Monday, January 30, 2012

Bomb Digs Food Truck

Wherever the truck may roam... lately at 72nd and Dodge.
Follow @bomb_digs for details.

You can't miss this wacky truck.

Ever liked something just cause it's cool? Did you ever really get that movie Lost in Translation? Do you really think Sleigh Bells is good music? DO YOU REALLY WANT TO GO TO COACHELLA? Or do you click "like" just cause you feel you should? Would you even admit it?

I feel a little like I'm supposed to like food trucks, cause they're popular in L.A. and Austin, and even Kansas City. Omaha's had a few in the past, but with Bomb Digs, the Barbeque Barn, and Localmotive (coming soon), it seems the big trend is finally hitting our little city. Can it work in a town with very few pedestrian friendly areas and very many extreme weather days? We shall see. For now, all I care about is the Foodie Special at Bomb Digs, which I downed in a matter of minutes. Once you've experienced the flautas, a cream cheesy chicken delight over crunchy apple slaw, there's nowhere to go but down. Once you've felt the gentile sting of the red chili sauce on your tongue, all other foods seem utterly ho hum and drab. These things were so well rolled, and fried to a perfect and greaseless golden brown, that I didn't even use my napkin. It was kind of unreal.

Only time -- and a lot more parking lot lunches -- will tell if Bomb Digs can keep up with their game. I implore them to consider a meatless option. (Vegetarians think food trucks are cool, too.) Until then, I might be finding more excuses to go to Target, as long as they're hanging around 72nd and Dodge.

Foodie Special:
"Shredded chicken, green onions, mozzarella & cream cheese
wrapped in a flour tortilla and fried.
The flautas are served atop an apple coleslaw covered in a poblano & red chili sauces."

The Menu--
Get there early before they run out of stuff.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Victor's Gyros Falafel & Mediterranean Food

4007 Farnam Street
Omaha, NE 68131
Open lunch and dinner, closed Sundays

Falafel Sandwich

Victor, the man, wears many hats. Owner, chef, and server. We can assume he also had a hand in the restaurant design, that he places the daily orders for the tomatoes and pita bread, and that he mops the floors after each busy night. During our dinner, every single customer that came and went seemed to know him personally. He even heroically shoveled out my friend's plowed-in car last winter, just to be nice. Ah, yes, Victor and his restaurant. It's about as locally owned and mom-and-pop (or in this case, just "pop") as it gets, but, does this mean we have to love it?

First, Victor nonchalantly crushed my dreams to try fava bean dip, stating that he was fresh out. Fortunately, the hummus served as a fine standby; it was coarse and garlicky, suiting my personal taste. The falafel was an almost buttery, beany goo with sesame seeds adorning the crisp exterior, and a complex spice blend that would probably puzzle the dudes at Amsterdam. The presentation of the falafel, however, was anything but complex: Spring mix, store-bought pita, chopped tomatoes, and a tasty tzatziki-like sauce that will give you some mean breath. There is no doubt that Victor serves some quality stuff, but seriously, what's up with the price? One hummus and one falafel sandwich came to $18.50, which is extremely steep, let's admit it.

Are we paying for the vibe? There are neat posters of Egypt to gaze at, but no music whatsoever makes me self-consious. I'm a really loud chewer! (Or do I just have thin cheek skin? I can't figure it out.) And halfway through the meal, I started giving my dining buddy the "I'm-still-going-to-be-hungry-after-this" look. I want to support Victor and his one man show, especially since his falafel patties are heavenly, but I think I have to wait for my tax return to go there again.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Varsity Sports Café & Roman Coin Pizza

4900 Dodge Street
Omaha, NE 68132
Open 11am to midnight, bar open til 2am, Sunday is 25 cent wing night.
They hope to start delivery soon.
Plus three other locations in Omaha

Mini 7" Pizza with Pepperoni

Although sports bars fall into the "not for me" category, pizza is very much my thing, so I found myself checking out the newest location of this area chain on a recent Saturday afternoon in Dundee. The 14 or so televisions didn't help my ability to make conversation, but the servers' outfits provided some entertainment. Just like belly shirts in the 90s, wearing tights with no skirt/shorts is a privilege, not a right. Hopefully they stimulated some manly men to tip extra based on their behinds and bosoms. I chose to fixate instead on the ample assortment of draft beers, a slightly dented grand piano in the corner, and the traffic on Dodge.

The wings were suspiciously huge with extra white meat, like no other wings I've ever had the pleasure of staining my cheeks orange with. Apart from the freakishness, they tasted good, but the sauce was only of average hotness, despite our cocky request for "as hot as possible." The pizza uncannily reminded me of what you'd get at Chuck E. Cheese. But, the crust was thin and the cheese was browned, which is more than you can say about some local pizza chains. I could get in the mood for this again. They also reportedly offer a decent deep dish.

Frankenwings with Side of Ranch

The Traditional Sub was an assemblage of mediocre-quality ingredients: Bland bread, bargain ham and salami, and one very sad tomato. The crinkle-cut fries were whatever. The startling thing about this sub is that somehow, it WORKED! It just goes to show that a half dozen crappy ingredients can sometimes equal one edible sandwich.

Traditional Sub:
Ham, salami, mozzarella, hot peppers, lettuce and tomato

Sysco ketchup:
Heavy on the corn syrup

Roman Coin Pizza isn't shy about their use of Sysco products. Plopping corn syrup ketchup right on the table moves against the trend of "local" and "organic," but I say, why even bother trying to hide it?
We'll barely even notice with our eyes glued to the waitress' ass game on TV.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Abelardo's Authentic Mexican Food

3121 Q Street
Omaha, NE 68107
Plus two other locations in Omaha

Combo # I Forget:
One cheese enchilada, one crunchy beef taco, beans and rice

Abelardo's is the picture next to "drunk food" in the dictionary. The problem is, I'm never partying near South O, or any of their other locations. Maybe we need to start designating a sober-ish taco driver to make the run. My snobby Arizonan dining buddy says these types of 24-hour Mexican drive thrus are prevalent in the Southwest, and it's often unsaid that you will wind up there after a night out. However, when you eat this food during the day you must exercise caution (and self-restraint) so that you don't wind up with a massive tummy ache. This is gut busting stuff, designed to sop up booze of all colors and potencies.

It's also the ultimate disconnection from your food. Not only do you have no clue where the meat comes from, but they hand you the whole package through a window so high that unless you're driving a bus you can't see inside. You then take the neatly wrapped layers of styrofoam and plastic home, where it's time to indulge in double corn tortillas with guacamole, and the occasional extra chewy piece of carnitas. With the combo plate, I like to run a forkful of beans over everything else and see what sticks to it.

Folks, there's much better Mexican food in Omaha. But at 3am? Nope. This is it.

(Someday I'll share with you my thoughts on the undeservingly popular La Esmeralda...)

Carnitas Taco

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blue Planet Natural Grill

6307 Center Street, Suite 101 (next to Jimi D's)
Omaha, NE 68106
(402) 218-4555
Open daily 10:30am to 9pm
Blue Planet Natural Grill on Urbanspoon

Caribbean Jerk Pizza--
With vegan cheese, sans chicken

I'm an asshole. At heart, I'm a damn Yankee who doesn't like to meddle with superfluous friendly conversation with strangers. When the counter girl squealed to us that she just can't stop eating Sun Chips that day, I had to look the other way. And I conveniently forgot where I bought my shirt when she asked (I think it was from Target anyway). This girl had a few too many wheatgrass shots. Paltry complaints about the cheery counter staff aside, the food earned a solid "pretty good" in my book. My Honan Salmon sandwich was grilled well done, which isn't really what I fancy, but I can let that slide. The pizza isn't really pizza by any traditional definition, but a tasty assemblage of toppings and kinda spicy tomato sauce on sturdy wheat bread. It only took five minutes to come out, so we can assume they are made much like a college student might make a bagel pizza. Fine by me. There was some confusion, though, when my dining buddy requested vegan cheese only because she is allergic to regular cheese, and the pizza came without chicken. Interestingly, the bacon was still present... Bacontarian, anyone? Point is, this isn't gourmet shit. It's a good place to go after a workout, or sit with your laptop. A must try for anyone who made that "eat better" resolution this year, and a godsend for vegans in this carnivorous town --  not too shabby for celiacs either. They have a serious selection of organic ketchups, too, so next time you've got a hankering for fries this is your place.

Honan Salmon:
"Sweet chili glazed salmon filet, cucumber, cilantro, organic spring mix lettuce,
tomato, onion and carrot relish on whole wheat bun."
Add sweet potato fries for $.99, and dip them in a side of chipotle mayo. Do it. 

My soup, sandwich, iced tea, and tip jar offering ran me a full twenty. 'Twas worth it. The chocolate macaroon I grabbed on the way out provided an excellent unbalanced breakfast the next morning, still chewy and moist. Blue Planet, I will see you again. Just stop being so damn chipper.

Corn Chowder--
Lots of fresh scallions on top.
Average Keebler crackers with long ingredients list. Whoops.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Saigon Surface

324 South 14th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
(402) 614-4496
Mon-Thurs 11am-9pm, Fri-Sat 11am-10pm, Sun 5pm-9pm, Happy Hour 4pm-6pm

Grilled Wild Prawn Vermicelli Bowl:
Bean sprouts, pickled carrots and daikon, lettuce, cucumber, roasted peanuts, herbs.
There's also one Saigon Egg Roll in there, just for good measure.

The signage urges us to "Eat. Drink. Relax." Boy, never heard THAT one before. Doesn't Applebee's use that catchphrase too? Honestly, I can't see myself relaxing too much in their straight-backed, bright white chairs. The decor is sparse and angular, a few degrees from what you'd find at IKEA. Ambient electronica -- or was it downtempo trip hop? -- floated through the air. I've heard they have iPads at the tables, but they must not bust 'em out until dinner. That's ok, I've seen an iPad before. I just wanted lunch. 

It wasn't long before the bell dinged and our semi-awkward young server brought out our app: Three lightly crunchy Saigon Egg Rolls, filled with glass noodles, kurobuta* pork, and shredded shrimp. Unlike the usual chunky mix, these ingredients melded together into a proper filling, forsaking their individual identities for the good of the egg roll. Dip in some of the unobtrusive pepper-flecked oil for a smidge of extra flavor on the flaky wrapper. Dee-lish. The Banh Mi bread was crusty and buttery, and the slightly fatty, crispy-on-the-outside "signature grilled pork" was coated in a sweet soy-esque sauce. What's not to love? As for the Grilled Wild Prawn Vermicelli Bowl, the crunchy veggies and dusting of crushed peanuts over room-temp rice noodles were a nice compliment to the other more "fat person" dishes at the table. 

In the tiny one-person booth barely big enough for my butt, let alone my embarrassingly large purse, I came very close to foodgasm that day at Saigon Surface. Maybe I held it in on purpose cause I was nervous. At least now I know I don't have to fake it at other Vietnamese places around town anymore. 

*Not your average schwein. Known for its juiciness and tenderness. 

Saigon Egg Rolls--

Signature Grilled Pork Banh Mi

I'd have ordered a cocktail if the water wasn't so damn tasty,
with craft ice cubes and intricately peeled cucumber slice.
Gonna hit up happy hour soon. 

Check out this article on comfort food where I mention SS's Oxtail Pho.

Saigon Surface on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 5, 2012

M's Pub

422 South 11th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
(402) 342-2550
Open daily 11am to midnight, Sunday 5pm to 11pm

Vegetarian Lahvosh:
"Hummus, spinach, artichoke hearts, tomato, red peppers,
Calamata olives and scallions, drizzled with a roasted red pepper-cracked mustard aioli."
At times a celebration of salt (the artichokes made my mouth pucker), but overall a great snack.

What can be said about the venerable M's Pub that hasn't been said a thousand times before. It's not a genius idea, really, it's more like common sense: Classy atmosphere, a menu with something for everyone, well-trained staff with attention to detail, a wine list that doesn't make you yawn, and hours that cater to midnight snackers. It's no wonder they're in a constant state of "busy." The fact is, I knew it would be good, so I waited an entire year of living in Omaha to check it out. When there's nothing to pick on, sometimes dining out isn't as arousing. To be clear, the food is no adventure in flavor. Pardon my cynicism, but with such an expansive menu, there's no way everything can be a total hit. But I feel comfortable in the hands of M's. When M's tells me that Caesar dressing is supposed to be super-anchovy-y, I trust them, and make sure I bring along my Altoids™. M's knows to serve their grilled juicy hot dog with all of the condiments in little ramekins on the side, because, HELLO, not everyone likes ketchup on their dog. M's also realizes that not everyone loves meat, as illustrated by their tempting selection of solid vegetarian options -- think "Carrot Dog" and "Black Bean Cakes."

If M's says it's ok for the hostess to wear jeans, then by golly, it is. Just because they're popular doesn't mean they're too good for jeans. In fact, M's is kind of the "jeans" of the Omaha restaurant scene; they both offer a comfort and familiarity, and can be at once fashionable and utilitarian. I think they should open an "M's West," along with "M's Midtown," and "M's on Maple" in Benson. Heck, put one on every corner. I want more places with upscale pub grub at a fair price, so I don't have to hurt my poor brain trying to think of a place I know I can rely on.

Classic Caesar Salad, small--
Bold anchovy flavor, freshly grated cheese and house-made croutons set it apart from the rest.

Hot Dog, with all the fixins, and outstandingly firm toasted bun.
Real grill marks to tide you over 'til next springtime's cookouts.
Small bowl of lettuce with poppyseed dressing reminiscent of what you'd get with an airplane meal.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Petrow's Restaurant

5914 Center Street
Omaha, NE 68106
(402) 551-0552
Open breakfast, lunch and dinner, 6am to 9:30pm, closed Sunday

Pecan Pie--
Glorious gooey center

One time when I first moved to Omaha I found myself in the backseat of a vehicle in which the operator of said vehicle had just smoked a lot of weed. Without much of a choice I found myself in the parking lot of Petrow's, while the driver procured a slice of pie to go. The pie, he said, was bangin'. I nodded, checking again to see if my seatbelt was fastened. The only thing worse than Omaha drivers are Omaha drivers who are high.

This memory clamored at the back of my mind every time I thought about trying this place: Pie that feels good in a cottony mouth, sliding like velvet over recently burnt taste buds. But as it turns out, the pie is a worthy sober snack as well. In fact, it was the last thing I ate in 2011, trading my champagne buzz for a sugar rush. The clientele was actually not quite as old as dirt, and the vibe was jovial.  I ordered the Seafood Chowder, despite the fact that "seafood" is usually synonymous with "scraps of fish that are about to go bad." In this case I found the thick, creamy base and bits of clam (?) quite enjoyable. The fried fish sandwich only dripped a little bit of grease, and was coated in a fluffy tempura-like batter. The hot beef sandwich, with pliable white bread drenched in gummy brown gravy, made my dining buddy remark that if he was 65, he'd be "totally into it." I imagine it'd be good for denture wearers.

Our server gloated that everything, including the pie and ice cream, is made in the basement. I will be hitting up this place again, now that I know you don't have to be high as a kite to enjoy it.

Seafood Chowder--
Exactly which "seafoods" it was remains a mystery, but tasty nonetheless.

Oddly-shaped Fish Sandwich

Would you like some hot beef sandwich with your gravy?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year

It's been a fab year, but 2012 will be even cheesier. We're gonna take it up a few notches over here at FiO: Guest blogs, events, and new topics -- not just reviews -- are all in the plans. Keep reading here, and keep an eyeball on Dish Omaha and Omahype for more articles to keep you salivating.

This year, I resolve to eat more. I mean it.

Rang in the New Year with some pecan pie from Petrow's