Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Restaurant y Pupuseria salvadoreña

1702 Vinton Street
Omaha, NE 68108
(402) 502-2528
Open Monday thru Saturday 9am to 9pm, Sunday 10am to 9pm

One Fried Pork, One Cheese and Bean, and One Cheese and Loroco Flower, with Curtido--
Which is which? It's kind of a surprise.

Ok. I'm pretty excited about pupusas, thanks to this newer gem of a place on ye olde Vinton Street, right next to Louie M's. These are a Salvadoran thing, somewhat comparable to a Mexican gordita. It's like taco meets crepe meets polenta cake. It's like melted cheese and beans, and loroco flower. (Loroco what? It's kinda reminiscent of okra or artichoke hearts. Just try it.) It's like legit watery tomato salsa that is almost too hot for white people to be eating. Don't forget curtido, the lightly fermented cabbage slaw with red chiles and vinegar. The "fried pork" pupusa goes like this: Stringy white melted cheese, fried pork ground to nearly a paste, and something in there that makes the whole thing taste like a chile relleno. Wa-bam. 

The lime green interior of the restaurant doesn't really scream "appetite," but the madre y hijo working there are warm and welcoming, and the place is so sparkling and bright it's almost got that new restaurant smell. At a DOLLAR FIFTY per giant pupusa, there's really no excuse not to give it a try. 

What the Inside Looks Like

Monday, June 27, 2011

Dinker's Bar

2368 South 29th Street (South of Martha on 29th, just west of I-480)
Omaha, NE 68105
(402) 342-9742
Open Monday thru Saturday 11-9, larger menu during dinner hours, bar open til 1am.

House-made Buttermilk Battered Onion Rings--
With a side of house-made Buttermilk ranch! How Buttermilky!

The lunch rush--of the geriatric but jolly business type--was in full swing shortly after noon, and we were swiftly greeted by a worker who laid it down for us: Order at the counter, take a number, get your drinks from the bar, pay cash, sit, eat, relax. Dinker's is of course no secret; it's been around as long as my parents and allegedly serves the "Best Burger in Omaha." Neighboring tables were continually discussing the top quality of the burger, but through the din I could also hear folks hissing the name "Stella's." (Review of Stella's coming soon, next time I feel like driving ALL THE WAY down to Bellevue.) The menu board advertised a "F_AT IRON STEAK," but even then I went for a Malibu Chicken Sandwich. I couldn't even taste the ham under the thick slice of Swiss and slather of mayo, but what did I care. Don't bother with the chips; upgrade to fries or house-breaded greasy as heck onion rings. What to say about the burger that hasn't been said a million times before? Yes, it's exceptional, and there's little reason to gorge yourself on ground beef anywhere else. (Well, almost anywhere else...)

One of these days I'm gonna show up and chew on 40 cent wings and guzzle pitchers of Busch lite with the best of 'em. Dink on.

Malibu Chicken Sandwich--
Breaded fried chicken with grilled ham and Swiss cheese on grilled kaiser bun
Bacon Cheeseburger with Fries

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Trip to Baker's

Chicken Enchiladas, Cold
Please, don't give up on Mexican food in Omaha. Sure, we're no California or Arizona or Texas, but please, whatever you do, don't spend $6 on this, unless you need something to laugh at.

Bucket o' Corn
Sometimes you just need a big bucket of buttery corn. Hot. Ready. Now.

Lunchables Version of PB & J
Used to be the kid with the Lunchables was the cool popular one, and then there was lame-o me with the PB&J. Now I don't know what to think.

DiGiorno Pizza and Wyngz
Thank God for those airtight food industry regulations keeping innocent consumers from thinking they're eating wings when they're actually eating wyngz.

Amy's Organic Cheese Pizza Pocket 
Best pizza in Omaha?

Monday, June 20, 2011

11-Worth cafe

2419 Leavenworth Street
Omaha, NE 68105

(402) 346-6924
Open every day 6am to 3pm
11-Worth Cafe on Urbanspoon

Pork Tenderloin with Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

After my recent trip to this Omaha favorite, I'm thinking a "People of 11-Worth" photo site might be a popular idea. Here in the waiting area you've got a group of College World Series bros enjoying the gratis coffee right alongside the Wal-Mart mutants; it's really a beautiful thing. These people obviously had one thing in common: They were hungry. And as the 11-Worth states on their website, they "have always made a point of giving large portions for the best possible value." Unfortunately, they should re-assess their concept of "value." The portions were indeed breathtaking, but who wants an overflowing plateful of crappy food? Take the Pork Tenderloin for instance. The first bite delivered a mouthful of thick breading that made the fatty in me go "mmm." Three bites in and I wondered if I ordered the Pork Tendon-loin by accident, judging by the Grade F meat. The Chicken Philly came on one of those rolls that tasted like it had a very long fake ingredients list. With the canned mushrooms, American cheese, and pathetic frozen French fries, even I couldn't get past the first half, which is really saying something.   

You might say we should have stuck to the breakfast. I'd say join the VIP club for 15% off your bill, and go anytime you feel like asking yourself why you didn't go to Leo's, or nearly anywhere else in this town. 
Chicken Philly with French Fries

Friday, June 17, 2011

Maru Sushi & Korean Grill

5032 South 108th Street (In strip with gigantic Godfather's Pizza)
Omaha, NE 68137
(402) 593-0717
Open daily for lunch except Sundays, dinner everyday, closes in between

Beef Bulgogi with Vegetable Trio
Joke about my palette all you want, but I don't love sushi. "Why don't you stuff some more cheese in your face?" you might want to say. I guess it's the texture, or maybe the handful of times I've tried it it's been subpar. Or maybe I'm still growing up and I won't develop my taste buds for a few more years. Anyway, at Maru I ordered off the grill menu for a quick lunch. Sesame seeds everywhere in the brown sauce that was perfect mixed with the pillow-y soft white rice. Onions still crunchy but just caramelized enough to be sweet. The accompanying veggies were quite enjoyable, particularly the kimchi (cabbage), with its spicy crunch. Started with the Miso Soup and couldn't get that big ole spoon in my mouth fast enough. The lovely interior, with the high ceilings, wooden tables and tons of natural light, will bring me back to try another dish, maybe with a couple spicy tuna rolls this time. (!)
Beef Bulgogi
Potatoes, Chinese Broccoli, Kimchi
Miso Soup

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Worker's Takeout

1620 Dodge Street (Basement of First National Building)
Omaha, NE 68102
(402) 991-6131
Open 11am-2pm Monday thru Friday; better set an alarm!

THEE Cuban Pork Roast (Half version)
This place used to be attached to O'leaver's Pub, which, judging by the clientele there, might be the last place you'd want to market your workforce-centric sandwiches. Note the cute Communist theme on the website. Now "Worker's," as those who know call it, is located downtown, sharing counter space with a Scooter's coffee. Less dinge and more suits, but still with the same kick-ass Cuban. Notable here is the value: The ingredients are absolute top, and you can get a giant half sandwich plus chips and pickle for four bucks! The veggie deluxe sand with jalapeños is killer; the meat is not missed. Maybe ask for light cheese, though, unless you're in the mood for your sandwich to ooze out the sides.
The Veggie Deluxe Half Sandwich
Skip the kettle chips and add a side of potato salad, or the beans and rice, or a CONEY DOG. Hard workers need hearty food you know.
Red Potato Salad

Monday, June 13, 2011


1259 South 120th Street
Omaha, NE 68144

(402) 932-5577
Open daily 7am-2pm

A couple of things stood out to me at this breakfast spot embraced by many as having the best benedict in the city. Firstly, nearly everyone dining on this particular Sunday morning was lookin' large. Very large. Look, I don't want to offend anyone, but it's true. About half of the items on the breakfast menu come "drizzled with Chef Jon's secret recipe Hollandaise." Just, um, go for a walk or something afterwards and you'll be fine. Regarding the service, I haven't been called "Hon" that many times since the last time I went to Baltimore. When we asked for hot sauce, the reply was, "You could have gotten that yourself." But don't get me wrong; I'll take a spunky senior as my server over a snotty college kid any day.

The eggs were poached to perfection, each one taking on a uniform smooth round shape and soft texture. On the Guerrero Benedict, the beans were of the Rosarita canned variety, and the chorizo was glistening with grease like it should be, but lacked the heat. The hash browns were very simple, but done well. Vintner's Eggs, with its crisp asparagus and ripe tomatoes, was probably even healthy. You may have to wait a few minutes for your table at Bailey's, but you'll need all the appetite you can muster to conquer one of these plates.

Guerrero Benedict:
Chorizo sausage, refried beans, cotija cheese and poached eggs over an English muffin with chipotle hollandaise 
Vintner's Eggs:
Grilled asparagus, poached eggs, chopped bacon, tomatoes and sourdough toast

Friday, June 10, 2011

Leo's Diner

6055 Maple Street
Omaha, NE 68104
(402) 553-2280
Open early for breakfast but closes around 1pm most days, then re-opens for dinner, closed Mondays

Retro jukebox at each table... but do they work?
I can't tell you how many nights of my life have ended in a diner. When you're not old enough to (legally) drink alcohol, and there are places like Tom Jones filled with other 18 year olds smoking cigarette after cigarette and hounding the waitress for coffee refills, it's really the coolest place to be. Post-fake ID age, we still turned to diners to fill our boozy bellies at 3am, or maybe to cater to our hangovers the next morning.  I even worked at one for over a year! Yes, the "diner" holds a special place in my heart. So far, Leo's Diner in Benson is the only one I've found that even comes close to my favorites back home. The French toast, for example, is not some fancy brioche topped with preserves or encased in chocolate ganache or any of that funny business. It's flat, egg-y, and swimming in butter. The two-egg platter is just like what you'd get at one of New Jersey's finest; the hash browns are something else. As Leo's is a family affair, I understand their limited hours, but just think of all the Benson bros they could feed after the bars close!

In the meantime, I'll look into getting that tattoo that says "White, wheat, or rye?"

French Toast
Egg Platter with Bacon--
hash browns under there somewhere
Christmas in June, Why Not?
Coffee in True Diner Style: Mostly Water

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Really Fat in San Diego

Di Suvero's Tumbleweeds in Balboa Park

Del Taco
At the risk of cheapening the blog, I'm going to include the national chain Del Taco, which you should know does not exist in Nebraska, or Iowa, or where I'm from. In fact, there's more in California than anywhere else, making it a fast food vacation must. Early on a Sunday morning I was able to get a "BIG FAT" taco with fries along with a breakfast taco that was trying to pretend it was from the street, wearin' a foil wrapper and all. To the Taco Bell at 38th and Dodge: Now you look grosser than ever. http://www.deltaco.com/
How could I not get the BIG FAT?
I'm all about fast food trying to mimic real street food.

Red Sails Inn, Shelter Island
And so we decided to go to a non-fancy seafood place. Not to belabor the point, but in Omaha this means Red Lobster. In San Diego it means checkered tablecloths outdoors with the water and yachts right there, and a waitress that may or may not have graduated high school some forty years ago. There was no innovative plating and no deluxe drink list; it was kinda like a seafood diner with crabs. Here we go: http://www.theredsails.com/
Mini Crab Cakes Appetizer with Lemon and Remoulade Sauce 
Crab Louie Salad--aka the King of Salads--Invented in San Francisco
Above Average Clam Chowder
Crab Sandwich--yep
California Sea Bass with Steak Fries and Veracruz and Tartar Sauces

D. Z. Akin's Restaurant and Delicatessen
My appreciation of the Jewish deli is somewhat newfound, and basically formed when I realized I couldn't have it whenever I wanted it. (If I'm wrong and there is a good Jewish-style deli in Omaha, now would be a good time to let me know.) At D.Z.'s, there were some fat folks literally dancing their way from the parking lot to the entrance, they were so excited. We sat down in one of the many ugly blue booths and skimmed the heavy six page menu while noshing on house-brined pickles from a bucket on the table. It was all over when the soup came. Please, let the pictures do the talking... I'm too full to think about it right now. http://dzakinsdeli.com/
Mish Mash:
Matzo ball, kreplach meat dumpling, noodles, carrots and chicken broth
Kishka with Gravy:
Made with matzo meal, potatoes and carrots, stuffed in a casing and fried,
a sort of vegetable sausage
A crepe filled with a sort of cream cheese, with sour cream on the side
Potato Latkes:
Shredded potato pancakes fried and served with sour cream and applesauce

The Number 2:
Corned beef, pastrami and chopped liver on seeded rye with potato salad.
It's number 2 on the menu because it's popular, not because the liver looks like poop.
And yeah, you kind of have to dislocate your jaw to eat it.

Osteria Romantica, La Jolla
Sometimes you just want some good Italian food. Sure, the portions were more American than European, but at this point in the trip we said to hell with authenticity. Besides, our friend the Waiter showcased his exaggerated Italian accent beautifully. On the patio shaded by trees with the ocean a few steps away, I sipped on (chugged?) pinot grigio and nibbled on hot bread with a'spicy marinara. At one point the busser spilled a bunch of sauce on the table and didn't bother to wipe it up; I guess he figured we had tongues. http://www.osteriaromantica.com/
Calamari Fritti:
With fried zucchini and marinara sauce
Linguine Mare:
Mussels, Shrimp and Clams in a White Wine Sauce
House-made penne with sausage and porcini mushrooms in red sauce
Back to Omaha for now, where the AC is kicking, the corn is shucking, and there are still like 600 restaurants I need to try. Woot. 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Fat in San Diego

The Pacific Ocean
Don't worry; I didn't go on a diet. Rather, I've been absent from posting the last week because I'm on vacation. 

Here's some of the stuff I've been getting fat on:

El Indio Mexican Restaurant, Mission Hills
A crazy concoction of a couple of beef taquitos cut up and smothered in nacho cheese and jalapeños. This is basically nachos with tacos instead of chips, people. The "mord" in the title becomes more understandable once this is in front of you. Still pretty damn tasty though, and you won't find this dish anywhere else, period.  www.el-indio.com

Mona Lisa Italian Foods, Little Italy
Capicola Sandwich on Torpedo Roll with Everything--Perfect with a Peroni
Informed by an insider that this place has the best sandwiches in San Diego, and we have no reason to believe otherwise. Truly foodgasmic. Huge and under $7, a Mona Lisa's sandwich will make Subway and everything else taste like barf. www.monalisalittleitaly.com

Order Your Sandwich on the Deli Side and then Enjoy Outdoors

Bahia Don Bravo Mexican Restaurant, La Jolla

Fish Tacos 
Ok, Omaha, the only bad thing about these is that once you've had fish tacos a couple of blocks from the ocean, you can't go back to frozen. This is one long strip of fresh crispy fish, not the minced white stuff found farther inland. This is a warm tortilla that was born earlier that day--not in a factory six months ago. Plus, salsa bars are fun! ("Should I get hot-hot? Or just kinda hot?") Get your happy hour on after some beach time, when tacos are 99¢ each. Unbeatable. http://bahiadonbravo.net/
Pacifico on Tap

Lefty's Chicago Pizzeria, Mission Hills
Thin or Deep Dish?
Loaded Fries with Bacon, Scallions, Cheddar Cheese and Sour Cream
You may or may not know that I am constantly dreaming about that floppy, greasy New York slice. For your information, the thin-crust pepperoni from Lefty's is on the right track. The deep dish is legendary, if that's your thing. If you're very drunk or have at least four hungry friends with you, try the Loaded Fries, which you will find to be very intense in all of their thickly sliced bacon-ous glory. We caught a glimpse of the Chicago Dog at a nearby table and had total plate envy. www.leftyspizza.com

And that's all for now. There's more on the menu for tomorrow, though.