Tag Archives: Vinton Street

Encounter Destinations

February 27, 2018 by


Moving Day is coming to Aksarben Village in more ways than one. Moving Day is a national day created by the Parkinson’s Foundation that is dedicated to raising awareness about Parkinson’s Disease. It is sponsored by the Omaha-based corporate headquarters of Right at Home (which happen to have their national HQ in Aksarben Village). The Omaha Moving Day walk takes place for the first time in 2018 (on April 28). Registration starts at 9 a.m. and the walk begins at 10:30 a.m. 

Also, rumor has it that Right at Home is considering the relocation of its headquarters.  They are looking at developing a new flagship building at one of the undeveloped plots of land in the Aksarben Village area. So, although their national headquarters might be moving, you could say they are staying “right at home.”


Get on the right side of the B Side at Benson Theatre during March and April with two side-splitting nights out with Big Canvas. The nonprofit improv comedy troupe performs at the B Side (6054 Maple St.) March 17 and April 21. Each show is 100 percent original, emerging from audience suggestions—anything from a game show in which the audience votes to a story told based on a one-word suggestion.


With the return of spring comes the return of…Bockfest! Crescent Moon and its downstairs Huber-Haus German Bier Hall host the 12th annual Bockfest Saturday, March 24, starting with the blessing and tapping of the potent Bock Bier, which has higher nutritional and alcohol contents than other beers. That’s one of the reasons, it’s said, why German monks drank it while fasting during Lent. The Crescent Moon/Huber-Haus Bockfest at 3578 Farnam St. is indoors/outdoors no matter the weather and will feature bock beers poked with a hot iron, live music, a fire pit, and plenty of delicious fare. Bockfest runs 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and admission is free.


Talk about “build it and they will come”…just months after Omaha Marriott Downtown at The Capitol District opened, five establishments announced they were moving into the neighborhood. Most intend to open this spring, occupying various spots in the building located along the district’s north side, bookended by the hotel and Capitol District Apartments. The list includes:

J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood

This Kansas City-based steakhouse that specializes in USDA Prime steaks and seafood cooked over open wood fire by master grill chefs.

Lighthouse Pizza

The locally owned shop with a flagship location at 74th and Pacific streets is known for 9-inch slices, hand-cut fries with toppings, late hours, and delivery. The new location will feature an outdoor patio along the district’s plaza.

Annie’s Irish Pub

This upscale pub is well-known in other cities for its annual St. Patrick’s Day block party and features an extensive beer selection, sports on TV, and DJs on weekends.

Beer Can Alley

A “100 percent country music bar” that features live performances by local and national acts.

The Exchange

This Wall Street-themed bar, based in Des Moines, displays rising and falling drink prices on a real-time ticker based on drink popularity (with random “market crashes” at least once per hour that cause drink prices to plummet).



Don’t let your teen tell you there’s nothing to do. There’s plenty to do at Dundee’s A.V. Sorensen Library (4808 Cass St.) beginning March 5 with Teen Tech Week. The fun begins with Merge Cube, the world’s first holographic toy that can merge the physical and digital worlds. Robot Recess, meanwhile, offers the opportunity to drive, build, program, and play with a variety of robots and tech toys (including BB-8 of Star Wars fame). Gaming also is available on Sorensen’s new Nintendo Switch gaming system or with the Minecraft Club.


What’s new in Midtown? Almost always something. Recently that includes the newly opened Pickleman’s and Long Dog Fat Cat, neighbors at 3201 Farnam St. The sandwich chain was founded in 2005 in Columbia, Missouri, and now features nearly two dozen Midwest outlets. The Midtown Pickleman’s (suite 6108) is the fourth in Omaha. It made quite a first impression, too, giving away free subs to the first 100 customers. At adjacent suite 6104, Long Dog Fat Cat opened its third Omaha location offering all-natural pet foods, grooming, and supplies for folks with furry friends.


The Kiewit presence is about to get bigger in North Downtown—A LOT bigger. In December, the Fortune 500 construction and engineering giant announced plans to develop new corporate headquarters adjacent to its Kiewit University on the corner of 14th and Mike Fahey streets. Kiewit and Mayor Stothert executed a memorandum of understanding in December regarding the proposed project, which will feature a parking garage and office building five to nine stories tall. It keeps the company in the city it’s called home since 1884. Kiewit opened Kiewit University in February 2017, using it to train and develop more than 3,000 employees from across North America each year.


Let there be light—and lots of it at Kaneko. The artsy 1111 Jones St. hangout is hosting the mesmerizing exhibition light through March 28. The exhibit explores the art and science of light through performances, lectures, youth education, and hands-on creative experiences. Artists employ glass, sculpture, and light itself to showcase the sublime beauty light evokes. Wow-factor insights are provided into vision and optics, the physiology of light energy, sustainability, light pollution, and conservation. And audience participation is at a premium. Visitors can step inside an audiovisual “infinite abyss”; interact with and move through large geometric forms that change color, audio, and intensity; or enter a “cocoon” of stainless steel, acrylic, and LEDs that absorb participants in a field of playable light. And here’s something more to brighten your day: admission to light is free.


Hungry for some authentic south of the border fare? Why drive all over Omaha when you can walk a four-block stretch on Vinton Street to find a handful of delicious options? Start at 20th street, where you’ll find Isla del Mar Restaurante (3034 S. 20th). Next comes Taqueria El Rey III (formerly housing El Aguila at 1837 Vinton), then La Salvadoreña (1702 Vinton), and the Churro Spot (1621 Vinton). End with something for the sweet tooth at Nietos Panaderia (1620 Vinton).


If you’d like a cool taste of New Orleans circa the 1930s, you’ll soon be able to get it at The Cooler Sno-Balls, slated for a March 1 opening at 2323 N. 24th St. The Cooler already made a name for itself with its mobile truck, offering the treat that got its start in Big Easy neighborhoods more than 80 years ago. A sno-ball ain’t no snow cone, though. Cooler Sno-Balls feature soft, fluffy shaved ice that retains all the flavor of The Cooler’s hand-mixed syrups: blue raspberry, grape, cherry, apple, watermelon, and much more.

This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter.


May 5, 2017 by


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


August 10, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Ever since the days of pioneer trails, immigrants from all over the world have managed to make their way to Omaha—smack-dab in the middle of the U.S.—to forge a new start for themselves and their families.

Today, the descendants of earlier generations of Omaha immigrants continue to build on the roots planted by their forebears.

Areas of town where many locals’ ancestors once lived and worked have been restructured within the city’s changing landscape, leaving behind unique traces of history and communities determined to maintain a connection to their heritage. One such local area is Sheelytown.

The City of Omaha annexed Sheelytown in 1887. Interstate construction in the 1960s cut through the neighborhood’s main street, flattening storefronts and homes. Much of the old Sheelytown is now buried under an endless stream of interstate traffic zipping past.

Sheelytown was once an important center of opportunity for Polish Americans. In the 1860s, the Stockyards thrived, and many in need of work headed here to be a part of that growth. The neighborhood—from Edward Creighton Boulevard to Vinton Street, and from 24th to 35th streets—was already occupied by Irish immigrants, but quickly expanded, promising steady income to the many arriving families.

Joseph Sheely, the area’s namesake, owned one of the meatpacking plants near Hanscom Park. Families there were hardworking, but low-income, and therefore generally looked down upon by the wealthier residents of Omaha. Still, they made their own fun, and even developed a reputation for throwing rambunctious parties and dance events.

John Szalewski, a second-generation Polish American and member of a local polka band named Sheelytown, says this kind of energy is representative of Polish culture. In his mind, Polish people are “hardworking, and enjoy their time away from work. They enjoy getting together.” In other words, Polish people work hard and play hard.

For Szalewski, this is a part of what he loves about polka: “People feed off the energy from the band. We grew up with it, and the Polish tradition brings us together.”

On the south side of Dinker's Bar & Grill, artists began work on the Polish Mural Project during the summer.

On the south side of Dinker’s Bar & Grill, artists began work on the Polish portion of the South Omaha Mural Project during the summer. Mike Girón was the lead artist with Quin Slovek as an assistant. Rhianna Girón, Richard Harrison, and Hugo Zamorano also assisted with the mural. 

Polka music, however, is not the only part of his family lineage that remains with him. “It’s very heartwarming when you walk into a South O establishment and they know your dad.” Other members of the Sheelytown band also have family ties to the neighborhood, including violinist Patrick Novak. Patrick is the son of accordion player Leonard Novak, a local musician who used to perform with The Polonairs.

These days, most of what remains of Sheelytown is the memory of what it once was. Szalewski continues, “I think most of the people that talk about the area talk about its history.” Still, he hasn’t lost the feeling of belonging, and says, “I don’t ever feel ill-at-ease going into that area.”

For younger generations, the memories are present, but not quite as clear.

Ryan Dudzinski, Omaha resident and third-generation Polish-American, is able to recall more general aspects of his heritage through stories and recollections of Polish family members. His great-grandparents came to Sheelytown as a young family with small children in the early 1900s.

“They couldn’t speak English. My grandfather (Edward) Dudzinski spoke fluent Polish, as could all of his brothers, but my dad (James) never learned it.” He says they all settled in South Omaha and remained there, with most of their descendants still in the area today.

Like so many immigrants, some level of assimilation was a necessary part of survival, and many traditions were ultimately lost. Dudzinski says grandpa Edward insisted that his father speak English only. While this meant that Ryan Dudzinski never learned the language, he understands why.

When asked to describe how he experienced Polish culture, Dudzinski echoes Szalewski’s sentiments, “There’s lots of drinking, singing, and dancing. They are fun people.” Regarding the cuisine, he’s not as much of a fan: “There’s lots of meat in tube form.”

Today, one of Sheelytown’s biggest draws is Dinker’s Bar & Grill, a family-owned establishment at 2368 S 29th St. The current owners are great-grandchildren of a Polish immigrant by the name of Synowiecki. The most popular fare at Dinker’s is quintessentially American—hamburgers—but Polish sausages with kraut are also on the menu.

Just as it occurs within families, much of what originally united the immigrants in South Omaha has given way to time. The melting pot of ethnic groups present here allows disparate backgrounds to commingle and adapt to an evolving cultural climate.

Still, the essence of what the Polish community brought to Sheelytown has not been lost entirely. It continues to be passed along by many who were raised here, and those who want to see future generations maintain an association with their history.

Though it may be hard to spot, Sheelytown holds onto a sense of pride in its Polish traditions and continues to celebrate them today. If you look for it, you can see the community’s impact on our diverse city, and you may even be able to catch the Sheelytown polka band warming up for a night of traditional Polish mayhem. 

Visit sheelytown.net for more information about the band, Sheelytown. 

Visit amidsummersmural.com/for-communities/south-omaha-mural-project/ for more information about the South Omaha Mural Project.


Western League Park

June 5, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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

Steve Rosenblatt likes to drive by the 15th and Vinton streets area and visualize the neighborhood as it was a century ago. A ballpark sat there before burning down in 1936.

The long-gone field is where Omaha baseball history took place. Where Babe “The Bambino” Ruth hit a home run. Where Western League ballplayers fiercely competed.

And where 19-year-old Johnny Rosenblatt (who became Steve’s father) started a 20-year career as an outfielder in amateur and semipro leagues. He went on to play professionally in 1934 and 1935 with the Omaha Packers in the Western League.

As a semipro, Johnny Rosenblatt sometimes played under the name Johnny Ross. He  became mayor of Omaha and the inspiration for the now-demolished Rosenblatt Stadium.

Later his son would follow in Johnny’s baseball cleats. Steve played baseball for the Jewish Community Center team made up of players from the Creighton University baseball team.

“They wanted someone who was Jewish, and I was the best-known Jewish player in 1957,” he says.

The field on Vinton Street was a center of excitement in 1927 when Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig came to town for an exhibition game that drew thousands of fans. Their team, the New York Yankees, were on a roll: They had just won the World Series. Gehrig was selected MVP in the American League. Ruth had hit a record 60 home runs that year.

Steve Hayes, chairman of Omaha Print, has the box scores from that 1927 game along with historical memorabilia from the Omaha Prints, the company’s team that played in the game.

On that unforgettable day in 1927, Lou Gehrig played for the Omaha Prints, competing with Babe Ruth, who played for the Brown Parks. Brown won 9-5.

But a week later, the Omaha Prints were back on top at Vinton Street Park—then called Western League Park—winning the city championship against the Brown Parks 2-1.

Hayes says that Rosenblatt played for the company’s team that day and others. “He also played basketball and bowled for us.”

The park near 15th and Vinton streets had many names. The website nebaseballhistory.com explains:  “The name of the park depended on the whim of the newspaper. Usually it was referred to as the Vinton Street Park. Sometimes it was called Rourke Park and later in the 1920s, League Park became the most common moniker.”


The following includes historical information compiled by Kevin McNabb when he was the media relations director for the Omaha Royals. McNabb is now a radio sports director in Columbus, Neb.

1900—The Omahogs team, in Omaha since 1887, started playing in a new baseball park at 15th and Vinton streets. Admission was 25 cents.

1901—The team was renamed the Omaha Indians and the Western League was established.

1902—The park’s name changed to Rourke Park Western League.

1904—The Rangers, who played under that name for one season, took the Western League pennant. 

1905to 1920—The team is now called the Rourkes, presumably named for manager Billy “Pa” Rourke.

1908—Rourke poured $32,000
into rebuilding Vinton Street Park.
A new grandstand held 8,500 fans.  

1921—A contest to rename the team resulted in “Buffaloes” for the next six years. The Buffaloes drew 123,000 fans their first season. 

1930—Lights were put up at Vinton Street Park, and the first night game was played with the Omaha Packers vs. the Denver Bears. 

1936—A new team is called the Robin Hoods. 

1936—In August, a three-alarm fire shortly after midnight destroyed Western League/Vinton Street Park and 12 nearby homes. Destroyed were uniforms, bats, balls, and $1,000 worth of beer and hot dogs. 


The Cottages

July 23, 2014 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

When newly engaged Ryan Ratigan and fiancé Khilah Butler decided that their downtown apartment wasn’t cutting it any more, most might assume a move out west was in order.  Not for these two.

Butler happened to have attended the Young Professionals Summit put on by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce. The event featured a tour of South Omaha given by artist Larry Ferguson, a photographer whose studio is on Vinton Street. She knew she was on to something.

“We knew we wanted to look at the Vinton area,” says Butler. “It has a true neighborhood feel.”

Ratigan agreed that the area’s rich cultural history makes for a unique neighborhood vibe. And the location was a bit away from the bustle of downtown while still being close to the heart of the city.
Butler is a manager at the First National Bank contact center while Ratigan is an attorney. His office is located downtown, but he also often works from home.

After surveying the area for possible houses the couple found their home in The Cottages, situated between Vinton, Spring, 21st, and 22nd streets.

“There are only three stoplights between here and Downtown,” says Ratigan. “You can’t beat that.”

The Cottages were recently purchased by Harvest Development and endured an extreme facelift. Built in the 1890s, the homes were originally used for immigrant meat packers, mostly Korean, working in the stockyards.

According to Autumn Gibson, the director of property management, about half of the 20 rental homes are still up for grabs at the just-opened Cottages.

“We are hoping to entice those who are interested in not only a more urban feel, but also in being a part of the revival of Vinton Street,” Gibson says.

The homes are 1½ stories and can be found in several sizes. Though the homes have been redone from top to bottom, they still evoke a bygone era.

“I like that it’s an older home,” says Ratigan, “but they kept all the original hard wood floors and charm. You can tell that there is great respect for the area that is being preserved.”

The young couple was also looking for outdoor space. The two try to spend as much time as they can hiking and camping; spending weekends by the Platte River, at Indian Cave State Park, and at Hitchcock Park.

Their two-bedroom, two-bath home comes complete with both front and back decks, plus a shared green space. Now they don’t have to hop in the car to become one with nature.

“It’s much more peaceful here and we have a spot to sit outside,” adds Butler.

It comes as no surprise that younger families are finding their way to the Vinton area. It is in a time of revival, says Ferguson. Harvest Development’s renovation of The Cottages and the new families moving in are only part of something much bigger. His studio has been on 17th and Vinton since 1983, and Ferguson has spent the last 30 years watching the area grow.

“When I arrived in the 1980s, Vinton was dead,” Ferguson says. “There were vacant places, property values were depressed, very few people—it was in a state of serious decline.”

Now the street boasts numerous eateries, galleries, beauty salons, carnicerias, and a super mercado. Not to mention the Apollon, which is a new hot spot to experience visual art, theatrical performances, music, and gourmet food.

“When you see big businesses putting money into neighborhoods, you know things are going up,” says Ferguson.

Councilman Garry Gernandt feels that The Cottages is a vital link to the neighborhood’s rebound.
“It creates a good mix to an area that has been in new stages of revitalization for the last few years,” says Gernandt.
Ratigan and Butler are excited to be a part of that mix.

“The positivity of this area is underrated,” says Butler. “It’s very family friendly and a great part of town.”