Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Lighthouse Pizza

1004 South 74th Plaza (74th and Pacific)
Mon-Thurs, Sun 11am to 10pm, Fri and Sat 11am to 3am
Lighthouse Pizza on Urbanspoon

"Custom slice" Pepperoni and Mushroom ($4.99)

So I walk in, and the guy behind the counter says to me, "In case you haven't been here before, this is a New York style pizza joint." And so I says, "Yeah, well I'm from New York." I left out the part about how I was born in the city's Sixth Borough*, but to be clear, I'm the person who grabs a slice on the way to grab a slice. When I heard there was a self-proclaimed "New York style pizza place open late," I hopped on the subway (er, bus #11) and brought my appetite.

I skipped the Specialty Slice menu and went with a classic pep and mush. The mush were pretty mushy, and the pepperoni was more like sandwich salami, which was ok, but more appropriate on a hoagie. Moreover, the pepperoni was placed under the cheese, which is a full-fledged Midwestern practice, not East Coastian. The main problem, though, was the temperature. The slice came to me in under five minutes, but the crust felt and tasted undercooked, and the cheese would have melted more if I brought it outside and held it up to the sun. As a result, it had a soy cheese appearance -- which reminded me of Monsanto -- and I started to get upset. I was also perplexed by the side of Lighthouse sauce, since New Yorkers do not want or need to dip their pizza in anything, let alone salad dressing.

Lighthouse: I need you to do better. I need you to turn up the oven temp, or do whatever it is you need to do to get that crust browned and that shitty cheese melted. Wait, actually, get better cheese. Remember: Giant slices are only good if it's not a giant slice of crap. I might try you again in a few months to see if you've improved, but til then, I think you should actually take a trip to New York to see what it's all about, or at least hire me as your Pizza Advisor.

*That's what the hip people are calling Philadelphia these days. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Mai Thai

2279 South 67th Street (Aksarben Village)
Plus the original location at 14618 West Center Road
Open lunch and dinner daily (no lunch Sunday?), call new location for details
Mai Thai 2 on Urbanspoon

Mango Crab Rangoon ($6.50)

Between the barren gray and orange walls, the shimmering hanging room divider, and the bar that looked like it was erected in under an hour, I felt like I was dining at the cafeteria at Forever 21 headquarters. Throw in one or two Buddha figurines and call it a Thai restaurant. Interestingly, the dining crowd was almost exclusively younger couples -- did all of Omaha's girlfriends drag their boyfriends here after the mall?

When I saw the "Skinny Girl" cocktail menu on the table, I was all too sure I was in the mass-produced, low-quality restaurant version of the disposable clothing store. I refused to succumb to the marketing scheme aimed at my demographic and instead sipped my ice water and watched the manager hover over the tables while the servers tag teamed. Six weeks after opening this location, they seemed pretty hell bent to make sure the food came out on time.

Mango Crab Rangoon Innards

Once the mango crab rangoon appetizer arrived a whole three minutes later, I was taken aback to find that they were actually quite worthy. The mango wasn't terribly present, but I suppose it's better to under- than over-power. They were expertly fried -- it's more challenging to man a deep fryer than you might think -- well-assembled little cream cheesy delights. The Pad Thai was slightly sweet and again, not overwhelming on the peanut taste. Ask for a "5" on the spiciness scale of 1-5, since the "4" was child's play.

Chicken Pad Thai ($13)

Mai Thai serves solid comfort food in a squeaky clean environment, but if the restaurant stays as full as it was at dinner the other day, at least the other guests will give it some character. I mused that I would come here on one of those "bottomless pit" days, perhaps after a large theater popcorn across the street, and gorge on a whole appetizer and never ending entree to myself. I wouldn't be caught drunk with a Skinny Girl cocktail, though.

The Forever 21 of Thai restaurants?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Taste of Omaha 2012

Friday, June 1st to Sunday, June 3
Heartland of America Park and Lewis and Clark Landing

The only thing that really surprised me at the weekend-long Taste of Omaha event was that the lines at national chains like Village Inn and Fazoli's were rather long and lively. And then there were a few local booths who weren't finished with their prep at 11:30 -- when the event began at 11.

Still, it was a great chance to try places I will likely never make it to otherwise. Check it out:

Chicago Dawg House wins for best "booth," since it was a trailer. Fancy. 

The dawg itself was good. Not the largest wiener I've seen, but that's all right.

Poor people food: Kraut & Dumplings from Eddie's Catering.
The most calorie for your buck, this stuff will stick to your ribs and and everything else. 

The Guaca Maya restaurant on 33rd Street looks like a church, which has kept me out.

Pleasantly surprised by the Guaca Maya's beef taco.
About as honky as it gets with fried flour tortilla, iceberg lettuce,
nondescript shredded cheese, and ground beef.
But it worked.

A band about to rock out on the Rotella's Bakery Stage. Heh.

Cheese Empanada from EspaƱa:
Fat fried in fat with a side of fat for dipping.
More seasonings and maybe a vegetable salsa instead of an aioli would have been better.

Did they jack up their prices during the festival? Did Benson stock skyrocket overnight? 

Andouille Gumbo from Jazz: A Louisiana Kitchen--
Can't say for sure, but this place might just be ok.

This Blue Raspberry Italian ice from the Cascio's Steakhouse booth was perfect after spicy gumbo in the hot sun.
Food coloring and high fructose corn syrup never tasted SO good!

Can't wait til next year... Thanks T of O.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Clancy's Pub, Pizza & Grill

7128 Pacific Street
Plus two other locations in Omaha, kitchen open 11am-11pm, seven days, bar open 'til 2am
Clancy's Pub East on Urbanspoon

Spinach Artichoke Dip ($7.99)

The shamrock on the outside could hardly prepare me for the outmoded did-a-leprauchaun-throw-up-in-here "Irish-themed" interior. There were about one zillion televisions, though, making it a perfect place to zone out in the middle of meaningless conversation. There's no indication the menu, climate control system, jukebox, or clientele have been updated since 1977, the year this, the original Clancy's location, opened its doors. Case in point, the conversation I overheard at the bar during "Jumpin' Jack Flash:"

-"Say, Bill, you're about as old as Mick Jagger, aren't ya?"
-"Uh. (Pause.) No, I don't think so."
-"Yeah, but he's almost 70 too, isn't he?"
-"Yeah, but... naw."

Out came the first course, a creamy concoction with a variety of dipping apparatus. If you don't like tortilla chips with your spin dip, try celery! And if you don't like celery, try marble rye toast! The presentation reminded me of one of my healthy dinners I'd throw together in college. But it was pleasantly cheesy, with large artichoke pieces. All in all, I'd rate it as a mediocre-to-good version of this comfort food favorite.

Large Pepperoni Pizza ($14.50)

I'm quite critical of pizza, but I tried to go into this with an open mind. Although the "party cut" drives me nuts (as I discuss here), this pizza might actually do best at a party. A kid's party. Like, at Chuck E. Cheese. The crust and sauce didn't taste like much; the best quality was the stringy mozzarella that didn't want to break, providing mild amusement. I'm chewing on the leftovers as I write this, and I can say with confidence that if you have $14.50 and want pizza, this is not the place to go.

Our bartender/waitress, who was quite curt at first ("Is that what I heard?" she scorned as she repeated our order), opened up to us a little by the end. But for a place with ultra-conventional cuisine and decor, you'd at least expect the service to be friendly and the prices to be low. The good news is that you, too, can be the proud owner of a large one-topping pizza, for free. I don't know what the catch is if there is one, but if you sign up for a free Pinpoint Card, you'll get a bunch of great restaurant coupons in the mail. Hey, free is free, even if it is tasteless, greasy pizza pie served by someone who acted like she didn't want us there.

Monday, June 4, 2012

The "Party Cut"

I don't know about you, but when I think of the word "party," the image of an innocent round pizza mangled into sixteen or so tiny pieces doesn't come to mind. Also known as the "tavern cut" (Wikipedia tells me), this pizza slicing method leaves you with only a few Good Pieces: The center slices wind up as floppy, lifeless grease pools, and the outer edges are condemned to exist as virtually crust only, a waning moon-shaped, cheese-less wheat gristle that only the loser at the "party" should chew.

It doesn't help that my roots are lodged in the land of Philly Sandwiches (but where I'm from we give them the exotic title of cheesesteak). I think it's safe to say that most East Coasters might actually get sick at the sight of a round pie with square divisions. My biggest issue isn't the soggy center, but the fact that I don't know how much I'm supposed to eat. When you say "I had a slice of pizza before I passed out last night," I can picture what a triangle wedge looks like, but precisely how many of these squares does that equal? Two? Three? But they're all different sizes! I can't tell! With slices like this I'm forced to rely solely on my body's hormonal and neurological signals to tell me I'm full, which never works out.

The floppy, crustless grease pool that is the center slice.
Does this look appetizing?

The edge. All crust. No glory. 

To me, this is a ridiculous way to enjoy the Best Food on Earth. The pizza is thin, but you can't fold it, and since you can't fold it, there's no crease for the grease to drip out onto your plate, and with no grease crease, you ingest more grease. I know there are all types of pizza across the United States and even some decent ones in other countries. Give me a Chicago deep dish any day. I think I can understand that one. But this thin crust party-cut hack job bullshit? Not at my party.