Tag Archives: Krug Park

The Evolution 
of Pop Music

April 15, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Admittedly, 34-year-old Omaha native Jonathan Tvrdik doesn’t sleep much. Between co-owning Benson’s Krug Park, working as a consultant for his wife Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik’s business Hello Holiday, being a father to 2-year-old son Hugo, directing music videos and commercials, making music, and holding down a day job as both the executive creative director at Phenomblue and head of product design at Rova, there’s not a lot of room for much else. It’s a path he can trace back to childhood.

“When I was a little kid, I played by myself and was always building things,” Tvrdik recalls. “I’m an adult version of that kid who is constantly making new project—like a band, bar, new app, or music video. I’ve always been a goal-oriented person with lots of irons in the fire.”

Ironically, that’s where the inspiration behind the name of Tvrdik’s upcoming solo album came from. Titled Irons, it’s a project over two years in the making and one that took careful crafting with the help of longtime friend and drummer for The Faint Clark Baechle. Busting at the seams with heavy themes of introspection and emotional growth, Irons illustrates a tumultuous period in Tvrdik’s life.

“For better or for worse, that’s where I’ve always been—busy,” he says. “I don’t even know what that has created in me—like who am I as a person? I’ve always been a workhorse, but who am I really? Each song dissects a different thing I am doing or interested in, or a certain vice I have as a result of all the stuff I am working with. It’s a very self-analytical sort of record.”

Beginning with “Something Better” and culminating with “Star Stick,” the 11-track album is like Joy Division meets The Faint, or as Tvrdik describes it, “Frank Sinatra on top of electronica-goth.” It was a true labor of love and Tvrdik really trusted Baechle’s expertise. Some tracks he thought were polished and ready to go; Baechle would hear them and mistakingly refer to them as “demos.” It took the experience of his fine-tuned ear to sew up any loose ends.

“We’ve made a lot music together over the years from a musician and engineer standpoint,” Tvrdik explains. “For this one, we started working through the process of what it was going to look like. I always knew when I was done mixing and recording it on my own, I would take it to him to refine. My producorial technique is very raw. For songs I thought were done and perfect, Clark would be like, ‘I got your demos’ [laughs]. I’m very right brained and he’s very left. I wanted his brain to go through it with a fine-toothed comb and nit pick the hell out of it, which he did. I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out.”

Although Tvrdik’s music background goes back to The Cog Factory days, where Omaha staples like Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, Cursive’s Tim Kasher, and The Faint’s Todd Fink (Baechle’s older brother) got their start in the early ’90s, naturally he’s experienced plenty of evolutionary changes in terms of his musical output. At one point, he was in a hardcore band, and later a noise-based outfit. While he felt he was still emotionally expressive in all of them, it’s with the forthcoming Irons he felt he was truly able to effectively communicate to the listener exactly what he was experiencing.

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

Al Fresco Fever

May 27, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The stars and seasons have aligned, giving you free time on a beautiful day. Birds chirp, parks bustle, flowers bloom. Eager to enjoy a cage-free couple of hours, you urgently text friends from your desk: “Get thee to a patio!” The clock strikes 5 and you’re off quicker than a cardigan on a sunny, 80-degree day. But where to?

Omahans have access to many fine restaurant and bar patios, but here are some standout gems you’ll want to bookmark for those most patio-perfect days.

Marks Bistro, voted 2016 Best of Omaha Outdoor Patio (alongside Salt 88 and 1912), is a superb option for everything from sharing an intimate, open-air meal with a first date to unwinding with an old friend over a bottle of wine. As you summit the steps from Underwood Avenue you’ll feel as though you’ve stepped into a lush, romantic secret garden of sorts. However, Marks’ quality menu, wine list, and unmatched atmosphere is no secret. Tucked behind the second level of a stately 1906 Dundee home, Marks’ patio is elegant without putting on airs, and peaceful even when packed with diners clinking glasses.       

“Most of us spend the majority of our workweek inside,” says co-owner Mark Pluhacek. “Sometimes nothing’s more relaxing than dining al fresco and enjoying some good conversation.”

Each spring, Pluhacek and his wife Kristin personally choose and plant the many colorful flowers that, alongside beautiful trees and ivy-covered fences, provide Marks’ trademark garden feel.   

Pluhacek says Marks is currently developing an additional street-level patio to allow guests a choice between the original garden patio and a more active, people-watching space along Underwood. But in both spaces, Pluhacek promises, “lots of flowers.”

Speaking of people-watching, La Buvette offers an excellent vantage point for taking in the sights and sounds of the bustling Old Market while simultaneously transporting patrons to France. Since 1991, this European-style cafe, wine bar, and market has been a popular spot to meet friends for a leisurely afternoon of wine, cheese, and chatting. The ever-changing menu is both basic and epicurean, with divine, fresh, house-baked bread perhaps the sole daily guarantee. The vibe here is “don’t worry, don’t hurry,” so come prepared to adapt to the pace and daily offerings. If you can’t nab a spot on the popular patio proper, don’t fret. When the weather’s right, La Buvette throws open wide doors on either side of its main entrance allowing a flood of sunshine and fresh air inside.      

El Aguila has an under-the-radar patio with high brick walls, colorful plants, and a Spanish colonial courtyard vibe. Lovers of Mexican food and jumbo margaritas will have no problemo finding patio paradise here—occasionally made even more magical by a roving Mariachi band.       

Nicola’s offers quaint romance, the Surfside rustic riverside atmosphere, and 1912 a rooftop option. More great al fresco dining options include Benson Brewery, Jimi D’s, Tracks Lounge, Salt 88, Corkscrew Wine & Cheese Blackstone, Upstream Old Market, Brix Midtown, Dante Pizzeria, and Varsity Sports Cafe & Roman Coin Pizza on the lake at 145th and F streets.

On the bar side of things, O’Leaver’s Beer Garden is Omaha’s outdoor space rookie of the year. Open since September 2015, the high-fenced, spacious outdoor area is a true oasis. O’Leaver’s already had a modest front patio, with a delightfully oddball Friends-themed fence (bearing the names Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Monica, Joey, and Phoebe) and new ownership over the past few years has made several upgrades to the indoor space including the addition of a tiki bar area.    

“We wanted to create a whole new vibe outdoors and offer our customers the same special experience, but one that’s very different from the inside of the pub,” says co-owner Ted Stevens.

Indeed, the dimly lit pub contrasts with the bright beer garden, which has a full-service bar on Friday and Saturday nights. Varied seating lets patrons choose between laid-back Adirondacks, barstools, wooden banquettes and benches, small tables, and long, communal picnic tables under an attached pergola. Nature is a key design element, with built-in flower boxes lining the seating area, a miniature weeping willow tree, small pond, and other nice natural touches. Strings of lights hang overhead, twinkling at night with a just-right light.

O’Leaver’s is known for hosting live music inside, and Stevens says they hope to add outdoor movie nights and weekend brunch cocktail parties in 2016, also possibly opening the beer garden bar occasionally for weeknight shows.

Mister Toad’s Pub is a classic with cozy woodwork, stained glass, and book-lined walls, but in warmer months, it’s all about Mr. Toad’s Courtyard. Flower boxes stud the patio and wooden tables interlock around trees, offering the opportunity for privacy or neighborliness at your discretion. The passing action of the Old Market provides plenty to see.        

The Rose & Crown patio is a divey delight with large trees—some even decorated with woodsy faces. Other solid bar patio options include Dundee Cork & Bottle, Krug Park, Marylebone, Havana Garage, and LIV Lounge.

Whatever beer garden, courtyard, or veranda you land on, raise a glass to the patio season and enjoy greater Omaha’s great urban out-of-doors.

Patios

Krug Park

April 28, 2015 by

Krug Park was the place to be in early 20th century Omaha. The always-hopping amusement park lasted through a World War, the Great Depression, and Prohibition. There was nothing like it.

The park had a modest start in 1895 when German immigrant George Tietz bought land near what is now 52nd and Maple streets to create Tietz Park. He installed a beer garden and dance hall before later adding a bowling alley.

When Tietz died in 1903, the land went to brewery owner Frederick Krug of the Frederick Krug Brewing Co., who held the mortgage. Like Tietz, he was a German immigrant. Krug added rides, a tunnel of love, and ice cream parlor to the beer garden. He advertised the newly named Krug Park as “Omaha’s Polite Resort.”

Over the years, a 72-horse merry-go-round, a penny arcade, picnic grounds, swimming pool, wave machine, and dance pavilion were added. A  human cannonball, aerialists and horses diving into tanks also drew Omaha citizens, as did Sunday night balloon ascensions.

In 1908, a Methodist minister called “the fighting parson” led the Anti-Saloon League to challenge Krug Park’s beer permit and won. The park and its beer garden were closed until reopening in 1913.

Prohibition began in 1920. The beer garden closed, but the amusement park kept on swinging. Couples paid five cents a dance at the dance pavilion.

On May 12, 1922, an ad for Krug Park’s dance pavilion in the weekly newspaper The Mediator promised “no jazz music,” but instead “Just the best music of the better kind.” Ten West India monkeys arrived to live in the park’s monkey house.

Ads promoted performances by the popular Union Pacific Band. Krug Park was “the home of picnics,” bragged another ad. Sweltering citizens gathered at the shady park and splashed in the large swimming pool to escape the heat.

But the crowds dwindled after July 24, 1930, when four riders on the “Big Dipper” roller coaster were killed and 17 injured as the ride plunged 35 feet to the ground. At the time, it was called the worst roller coaster accident in the nation.

During the Depression, couples entered marathon dances at Krug Park hoping to win prizes. A 4,000-seat arena added in 1932 hosted wrestling and boxing matches.

The park closed in 1940. Neighbors concerned about the site near downtown Benson later petitioned the city to make it a
public park.

A fund drive led by the Omaha World-Herald in 1945 raised $30,000 to purchase the land and turn it into Gallagher Park, named after Mrs. Paul Gallagher, who fought to retain the land as a park. The city park opened in 1955.  A swimming pool and ball fields were added.

Krug Avenue in South Omaha was named for the original park’s namesake, Frederick Krug. Founded in 1859, his brewery sat in South Omaha at 29th and Vinton Streets.

Fittingly for a brewer who owned a beer garden, the word “krug” in German translates to ‘stein’ in English.

KrugParkWeb2

Modern Love

December 3, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
If there’s any question about whether Omaha is ready for a new all-vegan restaurant, the first couple month’s of Modern Love’s dinner service seems like a definitive answer.

“We are packed nightly,” says co-owner Isa Chandra Moskowitz. “For the first month we were basically booked every night. So yes, apparently Omaha is receptive to vegan food. It’s awesome.”

The city has been buzzing about vegan food since Moskowitz announced last year she’d be opening a restaurant somewhere in the city—the biggest local news in vegan food since popular lunch spot Daily Grub closed in 2011.

Moskowitz, a Brooklyn native, co-creator of the Post-Punk Kitchen web series and website (with frequent collaborator Terry Hope Romero), and author of eight vegan cookbooks—her most recent, Isa Does It, was released in October 2013—relocated to Omaha a few years ago to be with her boyfriend. After consulting in Omaha’s dining scene, she engineered a meatless Monday menu at the Benson Brewery last year.

A venture of her own seemed inevitable.

“There isn’t a vegan restaurant here, or even really a vegetable-focused restaurant,” Moskowitz adds, “and it feels important to create something like that right in the middle of the country.”

Moskowitz leased the space on South 50th Street next to O’Leaver’s Pub in August 2013. She partnered with Krug Park owners Jim Johnson, Dustin Bushon, Marc Leibowitz, and Jonathan Tvrdik. She then brought on chef Michaela Maxwell, and started renovating.

“I’m still working on the décor,” Moskowitz said after her first month in operation. “I thought it would be better to start with simplicity and build on things when we saw how the restaurant actually looked and functioned once filled with people.”

And the name “Modern Love?”

“The plain truth behind the name was that I couldn’t decide on a name,” Moskowitz says. “As I drove to scout out a restaurant location a few years ago, the song “Modern Romance” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs came on. And I was like, ‘That’s a great name!’ But friends thought that was a bit much, and it became Modern Love.”

And with Modern Love’s menu of “swanky vegan comfort food,” it makes sense, Moskowitz says.

“It’s comfort food with a modern twist, made with love.”

Some of those modern takes on familiar fare include—for now, as the menu will change every few months—stuffed and fried zucchini blossoms with a zucchini slaw and grilled summer squashes; a modern nicoise salad with chickpea salad and devilled potatoes standing in for the traditional eggs alongside green beans, tomatoes, and olives; a marsala entrée that puts seitan (aka wheat gluten) at the forefront with a root vegetable mash, herbs, and greens; and desserts including pies and non-dairy ice creams.

“The Mac & Shews is far and away the most popular menu item,” Moskowitz said. “It’s our cashew-based mac and cheese sauce, pecan-crusted tofu, barbecue cauliflower and the most amazing sautéed garlicky kale and okra in the world in a tomato vinaigrette. Michaela did a really bang-up job
with that dish.”

For the first month, seating at the restaurant was by-reservation-only, Nice problem for a business owner to have. In order to encourage walk-ins, Moskowitz recently updated her online reservation system so the restaurant is only half-booked on any given day.

“I am not the type of person who’s going to give a speech to convince anyone that vegetables are delicious—which is good,” she says, “because people are just coming in and finding out for themselves.”

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