Thursday, June 20, 2013

Charlie's on the Lake

The verdict was in.  The reviewers and bloggers had been trashing Charlie's on the Lake for over a
year now.  They had written the place off.  Left it for dead.  It was obvious that I was going to have very low expectations going into this recent dining experience.  I had frequented Charlie's quite often in the past (and liked it then) but hadn't been there for a while.  I thought that maybe they were going through some phase or are still trying to recover from bad management.

Anyway, despite all of the negative waves that were bouncing around inside my head throughout the evening, Charlie's on the Lake stepped up and performed very well.  Our service was good (and we had a large party), my food was top notch (get the grouper by the way!), and everyone at my table thought their food was excellent which ranged from various other kinds of seafood, steaks, and pasta.  No complaints here.  Don't know if we got lucky or what, but we all enjoyed it.

Summary:  Charlie's seems to be back to their normal selves now.  Good seafood and service.

Charlie's Website
Map

MY RATING (out of 10):
(++++++++++)

Charlie's On The Lake on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Boyd and Charlie's BBQ

Well...where was I...

I finally had the chance to go to Boyd and Charlies BBQ in Elkhorn.  The quality of their food was gratifying.  The pork burnt ends were very flavorful and juicy, and the pulled chicken was of a high quality.  Everyone at my table thought their food was great.  The rustic atmosphere is decent and fits in well with the old school feel of downtown Elkhorn.

My only complaint was the service.  I felt sorry for the two lone waitresses that had to cover the entire establishment by themselves during the noon hour.  The lack of wait staff seems to be hurting the restaurant's "street cred" because I have seen several negative comments online about poor service here.  So...to the owners of Boyd and Charlies BBQ:  HIRE SOME WAIT STAFF!...especially for the noon hour.

Summary: the food is pretty good if you can put up with the possibility of slow service.

Boyd and Charlie's BBQ Website
Map

MY RATING (out of 10):
(++++++++++)

Boyd & Charlie's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Millard Roadhouse

The Millard Roadhouse is the antithesis of the restaurant in my last article (see Mahogany), at least in a socio-economic sort of way. What do I mean by this? Well, there is no sign of white table cloths, a pricey al a carte menu, a squad of wait staff constantly buzzing around you, or an implied dress code. While all of these aspects are nice at a high dollar fine dining establishment, they are not always necessary for a more economical restaurant like the Millard Roadhouse. At the Millard Roadhouse you will find high quality service and food that will leave you completely satisfied, all on a different level.

Basically, the Millard Roadhouse provides excellent service and large amounts of really good home-style food that is extremely affordable. And, the best part about it you feel comfortable being there. The place is unassuming. The wood-paneled walls, the red and white checkered table cloths, and the down-to-earth wait staff remind me of the small town atmosphere I remember as a kid growing up in somewhat rural Nebraska. For instance, if you’re anything like me, when you walk out of the Millard Roadhouse you might have to remind yourself that you are in Omaha.

There is nothing fancy about their food, except that it tastes good. Their self-proclaimed “claim to fame” is their chicken. I have had their chicken gizzard dinner, and I practically licked my plate clean. I’m assuming the delicious breading on my gizzards is the same as you would get on a normal three piece dinner. At least I hope so, because the next time I go to the Millard Roadhouse I am getting a chicken dinner for sure. The last time I visited the Roadhouse I ordered the prime rib. Even though the prime rib was quite tasty, I am still kicking myself for not getting a chicken dinner.

I have taken several members of my family to Millard Roadhouse, and they have all enjoyed themselves immensely. I have gotten a thumbs-up from them all on everything from burgers, patty melts, and salads. My father-in-law especially relished the chance to have liver and onions. Apparently, not too many places serve this dish in Omaha. I did not ask him how he liked it but the pristinely clean plate I spied when we were leaving said it all (maybe he licked it clean?).

Each time I have been to the Millard Roadhouse, our lone server has been awesome. He or she has provided all the service that most places use a team of servers to acheive. These red T-shirt clad warriors constantly refill your drinks, are very friendly, and make sure you are satisfied. You definitely will feel obligated to tip them generously.

Overall, the Millard Roadhouse is a great place to eat. They treat you very well. They give you plenty to eat at an affordable rate. And best of all, you will experience a comfy small-town environment in the middle of Omaha.

Millard Roadhouse's Website
Map

MY RATING (out of 10):
9 (++++++++++)

Millard Roadhouse on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Mahogany Prime Steakhouse

I finally completed the restaurant tour of one of Omaha’s high dining hubs just north of the 137th and Dodge exit.  This area of restaurants, which is jammed right next to Dodge between several corporate buildings, has grabbed my attention as one of Omaha’s more impressive collection of eateries.  The last installment of my journey through this noteworthy group of establishments was Mahogany.  Mahogany, the most expensive of this gathering of restaurants, is a steakhouse designed for the upper crust of society.  Patrons can drop some serious cash if they desire.  It reminded me a lot of a Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse with its al carte menu, elegant atmosphere, and focus on premium steaks.  Even though I did not feel like I had anything common with the other customers eating there, both socially and economically, I truly enjoyed my experience at Mahogany. Mahogany’s food was delicious.   

They successfully prepared and served every entrée we ordered on their simple but effective menu.  The filet, pork chops, and side dishes (macaroni and cheese and steak fries) were all outstanding.  The atmosphere was the essence of high dollar dining.  Gleaming white table cloths, well-kept dark wood, and enticing dim lighting were prominent features of this classy steakhouse.  The restaurant was spotless and in absolutely pristine condition.  Our team of servers was extremely professional, prompt, and always there for us.  In other words Mahogany delivered in every way.  I hate to admit it but their prices reflect the quality of their food, service, and atmosphere.

If you are anything like me, the first glance at one of their menus will be an intimidating one.  The prices may seem pretty hefty but you have to remember their menu is al carte.  This means their portions are huge.  Since each entrée or “side” has the potential of feeding a small family, I recommend each person at your table order one item and share it with everyone else in your party.  Some call this family style ordering while others will shake your heads and call it being cheap, frugal, or just plain embarrassing.  Well I have news for you upper crust types: most of us out there cannot drop $100-$300 on a meal.  We have to order in a strategic manner at a place like Mahogany.  Besides isn’t frugality the “in” thing these days?

Deep down I wish everyone could afford to eat at a place like Mahogany anytime they wanted since they serve such high quality food.  However, the reality is most people will only be able to dine there for super special occasions or in a once-a-year frequency because of their prices.  I encourage all Omahans to try this steakhouse, at least once.


MY RATING (out of 10):
9 (++++++++++)

Mahogany Prime Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pizza Police

COMMENTARY

There always seems to be a crowd of pizza "aficionados" that find it there duty to scour the city or internet and tout whether pizza places are truly serving New York or Chicago style pizza.  You often hear them discuss the intricacies of the crust, the way you're supposed to eat it, and the cheese to sauce ratio required to be the "authentic" version.  More times than not the "pizza police" disapprove and pump their chest in an I'm-better-than-you-because-I-have-experienced-the-"real"-thing attitude.

Well, I have news for all of the pizza police in Omaha (or any place other than New York and Chicago).  You are not in New York or Chicago.  The pizza you eat in whatever city, town, restaurant, or gas station is just someones take on what they think pizza should be.  Their pizza may be inspired or based on one of the "authentic" concepts, but usually they are trying to make it their own way so it will be discernible from their competition or the other one-thousand pizza places throughout their city.  The desire to put their own stamp/spin on their product will only cause their pizza to be further from the pizza police's standards.  I for one applaud the willingness to be creative and the desire to do something new and different.  Certain restaurants may market their pizza as New York or Chicago style but they are only trying to get people into their establishment.

Personally, even if someone around here made their pizza identical to Original Rays for example, the pizza gestapo still would find something wrong with it because they are not eating it in a Original Rays in New York.  Plus, someone who was originally from New York City or Chicago will always have to battle the nostalgia factor when eating pizza in another region.  Bias will creep into their subconscious whether they want it to or not.

So, if you're looking for New York style pizza, you might want to go to New York.  If you want a slice of deep dish Chicago style pizza, go to Chicago.  Because in Omaha, Nebraska, you are only going to get an Omaha version of the "authentic" style that was never meant to to live up to the unattainable standards of the pizza gastapo.  It won't be the same even if it is.  So to all of the Omaha pizza police out there, just relax and enjoy your pizza as it is and remember that you are not in New York or Chicago.  Not only will you make things easier on yourself, you will stop boring the rest of us with the same old "crust" schtick we all know too well.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob

The world is a better place to me now that I know a place like Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob exists.  It has been over twelve hours since my wife and I have eaten dinner there, and I still cannot stop thinking about their doner kabob and curry fries.  Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob is easily my new favorite place to eat in Omaha.

What makes Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob (AFK) so damn good?  First of all, it is located in the Dundee area which is a very unique and fun neighborhood to spend an evening out on the town.  AFK blends perfectly into the Dundee atmosphere. The small but quaint AFK is housed in the corner of a rustic old-school red brick building on 50th Street just south of Underwood Avenue (the main drag of the Dundee business district).  There is just enough seating inside for this type of place and plenty more outside along the street.

You order your food and drink at the counter that separates you from the open kitchen where you can see the bohemianesque gentlemen work their magic listening to some old-school Gene Autry type country music.  The two guys running the place were all business and prepared our meals very quickly.  They had our baskets of food ready in less than five minutes and we were even there during the six o'clock hour.  For those of you that like to eat really late, AFK is open until 10pm on Monday through Thursday and 3am on Friday and Saturday according to their website.  A doner kabob would be the perfect way to top off a night of drinking or if you just felt the need for a late night snack.  From what I have read, AFK is a pretty interesting place to be during the wee hours of the morning.

The food is the main reason to go to AFK.  This may seem obvious since they are a food establishment but you have no idea how good their food is until you experience it yourself.  AFK has chosen to channel all of its energy and focus into just a few dishes.  They only offer a doner kabob sandwich, a falafel sandwich, salad versions of these two sandwiches, curry fries with mayonnaise, and soup (which seems to be only offered in the cooler months).  Their wise tactic of an extremely small menu has paid off immensely.  It has allowed them to make these sandwiches (and fries) absolutely incredible.

The spicy version of the doner kabob, which is a Turkish sandwich usually made with gyro-type meat, is mind scrambling.  I felt like I was going to pass out due to the rush of deliciousness that invaded my brain.  Just when I thought it couldn't get any better I tried the curry fries with mayonnaise.  I savored every bite of my fries (and most of my wife's).  I probably would have hissed at someone like a starving wild beast if they would have tried to grab one of my fries.  Don't be worried when you notice your fingertips turn all yellow from the curry on the fries.  It wipes right off.  And trust me, you won't care because of how good they are.  My wife preferred to use the tiny fork they supply you, but personally I think you should use the barbaric approach when eating this type of food.  Anyway, the food was fantastic.  I highly recommend the spicy version of the doner but they also offer a garlic and a herb version.

Check out Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob as soon as you can.  Their food is remarkable!  If the unthinkable ever happens to this place and they are forced to close for some reason, a small part of me will die inside and the world will be a worse place.  On the lighter side, you will thank me when you moan with satisfaction as you chew your first mouthful of AFK's wonderful food.

AFK's website
Map

MY RATING (out of 10):
10 (++++++++++)

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob on Urbanspoon


Sunday, August 28, 2011

FireWorks

My family was in the southeast part of Lincoln a few weeks ago, and we were wondering where we should eat lunch (it seemed like it had been forever since I had been out to eat in Lincoln).  After a brief discussion, we decided to check out FireWorks.  My previous visits to FireWorks had been quite successful, so I was very comfortable with the choice.  I had eaten there a few times when they were located in the Haymarket and once at there current location just southeast of 84th and Old Cheney.

FireWorks current location is very nice and well kept.  Although it doesn't have the old-school charm of the Haymarket, they have done a nice job replicating some of that charm while establishing a state-of-the-art look and feel.  Also, the building is very eco-friendly according their website.  The wood fire aroma that permeates the air when you walk into the restaurant is extremely pleasing and is almost hypnotic (they must be utilizing the powerful effect that the sense of smell has on people's minds to their advantage).  As far as the service went; it was outstanding.  Our server was pleasant, made us feel welcome, and helped us out when assistance was needed.

If I was going to describe what kind of food is served at FireWorks, I would say besides the fact that everything is cooked by a wood fire, they take the usual American style restaurant dishes and modify them slightly by adding bold and sometimes spicy flavors and ingredients to them.  For instance, they serve a club sandwich with pepper-jack cheese and sun-dried tomatos, a chicken salad sandwich with pineapple and toasted almonds, and a tuna filet topped with a wasabi sauce.  For the most part I love this concept and enjoy their versions of these types of dishes.  However, I find their wood-fired pizzas to be the best part of the menu.  For example, I could not get over how good their cheese pizza was.  Yeah, you read correctly.  Cheese pizza.  If you are anything like me, whenever the idea of ordering a cheese pizza is mentioned, I instantly either say or think the word "BORING".  But not anymore.  FireWorks had altered my opinion of cheese pizza forever.  After tasting their pizza this last visit, I have vowed to get the prime rib pizza next time.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I have enjoyed a lot of their other dishes too.  They make a pretty good crab cake salad (even though I thought it was a little too expensive), and I have enjoyed some of their barbeque type dishes in the past.  For instance, whenever someone mentions FireWorks, I always think of their spicy coleslaw right away.  My daughter's chicken strips were extremely tasty.  They were not the usual microwaved frozen chicken fingers we have come to expect from most restaurants.  She was also served an above average ice cream dessert that our whole table devoured.  One person of our clan ordered The Cuban sandwich and really liked it.

FireWorks efficiently serves quality food (especially their pizza) in a modern and inviting location in southeast Lincoln.  I recommend it for lunch and dinner when you are looking for a little added punch of flavor to one of your favorite American dishes.

FireWork's website
Map

MY RATING (out of 10):
8 (++++++++++)

Fire Works Restaurant on Urbanspoon