March 14, 2014

For me, I'll take any excuse to eat at restaurant so long as it's delicious. (i.e. well, I made it through the week, let's celebrate!) Then for actual birthday dinners we end up at super casual last minute places like Vietnamese Asian Restaurant.

Hey, the heart [and stomach] wants what it wants.

But oftentimes, I get asked for 'special occasion' restaurant recommendations. Here's what I'd recommend and why for all your anniversary, birthday, graduation, holiday and it's-Tuesday-why-not special occasion dinners. Photos all from another great resource, http://www.omahafinedining.com/.

The Grey Plume

Surprise, my favorite restaurant is at the top of a recommendation list. But it's hard to deny that TGP is a special place for a special night. Service is always spot on, they offer amuse bouche, and it's always a good idea to order multiple courses. Go early for the best lighting. 
The Grey Plume
It's intimate, it's warm, the art is good, drinks are superb, and the food is fresh (also some of the best sushi in town). An A+ meal at Taita helps if you're a little adventurous and have an affinity for seafood. 
Taita
Everything about this place practically screams special occasion. Old Market passageway, mood lighting, people pulling out chairs for you... request a table actually out IN the passageway for even a bigger impression.
V. Mertz
If your idea of fine dining includes steak, look no further that 801 (okay, you can also look at my next recommendation too). But prepare yourself for a la carte ordering.

801 Chophouse
Another steakhouse. These places just know how to keep it classy (though JB's is at a disadvantage because you have to walk through a casino to get here). But once inside, you'll forget all about it. You can also pretend you're a mobster by sitting in the giant red booths and surveying the room.
Jack Binion's
The place is literally located in an old boiler room, and it's just off the beaten Old Market path enough to make it feel a bit secretive. Major style points.

The Boiler Room
Now we're getting into places I'd consider transitional. I'm just as likely to kick back at J. Coco on a weeknight as on a special occasion evening - it helps we live within walking distance - but you can go big here with the steak medallions or keep it simple with a sandwich. Your call. If you have a group, ask about seating in the Chef's table private dining room, which opens to the kitchen.

J. Coco
Weekly specials, killer soups and strong staples make 7M Grill worth the drive from midtown for me. Though all of my experiences here so far have been for lunch, I'm sure their dinner service kicks it up a notch. Comfort fusion at it's finest.

7M Grill
From the back patio to the private upstairs dining rooms and even the 'regular' tables overlooking Underwood Street, Mark's has great atmosphere to go with their legendary mac & cheese. 
Mark's Bistro
Tapas! You know how they say sharing is caring? I'd recommend calling ahead to see if there's going to be live music. This can be a make it or break it deal as it's usually a bit loud. Also, wear something dark if you'd like to try your hand at drinking from the pourron (which you really should be doing if it's a special occasion). 
Espana
Same here, check if there's going to be music. You'd be surprised at how loud a piano can be. And don't let the name food you, Jackson Street goes above and beyond what you might think of being 'Tavern' food.
Jackson Street
My final judgement is still out here until I have a few more chances to eat here, but our first visit was impressive and Avoli is definitely occasion-worthy.

Avoli Osteria

And if that wasn't enough... here are some bonus locations!

Lot 2The French BulldogTwisted Cork Bistro & Jams - Just like J. Coco, these are places I feel are anytime restaurants. But you could have a nice special occasion type meal as well.
  Le Boullion - This is a still-relatively-new endeavor by Boiler Room chef Paul Kulik is not a place I've been to yet. But it's in the old French Cafe space, and that alone makes it seem fancy.

The Flatiron - A few years ago, Flatiron would easily have been in my top 5 special occasion recommendations, but after an ill-fated dinner back in 2012, I have yet to return. But we've heard some good things recently, so maybe it's time to try again.

The Drover - Another steakhouse, yes. But this is a bit more old school, in case that's your thing. Speaking of old school steakhouses, if you really want to go retro, check out Brother Sebastian's. Make sure to get the Baked Alaska for dessert.

Nicola’s - I'd probably get some grief if I didn't have another Italian restaurant on this list. And while Nicola's isn't my thing, it might be yours. There's no denying they have a pretty great patio. 
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