Tag Archives: V. Mertz

David & Diane Hayes

September 28, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Over the past 30 years, “Hayes” has become a big name in the local restaurant and bar scene. With wife Diane now behind him as his partner and “most avid supporter,” Hayes has owned some area favorites including The Winery, Monterey Café, Jams, Bebo’s, Block 16, and several Egg and I locations. He currently owns V. Mertz and is active in numerous industry organizations. He was even inducted into the Omaha Hospitality Hall of Fame last year.

Despite all their ventures, the Hayeses felt Omaha lacked a particular kind of establishment they came to know and love from their visits to the Midwest’s largest metropolis.

“We really enjoy some of the cocktail lounges as we go through Chicago. But we couldn’t find the same thing here,” Diane says. “We felt like there was a market here for this type of concept.”

The couple opened Trio Cocktails and Company last December in the Sterling Ridge development near 132nd and Pacific streets.

“Trio is an upscale, midcentury modern cocktail lounge. It’s sophisticated, yet it’s warm and inviting,” Diane says. “We purposely made a small, intimate setting where people feel comfortable whether they’re in jeans or dressed up. It’s welcoming to any situation and a broad range of people.” 

Designed by award-winning architect Lori Krejci of Avant Architects, Trio is “a beautiful setting,” Diane says. “I think it brings a sense of sophistication.”

A focal point is the 600-bottle chandelier that stretches the length of the bar and changes colors throughout the evening. “It’s absolutely gorgeous,” Diane says. Not only is it a work of art, it was a labor of love.
Krejci designed the chandelier, and, after the spotless new bottles arrived from the manufacturer, the Hayeses helped her assemble the delicate fixture.

No detail was overlooked. “Check out the restrooms,” David says. “They’re beautiful.”

“We wanted to create an environment that was unusual and beautiful, and when you couple that with the drinks, I don’t think there’s any other place in Omaha that offers that combination, that environment, that experience,” Diane says. “Our bartenders make really good cocktails. They make the classics, but they use the best ingredients and people appreciate that. You’ll find Old-Fashioned cocktails, Manhattans, and martinis made in an exceptional way.”

Trio also offers more than 80 bottles of wine, 15 wines by the glass, and three rotating tap beers. It opens at 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, closing at midnight except Friday and Saturday, when it closes at 2 a.m. Guests can indulge in a happy hour from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. weeknights, and patio seating when the weather is nice.

“Omaha is a big restaurant community. There have been some exciting new restaurant concepts opening in this community, but this is something that is a little different. Trio is as fine as any cocktail lounge you’ll see in Chicago or New York,” Diane says. “It brings a different level of sophistication to Omaha. This is a destination in itself.”

Another plus? “Impeccable” service.

“Our manager at V. Mertz is also managing Trio. The level of service you see at V. Mertz, you will also see at Trio,” she says. “From the welcoming smile when you first walk in the door to the wonderful drinks you receive, the service is top-notch, and you will see that in all of Dave’s restaurants.”

Visit triococktails.com for more information.

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

Ooh Là Là

October 12, 2016 by

Vilaine Frange has planted her roots more than 88,000 Cornhusker football fields from home. But to this native of Besançon, France, the Cornhuskers—and football, for that matter—probably don’t mean a helluva lot. Pardon the Nebraska colloquialism.

Nearly 5,000 miles away, Frange has begun to make a name for herself in the Omaha art community as a celebrated illustrator. In 2014, she showcased an exhibit at the Side Door Lounge and has now created work for restaurants like V.Mertz while also designing event invitations. She may have traded wine fields for cornfields, but a fish out of the water she is not.

“You think of France as this beacon of art, but I’ve found the Omaha art community is more receptive and developed than my home city,” Frange says. “My exhibit at the Side Door was a fairytale that just seemed to kind of happen.”

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Every fairytale has a beginning, and for Frange, her once-upon-a-time moment came by chance. Her friends asked her to create a poster for a music festival. She obliged, in part, because she was bored and looking for a new direction in life. Previous attempts to pursue degrees in literature, communications, and linguistics had all come up short. Soon after her first foray into art, though, she began filling her time more regularly with drawing and sketching.

“I started later in life and admittedly have no formal training,” Frange says. “This also means I have no blinders.”

Before moving to Omaha to live with her Nebraska-native boyfriend in November 2015, she developed her skills as an artist working at Superseñor, a screen-printing collective workshop. For the next seven years, when not creating art for local magazines and music venues, Frange filled her time (and wallet) making extra cash selling wine for cheap. 

This experience schlepping wine to college tourists inspired her to create a large mural of vino and liquor on the side of a decaying building, knowing it would be destroyed. While her art can be described as simple, yet pretty and pouring with color, she chooses to call it ephemeral—take and discard.

For V.Mertz’s summer Tiki & Tacos event, she designed a promotional image, one that’s sure to have disappeared from the viewer’s mind, perhaps even before the event was over. She also just finished a billboard for a French music venue, more art dressed-up as marketing that’s here then gone. For her 2014 exhibition at the Side Door, she created pieces that captured fleeting moments in time as a reminder that even art is not immortal.

“You think of France as this beacon of art, but I’ve found the Omaha art community is more receptive and developed than my home city”

-Vilaine Frange

“I like to make things that aren’t going to last,” Frange says.

Distance, borders, and even the Atlantic Ocean all mean little to Frange. The exhibition, titled “This Is Not A Myth,” was done while she stayed in Omaha for two weeks. Today, most of the works she completes still go back to clients in France. 

“There’s freedom in art,” Frange says. “I can do it when I want, how I want, where I want.”

Visit vilainefrange.com for more information.

Encounter

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Nebraska Love

June 10, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

It’s not hard to track down the origins of Chef Kyle Lamb’s love of cooking. “In my family, if you cooked you didn’t have to do dishes,” Lamb explains. When you couple this with two grandmothers who not only loved to cook but also encouraged Lamb to cook alongside them, it becomes easy to understand how he ended up taking on head chef duties at V. Mertz.

Born and raised in Lincoln, Lamb still lives there today and commutes to Omaha for work. “The environment that is V. Mertz is the reason I make the sacrifice to commute here,” says Lamb. “There’s a great reputation behind it. Matthew, our general manager, is second to none; he’s the nuts and bolts of V. Mertz. The owner, David Hayes, is the best person you could ever hope to work for. He’s very supportive of everything that Matthew and I do here. It’s rare to find someone who cares so much about everyone who works for him, and that trickles down. I care about all my cooks and want them to be successful.”

Throughout Lamb’s life, all roads seemed to lead back to cooking no matter which path he took. At Doane College he majored in criminology and psychology but considered leaving in his sophomore year to pursue a culinary career. He ended up earning his degrees and getting a job in law enforcement but found he lacked a passion for that career. Lamb enrolled in the Art Institute of Jacksonville, Florida, to receive his formal education in culinary arts. “The culinary school really gives you the basics. After that it’s up to you to fine-tune your skills and immerse yourself in the industry.”

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Lamb is confident that choosing culinary arts was the right decision. “I’ve never second-guessed it. It’s a push forward to see what’s next and what I can improve on, and it never gets old. I’m still as passionate now as I was in the beginning.” He started with some line cook positions while he was still in culinary school, and then his career began to move into high gear when he was hired at Chew Restaurant and later at McCrady’s in South Carolina under Chef Sean Brock, a James Beard award-winning chef. “Chef Brock is one of the foremost chefs in the country and world,” says Lamb, crediting Brock with inspiring passion about food among everyone who worked for him. Lamb places Chef Brock prominently among the list of chefs who inspire him most. Others include Chefs Paul Kahan, Thomas Keller, and Daniel Hines. 

It wasn’t long before Lamb’s love for Nebraska compelled him to return. “I wanted to be back around family. It’s always home and I missed it a lot.” Lamb spent a couple of years as the executive chef at Wilderness Ridge in Lincoln before accepting the position at V. Mertz. When asked about his favorite dish to prepare at V. Mertz, he replies that his favorites change with the seasons. “The menu changes often, so whatever is new is the one I love the most. When the produce on one dish is coming to an end, we think about what we can do next. It’s not a matter of what I like best but what we’re doing right now that’s the best.”

Lamb’s advice for aspiring chefs is to work hard and never stop learning. “It takes a lot of time and effort to do what we do. Young cooks should go out and see restaurants in other states and experience as much as they can before deciding where they’re going to be for the duration. At some point you need to take the step to become the lead line cook, sous chef, the chef de cuisine, the executive chef. You need to work as hard as you can or it’s going to show on what you put on the plate.” He says 12-hour days are the norm for most chefs, so a chef needs to have a passion for the craft of cooking in order to be successful.

Being honored as Chef Par Excellence at the Nebraska Taste of Elegance Competition in 2015 was a career highlight for Lamb, but one of his proudest moments as a chef was the first time one of his dishes was placed on the menu at McCrady’s. “It was smoked sweetbreads and turnips done a couple of different ways.”

Lamb’s passion for cooking has not waned over the years, nor has his dislike for doing the dishes. The rule of “I cook, you clean” still reigns in his house, although he says he’ll help his wife with the dishes sometimes.

Visit vmertz.com for more information.

Food for Thought…

April 25, 2016 by

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for steak?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Launch Party Invitation

Sitting Down, Slowing Down

October 15, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The vibe of Market House restaurant hits customers in the face upon walking in the door—almost literally. The dark interior doors of former tenant Vivace have become a lime hue that projects the type of restaurant diners are about to experience—fresh, green, and interesting.

Such is the same with the chefs at the helm. Executive Chef Matt Moser, formerly of Plank, and Chef de Cuisine Ben Maides, formerly of Avoli Osteria, take pride in crafting their own menu, and restaurant, from start to finish.

The pair, however, originally turned down the gig.

“Nick (Bartholomew) originally approached me to be the chef,” Maides says. “I had no intention of leaving Avoli.”

“And I had an opportunity elsewhere,” Moser adds. “But that didn’t pan out.”

The pair eventually ended up recognizing they wanted to run a restaurant.

“We hadn’t not known each other very long,” Moser says. “I met Ben through a mutual friend when they came into Plank.”

They discovered they share a similar approach to cooking, eating, and running a restaurant.

Moser graduated in 2002 from Millard North, and in 2005 from Le Cordon Blue in Portland, Oregon. He came back to Omaha to work at the French Cafe, then traveled to California, where he cooked in Costa Mesa and Huntington Beach. He bounced back to Omaha to V. Mertz, and spent five years with Flagship restaurant group, helping to open Blue Sushi Sake Grills in Denver and Fort Worth.

“For the first time in my career, it’s modern American cuisine,” he said of Market House. “We can do whatever we want.”

While Moser discovered the fresh, local approach to eating so prevalent in his casual-contemporary gig on the West Coast, Maides’ slow-down method of cooking and eating comes from international travel. He was born in Switzerland and moved to Omaha at age 9. He graduated in 2004 from Westside and in 2006 from Metropolitan Community College. Among his passport stamps is San Cascino in Northern Italy, where he worked at a five-star restaurant and learned the style of cooking owner and executive chef Dario Schicke sought for Avoli.

The third note in the triad is Sous Chef Chase Thomsen, who, unlike Maides, Moser knew well.

“I’ve known him since middle school,” Moser says. “He came to Plank and worked for me then moved on to Taxi’s. When I came here I knew he was looking. I know his work ethic, I know his talent, we’re lucky to have him here.”

Moser and Maides agree, and collaborate, on cooking methods and ingredients. They love to cook in their off-hours—Moser with his wife, Cathryn; Maides with his girlfriend. They own dogs. They also like to eat at restaurants in similar ways.

Moser says, “We discovered we both like to order three or four things and just pass them around the table.”

“Let’s stop, let’s sit down, and let’s eat,” Maides says. “We’re going from surviving
to enjoying.”

That idea of not just eating, but communal dining, inspired Market House. The seasonal menu contains eight passable small plates and five shared sides, along with soups, a salad, and six larger entree-sized plates.

“We like to go to the starter menu, the smaller plates,” Moser reiterates.

The chefs want their customers to experience their love of food in the same way.

“Ben and I get excited when we see Nancy (Crews) of Swallows Nest come through the door with new vegetables,” says Moser, who himself gardens avidly. “That excitement extends to the front of the house and out to the guests.”

The staff at Market House don’t just tell you that roasted grapes with chèvre is on the menu, they tell you where the grapes and the goat cheese came from. They tell you the story of why they love the farmer who makes the cheese. The process of ordering at Market House, like the process of eating, causes patrons to ease their pace.

Slowing down doesn’t mean the restaurant isn’t busy. Several people occupy tables at 2 p.m. on a Monday, lingering over plates of food, and, in a couple of cases, glasses of wine. That makes Moser and Maides happy.

“We’re cooking food we love, and we hope everyone else does, too,” Maides says.

“Yes, we work long hours, but my favorite part of the day is when we get to sit down and talk about what we did, and what we can do better,” Moser adds.

Sitting down, slowing down—a typical day at Market House.

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