Monday, July 14, 2008

Dundee Dell

Restaurant: Dundee Dell
Address: 5007 Underwood
Genres: american, pub
Check Constraints: No checks. Separate checks for 20% gratuity. 6 or more people, only one check, 18% gratuity.
Chain: No. | More Omaha Locations: No.

  • Pint of Smithwicks ($5.50)
  • Crab & Artichoke Dip ($7.50)
  • Hot Pastrami Sandwich ($7.00)
  • Chips ($1.75)
It's pretty hard to eat around Omaha without running into the Dundee Dell eventually. It's been there for a long time, though it has changed locations in the last ten years or so; outside of the Old Market area it's probably the most well-known pub; and it boasts what it claims is the largest offering of single malt scotches in America. So you know we couldn't pass that up for long. Unfortunately, working lunches don't tend to lend themselves to a leisurely stroll through many, many pages of scotch, some of which cost $300 per dram! (These are not your standard drams; here, they refer to the ancient measurement of scotch, the actual value of which I can't find anywhere.)

To be perfectly honest, I've eaten at Dundee Dell several times since moving here in 2005, so have actually had the chance to sample their scotches. If you're perfectly content looking like an idiot and have very little clue about scotch, feel free to ask the waitstaff or bartender since they're often fairly knowledgeable about such. I've found a peg is enough to let two to three people get a good taste, but if you're sharing between more people than that you might want to up the size. My favorite thus far is probably the Laphroaig 15-year, which is an Islay malt with a pretty distinctive flavor. I should also note this is one of the increasingly-common places in Omaha to get Smithwicks on tap.

But we're supposed to talk about the food. The crab and artichoke dip was a little small for $7.50, I thought, but had a leg up on the standard "too much spinach in some cheese" concoction in that it actually tasted of crab instead of just spinach. It's served with toast points and corn chips, and the former outclass the latter in my opinion. To offer a brief summary of the other appetizers ordered; the fried pickles are nothing special, the BBQ quesadilla was very muddled in flavor, and the fried yams started off rather bleh until I salted them, at which point they became much tastier. So the appetizers rank in at a 2/4 Would Eat Again ratio, or 50% if that makes more sense to you.

The hot pastrami sandwich was excellent. It was distinguished from a Reuben by not being topped with sauerkraut but instead loaded with grilled onions, which made a mellower counterpart and let the flavor of the pastrami and dark rye bread shine through. The dressing on the sandwich was not Thousand Island, but might as well have been. It offered moisture and more tang than mayo would have done, but it was properly subdued. There was quite a lot of pastrami, to boot. It was served with a pickle, but like all sandwiches at Dundee Dell, you have to spend $1.75 for chips (proper British chips - think fried potato discs), actual fries, potato chips, pasta salad, or coleslaw. I almost always get the chips because increased surface area means more browning and thus more yummy, but I've seen people say their normal fries are also very good. Verdict: Would Eat Again.

I've read reviews online where people diss the new location as being too "upscale", but honestly I don't think it's that bad. There's plenty of space (although parking around the area's a bear), and though it doesn't really feel like a real pub, it draws a nice line between attracting people there for food and fun, and those there to drink incredibly expensive liquor. It doesn't feel like a neighborhood bar, no, but it doesn't feel like a Disneyland theme restaurant either. I think it's well worth the visit.

  • Strawberry Soda ($1.75)
  • Chicken Sandwich, lemon pepper with provolone and cheddar-jack ($7.00)
  • Chips ($1.75)
My first experience at Dundee Dell was as part of a large group, with a severely restricted menu and not nearly enough space. It didn't impress me at all. This time was slightly more impressive, but the place still strikes me as a little cramped, a feeling that I do not like. In addition, their strawberry soda is terrible. None of the appetizers made me want to spend money on them, either. The crab dip tasted bland to me, the quesadilla tasted more like barbequeue chicken than cheese, a cardinal sin of quesadillas, the fried pickles tasted more like an unpleasantly warm and limp pickle than anything else, and the fried yams were, well, yams.

The sandwich, on the other hand, was worth the money. A solid bun with a large lemon pepper chicken breast, and I got two delicious cheeses on top, since you will rarely go wrong with more cheese. Toppings on the side, including enough pickles that I could actually taste them in every bite. The chicken was well done, cooked enough that it was easy to pull apart, but not cooked enough to be even close to dry, and the chips were pretty clearly made there, rather than bought. If I were to go again, which I'm not sure I will, I'd skip appetizers, and get alcohol, a sandwich, and a dessert.

  • BBQ Quesadilla ($7.25)
  • The Grinder ($8.75)
  • Potato Chips ($1.75)
I thought the BBQ quesadilla was ok, but the sauce flavor overpowered the cheese flavor. You couldn't really see the sauce, but you could taste it. It was fairly sweet, too, which may have put off some of the other guys. The crab dip was the best appetizer, I thought. I agree that the dip went much better on the toast than the corn chips. The dip had a pretty mild flavor, but you could still taste the crab. The fried pickles didn't impress. They had two distinct flavors: Fried and Soggy Pickle. You'd have to really be into those flavors to enjoy them, I think. I also agree that the yams were pretty blah. I didn't bother trying with salt though. I couldn't find the salt and didn't care for another anyway.

The sandwich, again, was great. It was plenty of sliced meats on a hoagie bun. It was a fairly large sandwich, and quite tasty. I don't think there were many toppings, but it didn't need it. It was just right. The plate it came on was pretty big as well, and the rest of the plate was filled to the brim with ruffled potato chips. I couldn't tell you what brand, but I'm pretty sure they came in a bag. It also looked like I got the end of the bag, with half the pile being crumbs. It was likely too much. The roof of my mouth was still in pain days later from the shredding they got by eating too many. But, I got my money's worth, I'd say.

  • 3 Piece Fish & Chips ($10.95)
  • Soda Pop ($1.75)
I was also a fan of the crab & artichoke dip and agree that it was better with the toast points than the chips. The chips just added too much of their own corn flavor and overpowered the dip. The fried pickles were very disappointing. It was pretty much just a hot pickle with some breading. The fried sweet potato slices (I don't remember what they were actually called), were fairly lackluster. They had a very gritty breading and didn't offer any real flavor. Cham is right that salt helped, but I don't think it helped nearly enough.

I ordered the fish & chips and, though they were a touch pricey, wasn't disappointed. They came in a foil bag with the chips at the bottom and the 3 planks of fish on top. I didn't get a plate with it, so I ended up laying the bag on its side and tearing the top open. The breading on the fish was light and smooth and had a nice crunch. It didn't have the dirty grease taste that happens some places. The fish itself was flakey and not too fishy. The only complaint that I might have is that the fish squirted me pretty good when I cut into the last plank with the side of my fork. The chips were your standard fried quarter-inch slices of potato. They were nice and firm, not mushy at all and they held up pretty good waiting for me to finish off the fish--they didn't get gritty and starchy as they cooled.

  • Thomas Kemper Vanilla Cream Soda ($3.25)
  • Fried Pickles ($4.50)
  • Dell Burger ($8.50)
  • Chips ($1.75)
  • Breaded Sweet Potatoes ($3.75)
The place is a bit tight, but they don't have much area to work with, so whaddya gonna do?

I was driving, so I didn't even get to consider having a whiff of alcohol. Instead, I had a vanilla cream soda. Came in a bottle, cold, and was a solid vanilla cream soda. Not amazing, and 3.25 for a bottle? Probably not gonna order one of those again. What a markup. @_@

I'm the anomaly in that I like the spicy fried pickles, which is why I got them. A little soggy on the inside, the frying method basically makes a super-hard shell, which it is easy to have the pickle slip out of (which is a defect: you should be able to do better!) Although apparently I should consider just getting some for me in the future. I also enjoyed the fried sweet potato, and I really don't get enough sweet potato in my life. The crab dip didn't leap out at me when I tried it, so I left it to the people who really enjoyed it, although yeah, more toast points. I pretty much agree with everyone that the quesadilla was too strongly of BBQ sauce on chicken, not enough of anything else. They even have other things in it like black olives... and you can't taste those either!

The Dell Burger is one of their standard burgers with ham and bleu cheese on the burger, and it's a really interesting and enjoyable taste addition. I was a bit worried about not being the world's biggest fan of straight bleu cheese, but it didn't overpower the ham or the burger's flavor, and I would certainly have this one again. Their chips were indeed chips, solidly done as always.

It's strange that this place seems to have trouble with the appetizer/bar food side of things, but them managing to have decent entrees is very nice for what we were actually going for, which is to say lunch. It's worth mentioning that one time Cham/Maple/I went, we got the nachos which weren't bad at all. But still, very weird. Especially since they go out of their way to have a few things off the beaten path, you'd think that they'd be more impressive there. Nontheless, the place has good entrees to recommend it and you should at least give it a good solid try. (Also, there's an ice cream place next door that keeps changing owners, at least at the moment, which you can get some extra deliciousness at. Yaye ice cream!)

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