01 Aug 2008 @ 11:41 PM 

Lunch.. The final froti… ok.. it was lunch. As a matter of fact it was lunch at Absolutely Fresh Seafood/Shucks Oyster Bar. This is going to be brief. I want to elaborate, especially since I have been called “prejudiced” for bashing my server at Jazz, but it was only lunch and we were in and out in 35 minutes. So, I am going to run down some things kinda fast.

This the history as I know it for Absolutely Fresh Seafood: A few years back, there used to be this truck that was driven up from Louisiana to Omaha full of seafood. It was parked on the corner of 72nd and Dodge, and they used to sell out the entire semi over the weekend. This happened on some schedule that I could never quite figure out. I would buy boudin balls and boudin by the case as well as anything that seemed good at the time. Well, after a while of this someone thought that they should just open a shop in Omaha and fly everything in. Well, they did opened a shop down on 19th and Leavenworth Street and they have the best seafood for purchase in town. So after a while of doing great business, they opened a second location on 119th and Pacific Streets. They did great and wanted to something else. So using their seafood from the shop, and some awesome recipes from Louisiana (WHERE THEY WERE FROM), they opened Shuck’s Oyster Bar.

I have been to Shuck’s many times and I have to say that each time I go, the experience has been fantastic. The service is prompt, the food is out of this world, and the atmosphere is very “hole in the wall’. So much so, that they made a hole in the wall next to their seafood shop to put in Shucks. It’s awesome.

So today my wife and I went out for lunch. We walked in to the place and you can smell the fish, but it’s not overwhelming. You get exactly what it is. It IS a fish market with a oyster bar shoe-horned in it. Nothing pretentious about it. It is what it is. We take our seat at the paper covered table and are immediately greeted and asked for our drink order. There are about 20 or so tables and 3 servers. Each of which covered each others tables. So we get our drinks and place our order. Wife: Fish and chips. Me: Lobster roll and a cup of gumbo. After a few moments, my gumbo hits the table. It has a dark rich chocolate colored roux, with plenty of shrimp, okra, and andouille sausage. There was rice on top with a little file’ sprinkled over it. It has that ‘pop’ that just… MMMmmmm…. I liked the gumbo at Jazz, but it just wasn’t a flavor that went over the top. This had it. Just enough bite to make it warm you, but not to hurt you. The flavor was so deep, you could taste the layers that were built on the roux. It was awesome.

I have had many lobster rolls in my time. Typically they are lobster bits in some mayo on a dried out roll. Small, and just not that good. Today I have found a ‘moment’ on a bun. There were large chunks of fresh lobster claws. The bun was still warm and was toasted. The lobster sang through the mayonnaise instead of drowning in it. It had shredded lettuce that was still crisp and complimented the lobster. The whole experience of eating that thing left me teary eyed. It was a huge lobster roll with huge chunks of lobster in it on a very fresh toasted roll. I thought I was in heaven. It is a MUST HAVE again and again. Our service was spot on. Never an empty drink. The wait staff covered for each other (I said that before I know) and we were served quickly but never felt rushed. It was an A plus experience that I plan on repeating.

Pluses: Great service, great selection, Great GUMBO, and an awesome hole in the wall atmosphere.

Minuses: It’s a hole in the wall. (Yeah, plus and minus) and there was a smell of fish when you came in, but that’s to be expected… it IS a fish market.

Overall Impression: This is one of the great little ‘joints’ in Omaha and I plan on going back again and again. I would suggest the sampler platter appetizer. I had it before and if you like fried things.. MMmmmmm.. You’ll love it. I wish they had a bigger menu, but keeping it simple has kept the quality high and I would be sad if they did anything different. Perhaps an entrance other than into the fish market. I am going to rate this as 4 napkins because it’s a hole in the wall. The food though is a SOLID 5… the service us a SOLID 5… It’s just because of what it is… a hole in the wall.

~The Omaha Critic

Posted By: The Omaha Critic
Last Edit: 02 Aug 2008 @ 01:33 AM

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 14 Apr 2008 @ 2:46 AM 

A little more history on your favorite critic:  I grew up in South Texas.  When I was there I had access to some pretty darn tasty Mexican food.  I moved to Omaha a while ago and have been hard pressed to get good Mexican food.  Only a few places I have been to, can really capture the right flavor.  I think I may have another place to add to that very short list. 

Several days ago I received a request to try San Diego Taco from the owner.  I have to be honest, it was my first invite.  I didn’t know how to really handle it.  Do I announce myself or do I just kick back and see what happens.  I opted for kicking back.  So?  Now what?  Oh yeah… review.  😉

San Diego Taco is located just east of 108th on Mockingbird drive in a small strip mall.  It’s next to the nail salon.  It’s hard to spot, but worth the search.

The first thing I need to say is that the website’s address doesn’t reflect anything about San Diego Taco.  That’s a mistake.  Why do I say that?  I say that because we are a connected society, and people want to know about a place before they go.  Well… I guess that’s why I’m here.  😀

So, the website’s name is www.cateringbypaul.com, and the site doesn’t have any obvious references to San Diego Taco.  Ok… I’m a food critic, not a web design critic. 

I took the kids in and sat.  The place is VERY unassuming and the painted red floor was cute.  It looked to be an old clothing boutique and has a faux shingle roof hanging on the inside.  Kind of like Le Mesa on 108th but I don’t think it was intentional by the current owner.  I was a little worried when I walked in that this was going to be a disappointment.  That couldn’t have been farther from the truth.  Now, we took our seat and we were greeted and were offered drinks and chips and salsa.  The drinks were canned and the Chips and Salsa were like $1.75.  That kina cheesed me a little when I found out that they cost something, but quickly got over it when I began to mow through the chips and salsa.  It had a little more garlic than what I make, but I couldn’t stop eating it.  It was sooo good.  There were a couple of other bottles on the table as well.  A green/verde – lime sauce and another red chipotle sauce.  None of these were hot for me, but they had a great flavor.  The boys got chicken tacos, one daughter got a chicken burrito and the other got the carne asada taco.  As for me, I got the Friday night special: Two roasted cod tacos on flour tortillas with this lime-cream sauce and cabbage with a side of beans and rice.

So we get our food, and I look down at these two tacos and noticed how evenly the cabbage was sliced.  They were almost artistic.  They were two freaking tacos and I am sitting here focus on the cabbage.  I felt silly and picked them up and bit in.  Now understand, I have had fish tacos before and I had some predetermined flavor in my head for how these things were going to taste.  I bit into this thing and it shattered my preconceived notion of how this was going to taste.  The cod was so delicate but the flavor of the fish and the sauce just danced across my tongue like lightning.  I think the only words I could squeeze out for the first few minutes were ‘MMM!’ and ‘OH MY GOD!’  So rarely does a dish just capture me anymore.  I honestly got lost in the flavor of these things.  I was thinking about putting the verde on them, I am so glad I never made that mistake.  They didn’t need it.  They were so good. 

Across the table one of my daughters was eating her carne asada taco, and I quickly plucked a piece of steak from it.  Just the right amount of cilantro, seasoned perfectly.  My god it was good.  I thought about trading her, but I wasn’t going to let anyone eat my food.  I kind of felt territorial.  It was so good, I ordered 2 carne asada tacos to go, wrapped them in foil, and towels hoping they would stay fresh until my wife gets home from Indianapolis.  We’ll see what she thinks.

The service wasn’t bad.  The waitress was VERY friendly and made sure that we had everything we needed.  They are typically only open for lunch during the week and only serve dinner on Fridays. (They use the lunch menu too.)  They are also –NOT- open on weekends.  For us poor working stiffs that stinks.

Overall impression: The food blew me away.  It was inexpensive and had me questioning why I started a stupid diet. 

Plusses: Can we say some of the best food I put in my mouth?  Wait staff was attentive. Prices were awesome.  If I could rate it based on food alone, I would rate it a 5 out of 5.  I loved it.

Minuses: Décor is a little off, no beer, and no soda machine.  YOU NEED TO BE OPEN ON WEEKENDS!!  I NEED MORE!

 ~The Omaha Critic

(Update 4/14/2008:)

I tried the margaritas.  Hand crafted, good flavor.  These are a must!


Posted By: The Omaha Critic
Last Edit: 14 Apr 2008 @ 04:40 PM

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 09 Apr 2008 @ 11:01 PM 

You cannot have lived in Omaha without hearing SOMETHING about the Bohemian Cafe.  Good, bad, or indifferent… someone has said or mentioned it to you some time.  The place is an Omaha Land Mark. (I expect the mayor, with me now having said that, will move to mow it down to put up a new arena style bird watching park or something.)

This is a grand old girl that has been a part of the Omaha experience longer…. Much longer than I have. ;) 

You walk in  to the Bohemian Cafe and immediately you get immersed in the antique bottles on the wall of various types of liquor.  So many varieties of bottles and brews that I lost myself in a vision of old German men in lederhosen sipping these things dry in front of some cottage.  The woodwork on the walls was intricate and screamed craftsmanship and pride.  We were immediately sat and presented with water glasses and then our waiter came and took our drink order.  Off he went.

My wife and I looked around and noticed that there was a real lack of “new blood” in this place.  The clientel was generally older than I would have hoped.  That being said, I guess, I am hoping that some of my readers would re-explore this old-school gem of Omaha culinary fare. 

Soon our drinks arrived and our waiter took our order.  I had the Jaeger Schnitzel and my wife had the Svickova, a Czech Style Sauer Braten.  My wife and I also ordered the liver dumpling soup while the kids had the chicken noodle.  Our waiter was off in a flash, put in our order and came back with bread and butter.  I have to say that typically, I have bad luck with waiters (male) except for at Hiro (HA!  Gotcha Rusty!).  Typically waiters are slow, or talk to much or generally just aren’t attentive to their customers.  I found one that was awesome.  Drinks always full, made no excuses for something wrong, just went and made it right.  He tried to anticipate our needs and made sure that if he could get to us, he sent someone.  I feel bad for not getting his name.  If you go there, it’s the tall guy with the buzz cut hair.

Our soup came out and it was, like I always remembered it.  This absolutely delicious broth with this lead ball of liver dumpling in it.  This thing is so dense that it gives dark matter a run for it’s money.  The thing is soooo good.  I dipped my rye bread into the broth and was in hog heaven.  Not too salty, no intense… it was just right.  (Do I look like Goldilocks?)

After our soup, our main course came out and my Faeger Schnitzel is done to perfection.  What is it you ask?  (From Bohemian Cafe’s Menu:) Why it’s Selected veal steak sautéed in wine sauce and imported herbs, served with mushrooms.  *smacks lips*  it came with “dumplings” and sauerkraut.  I have to say, cooked meat with gravy, no matter what kind of gravy has to be the comfort foods of all comfort foods.  Chicken fried steak… pot roast… stewed chicken… boiled yak with frog gravy.. my god… It just makes me happy… so to get this juggernaught of comfort food placed in front of me, made me so happy. I dug in like a ravenous animal.  It was so good.  The gravy on this meat was so flavorful and when mixed with the meat, sauerkraut, and dumpling.. I thought I was in heaven.  It’s my old world pallet coming through I guess. 

The sauerkraut, was nothing like you get out of a jar or can.  It was creamy and smooth and didn’t have near the bite.  This was a truly savory accompaniment to the plate, and didn’t overpower.  I was quite delighted. 

After dinner we sampled the desserts: Apple Strudel and a Bavarian Kolacky.  I have eaten Strudel before, so this was no stretch… When I bit into the Kolacky though… I thought my mouth was going to jump off my face and get frisky with my dessert.  It was so delicious.  I wanted to stay and have more and more.  Let’s face it.  I REALLY enjoyed my experience.  It was everything I had remembered it being.

Plusses – The service was top notch.  The bathrooms were spotless.  The food was exactly as it should be.  it was fresh and tasty.  The Liver Dumpling soup reminded me of something my grandmother used to make.

Minuses – Location.  This place is on 13th street right between the Zoo and Downtown, so there is no direct interstate access.  Parking is across the street, and the drunk hanging out in the front took away from it a bit.

Overall Impression – This is an Omaha Classic.  This place is our history and needs to be visited time and time again.  Go RE-DISCOVER this gem in the Crown of Omaha!

~The Omaha Critic

Posted By: The Omaha Critic
Last Edit: 09 Apr 2008 @ 11:04 PM

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 11 Feb 2008 @ 4:59 AM 

I have had steaks all this city.  I have had some good ones, and some I wouldn’t even feed to my dogs.  Tonight was a very good night for both my wife and I, but also my dogs.  Tonight we went to “The Drover”.   This year, I decided that I would take my red meat addiction and try to move past it.  So to break that addiction, I have decided that I will only eat it on Sundays.  So I spent the better part of the afternoon, driving around Omaha, trying to find a Steakhouse that I was really in the mood for.  I went from West Omaha, and headed downtown.  I cruised the Old Market and my wife and I looked around saying “Meh..” at just about everything we saw.  So we headed back out west.  On our way, we passed 60th street and then I remembered that The Drover was just up the street and that we had always had good service and food there.  So I pulled off the interstate and followed 72nd street just past Center.

We were some of the first people into The Drover as they open at 5PM on Sunday.  We were immediately seated and water and bread quickly brought to our table.  My wife and I perused the menu and ate bread, finally settling the bone in ribeye with the whiskey marinade.  The Drover is famous for their whiskey steaks.  Well.. there is a reason and I will get to that in a few.  To continue, with my dinner I ordered the soup and my wife ordered the salad bar.  The waitress was off and running and my wife went to the salad bar.  By the time my wife returned, I had a nice steaming bowl of vegetable beef with barley soup.  It was very tasty.  The flavor was robust but didn’t overpower.  It was comfort food at some of it’s best.  Ok.. Veggie beef and barley is like one of my favorite soups and The Drover did it justice.  After we had finished, the dishes were whisked away and we sat talking about the weeks events.  Soon we had two plates placed in front of us with ribeyes begging to be eaten.  I like my steak in between rare and medium rare.  I like it red in the middle but hot.  Not dark pink, but red.  There is an art to it.  The Drover captured it perfectly.  My ribeye was cooked to the moment of perfection.  It was flavorful and tender.  The cut was well marbled, but not too fatty.  The grill marks lent more flavor to the fabulous whiskey marinade.  Yes, this is where I get into the whiskey marinade.  I’ve had the bottled flavors of TGI-Fridays and other “whiskey” flavored steaks, but The Drover’s whiskey marinade us a unique flavor that sets it above.  We finished eating, and I took the bones home for the dogs.  Well, ok, I gnawed on them first, then I handed them over.  So everyone was made happy, thanks to The Drover.

 Overall impression:  You walk into the darkly lit Drover; you lose yourself in the aroma of the food, and the ambiance of an Omaha Steakhouse Gem.  The food is great and the service is rock solid.

Pluses: Good service, fantastic food, awesome soup, atmosphere.

Minuses: The temperature of The Drover was cold and the bathrooms weren’t obviously marked.  Their prices are a little high, but worth it.

~The Omaha Critic
Drover on Urbanspoon

Posted By: The Omaha Critic
Last Edit: 21 Jul 2009 @ 10:11 PM

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 21 Aug 2007 @ 2:39 PM 

Last stop: Wing Stop! (120th and Blondo)

Ok, I have to admit, I am a real big fan of hot wings.  They just do something for me.  I like them spicy and crispy.  Now believe it or not, I have a day job.  It’s here in Omaha for an absolutely FANTASTIC holdings company.  I am a contractor with them and I couldn’t be happier.  (No, really!)

So now and again, I go out for lunch.  I need something relatively close and something where I feel like I get the most “bang” for the buck.  That place is Wing Stop.  It’s family owned, and most of time, operated.

Each and every time I have gone there, the staff has been great.  They are prompt and can tell you your food will be ready in “14 minutes”.  I think that should be their trade-mark.  Typically though, it does not take the prescribed “14 minutes”.  Trust me, I have sat in drive-through after drive-through for 20+ minutes for bad food, I can handle a little “Wing Wait”.

The last time I went, I called ahead and got my “boneless” wings, which are in fact breaded chicken strips (Much to my younger daughter’s dismay).   “Original Hot” is typically what I order.  That and the Lemon Pepper Wings.  Since I was going to carry them out this time, I thought it best that I go boneless as to not seem rude as I chew on bones at my desk.  That is better in private or in a dining room full of other people chewing on chicken wings.  I had asked for extra sauce, and low and behold: The Boneless Wing covered in sauce.  It was nice and hot, fresh, and had just the right kick to it to make my lunch time enjoyable.  Combo that with veggie stick and a drink, and you can be quite the happy camper.

Overall impression:  Wing Stop at 120th and Blondo has always been very consistent with their food and service.  Dine in and carry out, it has been awesome.

Plusses: Great food, nice-friendly-helpful staff, clean dining area, and very clean bathrooms.

Minuses: Small dining area with not much seating, you have to get your napkins off a giant roll at the counter, and getting in and out of the parking lot can be tricky.

~The Omaha Critic

Posted By: The Omaha Critic
Last Edit: 22 Aug 2007 @ 03:36 AM

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