Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Firewater Grille

Restaurant: Firewater Grille
Address: 7007 Grover Street - Inside the Comfort Inn & Suites
Genres: island, fusion
Check Constraints: 18% for parties of 8 or more.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Pacific Rim Nachos ($8.95)
  • St. Bart's Soup ($3.95 for the 8 oz size)
  • El Cuban Panini ($6.95)
  • Mango Cheesecake ($6.95)
In 2007, the entire Comfort Inn and Suites at 72nd and Grover got a renovation. Judging from the pictures on their site, they did a pretty good job with it. As part of that renovation they eliminated the rather humdrum restaurant that previously inhabited a lower part of the hotel, and replaced it with the Firewater Grille, an ostensibly "island" restaurant/bar that's competing against the dozens of other fine waterfront tiki bars in Nebraska - another entry in a clogged genre full of sand, sun, and mai tais.

Okay, so they're really competing against the Cheeseburger in Paradise located in Village Pointe, and that's just about it for genre competition, that I know of. That said, it's a pretty good stab at it, and honestly the prices probably come in under the chain restaurant (at least on average). But I'm getting slightly ahead of myself. The remodel has left the restaurant with an island theme done by someone who may actually have seen an oceanside bar once in their life. It's definitely reminiscent of Cheeseburger in Paradise, without the oppressive darkness and incredibly overpriced burgers - faux straw chairs, Corona ads on the walls, bamboo architectural flair. The place seemed a little sparse, but it's Thursday lunch on the week after Christmas and I doubt all the tables were out. Speaking of the tables - it's bar-type seating (seat yourself wherever you want), but don't try to fit four people at a single table. They're almost too small to sit at, let alone big enough for four people's food.
Additionally, we weren't sure if they had just cleaned, or if they were trying to duplicate sea air or what, but the place smelled just slightly of... something. It did smell kind of like a sea breeze, or at least some air freshener pretending to be a sea breeze. ND swears it smells like his high school gym, but I don't know. It went away, or we got used to it, and it didn't affect the meal at all.

The Pacific Rim nachos were freshmade tortilla chips, covered with alfredo, peanut sauce, and both shrimp and imitation crabmeat. It was good stuff - the peanut sauce was perhaps a little strong, but the alfredo offset it nicely. If anything, I could have done with smaller cocktail-sized shrimp on it, to spread the flavor out a little more evenly. It was served with a good sweet and sour sauce, which tasted like it had been made in-house with sesame oil (yum). I think they classified it as "cocktail sauce", but generally I think of cocktail sauce as having a horseradish-y flavor, and this had none.

The soup was brothy, but had a good flavor. I would classify the base flavor as "onion", with some other overtones on top. I think the menu claims it had cilantro in it, but I detected zero cilantro flavor. Food components of the soup included: green onions, some kind of flavored rice, shrimp, and a single potsticker, which was extremely weird to see but tasted good. As long as you're not expecting a soup that's more solid than liquid, it's a good choice.

I decided to go with a sandwich today, and I'm sure Mecha wishes he and I had traded orders. The panini was delicious. I expected nothing but lunch meat, but the sandwich comes with lunchmeat-ish ham and then the luau pork, where "luau" is a codeword for "pulled". Generic swiss cheese, a roasted red pepper, and pickles on nicely toasted bread finished off a sandwich which was very good for the price. It could have, perhaps, used a dipping sauce, but it wasn't in need of much else. I had it with the sweet potato fries, which were better than the ones I've had at CiP (I'm being slick and abbreviating now), and I've given CiP a couple tries to get it right.

The dessert was the only part of the meal which was a letdown. I tried both the cheesecake and the award-winning Chocolate Key Lime Pie. The cheesecake came with pomegranate sauce, which was seriously sharp in flavor but went with the mellow cheesecake nicely. The flavor was good, though the cheesecake had obviously been cut hours before, since the exposed sides were gummy and a little off in flavor. The pie... man, the pie was crazy. It was delicious, but it was a piece of pie, on a stick, dunked in dark chocolate and allowed to dry. Taste? Great. Would have been better if they'd tried for real meringue over the kind of whipped-cream spread they had, but that might not have survived the dipping process. But it was actually hard to eat! Trying to cut it with a fork required some hammering, and picking it up to gnaw on it via the stick left more than one of us with scrapes on our gums from the hard chocolate.
All the desserts' flaws would have been forgivable, had they not been $7. That's the same price as the panini! I realize they're made in-house, and I appreciate the flavor, but man, buy these as a group and split it. You'll feel better anyhow - they're both incredibly dense desserts.

That said, though, their lunch specials look interesting, the food is fresh and palatable, and the menu doesn't look like it wanders into places they're going to have trouble with. Possibly a bit on the expensive side for a few dishes, but as long as you avoid the dessert cart you probably won't break the bank. Definitely worth a revisit for me, if just to taste their daiquiris.

  • Lunch Special (Blackened Chicken Alfredo) ($5.00)
  • St. Bart's Soup ($3.95 for the 8 oz size)
  • Sunken Treasures ($6.95)
  • Chocolate Key Lime Pie ($6.95)
The seafood nachos were, as stated above, quite good. They do not, however, age particularly well. Alfredo isn't a sauce you want to leave sitting for long, and when it starts less than hot, like on these nachos, it will go bad fast. Finish them as soon as possible, and you won't regret it.

"Sunken Treasures" uses what they call "doubloons", which we originally thought were chips, but turned out to be bog standard tater tots. That didn't matter so much, though, because between a decent cheese sauce, two types of shredded cheese, and the shredded chicken, you didn't notice the potatoes as anything but a medium for the cheese and meat. It was also available with pork and beef, either of which would probably have been better, but the chicken was good enough that it went pretty quickly. It's a big one, too, so if you're in the mood for it, you could probably have it as your meal.

Almost everyone at the table saw the soup and decided immediately to try it, and it was worth it. The broth was at the upper range of my spicy comfort, but I'm pretty low heat tolerance, so most people could probably handle it. It really needed a lot more rice and a little more meat, but as it was, it was decent to good.

I had a bit of the mango cheesecake, and while I'm not a big fan of mango, the pomegranate sauce blended nicely enough that I could probably eat a whole slice, if I were so inclined. I am, however, a big fan of pomegranate in general. The pomegranate sauce also went quite well with random bits of chocolate the flaked off the pie as I cracked it open. The key lime pie was literally bursting with lime flavor, and I could have done with a little less. It was, however, dipped in dark chocolate AND on a stick, which raises it two full notches above where it would be. The price, however, is a real killer. For seven bucks, I expect a dessert to make me wear my jacket around my waist, and this was nowhere near that level.

Now... the alfredo. The presentation was good. It wasn't fettucini, which is the standard alfredo pasta, but they seem like penne a lot at this place, so I can deal. Penne is a perfectly good pasta, after all. The alfredo itself was a tad watery on the pasta, and the blackened chicken was very black, perched in the normal spot in the middle, but ringing the whole thing around was green onions, tomatoes, and shredded parmesan cheese. The alfredo, taken on its own, was a bit watery and much more creamy than parmesan, but the sheer volume of parmesan ringing it helped, with a bit of mixing, to add the proper flavor. The end result was an alfredo that was better than you could get at a store, but nothing stellar.

There's a trick to eating this, though, and that lies in the blackened chicken. If you take too much blackened chicken in a bite, it will easily overpower the alfredo, as the blackened chicken has a VERY strong flavor. If you take the chicken in smaller chunks, and cover it with the slightly watery alfredo, the result is quite a bit better than you'd expect from the somewhat lackluster parts. You can tell a lot from a restaurant's alfredo, and this one tells me that the chef who designed this knows what he's doing. This is not a place where you want to be subtracting parts from the dishes to meet your personal preferences. Take the dishes as they come, and you'll be treated to a good appetizer and entree. Just skip the dessert.

This place is definitely worth a second visit. Also, that smell was -totally- my high school gym. It was sort of a mix of chlorine and rubber. It wasn't unpleasant, really, and just like in high school, you stop noticing after a few minutes.

  • Luau Pork Sandwich, Jicama Slaw side ($6.95)
  • Chocolate Key Lime Pie ($6.95)
I had a bit of the Sunken Treasures and Pacific Rim Nachos. The Sunken Treasures were great--a tasty mix of potatoes, cheese, cheese, and meat--even if the potatoes were really tater tots. The nachos were a different story for me. I thought it was a really odd taste combination. It had peanut, alfredo, and seafood as described above. It wasn't really bad, but I probably wouldn't go for it again.

The sandwich was a good 'n' messy pulled pork sandwich. The mango BBQ sauce that came on it was sweet and tangy. I couldn't taste mango specifically, but that's ok. Either the sauce or the meat was a bit spicy, but not very strong and not overpowering. The jicama slaw side was ok. It was pretty much a basic slaw to me. Cham said it may have needed some more horseradish sauce. I could taste the jicama flavor in it once I realized what it was. The spelling of jicama always throws me off because it's pronounced "hic-a-ma".

The bite of cheesecake I had didn't impress me. It was a bit chewy and had probably been sitting out too long. I thought the key lime pie was awesome, however. I'm a big fan of key lime. The lime was a bit strong, like the others said, but it went really well with the dark chocolate. The pie by itself was probably too tangy. The chocolate was actually pretty rock solid and difficult to eat. It was also a bit pricey at $7. I would have shared, but it was basically ordered for me before I could object. (Not a problem, as I enjoyed having my own.)

My stomach may have appreciated sharing a dessert because the meal was really filling. I'm still feeling it nearly three hours later. It didn't seem nearly that filling at the time. Good meal though. The waitress was friendly. It'd be worth going back to try other dishes.

  • Rasta Pasta ($9.95) (w/house salad)
  • St. Bart's Soup ($3.95 for the 8 oz size)
  • Chocolate Key Lime Pie ($6.95)
Too friendly if you ask me! I think she contradicted herself in a frenzy of friendliness. Anyway.

I did sample the nachos and doubloons. The nachos were fascinating, but good. The peanut sauce really worked well with the alfredo in that one, and it makes me wonder about how that combination would go elsewhere. The doubloons were decent, but I'm not much of a fan of tater tots, texture-wise. Not bad, not super great.

The soup was delicious. Onion, or rather, green onion, was definitely the active flavor, but it was good to me. Everyone already commented on that it was brothy and that's fine. Also, the potsticker being in it was good, and it was clearly a flavorant (I want to say they do pork potstickers, so there you go.)

The rasta pasta was good. Let me get that out of the way first. However, and here's an issue that both Cham and ND hinted at, and that's that the blasted shrapnel of cajun chicken that comes with the penne and a red-sauce dish is Spicy. It's not super-hot on first bite, but it lingers, and as you keep eating the dish, it just doesn't go away. That's a bit too much for me. I couldn't finish the dish, even with two pieces of bread and a glass of milk and two glasses of water as heat sops. And a bit of salad with ranch on it. (Their house salad was pretty standard fare too, but nothing bad. No wilted lettuce, etc.) It was just too darn spicy for me to cut through. When this place puts the two torches next to a food item for 'spicy', they mean it. Cham would have likely loved it as his main (he compared it favorably to something he used to get elsewhere, but done, you know, well) so if you're into spicy, I have no reservations on the dish's flavor.

The desserts were just not my flavor of thing. Definitely not for the price. Their dessert prices topped even most chains. Compare Brazen Head (~4) to Chili's (~5-6) to here (~7). But if you go for key lime (like Jay does), well, then, by all means, it's an experience you should have. Just be careful of the stick: Cham poked himself with it (or a chocolate shard.)

I'd definitely revisit. One thing that is worth noting for the fun-lovers in the crowd is that they really do seem to have an activity every night of some sort, be it a band, or some sports watching, or Guitar Hero of all things (at the moment.) So going in the evening might be a vastly different experience. And as Cham said, island alcohol. Got to try that.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Chili's (Quickly)

Restaurant: Chili's
Address: 7400 Dodge St. (Crossroads Mall, just inside the south entrance.)
Genres: Tex-Mex/BBQ
Check Constraints: Unknown
Chain: Yes (National) | More Omaha Locations: 4 locations, at least.

  • Baby Back Bonus ($10.99)
    • Salad (House w/Avacado Ranch)
    • Half-rack of Ribs (Memphis Dry-Rub)
    • Fries
    • Dessert of choice (Molten Chocolate Cake, normally 5.69)
Alright, this was a quick visit when shopping, but I want to establish something WRT the ribs at this Chili's (and possibly others.) But first...

This is our first really big chain here. If you're not familiar with Chili's, it's a tex-mex/american/BBQ place. Yes, they made the annoying 'I want my baby back' song. They also are big on burgers, do sandwiches, and have platters. Same class, generally, as Applebees, TGIFridays, etc. Why am I bothering to review a chain resturant anyway? Read on...

What I ordered was actually currently a package deal (as evidenced by how I listed it above.) The salad was a normal house salad, and the avacado ranch only really had a hint of avacado. I would gladly order it again, but I don't know that it tastes much different from the ranch.

Now, the ribs. It was maybe 10 minutes from ordering to ribs. At most. 3.5 minutes between salad and ribs. If you read this blog, you know that the last I got ribs after 10 minutes, they were tough. These ribs... were not. These ribs (with that specific flavoring) were delicious, slightly sweet and not hot, and while not so tender the barest touch made it fall apart (which is actually annoying with ribs, because then you have no way to EAT them but grabbing the meat itself) grabbing a bone and pulling away lightly gave me a chunk of meat attached to a chunk of bone. I do not know what sort of voodoo they are using to mass produce decent BBQ. I don't. And this isn't a 1-off experience, either, on the taste, but the speed as well... it isn't as if they were doing huge churn. The ribs came with an even sweeter sauce which was okay for dipping the fries, which are pretty normal fries.

The dessert is another chocolate fudge on ice cream on cake dessert, but they use a Magic Shell type fudge instead. This actually makes it harder to eat as you have to crack the shell to get chocolate, ice cream, and cake all together. It's not bad, although it's almost certainly pre-prepped. But for the price, that's expensive (if standard, nowadays, for desserts at these sorts of places.)

A note about the price: If one were to order this same layout without a deal, it would be 4-5 bucks more expensive (if you could.) So this deal is actually excellent. The drinks are fine as well in general, but I was in a rush and had to drive, so didn't want to go with alcohol, so that will have to go for another time. But this somewhat of a rarity, in that it's a chain resturant, or at least a specific location of one, that delivers well (and pretty reasonably on price, at least with this deal.)

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Brazen Head

Restaurant: Brazen Head Irish Pub
319 N. 78 Street - Tower Plaza
Genres: Irish, Pub
Check Constraints: Unknown
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Farmhouse Brie(7.95)
  • McGillicuddy's Root Beer(2.50)
  • McGillicuddy's Root Beer Float(3.50)
  • Colonial Boy Boxty(8.95)
For appetizers, the four of us each ordered one, and we tried all of them. Farmhouse Brie and Tunes of Glory Cheese Toast were known quantities from our first visit, while Gaelic Hot Wings and Quincannon Potato Skins were new choices.

Farmhouse Brie ($7.95) is two very good wedges of brie dipped in a very light batter and deep fried, then served with toast and a Cumberland sauce. I wasn't prepared for the sauce the first time I had it, so it didn't strike me well, and I avoided it a bit this time. That's not because it's not a good sauce, mind, but because it's very good cheese, and it doesn't really need anything.

Tunes of Glory Cheese Toast is aptly named, as it's easily the best iteration of cheese bread at any restaraunt I've been to. French bread with herb & garlic butter, plus romano cheese and huge tracts of havarti over the top. I don't think I'd be willing to kill or die for this bread, but I'd definitely be willing to maim someone for it.

The Gaelic hot wings were... well... hot wings. They were light on the sauce, which was good for my fingers, but they were also pretty small. I'm not a big fan of hot wings in the first place, but I still went back for a second one, and the plate was relatively generous with them.

The Quincannon potato skins were pretty much exactly what you'd expect of potato skins. Sour cream on the side, and a generous portion of it. The skins left a fair amount of potato inside the skin itself, and after the bacon, green onion, and irish cheddar, there was just a bit of hollow left to put on the sour cream. Not bad for the price, but for my money, I'll stick with the fried brie and cheese toast, which get even better when you put them together.

McGillicuddy's Root Beer is probably the best root beer I've tasted outside of Sprecher's, which is pretty local to Milwaukee. It makes a great float, too, and 2.50 a bottle is pretty much what you expect to pay for a bottle of really good root beer, anymore.

The soup of the day was baked potato soup, which I got with the boxty (choice of soup, salad, or a cup of fresh fruit). Potato soup, being cream based, is fairly easy to accidentally screw up. This was the best potato soup I've tasted short of my mother's. The only way it could possibly have got any better is if they'd added tiny chunks of cheddar cheese slightly before serving. I only got a small cup of the stuff, but I could happily have eaten a large bowl of it for lunch, and if they have it next time I happen in, I may well eat just that.

The boxty was... okay. Boxties are what you get when you make a potato pancake, then wrap it around a bunch of other stuff, tortilla style. These had a cream sauce over the top, but it wasn't a sauce that tasted like it was there. Inside, the colonial boy is smoked turkey, black forest ham, bacon, tomato, swiss, and cheddar. I habitually avoid cooked tomatoes out of abhorrence of the texture, so the inside of my boxty was cheese, meat, cheese, meat, meat, and that's it. My only complaint, honestly, is that the bacon wasn't done enough to be cuttable without dragging out the knife. Inside a sandwich-type construct, it's much preferable for the bacon to be on the crispy side. Otherwise, a meat and cheese lover cannot possibly go wrong with this thing.

Price-wise, the Brazen Head is about average. The appetizers aren't the absurd size that you get at some other places, but the quality of the cheese more than makes up for it on our favorites, and one order each of fried brie and cheese bread is good enough for four people, if you're not living vacuums like we are. The sandwiches seem a little undersized to me. Last time I went, I got an asiago chicken sandwich, and it didn't do much more than dent my hunger. If you're hungry for a filling meal, go for one of the boxties.

Overall, I've been here twice, and if we weren't on this whole "new place every week" thing, I'd advocate going there more often. This is definitely the sort of place you can go back to over and over again without it getting old.

  • Gaelic Hot Wings ($6.95)
  • Captain Riley's Roast Beef ($8.50)
The Gaelic Hot Wings were simple hot wings. There were 11 or 12 mixed wings and "drumsticks" on the plate, and you had a choice of ranch or bleu cheese. It also came with celery sticks. The chicken was well cooked. The sauce was about medium level, I'd say. It had some heat to it, but it didn't burn my mouth off. Overall, they were good but nothing to write home about.

The other appetizers were also pretty good, but not extraordinary. All of them had good sized portions for the price. The unique one is the Farmhouse Brie. The Cumberland sauce is odd, but I liked it well enough. I didn't find the Brie as amazing as the others seemed to.

The sandwich was a good sized sandwich loaded with ham and roast beef on toasted ciabatta bread. The flavor wasn't overpowered by any one of the items. It had a good, unique flavor that I don't really know how to describe. I got the coleslaw for my side dish, which was relatively plain but not bad.

It's a bit expensive, but definitely good food and worth coming back to. Last time I was here I got a Brian Boru Boxty, which is mashed potato wrapped in potato cakes with a bit of cheese and sausage for good measure. Very good, but be sure you like potato! That was worth the money for sure. The atmosphere of the restaurant is really nice too.

  • Pint of Smithwick's ($4.50)
  • Tunes of Glory Cheese Toast ($5.95)
  • Colonial Boy Boxty( $8.95)
  • Root Beer Float ($3.50)
The Brazen Head pub takes its name from the oldest pub in Ireland (, and it at least does justice to that name with the decor. Having only been to Ireland once, and not while of drinking age, I couldn't actually tell you what the inside of a Real Irish Pub looks like, but the Brazen Head sure does look like what I'd expect out of it. Lots of wood, a nice bar, and a certain sort of "lived-in" sense, like the place has seen a drunken row or two, one of which left a gouge in the bar that got sanded out the following May. Most importantly, though, it feels a lot older than a building which exists inside a strip mall has any right to feel.

Oh, and the food. Supposed to be rating food, right.
Well, "irish cuisine", as the world at large understands it, really falls into two categories: "Lamb", and "Hey, look at what we can do with potatoes!" Brazen Head lies solidly in the latter, which is fine. Lamb's tough to get, sometimes tough to work with, and not really something you find on a lot of American restaurant menus. Potatoes, though... they do some serious magic with potatoes. It's a thing of beauty.

First, though, let's attend to the beer. Smithwick's is one of my favorite beers, and as I mentioned in the post on Indigo Joe's, it's not impossible to find on tap in Omaha, but it does take some looking (though I might have found a new source in an old location, hooray!). It's... I'm not really a beer head, yet, so the best way I have to describe it is to say that it's like Guinness, if Guinness lost 50 lbs and went out to the beach. Lighter, but with the same flavor profile, really. It is a little smoother, which makes it better for summer and general drinking.

The appetizers are pretty much as ND described above. The cheese toast is delectable, though how they square using a Dutch cheese in Irish cuisine I'll never know. I suppose sheepmilk cheese would be a little too sharp for this application. A decent marinara was served alongside. The fried brie is also delicious, though I am not a fan of the Cumberland sauce which attended it. The potato skins and wings were on a par with what you could get from almost any restaurant which serves them, but they weren't overpriced for what they were, which was nice. The fresh bacon on the skins did elevate them over, say, Denny's. The sauce on the wings was in the level I would call "tangy", pretty standard NY style, with there being very little in the way of capsaicin.

The last time I was here I went along with Moogle and had the Brian Boru boxty, along with the (incredibly delicious) baked potato soup, which means that my meal consisted of almost entirely potato. I'm serious. At least six whole potatoes had to have died for that food. This time, however, I went with the colonial boxty. As ND mentions, the boxtys are basically what you get if you replace the egg in a single-fold omelette with a potato pancake. It was filled with, essentially, lunch meats and bacon, and for all that sounds like it might not be so good, it was. You have to know what you're getting into, though. Boxtys (boxties?) are not to be taken lightly - they have a heft to them which you will retain throughout the afternoon (or evening). It's a lot of food, not light on the carbs, so it tends to slow you down a little. But its so good. The cream sauce could almost be left out; it melds the other flavors decently, but has little of its own and really only serves to make an already hefty meal even more filling. You could easily have them skip it, since the boxty itself was not dry or even really desiring of more liquid.

Oddly, you can add a boxty to any order for an additional $5, so what I'd actually recommend doing (and what I plan to do next time) is get something else and split the boxty with a friend. Or take some of it home for dinner, I suppose. They're just a little too much food for a working lunch. And yes, I'm complaining that something's too filling. The comedy does not escape me.

The root beer float was good. The vanilla ice cream could have been more heavy on the vanilla, really, but I doubt it was made in-house (which is fine!) and the excellent root beer more than made up for it. Mecha's dessert was also delicious, but I'll let him share his opinions on that.

Having currently exhausted my desire for So Much Potato, I think the next time we go (and we will be back) I'm going to try the fish and chips.

Edit: I totally forgot to mention the service. It turns out that when we arrived for lunch, the Brazen Head was dealing with two parties, one of which had to be at least 40 people! Still, the waitstaff made room for us, were attentive, and the food came out of the kitchen with relative speed. I wish I had caught the name of our server, because he was an outstanding example of the breed; attentive without being annoying, a good sense of humor, and a darn good plate balancing skill. He more than deserved the tip I left.

  • Quincannon Potato Skins ($7.95)
  • Pub Classic Sandwich (w/Cottage Fries) ( $7.95)
  • Hot Fudge Brownie ($3.95)
Okay, so I've been busy, sue me. I'll add a bonus post in a second.

Atmosphere: Solid. Although in contrast to Cham, I will say that the place should have been darker for more authenticity. But we've never gone at night.

Appetizer sampling: The fried cheese was good, and I liked the cumberland sauce and the toast that came with it, although I'm not as blissful about it as the others. The cheese bread was indeed glorious. The potato skins were standard and solid, and the wings were actually pretty tasty with reasonable meat.

The sandwiches are tightly packed, the pub classic having roast and corned beef, horseradish, and cheddar on sourdough. It all worked together very well, easy to eat, reasonably filling. It's pub food, and it's solid. There's not much to complain about there. At least they're not skimping on it. Also, the 'cottage fries' are actually waffle fries, which is to say, the best type of fries ever. It's a shame they weren't seasoned in any way, really, because they could be fantastic.

The dessert? It was huge. Maybe 6-8 inches square of brownie (cakelike, though, so more like sheet cake says the experts) covered in hot fudge, caramel, and ice cream. It was very good. And for 4 bucks, I've definitely gotten less dessert for more money, and it seemed to be made fresh as opposed to dethawed/reheated. It could have been warmer, but that's me being a bit of a stickler about the standard hot fudge brownie. Which I can be when I have to!

The service was fast, the guy was responsive, the food is good (and I don't think anyone mentioned that he balanced the table's height with a packet of sweet and low. The server thinks on his feet!) There's really no reservations I have about the place at the moment. I'm curious about a few of their other extensions into less strictly Irish cuisine (their slow roast pork shanks drew my eye: would they manage the BBQ?) but that is for another time.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Old Chicago

Restaurant: Old Chicago
7506 Olson Drive, Papillion - Shadow Lake Towne Center
Genres: Italian-American
Check Constraints: Unknown
Chain: Yes. | More Omaha Locations: Yes.


  • Chicken Parmesan Sandwich
  • Ranch seasoned fries
  • Cheese garlic bread
I went to Old Chicago for lunch on Sunday afternoon with my family. It's a little bit Bar and Grill and a little bit Pizza Joint. Their logo says "pizza and pasta", but they also have sandwiches and burgers. They had football playing on the big screen TVs. Items are a bit on the pricey side, starting at $7 or $8.

The cheese garlic bread appetizer was good. They give you eight pieces of garlic bread with a bit of cheese on top. It also came with marinara sauce. It was fairly lightweight, but it was also the cheapest appetizer at about $4.50.

You have a choice of seasonings if you get fries with your meal: balsamic, ranch, or something spicy that I don't remember the name of. One batch of balsamic and one batch of ranch was ordered at the table. We think the balsamic fries didn't actually come with seasoning, but the server got us some extra. I couldn't really taste the flavor even with the extra seasoning. The ranch was ok, but I wasn't impressed. You might like it better if you like ranch flavored chips. It's the same sort of powdered seasoning.

The chicken parm sandwich was pretty good, if a little small. It was about $8, and I expected a little more especially after seeing the size of the calzones and strombolis. The chicken was tender and well done and drenched in sauce, so it was a bit messy.

Overall it was pretty good. The cost isn't that exorbitant, but it's a little higher. Their specialty seems to be the pizza, strombolis and calzones, so it might be worth trying those first. I've had them before, and from what I can remember, they're good stuff.

Indigo Joe's

Restaurant: Indigo Joe's Sports Pub and Restaurant
7425 Dodge St - Across Dodge from Crossroads Mall.
Website: (Warning, Flash)
Genres: American, Fusion
Check Constraints: Automatic 18% gratuity on parties of 7 or more.
Chain: Yes. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Bloody Mary
  • Slapshot (Appetizer combo - Onion rings, fried zucchini, chicken tenders)
  • "The San Fransiscan" chicken sandwich
  • Banana Joe
This is not the first time we've been to Indigo Joe's, but I thought that since we're recording all this for posterity now, a revisit wouldn't be a cardinal sin. Besides, I never really like excluding places off my list of viable food options until they've had at least a couple of tries at producing something worthwhile. And if that doesn't give you a hint as to where the rest of this review is going to go, then I suppose you'll just have to read along.

Let's start off with a good word, though. The ambiance of the place is nice - the tables are all high bar-type tables with comfortable chairs, and there are a truly ridiculous number of televisions, with a truly ridiculous amount of channels. There's free wifi, and since there's no Keno, it's a smoke-free bar. The service was blindingly fast. It was approximately ten minutes from when we ordered to when the food - the entrees - arrived (more on that in a second). Finally, the menu is expansive and genre-spanning, with practically something for everyone.

The speed, however, helped to reveal a critical flaw in the menu; Indigo Joe's appears to assemble its food via some culinary application of a philosophy derived from Legos. Sauces, especially the ubiquitous and super-sweet Santa Fe sauce, get used and reused all over the place. The food doesn't seem to have been cooked together so much as assembled, as Mecha will later attest. The chicken tenders and onion rings were pre-made, which is not really a fatal flaw for a restaurant, but were just another couple of points against in this case.

The fried zucchini really was good (while warm), but the Santa Fe sauce served with it to dip totally overshadows the subtle zucchini flavor with syrupy taste. The chicken tenders were, well, bog-standard chicken tenders - which I used to think were impossible to screw up, thank you Chili's for disabusing me of that particular notion. The sandwich had serious potential; it was chicken, cheese, and a pickled ortega chile, along with Santa Fe sauce. The chile was a delicious addition, and it would have been pretty good had not it also been totally dwarfed in flavor by th omnipresent sauce.

The Bloody Mary was entirely lacking in flavor. I'd accuse the liquor of being watered down, had I not ordered something that is traditionally mostly tomato juice anyways. Who waters down tomato juice? There's not exactly tomato rationing going on. There was also the entire salt content of the Dead Sea precariously perched on the rim of the glass, making it impossible to take a drink without immediately needing ANOTHER drink of water. Or of the Bloody Mary. Not too much difference there. Which reminds me; the fries? Way too salty. As was the rest of the meal, really. At least, the parts that weren't too sweet.

The dessert was supposed to be a banana-cheesecake roll with ice cream. Now, most restaurants don't make desserts on-site. It's time-consuming, expensive, and usually wasteful, especially since if you're a chain, you can crank out your "signature desserts" elsewhere and ship them all over hither and yon. My guess is that's what's happening here, since the cheesecake filling in my dessert showed up in Mecha's as well. Curiously, there didn't seem to be any actual banana, or banana flavoring, which is perhaps unique for a dessert with "banana" in the name. If it was mixed into the filling, it was totally overpowered by the ice cream. That said, it's hard to screw up sopapilla filled with cheesecake on top of decent ice cream, and it was at least not tastebud-killing sweet.

This is the second time I've been disappointed by Indigo Joe's. It's more expensive than Applebee's or Chili's - hell, it's more expensive than Jaipur, and it doesn't have any right to be.

Ordered (Sorry, Cham has the check on this one, but is incapable of commenting on money in detail):
  • Lava Flow
  • Slapshot (Appetizer combo - Onion rings, fried zucchini, chicken tenders)
  • Half Rack of Ribs (+Fries and Vegetables and Garlic bread)
  • The Big Blitz (An Oreo Cheesecake)
The Lava Flow was a strawberry-added pina colada and tasted it. I like those flavors, so I liked it. Simple enough, huh? The Slapshot was of generally average quality, but it's amazing that Cham tells me of chicken tenders botched that badly. I do like the Santa Fe sauce, but it is strong. The oreo cheesecake was pretty strong on the cheesecake part, and definitely premade. Not really to my taste.

The ribs are what I can get into the discussion, as a ribs fan, and I have to say that I wasn't happy. They were not in any way fall off the bone, and really weren't even reasonably tender. This is a huge sticking point with ribs (and any good BBQ), and the fact that the food came quickly (+) means that there was basically no freaking way they coulda done this right (-). And they didn't. They were actually pretty hard to get into, having to manually tear with my teeth just to get them into my mouth (they gave me a serrated knife to cut them. A knife! The horror.) The BBQ sauce was on the sweet side (unsurprising, considering) but not bad, however, it'd be better on something that wasn't tough pork. Unfortunately, upon everything else, a pattern is set. Also, the cost of the ribs for a rack is currently a few bucks higher than the much more superior rib options findable elsewhere. For what is, as Cham puts it, an essentially slapped together block of ribs, that's not good. Cham said that sauce could have worked better on a sandwich (which they have sandwiches of), and the concept of 'take your sandwich sauce, slap it on some quick cooked ribs, and put it together' and it not working? Nnh. Sorry, that won't win me over. Even a yankee knows better ribs than that. The fries, vegetables, and garlic bread were all fine, for what they were, which is fries, vegetables (actually, a pretty decent mix), and garlic bread.

I ultimately could live with eating at the place, but you pretty much have to confine yourself to specific parts of the menu. I think the place could do better if it were more willing to stick with some of its strengths, and not be everything to everyone, badly. (Seriously. Alfredo at a bar and grill? Well, ND gets to that.) If someone ever wanted to go here, I'd almost certainly pick somewhere else over them (except for the Wi-Fi. Might need to test that another day just to check that it wouldn't be an okay place to sit and drink on the wifi.) And considering my decision process of where to eat is just about *shrug*, that is almost as bad as I get.

Edit: One thing that neither of us tested was the strict 'go in, drink, and chat and watch sports' type setup. I imagine it would at least be okay for that. The draft beers _looked_ big. And Cham commented favorably on their selection. They also have a couple in-house video games, and I saw some kids take advantage of that for parental relief (kids in a bar? Still not used to that.) But for a meal... elsewhere. Especially near there, where you've got a ton of options.

  • Fab Fries
  • Chicken Alfredo
I didn't actually go to Indigo Joe's this time, this is a recollection of the first time we went. It was bad enough that it's worth ranting about for a moment. The fab fries, by the way, were not as fabulous as advertised, but they were definitely fries drenched in cheddar cheese (not sauce, just cheese), and as far as appetizers go, they were a good meal. I say meal because there was actually more food in that appetizer than there was in the plate of chicken alfredo I ordered for an entree.

The chicken alfredo is proof that there is no god. Your basic alfredo has three primary components. Butter, heavy cream, and parmesan cheese. Indigo Joe's alfredo tastes of none of these. I have had off the shelf store bought mass produced alfredo that tasted more of these ingredients than Indigo Joe's alfredo. I tried to come up with three things that this sauce was made of, and I really couldn't. The simple fact is, this sauce was made of bitter and dry. That's it. They took heaping helpings of bitter and dry, mixed it up with some noodles, and put some chicken on top. The best part of the platter was the garlic bread that came with it, and even that was small and stale.

As a sports bar, one would expect the appetizers to be the part they concentrate on, but the appetizers are average, at best, which means that you can expect the entrees to range from mediocre to terrible. You can tell a lot about a restaraunt from their alfredo sauce. Indigo Joe's alfredo tells me they care more about the TVs on the walls than actually serving decent food.

I did neglect the mention of the bar, which, in terms of beer, was reasonably well-stocked with drafts, the sizes of which I cannot offhand remember, but were large (I need to start carrying a notebook). It's not impossible to find Smithwick's (warning, Flash) on tap, but it's decently hard, and certainly finding it without smoke's even harder. So, you know, go in, have a few beers, watch a game on one of the incredibly huge plasmas, eat some fries, and then go to McDonald's and chow down something you at least know is going to suck, and won't be paying $11.00 for.

Thursday, December 13, 2007


Restaurant: Jaipur Brewing Company
10922 Elm St (68144) - Inside the Rockbrook Plaza
Genres: Indian, Microbrewery
Check Constraints: No split checks, 18% gratuity on parties of 6 or more
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.


  • Lamb Curry with Rice (w/Mulligatawny Soup, small salad, a normal plate's worth of food) ($8.50)
  • Onion Kulcha ($3.25)
  • Jalapeno Beer ($3.50)
I haven't had Indian food in a while, and it's not the easiest thing to get right, so I was pleased that the restaurant was, in general, satisfactory. It's certainly a little on the pricey side, with the mean average cost of an entree at about $8.50. It's also a little on the slow side, at about an hour and a half from sit down to stand up. Of course, we weren't hurrying.

The lamb curry was excellent, with a lot of cumin and coriander. The rice it was served with was spiced in what I take to be the traditional style, with coriander and I think cardamom. For $8.50 it was a little on the small side, but was nonetheless delicious. The "mulligatawny" soup made of lentils that came with each entree? Also delicious. The onion kulcha was a little heavy on onion, but also delicious. You may detect a pattern here.

The jalapeno beer was intriguing. I would have preferred it as a slightly darker ale, but I lean towards the darker side of beer on the whole. The flavor of the jalapeno was definitely present, and the beer itself did not shy away from capsaicin, without being like taking a shot of Tabasco for $5 in the employee break room of an elementary school. Don't ask.

Overall, I might reserve it for special occasions, but it was certainly worth visiting once.

  • Kheema Matar
  • Chicken Pakora
  • Rose Lassi
I have to agree with Chamelaeon on the soup, it was quite good as an appetizer, definitely better than the chicken pakora. I had expected boneless chicken chunks, much like Mecha and Moogle got for their main dish, and that would have been much preferable. As it was, I recieved three extremely bony chunks of chicken and one with plenty of meat, all of which had been thickly battered and deep fried. Post-frying, the batter was easily an eighth of an inch thick, and really wasn't good enough to justify that much blandness obscuring the taste of the chicken.

Lassi is a yoghurt drink with roughly the consistency of milk. I might have liked it a bit more if I had gone with strawberry or chocolate, but in the name of trying new things, I tried the rose. The only way I've found to accurately describe the flavor is that it tasted just like roses smell. The overall taste was a tad too yoghurty for me to really get used to it.

Chamelaeon insists that the kheema matar is distinguished from taco bell seasoned ground beef by the fact that taco bell overuses cumin to disguse its terrible quality, and Jaipur uses so much cumin for good effect. Aside from a slightly coarser texture on the ground beef and the actual presence of vegetables, it might as well have been taco bell that I ate. It did go down well, and the rice served with it was some of the best rice I've ever had, but you can be sure that if we go there again, it won't be kheema matar that I order.

  • Chicken Tikka Naan
The mulligatawny soup was good. It had a good amount of spice/heat to it without being prohibitive to eat. The Chicken Tikka Naan had bright red boneless chicken breast pieces, rice, naan bread and a bit of salad. The naan bread is a flat bread that reminded me of a floppy pita. It had an interesting texture and was pretty good. The chicken was well done--tender and not too dry--but seemed a little bland after the soup. Overall, it was a good but somewhat bland dish.

I tasted a few things from some of the other dishes. The rose lassi was a lot like drinking yoghurt in a rose garden. It was a very different sort of drink, but it was pretty good. The mint chutney was really strong and not all that minty. I wasn't too impressed with the chicken pakora and agree with ND's verdict.

  • Chicken Tikka Naan (w/Mulligatawny Soup, Rice, small salad, a normal plate's worth of food) ($8.50)
  • Chicken Pakora ($6.25, half a chicken in pieces)
The mulligatawny soup was indeed good, as the others have said. The Chicken Tikka Naan was red chunks of boneless chicken along with a folded piece of Naan (a slightly leavened pita-like bread, very tasty.) My first impression of the chicken itself, besides its virulent redness, was that it reminded me of the teriyaki chicken that you would get on a stick at most Chinese places, in texture (and chuink size, possibly from the same suppliers?) That said, the flavoring, while briefly similar, was a whole lot more complex. Solid dish, and mixing any of the pieces with any of the other pieces worked just fine together. All good. There was a tinge of heat in the meat, but nothing to get worked up over. Cham said that the rice had hints of saffron in it, which might explain why ND thought it delicious, but all I could tell was that it was good.

I had a slightly better experience with the Pakora than ND and Jay did, and although it wasn't boneless I had better success at getting meat, even if Cham did take the leg and breast (and didn't comment on them!) Which also reminds me that ND got a Mint Chutney that he didn't comment on yet (although Moogle did.) (I was assured it was Minty + Cilantro, neither of which are my favorites in large amounts.) It didn't taste quite the same as the main Chicken Tikka, although there were similarities (for example, the same red hue on the meat inside the breading.)

I sampled the Onion Bread (which was indeed oniony) and rose lassi (which I finished off for ND.) The notable thing about the lassi is that although it did strongly taste of yogurt (good for spicy food) it did not taste bitterly/sourly of yogurt, which is one quality that I think yogurt can have on its own.

Price-wise, it is definitely a bit costly, even off the lunch menu. 5 people, pre-tip, ended up being ~$70, with 5 main dishes, 2 major appitizers, a couple extra sides (Onion Bread, undelievered pickles, garlic naan), and only the beer and rose lassi as extra drinks. But there's not a dish that I was unhappy with in taste, only perhaps a little sad about the price.

Edit: Also, in addition, they do not split checks. Worth knowing for anyone who wants to go there. (And the autogratuity value is 6-18%)

Yeah, I forgot the chicken pakora, which was intensely DRY. A dip in the (deliciously cilantroey) mint chutney helped, but it wasn't worth getting again. The taste was good, but it just lacked all moisture. And definitely steer clear of the mint chutney if you are not into its three primary flavors: lime, cilantro, and mint. In that order, really, which kind of belies the "mint chutney" title.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We Launch

After rambling for some time about possibly disseminating our opinion to the masses, or at least putting it someplace on webspace so that we can access it later when we all forget what we were thinking, I've gotten bored enough to register it. And so! geeks.rate(food) is born.