Monday, November 11, 2013

Omelet & Viet Cuisine

16808 Audrey Street (168th and Harrison) 
(402) 657-3269
Open 8am to 7:30pm daily, Sundays 'til 5:30pm, I'd call to confirm before driving way the hell out there
Omelet & Viet Cuisine on Urbanspoon-OR-Omelet & Viet Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Just look at that cute logo, woudja?

All right, I've had it. This is me, throwing my hands up in exasperation, because this is not effing fair. Listen, I'm not a West Omaha hater. I have never once uttered that line about not wanting to go west of 72nd Street. Westies are people, too; who are we to judge? They eat, work, and live just like the rest of us, except their existence takes place inside the hastily planned celebration of sameness we know as the McMansion. Regardless of what your stance is, I think we can all admit it's a great place to raise (sheltered) children. 

Clearly, I have a beef with the concept of urban sprawl, and would implore those in "power" to focus on strengthening our core neighborhoods, preferably in such a way that doesn't reflect wildly misplaced sub-suburban sensibilities (I'm looking at you, Midtown Crossing). 

Egg rolls

When Vietnamese and breakfast collide:
Sausage fried rice, complete with large bits of fried egg, charred corn,
and forgettable specs of peas and green beans,
provide a cheery dish to grease you up any time of day.

The point I'm bemoaning is that some of the absolute best, most adventurous, and most reasonably priced food in Omaha can be found only in the far corners of our city limits, suffocating in an unbecoming strip mall, while meanwhile, famished urban dwellers get to rely on the likes of Jimmy John's when jonesing for something quick, cheap, and fast. 

What I wouldn't give to have Omelet & Viet Cuisine in my backyard. 

Sharing a parking lot with a gas station in the bustling neighborhood of Chalco HIlls, this restaurant used to be called The Omelet Factory, a mostly takeout breakfast place that, up until it changed hands three months ago, garnered some flagrantly mediocre reviews. Do not be confused. While the new guys have mostly preserved the standard egg-centric menu for now -- with routine items like French toast and even a meat lovers omelet dominating its pages -- they've also made a major move in the direction of Vietnamese cuisine.

Beef pho and its typical vegetable accompaniments

The result is a slightly strange and yet delicious new addition to our small collection of go-to places for Vietnamese. Though admittedly I am not a diehard expert on the topic, the pho broth certainly seemed more flavorful and somewhat thicker than most. We didn't leave until every drop had been drank, every noodle slurped. One bite into the banh mi, when the slightly sweet earthiness of the pate -- which had nearly melted into each crevice of the toasted, crusty baguette -- hit my taste buds, I attained a sense of well-being only akin to the serotonin boost of a thousand psychedelics. Wild spurts of A Very Jazzy Christmas from the stereo only heightened the mood. 

BBQ Pork Banh Mi:
If you look closely, you can spot
a crumb of pate resting atop the elongated cucumber slice,
and a chunk of crispy pork in the foreground,
elegantly reposed amongst the julienned carrots.

I'll continue to lament the half-hour travel time and gallons of precious gasoline involved in experiencing such quality in comfort food. I believe this type of place belongs just a stroll down the block from people who are willing to stand in a line that circles that block just to get it. In my dreams I'll frequent this clumsily named ethnic food gem, but in reality I will only get to go twice a year or so. I can only hope Chalco Hillsians know how good they've got it. I think they do.  

The three entrees, appetizer, and three soft drinks came to about $26 pre-tip,
a value that may offset travel costs for many of us. 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Diner

409 South 12th Street 
Open daily 6:30am to 2:30pm, Sundays at 7:30am

Inspired to point out the duct tape that is apparently holding the clock together at the corners. That is all. 

Some of you may already know I came of age in the deep, sticky comfort of a diner booth back East. Old enough to pretend to like chain smoking but too young to know people to buy us beer, we toiled our late nights away over plates full of bacon and scrambled eggs, all while expertly keeping the proper milk and sugar ratio between refills poured warily by a uniformed waitress too tired to care she wasn't going to get a great tip from us young idiots. 

I don't know why it took me so long to dine at the silver-paneled New Jersey knockoff with the shockingly creative name in the Old Market, but after hearing stories of its state while under former management, I'm glad I waited. The Diner changed hands about a year ago, and it seems what we have now is a perfectly respectable place to eat a boastfully unhealthy meal any day of the week. 

The arrival of the food took what seemed like an eternity in my shaky, morning-after mind, but it gave me a chance to chug two cups of decent black coffee with at least half the fervor I'd have if it were Hopluia. At least, it wasn't strikingly bland, weak, or overly acidic, like the brew served in similar establishments. 

Chicken Fried Steak,
complete with traditional deep fryer basket indentations in the breading,
and a peppery, delightfully fatty gravy.

My dining buddy donated a quarter of his chicken fried steak, and I'm glad, because the evident saltiness of the breading paired with the goopiest of white gravies turned out to be my favorite item on the table. In fact, it may be the most suitable breakfast in the area for those of you who opted for a liquid-only dinner the night before. The hashbrowns were served impressively, well, browned, a feat any short-order cook can tell you is tricky to do quickly, though often requested. I was also a fan of the hands-off yet effective service: servers came by unobtrusively to refill coffee and clear plates without interrupting our nonsensical conversations.

"Heartland" Omelette:
Chopped bacon, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes
barely sauteed and wrapped into a thin layer of cooked egg.
While the flavor was proper, the execution was bothersome,
and demanded we devote the next ten minutes of conversation
to an impromptu session on the finer points of omelette making. 

So the eggs came over easy when they should have been over medium. So they took that dreaded shortcut with the omelette and stuffed a pile of limp veggies into a thin layer of cooked egg before wrapping it up like some sort of strange burrito-like thing, instead of just cooking the fillings right into the egg. So my stomach is still churning from this meal eaten a distressing ten hours ago. It's much more likely that has to do with last night's escapades than this morning's grease content. Like I always say, don't expect too much and you won't be disappointed -- words to live by.