Tag Archives: Wilson & Washburn

Weekends are for Waffles

May 29, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wilson & Washburn

September 7, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Anna Wilson’s brothel made her the “Queen of the Underworld” in Wild West Omaha before she bequeathed her fortune to charity. Josie Washburn—who would later write a book about her life between the sheets—was Anna’s top practitioner of the world’s oldest profession in the house of ill repute situated in what was then known as the city’s Sporting District—a festering cesspool of gambling, prostitution, and all manner of vice. Today their infamous names live on at Wilson & Washburn on Harney Street along the western edge of the Old Market.

“We’re a neighborhood bar,” explains Jeff Luby, who owns the business with his wife, Faith. “We just happen to be one with a great selection of specialty beers, craft cocktails, and elevated bar food.”

Because brothels once carried the euphemistic label of “comfort stations,” the owners incorporated that notion into the bar’s tagline, “A Serious Comfort Station.”

“We specialize in comfort food,” Faith adds, “but with a twist. Nothing too fancy. Nothing overly pricey.”

Wilson & Washburn’s signature Beet Chips are a case in point when it comes to simplicity at its best. Wafer-thin slices of the vegetable are prepared in the same way as their potato-based cousins, but a splash of malt vinegar and a sprinkle of flaked salt transforms this most humble of dishes into something wholly—and yummily—“other.”

Their not-your-grandma’s-Mac-and-Cheese boasts a carefully curated amalgam of Chevre, buffalo mozzarella, smoked Gouda, and bleu cheese in a truffle panko crust. The Rueben features brisket that is smoked on-site and is topped by house-cured sauerkraut and a beet horseradish sauce sandwiched between hearty Russian rye. Jeff says he’ll bet that diners will place his Fish & Chips against the best in town. And the Beet Burger (there’s that brightly hued orb again) is a favorite among vegans and meat-lovers alike.

“Everything is made from scratch,” Jeff says before Faith adds, “Our food services truck deliveries are pretty light in their load here. We’re an easy stop for them. We don’t need from them what a lot of other restaurants choose to source from them. We have to, for example, get our milk from somewhere, but most everything coming out of our kitchen is of our own making.”

Operating out of a 19th-century building that once housed a purveyor of rat poison, the mahogany-clad space uses subtle décor elements in a nod to whorehouse chic. A mezzanine-level private party space appropriately dubbed the Madam’s Lounge is demarcated by blood-red, damask curtains in a pattern that screams “bordello.” Vintage tintype photographs depict bygone bar patrons in frisky scenes that are naughty without being too risqué. The eerie bat motif once used to illustrate the cover of Washburn’s book, The Underworld Sewer: A Prostitute Reflects on Life in the Trade, is replicated in the upper reaches of the building’s towering, curbside windows.

The space, which opened a little over a year ago, has quickly become a favorite among the Orpheum Theater and Holland Performing Arts Center crowds. Whether as a place for a tastily accessible pre-show meal or for post-curtain noshing and conversation, Wilson & Washburn offers a vibe that is at once comfy and sophisticated—just like Anna Wilson’s legendary brothel.

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