Saturday, July 23, 2016

Rivera's Mexican Restaurant

12047 Blondo Street

Open Tues–Sat for lunch & dinner but closed 2–5 p.m., also closed Sun and Mon

I approach any visit to northwest Omaha much like an alien coming across Earth for the first time. "There's a whole ecosystem out here, a whole other world! It's astounding!" I'm known to mutter to my passenger. Then, once I've loaded up whatever Craigslist find sold to me by some bloke living in a windowless structure with newer beige siding, I think, "I should eat since I'm not out here too often."

Thus, Rivera's has become a favorite stop on this edge of town.

After a handful of visits, I wouldn't use the word "classy" to describe the staff. But while each server's diner-meets-dive bar demeanor can only be her own, it's not the group's fault the ownership outfits them in T-shirts emblazoned with the embarrassing phrase: So Authentic, It Should Be Illegal.

Feeling like a washed-up shadow of my former outraged young self, I sit and eat. I watch people clothed in these obnoxious tees march to and fro, holding hot plates piled high, craning my neck to get a look as my dining buddy and I remark to each other, "that one looks good." I want to boycott the place, but can't seem to care enough. Apathy has taken over in the PC-minefield of 2016, not to mention there's rich, cheesy food to be had.

Enchiladas Suizas

The nachos are enough for two full meals, chips pleasantly on the thin side with the cheese, meat, and beans assembled in a scarcely seen harmonious balance. With a plate of enchiladas Suizas in front of me, a traditional dish named for the copious amounts of cream and cheese seen in Swiss-style cuisine, I shudder to think of the number of middle-aged humans who have made the quip, "This is low-calorie, right?!" before letting out a hearty guffaw at their own joke.

The bartender once cautioned us strongly against anything with the double red pepper emblem on the menu—I guess we looked like a couple o' pussies. That's fine. Though the beans and rice on every plate appear to be an afterthought as tasteless as the waitstaff's apparel, the selection of enchiladas dishes make this my go-to spot every time I suit up in my spacesuit and head out to northwest Omaha.

Enchiladas Potosinas
Chips n salza

Suizas again

Enchiladas Rancheras

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Top 10 Hot Spots RN (IMO)

Hot spots. Think Miami nightclub bottle service. Chicago’s best molecular gastronomy. The plight of getting a table at a Bushwick wood-fire pizza parlor.

Ok, the term “hot spot” might be used a little loosely, but here are some of the places trending in my little world right now in no particular order. 

10: Via Farina

The new concepty concept on everyone’s lips, Via Farina promises to deliver its oven-charred pizzas and house-made pastas to you on a fleet of cute branded vespas. This is the first time to my knowledge that an honest-to-goodness decent pie is available for delivery, and I woulda gladly taken some guy’s beat up Honda over a two-wheeler if this could have happened sooner, but whatever. The prices are way reasonable, the portions good, the flavors excellent—and they’re open ’til 11 on weeknights, which shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is. Pretty stoked on this one, I am. 
1108 S 10th St

One time they dropped off sandwiches for us to try at the office.

9: Oma's Deli  

What, you’re telling me you didn’t know about this sandwich shop and cafe hiding inside the U-Haul depot on the outskirts of the Old Market? The owners have done a fabulous job revamping the interior and shunning the ghosts of numerous unsuccessful eateries in this same location. The food—reminiscent of Parisian baguette street vendors—is deserving of more foot traffic, but what can you say besides c’est la vie.
1217 Leavenworth St

Ask for a peek at the dim sum guide book at Grand Fortune.

8: Grand Fortune

You’re greeted at the door by a large fish tank before being seated at a booth with paper placemats that remind you you were born in the Year of the Rat and then you order a pot of tea. But the similarities between this and most other Chinese eateries in Omaha end there. First, there’s the dim sum menu—ask for the book of illustrations if want a visual before you place your order for sesame buns and chicken feet. They’ve also got a wonton soup that will fix everything wrong with your life at that moment. Plus, you can heckle the freaks dining at Twin Peaks next door on your way out. 
17330 W Center Rd

They have reg Chinese, too.

7: LeadBelly

The waify model-type inside me is grossed out by the name of this place, not to mention the menu that could stand to lose about six entire pages. But if you order right (I had a decent pork sandwich) and focus on the good stuff (ample craft selections on draft), might as well stop by for a patio dining sesh with your dog. Because this place loves dogs. And I in turn love it.  
3201 Farnam St

6: La Casita 

The best tacos, sopes, and—dare I say—enchiladas in Omaha are not on South 24th Street. They’re right behind Hanscom Park. If you have not been, I feel sorry for the void of exquisite pinto bean dip in your life. The cafeteria vibe is not for date night, or serious conversations, or yadda yadda yadda. Just go and stuff yourself. 
1328 Park Ave

5: John’s Grecian Delight 

If you can deal with the post-apocalyptic feels, head to the lower level of Southroads Technology Park in Bellevue (formerly Southroads Mall), where John has been serving gyros, souvlaki, and more for longer than you’ve been alive.
1001 Fort Crook Rd N #110, Bellevue
(402) 731-8022

My own creation: pork balls with pork ragu over risotto. It was one of those "panic when the server comes over for the fifth time and just spit out an order" things. 

Blackstone Meatball also has good veg.

4: Blackstone Meatball 

A pretty unabashed ripoff of New York's Meatball Shop, this recently opened restaurant will be hard to stay away from. For everyone loves meatballs. And everyone loves choice—except me, whose poor brain was confounded by the number of options. You can even get three different balls with three different sauces on the same plate. I can only imagine how the kitchen copes with large parties. Not my prob. The food's good, and you'll probably see me there tomorrow.
3910 Harney St

Combo Platter at Hiatt Family BBQ

I presume they smoke things in here.

3: Hiatt Family BBQ

Get all the charm of a South O BBQ "shack" without any of the "shack" grit! In addition to keeping a spotless open kitchen (unlike some other barbecue places around), the owners radiate passion for their craft and super friendly service. I especially liked the oft-overlooked smoked chicken wings and the hot barbecue sauce—which is actually hot. Only open Thurs–Sat 11–7.
1921 Missouri Ave

Who are these people?!

2: Shirley's Diner

In the middle of a Millard-ian wasteland, step into this retro-themed dinerrific gem and order anything off the menu without being disappointed. (At least, I’ve been pleased with everything so far, including the fish sandwich, chili, pork tenderloin, french toast, eggs & bacon, and so on.) As a bonus, the tables include laminated family photos so you can eat right off someone’s wedding photo or some grandpa's portrait or whatever. Closes at 2 p.m. most days. Worth the drive. Line moves quickly. 
5325 S 139th St (Millard Plaza II)
(402) 896-6515

Poor Man's Noodles is always good.

1: Bangkok Cuisine

The downtown Thai spot with the yellow door celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. That’s 20 years of this family-run biz. 20 years worth of wok seasoning. And their portions are very 1996 as well (back when bottles of soda were still 16 oz standard). Guys, I just love this place. They were on summer vacation and I missed them. 
1905 Farnam St