Friday, February 8, 2008

Petrow's Restaurant

Restaurant: Petrow's
Address: 5914 Center Street
Genres: American, Homestyle, Fried
Check Constraints: Check shows orders by table place, totaled indivually, on a single check.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Monterey Chicken Sandwich ($7.49)
  • Cup of Potato Soup ($2.49)
  • Iced Tea ($1.19)
  • Strawberry Shake ($2.79)
Petrow's bills itself as an Omaha tradition, and really, it is. The restaurant has been here, in various incarnations, since 1903. The current incarnation isn't quite that old, but when it opened, it was on the west edge of town. It has been a long, LONG time since "the west edge of Omaha" was anywhere NEAR 60th & Center. In fact, the west edge of Omaha is currently somewhere near 180th or so. In any case, this puts Petrow's right between the two major "downtown" areas of Omaha, and that makes it a fairly popular place at lunchtime. It's not a big place, and the parking lot can't handle any more than the restaurant can, so you might want to leave a little early to make sure you get a spot.

Inside, the place looks more or less like a Denny's, though with a more up-front and visible kitchen. Really, it's a classic American diner stretched out a bit to make room for more customers. Also, there's way less pseudo-wood paneling. The sign was out to seat yourself, and the waitresses were very busy, so I'm not surprised. I knew at least part of my meal, though, as soon as I walked in and saw the sign saying one of the soups of the day was potato.

I will go to a fair length for a good potato soup. It's one of the iconic foods of my youth, along with my mother's beef stroganoff. I am not, however, not nearly as good at making potato soup as I am the stroganoff, so aside from the stuff I had at Brazen Head, I haven't had potato soup in years. I ordered, and expected something roughly like what the Brazen Head had.

I was pleasantly surprised when I put a spoonful of soup in my mouth and discovered that Petrow's is somehow privvy to my mother's potato soup recipe. They use less onion and more cheese than she did, which is a blessing upon my palate, but aside from that small and welcome change, it was literally my mother's soup, come straight out of the past to boot me in the head. Potatoes, cream, cheese, a bit of onion, all boiled together into a chowder-like soup, it's really something you can't go wrong with. If I'd known that was their recipe, I'd have ordered two bowls of it and nothing else for lunch.

They don't have a soup of the day schedule, but the waitress encouraged me to call ahead and see what soup was on for the day, as many customers do. She also assured me that the potato soup is one of their more frequent soups. There is no doubt about this, I will be going back for more.

The sandwich, amazingly, almost measured up to the same level as the soup. The description on the menu promised chicken, ham, swiss cheese, and bread, and that's exactly what I got. What I didn't expect was that Petrow's actually puts cheese on both sides of the sandwich, so meat is never in contact with the bread directly. The sandwich ends up being a bit drippy that way, but it's out the sides, rather than having the toasted bread falling apart. The swiss cheese was high quality, too, and served so hot that all three flavors blended together well in your mouth before you even start chewing.

I had originally planned to grab a banana split for dessert, but ended up just grabbing a strawberry shake to go. They clearly don't have a shake machine, as the shake is made old-style, by throwing strawberries into vanilla ice cream and milk and blending the whole thing until it's more or less smooth. They didn't skimp on the strawberries at all, either.

I'm honestly tempted, at this point, to change the "home-style" tag to "home", because everything I got, aside from the appetizers Cham ordered, was exactly as I make it myself, and the way I grew up with. Petrow's is a great place to spend a lunch or four, and for the price, you're going to come away satisfied.


  • The Platter ($7.29)
    • Deep-Fried Green Pepper Rings
    • Deep-Fried Onion Rings
    • Deep-Fried Mushrooms
    • Deep-Fried Waffle Fries
  • Cup of Cheesy Potato Soup with Ham ($2.49)
  • Pork Tenderloin ($6.49)
    • 2 Onion Rings
    • Steak Fries
If, from my description of the food I ordered, you gathered that nothing I ate at Petrows' was not dipped in batter and then deep fried (barring the soup)... you would be correct. I've been feeling off lately, and I'm not sure that when I ordered a collection of appetizers and a pork tenderloin I put together the necessary pieces in my brain to realize I would probably be eating more breading than actual food. I've eaten at Petrows' before, and must have let the complacency get to me. At least one of the foods was an actual vegetable.

The Platter honestly was worth skipping. The waffle fries were good but made from frozen, the green pepper rings had a pepper/
batter ratio easily approaching 0.5, and the mushrooms - always a hit or miss item anywhere - were dripping with absorbed moisture and oil, and were practically inedible. The only stand-out item here were the onion rings, which you get two of for free with any meal, and believe me when I tell you that that is going to be enough onion rings. If you really want you can get a ton of them for not much directly as an appetizer.

The soup, on the other hand, was worth waiting for. ND tells me the cheese in it was entirely American, but I swear I tasted a hint of swiss. That may have been residual memory from my childhood, however - my mother occasionally made a ham and swiss soup with a similar mouth-feel. It's very thick, and very full of ham, so a bowl of this is going to go a long way.

I've had the pork tenderloin before, but it's a safe bet and good so I wanted to get it again. I come from a state which prides itself on doing pork tenderloins well, and I know a good pork tenderloin when I eat one. They're hand-breaded, possibly even done on-site - no paper-thin wisp of pork enshrouded in breadcrumb armor here. It's a delicious piece of meat, made more delicious. You could almost ditch the bun it comes on and eat it straight up, but then you'd miss out on the easy way to eat the pickles and onion it comes with. I also apply ketchup to mine, which is apparently anathema to ND. It's a habit I picked up from eating lesser pork tenderloins as a method to add sorely-needed moisture. I didn't have to do it here, but I came to like the flavor.

The fries, of which there are a ton on the plate, are steak fries of fairly large width. I could stand them to be a little crunchier, but you kind of take diner fries as they come, you know? I actually couldn't finish the entire meal. That's an extreme rarity for me, but as I said, I've been feeling off. I didn't get a shake this time as a result, but I've had them before and I agree with ND's assessment that they are well and truly delicious. Get one and you won't be disappointed.

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