January 29, 2014

Thanks to an expiring Groupon we were inspired to return to Marrakech nearly 12 months after our initial visit.

And an update to my prior review is definitely in order.

Not that I wasn't impressed last time but this visit was obviously worth 5-stars.

Sweet, sweet Chai... I could drink you forever.

We started with the chai tea again... And this time there were a series if refills offered free of charge (I think). But after 3 mugs, I think our server realized we were bottomless chai pits and we weren't offered a 4th. Sweet cardamom, allspice, & star anise... I think I'm inspired to make some at home too.

Would've gone great with the crepe dessert too, if we'd had any left at that point.

Alongside that liquid goodness, each of the menu items were pretty nearly flawless. This time I had the chicken curry, at the recommendation of our uber-friendly server. Bill went for the lamb tagine.
Chicken curry
Both followed this basic formula:

(tender meat + vegetables + rice)^sauce = clean plate club.

Working backwards to the beginning of the meal, the beef samosas were fantastic as well. Perfectly seasoned savory spiced beef surrounded with crispy goodness.
And get this... Delivery available within a 4-mile radius! Oh happy days!
Marrakech Restaurant on Urbanspoon

January 28, 2014

Welcome to Majestic

Time to write an update for 20-Grand... aka Majestic Cinema! The same place you can get a boat full of pretzel bites with a cup of nacho cheese and a double whiskey on the rocks. 

Who would want those things together? 

Me, apparently.

Who would want to recline in luxury while watching a new release? 

Also me. 

And everyone else in Omaha! As such, I would STRONGLY suggest pre-purchasing your tickets. 

The other benefit if this is that you can reserve your seat and not have to waste 30 minutes before the movie in addition to the 20 minutes of commercials, reminders and previews you already have to endure as part of the movie-going experience. 

Time-saving luxury is on the agenda here. So kick back (literally) and enjoy.

How much more thin can pizza be? 

Mmm, fake cheese and bread material. (I'm being serious).

January 14, 2014

... or, as they're known on Facebook, "El Basha. Best Mediterranean Cuisine in Omaha."

And that's very possible. If you're inclined to lean towards Mediterranean / Lebanese food, do yourself a visit and try this place out if you haven't already. I'm by no means an expert in this cuisine - or any, technically - but I like to think I know when something is unique, fresh, and delicious. 

El Basha hits all of those notes.

Gyro Combo
Nearly five years ago, I wrote my initial view of El Basha based on a quick lunchtime visit. It was a little contrived, now that I go back and re-read it. Something about another restaurant (long since forgotten as I swirled deeper into the Omaha restaurant abyss) and a minor gripe about the cost. Hmm. How things can change with time. Is El Basha different, or am I?

Anyway, at the suggestion of a friend I made a special trip back here for the beef Schwarma salad on Saturday afternoon... Gooooooood call.

Beef Schwarma Salad
The experience left me wondering why we don't come here more often. And tonight's quick repeat visit - attributable to a packed-to-the-seams Salween Thai - cemented my lament. Think of all the wasted years I've lived so nearby and all the Lebanese delights I've missed out on!

Well no more.

As I listen to the dramatic song 'habbeytak bessayf' courtesy of the El Basha website (thanks Shazam for the reference!), I hereby vow that this place will no longer fly below my radar!

Freakishly fresh and tasty vegetables, savory meat piles and the most beautiful hummus I've probably ever seen are par for the course at El Basha. So far the gyro, chicken schwarma wrap and above-mentioned salad are all way above par.

I'm going to enjoy eating my way through this menu.

Beautiful Hummus. You can't make this stuff up!

El Basha Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

January 04, 2014

I live my life in five-star increments.

As a numbers person, it's nice to sometimes break down feelings into data. Goodreads, Netflix, Yelp, and the like allow for ratings on the 1-5 scale. 

These services give different definitions of those levels, but since this is a food blog... let's focus on Yelp. 

For me, the equatable of a 5-star review is that I'm going to count the days until I can return to a place. In the meantime, I'm going to tell all my foodie friends about this newly discovered food treasure. 

Four stars means that I thought it was really decent. Above-average even. I'd enjoy going back again. 

At this point, things are as described. Just okay. 3-stars is middle of the road, average, ordinary, run of the mill, garden-variety, passable, or mediocre. But this also means - and this is important - NOT disappointing. I'd eat at these places again, but it probably wouldn't by my suggestion or inclination.

Two stars is where disappointment kicks in. For whatever reason. And there's not always good ones, I'll admit. Something like a weird experience, confusing cost-benefit ratio, or less than average quality food are all reasons places can fall into this camp. Going back would have to be at the strong suggestion of another party.

Aah the dreaded 1-star review. Undesirable by both the business owner and the Yelper. I wish all experiences could be 5-star, really, but sometimes shit happens. And while I'll happily report complaints or constructive criticism to someone if they seem interested in the feedback, I do also take solice in the fact that I can air my critiques online. It's VERY unlikely that I'll ever be back.

Looking at my reviews (and getting back to the numbers thing) I'm generally easy to please. With 36% of my reviews at the time of this writing receiving 4-stars and only 4% at 1-star. This may also be a function of the fact that I try to vet out places beforehand to hopefully weed out places I'll severely dislike.

But there it is. Just a bit more insight into the thought process behind the numbers.

Breakfast anytime (for those of you who are into that kind of thing).

And how could you NOT be into breakfast at Bailey's? A place that can crank out poached eggs to your preference (soft, medium or hard) and sling those eggs with equal zeal into dishes like the Vintner’s Eggs (with asparagus, chopped bacon and tomatoes) and their signature benedicts (from classic to crab).

Since this place is part of the Shuck's empire, you can feel confident that the crab you're eating is quality too - not just leftovers from Friday and Saturday nights dinner.

Vintner's Eggs
The website is accurate when it says that Bailey's is still getting discovered too. Even though it's been around since 2007 I've taken several people there recently who live in the area and had no idea it existed.

Of the menu items I've tried, everything has been so spot-on it's hard to not want to try everything. (Even the bagel and lox comes with a Bagel Bin bagel). It's details like that I can really appreciate.

The Huevos Rancheros was a tasty pile of refried beans, chorizo, eggs, cotija cheese and salsa fresca, served on two flour tortillas. I ate this one two ways, working to down-size the pile, and then wrapping the remainder in the soft tortillas. There's even Chohula on the tables to kick things up a notch.

Huevos Rancheros
The aforementioned Vintner’s Eggs is essentially just a beautiful plate of food. So much so that as I was chowing on the Huevos on my last visit, I promised myself I'd have the Vitner's next time. Grilled asparagus dusted with parmesan cheese, and topped with two poached eggs, chopped bacon and fresh sliced
 tomatoes drizzled with olive oil. Plus toast!

Crab Benedict - as you might expect - includes crab, poached eggs and hollandaise. Avocado too.

And one of my all-time favorite, the Guerrero Benedict... with chorizo sausage, refried beans, cojita cheese, drizzled with a chipotle hollandaise. Drool.

All the benedicts are served with fresh fruit and browns and come in half-orders too, which is a nice option that leaves room for silver dollar pancakes or a belgian waffle.

The more that I think about it, it's safe to say Bailey's is my favorite breakfast in town. Get there now and enjoy.

January 02, 2014

Kimson has probably been around for 10 years or so, but is unfortunately closing doors at this location on Tuesday, 31 December. They are apparently planning to reopen at another central Omaha location, yet to be determined.

Interior. Hello Ms. Monroe.
I think though that this is probably good timing because even an hour after leaving I was still wheezing and struggling to breathe as if I've been sitting around strong campfire for the evening (i.e. ventilation issues...) 

I felt like the canary in the coal mine though because my stronger-lunged dining companions didn't seem to notice anything was amiss. 

On the food side of things, I actually went all in and ordered the catfish clay pot people have talked so much about. 

No basis for complaining about temperature because it came out hot! With a little side of white rice, the rich sauce hit the spot on a cold winter's day.  

Catfish clay pot
We also had the spring rolls (fried and fresh both). It was all generally good.

Fried spring rolls
2013 was a big year of eating for me. And while that's not unusual, I can't help but wonder what's next?

Omaha has a way of keeping it fresh in terms of new restaurants and as soon as I feel like I'm making some headway on my 'to try' bookmarks list, I circle back to so many of the tried and true amazing places we've all come to know and love.

But my question now is this... what's next?

People sometimes joke to me that whenever they use Yelp to research a place in Omaha, I've already reviewed it. And there might be some truth to that.

Case in point, on Tuesday I ended up in South Omaha with a craving for the Naco Taco @ Taqueria El Paisa. But being that it was New Year's Eve-day... they were sadly closed. Looking next door, we noticed La Cabana d' Franko. With an average 3.5 stars on Yelp, I was curious about it and started reading. When I found this...
This probably won't come as a surprise to those that know me, but not only had I eaten there before, I'd even reviewed it. And then forgotten.

Looks like 4 years and 6 months later I can finally get around to writing a more detailed review

But that's just how Omaha is. We're lucky in the bounty of wonderful food options that sometimes places that don't knock your socks off or stand out with unique items will get forgotten.

With all that in mind, I have two questions:
  1. Anything I haven't already tried that I need to ASAP? 
  2. What have I already tried and need to give another shot? 
I know there are things I haven't had that are some Omaha staples. I want to know which of your ABSOLUTE FAVORITES have I overlooked? 

I'll try anything once (okay, nearly anything). For example, Chicken Feet are worth a try. Balut Eggs are not.

And if someone feels REALLY passionate about something, I'll give it a second try. Everyone can have an off night every once in a while.   

Check out my reviews and let me know what I'm missing out on! 

Finally, 4 years and 6 months later I'm finally be getting around to writing the 'more detailed review' I foresaw back in 2009.
Interior - not too busy
Thanks to previous reviews, I had to try a huarache. Overall, a little too dry for my liking (somehow), but once it was adequately salsa'ed up we were good to go.
Chicken huarache
A large glass of horchata washed things down nicely.

From there, I moved on to tacos - or actually, - taco. While other restaurants in the area might offer a larger variety, Cabana keeps it simple with three types. One of which is simply listed as 'Especial'.

I really owe Chris for asking what was on it, because otherwise I might forget that I'd been to Cabana all over again. Except for the service. That was special too.

But back to the taco... sauteed onions, chunks of bacon and melted white cheese all contained in a griddled flour tortilla and served with avocado salsa. Yes! Yes! Yes! I'll be back for you, Especial.

Especial Taco!

January 01, 2014

Aah coffee... so many varieties, so little time. Turns out, there is such a thing as too much though. And while you might think that too much coffee would translate to jitters and twitching. For me, it was just a very sick feeling - coupled with a pretty serious focusing and un-focusing of my eyes. Driving was a challenge.

Then I went home and passed out for for several hours. 

I didn't drink coffee again for a week. 

And while I won't be attending 9+ shops in one day ever again, here are some pretty unique spots to check out around Omaha.
My favorite coffee shop in Omaha, probably. I'm not really in the habit of hanging out at shops, but the free WIFI, fireplace, and doughnut stop next door are all strong reasons to consider parking it here for a while if you're into that kind of thing.

Fox Hollow Exterior
Very nearly a secret, Accelerando is located in the Omaha Conservatory of Music, the white domed building at 108th & Grover. Head around to the back (west side) and look for the door to coffee euphoria. Try the corn-flake latte or an iced coffee made with COFFEE ICE CUBES. Genius.
Entrance to Accelerando, photo by Lauren R.
The only place in Omaha that I'm aware of that serves Chicago's Intelligentsia coffee. They also stock up on Sweet Magnolia's pastries. Spinach and feta scone... mmm... Really, it's mostly a bicycle shop with a bit of seating.

Omaha Bicycle Shop tasters and Sweet Mag's Scone
Bring your dog into this remodeled bar / gallery space. Or not, there have been some recent controversies about that. Stand by with fido outside while Omaha gets with the times.

photo by Christopher C.
Small shop with a nice array of unique espresso drinks. Hit up the drive-through or park it inside and stare at the fish tank. There's even a tiny patio to the North.

Dundee Double Shot, by Alace
Serving up Grey Plume coffee roasts and super delicious food. Try it for lunch if you're nearby. The chicken curry tacos are becoming somewhat of a legend. Not much space to hang, this is mostly a grab and go establishment.

Green-go Interior
A little coffee, a little comics. Winning combination. If you're the kind of person who has a pull folder here, you can apparently pick up your comics in the drive-through also. Sadly, the Tony Stark latte does not contain alcohol. Catch up on your reading of TPB's while you drink your coffee, they have a specific shelf on this side designated for free reading!

Coffee side of Legend by Alace
If you're into spending lots of time at a coffee shop, Caffeine Dreams is the place to be. The shop is set up in favor of quiet study time, secret conversations and relaxing. Also, they have some pretty tasty savory items. Check out the patio too when the weather is nice.
A symbiotic relationship of sorts in West Omaha. Try the drinking chocolate if you have a sweet tooth.

Stories Interior by Trish A.
So many pluses here, I only wish the location were more convenient. French press to order. Fair Trade and organic, Sweet Magnolias, Bagel Bin, Waffles... amazingly creative latte art. But once you've found parking and are inside, it's the very definition of coffee shop perfection.

Echo Coffee
Aiding and abetting downtown since 2013. Block 16 uses their breads to make their sandwiches, if that tells you anything.
Culprit Exterior by Coyote
Industrial chic in the up-and-coming Blackstone District in midtown.
Archetype Exterior by Chunk G.

Aroma's Benson

Concert-stage vibe and strong coffee. They also have a downtown location, if that's more your thing.

Aroma's by Lianna N.