk music with his band, The Turfmen, since the ‘80s. When founder Peter Brennan unexpectedly decided to leave, the remaining members weren’t quite ready to lay down the mandolin. Instead, they changed the band name to Dicey Riley and kept going. There’s not one but two Rileys in the band. Tom Riley’s eldest son, guitarist Brendan Riley, has been playing with them since 2000.

In addition to Brendan Riley (vocals and guitar) and Tom Riley (vocals, guitar, banjo, mandolin), the band includes John Herman (vocals, accordion, guitar) and Brian Lugar (vocals, bass).

“I was surprised how much Brendan already knew when he started playing with us. It must have been through osmosis,” Tom Riley laughs.

For being in his late 20s, the younger Riley has a solid grasp on the meaning of tradition and realizes the importance of a strong bond with his father, which makes playing in Dicey Riley even more satisfying.

“The best part of playing Irish music is the tradition. Some of the songs are literally hundreds of years old,” he says. “The stories of the Irish experience are written so well by the poets and songwriters. Also, I get personal satisfaction that I get to play music with my father. It’s a wonderful bonding experience, and I am lucky to spend as much time with him as I do.”

“The best part of playing Irish music is the tradition. Some of the songs are literally hundreds of years old.” – Brendan Riley, guitarist

Growing up in Chicopee, Mass., Tom Riley was always surrounded by Irish traditions and folk music. He attended college in Vermont and then moved to Omaha to attend Creighton Law School in 1972. Still, he’s never lost touch with his musical roots.

“My uncle’s parents were from Ireland. Music was always kind of a dominant thing in our lives. We used to have lots of backyard parties, and we always had friends that knew how to play instruments,” he recalls. “There were radio shows every Saturday and Sunday that played Irish music. We would listen to those. Honestly, I can’t remember not hearing it.”

Despite the band’s name change, Dicey Riley’s regular Wednesday night gigs at Brazen Head Irish Pub and special appearances at The Dubliner have not suffered. In fact, the audiences are growing larger.

“I don’t think that the name change has affected the band too much. We are still recognized as The Turfmen because it’s mostly the same band members,” Brendan says. “We also routinely play the same places, so the people who have seen us before Dicey Riley are getting the same tunes. We have begun covering a wider array of tunes due to requests. Folk music is getting popular again.”

“Brendan has us covering newer bands such-as Flogging Molly, which appeals to a younger crowd,” Tom adds. “But I have to admit, after a long day at work, it’s tough getting down to The Dubliner on a Friday night to play until 2 a.m. Once we get going, I’m okay though.”

Dicey Riley’s annual St. Patrick’s Day show at The Dubliner is something the guys look forward to every year, even though it can get a little rowdy and maybe even a little disgusting.

“St. Patrick’s Day is enjoyable because it’s the day that everyone is Irish and the culture is in full force, even if it is more an American-Irish tradition,” Brendan explains. “It can get a little rough when people drink too much, but for the most part it’s usually a fun time. I saw a guy [drink] an Irish Car Bomb last year. He swallowed it down, and it immediately came back up. Then, he filled up his pint glass and drank it back down again. Absolutely revolting. I thought I was going to puke!”

Millard Roadhouse

October 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If homemade comfort food is what you crave—think golden fried chicken, creamy mashed potatoes and gravy, and pork tenderloin—look no further than a historic eatery in southwest Omaha. Grab a friend or two (or more, there’s plenty of seating) and head to the Millard Roadhouse.

Just a stone’s throw from 132nd and L streets, the Millard Roadhouse has been serving up stick-to-your-ribs lunches, dinners, and Sunday brunches since its owner, Mark J. Kitson, opened the restaurant in 1997.

Mark Kitson, owner.

Mark Kitson, owner.

With more than 20 years experience working in the dining industry, Kitson says the Millard Roadhouse personally provides him with the perfect professional balance: great food with the opportunity to continually meet new people and routinely see familiar faces.

On a steamy Friday afternoon in early summer, Kitson chatted with a handful of regulars who have found a home at the Millard Roadhouse. The menu, along with the relaxed atmosphere, keep patrons coming back each week, Kitson says.

A spacious restaurant with room to hold upward of 350 guests (children eat free on Monday nights), the Millard Roadhouse’s signature red-checkered tablecloths and Americana décor can make any party, large or small, feel right at home. Its signature Husker Room is a popular pick for larger parties, especially during football season.

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Kitson adds that the Millard Roadhouse often hosts pre-nuptial dinners and other family celebrations. The reason?

“We are very accommodating,” he says. “We see family dinners of 20, 30 people. Sports teams, too. We can make our layout work, hosting parties of up to 70 people. When a big group arrives, we make it work—even if they don’t have reservations.”

And while the space provides a relaxed and casual dining atmosphere, it’s the food that keeps Millard Roadhouse fans hungry for more, meal after tasty meal. A quick scan of the menu will leave anyone with taste buds salivating for what’s sure to be a memorable meal.

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“Everything here is homemade,” Kitson says. “It’s all from scratch…our homestyle breading, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy. We even have fresh-baked cookies.”

The onion rings are a popular appetizer, fried perfectly golden and served piping hot. During the summer months, fresh-baked pies are a signature dessert; apple and strawberry rhubarb are among the most-often ordered. Another decadent favorite is a dense (and delicious) chocolate and peanut butter pie, served atop thin ribbons of caramel with a pretty strawberry garnish.

Although the Millard Roadhouse’s broasted chicken dinner is a fan favorite, Kitson says his variety of steaks are always ordered, too: roasted prime rib, New York strips, and T-bones by Omaha Steaks, to name a few.

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The lunch buffet is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday; and the popular Sunday brunch menu (featuring both breakfast and lunch favorites) is also served 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tradition is a big part of the Millard Roadhouse history. Kitson says that today’s regular customers started dining at the restaurant as children with their parents. Today, the children are all grown up, bringing in their own children for lunch and dinner. They stop by, too, for happy hour during the workweek, ordering up a variety of cocktail specials.

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The building itself is historic, as well. At more than 100 years old, the Millard Roadhouse space is actually a combination of three adjoining buildings. At various points during the past 100 years, the buildings housed a number of local businesses: a post office, another restaurant, a barber shop, café, even a hotel and speakeasy. And part of Millard’s surrounding brick streets remain intact, giving the neighborhood a small town feel.

“We are Millard,” Kitson says of his restaurant. “We’re in the hub of Millard. I love that we support our heritage and our roots here in Omaha.”

Millard Roadhouse
13325 Millard Ave.
402-891-9292
millardroadhouse.com

Turkey Fest

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

For many, the very mention of the holiday season brings about fond memories and anticipation. But for those without close family and friends, the holidays can be a very lonely time. This is exactly why D.D. Launderville is so passionate about her work as Director of Omaha’s Senior Services Department of The Salvation Army.

For the past 16 years, Launderville has headed up The Salvation Army’s annual Turkey Fest, an event which provides and delivers hot, homemade Thanksgiving meals for those 60 years of age and older, as well as the handicapped, regardless of income. “It’s for people who are alone or lonely and can’t cook anymore,” explains Launderville. “This ensures that they get a really good, healthy, hot meal on Thanksgiving Day. That’s tradition…it’s our holiday and we can’t ignore that.”

The meal is a traditional one, consisting of turkey, potatoes and gravy, green beans, cranberries, a roll, a banana, topped off with a homemade cookie. This year, the meals are being provided by the Knights of Columbus.

Chef Kevin Newlin and Major Catherine Thielke of The Salvation Army KROC Center.

Chef Kevin Newlin and Major Catherine Thielke of The Salvation Army KROC Center.

“We get a lot of Thank You cards and, of all things, it’s the cookie…it’s that homemade cookie, that [people respond to the most],” says Launderville. “You wouldn’t think it would be something like that, but this holiday is so tied into ritual and…brings up a lot of memories.” She says that the gratitude shown for the meal, as well as the personal delivery, touches her heart on many levels. “It lets me know that we do this right.”

Launderville says she is thankful for everyone that contributes their time and energy to the Turkey Fest: drivers, cooks, and those who assemble the dinners. The event, which has been serving Thanksgiving meals for nearly 20 years, is a joint effort between The Salvation Army, The Telephone Pioneers of Omaha, and the Knights of Columbus, as well as many other supporters throughout the community. “We get a lot of discounts [for the food]…community support is very strong.” She adds that several Boy Scout troops will help assemble the meals as well. “There are a lot of different people working as a team.”

Launderville credits the dedication of the volunteers to how smoothly the program runs. The meals are assembled at The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center on 27th and Y streets. Preparation begins Wednesday evening and starts up again at 6am on Thanksgiving morning. “We should be done by noon…delivery and everything.”

“It’s for people who are alone or lonely and can’t cook anymore. This ensures that they get a really good, healthy, hot meal on Thanksgiving Day. That’s tradition.” – D.D. Launderville, director of The Salvation Army’s Senior Services Department

“What’s so neat is that volunteer drivers can take a few meals to the older people, then go home and enjoy their own meal [with their family],” she says. “I know a lot of people with young kids enjoy doing this.”

Though The Salvation Army will take reservations for meals through November 19 (the Monday before Thanksgiving), the actual planning for the event began back in August. Launderville explains that those seniors who will be alone for the holiday can just call in to reserve a meal. “If they have a care-aid or a child that comes and checks on them, I’ll feed them too,” she says with a smile.

The first year of the Turkey Fest, Launderville says 300 meals were served; last year, 1,429 people received meals on Thanksgiving. This year, the group anticipates feeding about 1,500. “Omaha has a growing older population, and I think that every year, we see an increase.” In 2011, several hundred people volunteered to prepare and deliver the meals. They estimate similar numbers this year.

Turkey Fest meals can be reserved by calling 402-898-6023 beginning October 31. Those interested in volunteering to help deliver meals can contact Kay Weinstein, Metro Volunteer Director of The Salvation Army, at 402-898-6000.