Sunday, March 18, 2012

Forgotten Cuisine II

Dining out is one pastime which is enjoyed almost universally.

Yes, home-cooked meals are the standard by which all others are judged, but most everyone has the desire to vary from the patterns of domesticity whether occasionally or frequently.

Memories of dining out are usually fond, comprising food we enjoy and the company of those close to us.

I still cannot believe the amount of traffic and responses to the original Forgotten Cuisine article! The word of mouth (or rather the word of e-mail) really put this blog on the map, so to speak, and the amount and enthusiasm of the comments let me know that I was doing something right. Thanks again, gang! :)

Quite meaningful were the responses from not only diners, who fondly remembered the various places, but by family members, representing several of the restaurants covered and discussed. We have representatives of the Cohen family of Fireside fame, the Glasford family of Club 64 fame (including "Rick the Bad Speller"), the Nuno family of La Tropicana, the Frodyma family of Oddo's and Evans, The Reed family of Reed's and Whirla-Whip, and last but not least, the Caniglia family, whose ventures are almost too many to mention. If I'm leaving out a family or an individual, I apologize. Please be assured that it's an oversight and not a snub!

Too many to enumerate were the responses and comments from former employees of the establishments, those who knew us and served us and are responsible for those great memories. I know that many of us can still recall by name the servers we had at these great places back in the days. I sure can! :)

Very helpful were the responses in discovering, and in some cases debunking, the reasons for the demise of several of these places. Surprisingly, street construction and improvement was cited in several cases, causing inconvenience to customers and a resulting devastating decline in business.

Fire was also cited as a reason for closure.

By popular request, and admittedly late, here's the second chapter to this tale, some talk mainly about what once was, which we wish still was, and maybe some about what is, but we wish was not. :)

For those who missed the original, HERE is the direct link:

Follow-ups, with many responses and comments, appear HERE and HERE

We'll concentrate on two genres in this chapter, chicken and drive-ins, both well-mentioned in the comments and follow-ups to the original posting, and then circle back to some of the others discussed and a few others worth mentioning.

The genre most mentioned in the feedback to Forgotten Cuisine chapter I has to be chicken restaurants, so let's examine what was.



Rose Lodge:

The chicken joint most mentioned and most missed is most definitely Rose Lodge.


"If the Colonel had our recipe, he would be General!", read the marquee.

For decades, Rose Lodge, or just plain "Rose's" as the regulars called it, stood on 78th. just south of Dodge.

If they served anything besides chicken, I sure don't know it, because that's what I always had and that's what anyone I ever went with had. Even those who don't really care for chicken on the bone (your ears burning, BBTBabe?) would love it! :)

Southern fried, battered but not spicy, not at all greasy, and incredibly tasty. They didn't need trace amounts of 11 herbs and spices, nor the Cajun seasonings to bring out the best in their chicken!

What happened?

We know that there was some construction in the area and we know that there was a buy-out by the O'Daniel motor group. Many closures of restaurants appearing in this article happened during or as a result of road construction. One comment referred to a possible fire. So, which was the chicken and which was the egg? :)

What's there now?

A Honda dealership. Whoopee!



But wait! Not all is lost!

In the sleepy little town of Treynor, Iowa, just a few steps southeast of Council Bluffs, a small roadhouse on the main highway has acquired the rights to use the recipes of the former Rose Lodge on 78th. in Omaha.


The name of the place? Rose Lodge, of course! :)





Dixie Kitchen:

In the shadow of Rose Lodge stood Dixie Kitchen.


That's the problem! Dixie Kitchen was very good, in and of itself, but with a location that was all but next door to Rose Lodge, it was a very uneven playing field!

The chicken was excellent, not really unlike KFC's Extra Crispy style, but more flavorful.

What happened?

Unfortunately, for several of the restaurants featured in this entry, not very much can be determined. All of a sudden it was gone, never to surface in another location.

What's there now?

It's kind of hard to say exactly. Dixie Kitchen was somewhere in this strip, but I forget exactly which bay.





Jonesy's Dinner Den:

Jonesy's Dinner Den was probably my second favorite chicken joint of yesteryear Omaha, and it survived into the early 2000s, if I am correct.


Their chicken was, as with Rose Lodge, southern-fried, battered, and not overloaded with seasonings nor MSG.

I can remember that they cut their chickens somewhat differently than do most restaurants and supermarkets.

What happened?

Apparently a business slowdown leading to a vicious cycle out of which they never recovered. :(

What's there now?


The building has been used for several various restaurants, none of them very long-lived, since Jonesy's departed.

The tall sign is for Sinbad's, and it implies a Mediterranean flair.


However, the signs above and beside the side door (which was the main entrance to Jonesy's and appears to be the main entrance today) is for Sholiz African Cuisine.


Apparently the Sholiz folks don't regard removing or changing the sign as a very high priority. :)



Short Stop


The Short Stop, frequently mentioned in feedback as a favorite for chicken, stood for decades on the west side of 42nd. just north of L Street.

Operated for decades by the Kieltyka sisters and family, this was, as the name implies, a favorite stop before or after an Omaha Cardinals/Dodgers/Royals or College World Series game.


The recipe for the Short Stop's Italian salad dressing, purloined by a then-soon-to-be ex-employee, appears in a previous item HERE, about half way into the page.

What happened?

Apparently nobody in the extended families wanted to take over the business.

What's there now?

Well, it's hard to say ...


Some kind of work is going on, but whatever it is, it's not obvious.



Cliff's

Very popular place, but somewhat enigmatic and difficult to trace.


The earliest ads I can find cite "just east of the Golden Spike Drive-In Theater" as the location.

The Golden Spike Drive-In Theater ("Home of all the big shows!") was situated in the valley by today's 114th. Street, roughly where the Hummer dealership is today, and may have covered some of the ground of the strip mall where the current Jack And Mary's stands.

What was an otherwise sleepy get-out-of-town highway in the 1970s is now a major thoroughfare, with service roads and express lanes on stilts.


"Air conditioned!" For a drive-in theater? :)

What, you inquire, does the Golden Spike Drive-in Theater have to do with chicken?

Well, I'm glad you asked. :)


They were most definitely in the fried chicken business!

However ... back to Cliff's ...


Later ads show various addresses just south of Dodge on 114th.

Some of the confusion with ads and listings may be due to the fact that at this time, Cliff's had a NORTH 114th. address but was physically SOUTH of Dodge. Omaha north-south addresses are relative to Dodge STREET, not West Dodge Road, which is the main drag in this area.

What happened?

Cliff's apparently morphed into Jack And Mary's.

What's there now?





Jack And Mary's:


Yes, there is a Jack and there is a Mary, and undoubtedly there was a Cliff, after whom the original Jack And Mary's was dubbed.

The "original" Jack And Mary's stood for a few decades in the Old Mill Shopping Center.

They recently moved.


The current Jack And Mary's is just a few blocks west, in the Miracle Hills Plaza and still going strong!

What's there now?


A Social Security office.



Chic-Inn:


Chic-Inn was located on Omaha's then far-west side just east of the old Peony Park and offered inexpensive eat-in and take-out chicken, either by the piece or dinners.

What's there now?


Cuppa joe, anyone?



Wheels to Meals ...

The other genre frequently mentioned in comments and feedback was drive-ins.

Yes, American Graffiti was alive and well in Omaha in the 1960s.

The drive-in scene appeared to be dominated by the three biggies, Tiner's on Dodge at 44th., Todd's on Dodge at 76th, and Oddo's (properly pronounced with a long "O") on south 13th. This also translated to two major "cruising" areas, one on Dodge from about 40th. or so out to 90th., and the other along the south 13th. Street corridor.

There were other popular cruising areas as well, most of them centered around one or more drive-ins. North Omaha saw cruising along 30th. in the vicinity of the Royal Boy, the predecessor of Mr C's, and South Omaha had an extended cruise strip from Toady's A&W on 24th. down to Big Joe's on Railroad Avenue.

Tiner's:



A reader describes the Tiner's sign as:

"The thing I remember about Tiner's was the sign. A neon arrow rising like a sky rocket and then a BIG flash when it reached the top. Once you passed the crest of the hill at 49th you couldn't miss it. When it was foggy, you could see the flash in the fog as far west as 52nd."



What's there now?


"No jy-ro, geeeea-ro!" King Kong, a burger stand of local origin with a Greek-American flavor.



Todd's:


Todd's was the Omaha drive-in to which all of the others were compared. Regulars told tales of long lines of cars stretching for blocks. Todd's was THE place to be, to see and to be seen.

What's there now?


Most recently it was a florist. Now it sits vacant with an empty pole sign.



Oddo's:

We've visited Oddo's twice in previous articles, actually ...

The names of the sandwiches are priceless! There were others too, such as the "Henpecked Henry!" This was on 13th. Street, just north of Martha and the Sokol Hall.


One of the family members apparently thought up these names. This had to be an incredibly fun place back in the 1960s!

What's there now?


Part of the complex, including the sign, still stands. Looking very closely at the sign, it possibly had a "skyrocket" similar to that used on the Tiner's sign shown above.




Evans:

Evans was on Center Street, east of 36th. Street and west of Richie's restaurant.

I don't think Evans had any hot food. Their specialty was ice cream and they did that very well!

The confection I most remember at Evans was known simply as a "Homestyle", and I remember that I confused this with the "Home Style Ice Cream" we used to make when I was young.

The Evans Homestyle was a very thick malted which you ate with a spoon. It was huge and served in a very fancy heavy glass which was very cold. From the comments, apparently Reed's had a very similar offering. It was incredibly tasty, and in my entire life I have not tasted anything like it.

However ... {wheels turning, and a slight digression ...}

When I was growing up, our family did not have an ice cream churn. Many families did, and the process of making ice cream with it was tedious. It involved a lot of ice, rock salt, and rigorous hand-cranking. It was messy and a lot of icky salty run-off water had to be disposed of. Quite a few people raved about the home-made hand-cranked ice cream, but in my very picky opinion, it was often watery and grainy and seldom as good as you could get from any soft-serv stand.

Our family had a better method, which was simply called home style ice cream, and I know others made it at the time. It does not involve the exhausting cranking. It's a simple mix of heavy cream, sugar, and flavoring (mixing in fudge sauce makes a killer chocolate) which is chilled, whipped, chilled again, whipped again, and then frozen overnight.

The result is incredibly creamy and very tasty. It's also quite fattening! Just looking at a dish of it will cause you to gain 10 pounds! :)

I'm thinking -- that maybe Evans Homestyle was a variation of a recipe similar to this. I am tempted to try this but adding in a bit of malted milk powder. My taste sense says that the result may be very close!

Oh well - something to try on a long rainy Thursday ... :)

What happened?

Evans sold out to Goodrich, a much larger competitor in the ice cream business.

What's there now?


Now a Valentino's take-out.

When I went to Evans in the 1970s, I recall that there was a residence on the upper story, most likely for the owner-operator family. The path of the stairway to the balcony of the abode can be seen in the three vertical windows toward the center of the east side of the building.



The Reuben Sandwich


Any discussion of native Omaha cuisine invariably circles around to the legend of the Reuben sandwich. Two local eateries, the Blackstone Hotel, and the Rose Bowl, have claimed the Reuben as their own.

What I believe is the most credible version of the story is that the sandwich was a favorite of Blackstone regular Reuben Kulakofsky (of Central Market fame) and was originally made at his request. When the sandwich was eventually placed on the menu, the name "Reuben", for lack of a better name, was used.

This was what was told to me on two separate occasions by two former Blackstone employees, one a retired Executive Housekeeper, and another a retired restaurant Hostess.

There are some variants of the tale, but it always points back to the Blackstone and Mr. Kulakofsky.

Blackstone:

The Blackstone Hotel was mighty classy in its time! Locally-owned by the Schimmel family, long-standing on the corner of 36th. and Farnam.

The Blackstone featured several eateries, the Cottonwood Room, the Golden Spur and the Orleans Room being the most notable.







What happened?

The former Blackstone employees with whom I was acquainted looked back fondly to the Blackstone's glory days under the ownership and management of the Schimmels, and the subsequent decline and decay after the hotel was sold to the Radisson group.

What's there now?


The building still stands proudly, now an office annex for the Peter Kiewit associated companies.


The view above shows the closed former entrance to what was the Golden Spur, one of the Blackstone's dining establishments.


Nope, no Golden Spur, no Orleans Room, and no Reuben.



Rose Bowl:

The Blackstone's rival in the Reuben Wars was the Rose Bowl.

The Rose Bowl:

The Rose Bowl was a large bowling and entertainment complex on the north side of the Dundee neighborhood.


Legend has it that the Rose Bowl also claimed the origin of the Reuben sandwich, but alas not much is evident to substantiate the claim.

While the Rose Bowl did indeed stand as one of the area's premier bowling centers, hosting a weekly television show and many regional and national tournaments, dining was not a featured forte.

I only remember dining at the Rose Bowl once, at a banquet, which I assume was catered by the Rose Bowl's staff. I vaguely remember that the food was good, but it was definitely not memorable by any means.

What happened?

General decline of business, eventual closure.

What's there now?

If you can imagine a bowling alley being converted into a strip mall, this is what you get.


The main occupant is a moving and storage center, but there are other various businesses in here too.


The oblong curved roof of the original bowling alley is evident from the above view.



Omaha has hosted several long-standing and prominent Asian restaurants, mostly of the traditional Chinese and Japanese types.

King Fong, on 16th. downtown (and still going strong) is the most Hopper-esque of the bunch, and as of this writing appears to be the oldest continuously-operating restaurant in the Omaha area.

There are some of years gone by, particularly those of the family-owned Cantonese variety.

Hong Kong Restaurant:


My personal favorite was a hole in the wall, or in this case a hole in the road known as the Hong Kong Cafe in rural Iowa just outside of Council Bluffs.

What happened?

"Some stupid with a flare-gun, burned the place to the ground!"
(/me puts on an old Deep Purple album and cranks it)

What's there now?


Kanesville Quilting.



Chu's:

Another favorite of mine was a smaller place literally across the street from the old AkSarBen racetrack.


As you can imagine, getting a reservation on a Saturday following the races, or even on a mid-week race day was an exercise in futility!

What's there now?


Well, I swear it was in here somewhere!

The racetrack is gone now, replaced by AkSarBen Village, a "mixed-use" (oh, that concept is sooooooo trendy!) development on the original AkSarBen site.


Appears that the property now belongs to the University.



Cimmaron Room:

The Center Mall was Omaha's first true shopping mall, a vast three-level indoor-outdoor structure, dating from the mid 1950s, at the intersection of 42nd. and Center.


The Cimmaron Room (nee' Sky Room) was The Center's "penthouse" flagship eatery. As the ad above implies, it was another popular post-race destination for those playing the ponies at the nearby AkSarBen racetrack.

What happened?

Competition from the newer suburban malls, such as Crossroads, Westroads, Southroads, and Oak View (Oakroads?) resulted in fewer retailers at The Center and the conversion of the property from retail shopping to offices in the 1980s and early 1990s.

The Cimmaron Room quietly succumbed to the transition.

What's there now?

The entire mall is still standing, more or less in the same form as it was in 1956.


It appears to be still limping along with a modest occupancy of office tenants.

Southroads, once a thriving suburban mall, is also an office complex. Is Crossroads to follow? (Or will it become "Mixed Use" instead?) :)



Harry's Restaurant (Harry's Key Club):

Harry's Restaurant was mentioned a number of times in the comments and feedback on the original article.


The featured entertainment at Harry's, as has been noted, was sing-along with the pianist in the lounge. (More like "Sing Along With Mitch" than karaoke.) :)

What happened?

Apparently none of the Neesman offspring cared to go into the restaurant business.

What's there now?


Now part of the City-County office complex.



Ambassador:

I remember the Ambassador fondly!

When I lived in the area, the Ambassador was to me and my friends what Monk's/Tom's was to the Seinfeld gang. We were typically in there several times a week for a leisurely meal, a few drinks, and some diversion and chit-chat.


At the time, the Ambassador was one of Omaha's few 24 x 7 eateries. The one owner bragged about not even having a lock on the door for many years.

What happened?

It was a very sad story.

One of the owners suffered a very violent death after breaking up a fight between two patrons in the adjoining bar area. We had been in there earlier that evening, but did not witness the incident, which happened very late at night.

The remaining partner kept the place going until they were hit by a devastating fire, from which they never recovered. He briefly re-opened on 90th. Street, but the new place never caught on and closed within a year.

What's there now?

The building is still there.


An annex for All Makes Office equipment, a neighboring business.



Fireside:

The Fireside on Leavenworth was another frequently-mentioned favorite.


The Fireside's specialty was a high-quality reasonably-priced buffet.


Maybe it's old age setting in, but I cannot remember for sure if I ever dined at the Fireside or not. I can vaguely remember eating at a place somewhere in that area in the mid 1970s, but it may or may not have been the Fireside. All I remember about that meal is one of the guys in our party getting into a "Five Easy Pieces" type of dispute with the server regarding a fairly simple substitution. I know this place I'm remembering was not a buffet, but a regular sit-down type dining room restaurant.

I also vaguely remember the entrance to the Pirate's Den, with a motif of something like an anchor or one of those nautical steering wheels, perhaps both. There may have been more nautical decor as well. This would have been way back in the 1970s.



What happened?

I'm not sure, but we had one of the family members with us a while back, who could possibly give us a little insight.

What's there now?


The building is still there, now subdivided, and looks to be well-maintained.


The Down Under Lounge, the current resident rathskeller, uses the same entrance as did the Pirate's Den.



Here's Johnny's:

Johnny Carson (yes, *THAT* Johnny Carson) and a group of investors ventured into the restaurant business in Johnny's native Nebraska in the early 1970s. Their aim was to create a chain of higher-quality casual family restaurants, priced competitively.


Although Here's Johnny's did last a number of years, the chain was always a few links shy of a shot. Two Omaha Here's Johnny's eateries had a modest run, one on south 72nd. and the other on Saddle Creek Road, adjacent to the Rose Bowl.

I particularly remember the 72nd. Street Here's Johnny's for their excellent and reasonably-priced breakfast buffet on Sunday.

What happened?

They were well-capitalized and did survive the "hump" of the first few years. Although they gave it the Good Old College Try, the concept never really caught on.

What's there now?


The architecture and styling of both buildings are still evident after 40 years.

The Saddle Creek location is now a buy-here, pay-here lot. (Turn around and face north and you'll see the south wall of the defunct Rose Bowl, discussed above.


A credit counseling service occupies the 72nd. Street location.




Kenny's:

I would call Kenny's an "occasional favorite" of mine.


Kenny's had quite a few mentions in feedback and a loyal clientele.

I considered Kenny's to be a "nice" restaurant, but one which retained casual informality. Kenny's was a nightly favorite of the racing crowd.

What happened?

The demise of Kenny's appears to be related to an extended construction period around the 72nd. and Dodge intersection.

What's there now?


It is, or rather was until recently, a Borders bookstore. This photo was taken after Border's closed, so they must be leasing their parking lot to something else in the neighborhood.



Lay's Arbor Inn:

The French/Continental styles have never been strong in the Omaha area. Other than the recently-closed French Cafe and the Cafe De Paris on 6th., there have been a few ephemeral exceptions, such as Churchill's and Lay's Arbor Inn.


In its time, Lay's Arbor Inn, named after Arbor Street, was regarded by many as Omaha's most elegant eatery.

What's there now?

Nothing!


I guess this should be requiem for Senor Matia's as well.



Mr. Kelly's:

Mr Kelly's was one of the first "suburban" Omaha-area restaurants I remember.

This was the flagship dining establishment of the newly-incorporated city of La Vista, standing guard at the intersection of 84th. and Parkview Boulevard (nee' Easy Street).


Mr. Kelly's, again, was an "occasional favorite" of mine.


What happened?

It was briefly rebranded as a branch of Dugger's, an existing steak house on Center, and eventually closed.

What's there now?


It's been offices in recent years, currently home to a mortgage broker.



Top Of The World:

Omaha's answer to the famed Rainbow Room was the Top Of The World, located on the tippy-top floor of the Woodmen Tower.


Top Of the World was part of the Caniglia empire, lasting into the 1990s, I believe. This was a very nice place, and I truly enjoyed every experience there.

What's there now?


Well, the building is still there at least. I don't know what's up there. I haven't been to that floor since Top Of The World closed. The four large windows directly below the "Woodmen" logo were the Top Of The World windows.

I guess the Omaha Press Club is now our only sky-high option remaining. Personally, I'm very surprised no fine dining establishment has opened at the top of the First National Center!



Silver Lining:

Do you ever think of an airport as a dining destination?


Apparently some did, long before the days of 9-11 and intimate pat-downs.


The Silver Lining, operated by the Hayden House, was located at Eppley, roughly in the area just south of the food court adjacent to the walkway to the north satellite gates.

An observation deck, above, provided views of the air traffic.


In days prior, the Hayden House operated "twin" restaurants at Eppley and at Omaha's Union Station. Vestiges of the Union Station Hayden House remain as part of the Western Heritage Museum, with the current lecture hall being the original Hayden House main dining room.



What happened?

LOL, as I said, do you really consider an airport as a fine-dining destination? "Take yer shoes off, belts off, put 'em in the bin ..., now a table for how many?" :)

The Disappearing Railroad Blues killed the one at Union Station.

What's there now?


Leaving, on a jet plane ...



Nasr's:

Proms, business meetings, and banquets were the specialty of Nasr's, located on Ames near Benson Park.

Regular dining room service was popular too.


Their theme may have been Middle Eastern, but I remember their cuisine to be mostly Middle American.

What's there now?


It's been a few various things since Nasr's closed, most recently a keno hall.



Dundee Dell:

Famous for fish and chips (and single-malt Scotch)!


Dundee Dell has always had a very limited menu, but they have been extremely popular, remaining on Dodge between 49th. and 50th. since soon after World War II.

What happened?

They outgrew the place! Moved and expanded, a few blocks to the north.



What's there now?


The Old Dundee, which has retained a number of the old Dundee Dell's regulars.



Bellevue Queen:

This is a place I really enjoyed.


The Bellevue Queen was indeed on a true riverboat, but was permanently moored in Haworth Park.

They featured a great lunch buffet, an extensive dinner menu, and live entertainment, often a country-rock band.

The highest dining level, although very small, offered some great views up and down the river.

What's there now?

The view immediately below shows the former site of the Bellevue Queen.


Haworth Park was the victim of serious flooding in the summer of 2011. Clean-up and fix-up are still in progress as of this writing.


Debris removal is one of the steps being taken to assure that Haworth Park re-opens to the public this spring.





Black Forest Inn:

Black Forest Inn is another which I truly enjoyed.


Food like Grandma used to make, or in my case, food like other kids' grandmothers used to make.

German and American cuisine, plus an on-again, off-again buffet.

What's there now?


Looks like a church to me.



Club 64:

One of the most frequently-cited restaurants in the comments and feedback was Club 64, on the east side of Council Bluffs.


Club 64 took its name from Iowa State Highway 64, what is now US 6, and signed as Kanesville Boulevard within the Council Bluffs city limits.

One claim to fame of Club 64 was that they were the first Council Bluffs venue to sell liquor by the drink after such was legalized in 1963. That's right, bars, as we know them, were illegal in Iowa until 1963!

What happened:

I clearly remember "them" (that's the objective case of the ubiquitous "they") saying that Club 64 was yet another victim of the casinos.

We also had a comment stating they never recovered from the unfortunate incident.

The "unfortunate incident" referred to was a double-homicide at the Club early Tuesday morning, December 5, 1967. Night Manager Paul Rayer and Security Officer John Stephens, a CB Police Officer moonlighting at Club 64, were preparing the last night's receipts for a late-night deposit when they were confronted by persons unknown, robbed, and murdered! The case remains unsolved.

That incident occurred in 1967, long before my days in the area, and I'm a witness that Club 64 was going strong in the 1980s and 1990s, so I would say that they recovered quite well! :)

Rick G. ("The Bad Speller") says it best:

"We had to close down early in 1997 because the city of Council Bluffs closed the road to the restaurant for over a year and a half. it is hard to have a restaurant when the clients have to walk a mile to it."

Thanks, Rick! What you might not have as a speller, you certainly had in the kitchen, and you can be assured that I and your thousands of other guests over the years value their visits to Club 64 quite highly, as I do.

What's there now?

Nestled high in the hills above Old Kanesville, lies ...


Fareway Foods!

(Update: Multiple readers have stated that this is not the correct former location of Club 64. I admit that I shot this from memory and a quick sanity check of the street address. I will circle back and research this a bit more fully.)

As noted a number of times in feedback, Club 64 had a sister club on the Omaha side, Club 89. Club 89 was itself the victim of a very unfortunate incident, where a gunman barged in on a show in progress.


Fire eventually claimed the life of Club 89.



Afterword:

The one-of-a-kind, locally-owned and managed restaurants are a part of our lives and culture which we must value, support, and preserve!

An independent restaurant has to be about the most risky investment there is!

Not only money but time and sweat must be invested. A clientele must be built from a market unknown. The inventory is short-lived, highly subjective, and subject to spoilage. The staff must be hired and paid, even if the overall cash flow is negative.

The success depends upon the talent in the kitchen, the congeniality and charisma of the service staff, and the dedication of the proprietor, who must have that "sweet spot" of a balance between business acumen and people skills.

Success can be a fickle partner. We've heard first hand how a disruption in the flow of dining guests due to road construction can be devastating to an otherwise well-established and long-lived eatery!

Yes, we've all heard it ... "Only 10% of new restaurants make it the first year ..."

The figures are variable, uncertain, and subject to spin and whim, but anyone with a good set of eyes can tell that the majority of independent restaurants fail, and do so within a short time after opening. Far too many "Grand Opening" signs are rewritten "For Lease" within months! :(

Hey, everybody, please. If you ever listen to me, listen to me now!

When you have friends visiting from out of town, or when you just want a nice meal out for you and yours, and you're thinking of places like Sullivan's, Spencer's, 801 and the like, please think outside the box (to use the buzzword-compliant cliche') and steer your imagination over to places like Anthony's or Brother Sebastian's, or Johnny's, or Gorat's, or ... (I would add Jerico's in there but I was disappointed at their variety of sides, or lack of same.) There are many others from which to choose.

If your friends suggest something like Lone Star or Texas Roadhouse, give 'em some more authentic down-home Americana such as Farmer Brown's or Pink Poodle!

Likewise, when the gang at work wants to do lunch and somebody suggests Applebees or Pepperjax, chime in, and suggest Shirley's or Lisa's Radi(c)al Cafe, or Sam's Italian Villa, or any of several others, including ...

Millard Roadhouse (nee' Stockade):



Petrow's:




As noted in the comments, Petrow's rear sign comes from the original Caniglia's.

Richie's:



Dundee Dell:


There are many, many others deserving of our patronage and support!

Thanks again, gang!

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Todd's was more of a highschool hangout. Central and Westside mainly. Tiner's was more college kids, Omaha U and Creighton mostly. Less tire screeching at Tiner's. One carhop there for a price would throw in a shot of jack with your coke. He din't last very long.

Jon said...

Great list of a lot of great places. I haven't lived in Omaha in over 30 years and I remember many of these places fondly. There was a place on L Street, I think, called Johnny Hrupic's (or something close). A Czech restaurant. Also, Vienna Cafa, on 24th in South Omaha, next to a Bohemian bakery (name began with a B?)

Dave said...

Wonderful article! What memories you gave to me. Haven't lived in Omaha since 1981, but surely remember most of the places mentioned. Also loved the before/after photos. Thanks, again!

Anonymous said...

Going to Evans was one of the supreme treats when we were young--I certainly do remember those homestyles.

Unknown said...

Does anyone remember the radio musical jingle about Chicken Delight?

"For delicious chicken dinners like you cook at home yourself, just call for free delivery from Chicken Delight.

"Don't cook tonight,
call Chicken Delight,
Don't cook tonight,
Call Chicken Delight."

Unknown said...

There was a small cafe at the northwest corner of 47th and Cuming, a one-man operation, called Henry's Garden Cafe or something close to that. I think the menu was whatever plate of food Henry put together for that day. The interior was crowded with all kinds of plants and vines. I only ate there once, in about 1972.

chuck l. said...

I grew up around hanscome park and remember most of these places, I remember the little burger stand on the northeast corner of 24/leavenworth, We would stop there every sat/sun. After leaving CROSSTOWN, then walk home.Did anyone mention Rudy stephens fish at 22/L str? I left the big ''o'' in 74 and wish i never had but to late now.

Anonymous said...

What a great display of Omaha restaurants from days gone by. Thank you so much for posting all of the old ads and photos from today.

Anonymous said...

Ever hear of a place called the 7 seas downtown? Supposed to be omaha's hush hush gay bar in the 1950s. Or, any good stories about the Bell Hotel?

Chuck Martens said...

You mentioned King Fong's as the longest running restaurant; prior to King Fong's in the same location was Hanson's Beautiful Cafe, which operated for years. I have a postcard of the restaurant dated 1909.

p51575j said...

I do not know much about Omaha restaurants. I do know that The Rose is the name of the restaurant in Treynor, not Rose Lodge. It is my understanding a former chef or cook at Rose Lodge opened The Rose. He has now retired and it is managed/owned by another.

Speaking of former bowling alleys (the Rose Bowl is mentioned in your blog) The Rose is inside what was Treynor's bowling alley.

p51575j said...

The 64 Club was originally owned by George Elias, not Dick Glasford. Dick did own it later, during the time that it faded into history. Where that building stood is NOT where Fareway is, nor the adjacent strip mall. That entire area was a huge bluff until the strip mall and Fareway were built. The site of the 64 Club, or Club 64, is approximately 1/4 mile from Fareway. That area is now a housing addition called 64 Estates.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the 64 Club area...Fareway foods is located on the site of Workman's Turkey Ranch. If you grew up by there you would remember it, it could be quite stinky at times. 64 Club was on opposite side of road about a 1/2 mile up.

Anonymous said...

I grew up around 48th and Center. We lived at either Henry's (which was somewhere around 45th/Center and Mac's, which was around 50th/Center. Both served great burgers and fries and Mac's had the best Root Beer EVER. You could buy it by the jug. We didn't eat out often when I was a kid, but Mac's was on the menu when we did. We used to walk to Willa Cather library often, and on the way, we had to stop at Henry's.

Anonymous said...

What about Slim Jim's Burger joint near South High School or Joe Tess fish place on 24th and then there was and still is STELLA's in Bellevue Johnny's on 27th and "L" street Left Omaha in 1969 but visit often
every couple of years my how the Omaha has changed. Carol

Scott Knudsen said...

Don't forget Shada's drive-in at 45th & Cuming. -Scott Knudsen

ljhayesomaha@aol.com said...

I have to send a correction! The Saddle Creek Bar building is farther north - and west - on Saddlecreek, where Saddlecreed meets Hamilton and 48th Streets. It's gone through several incarnations since in the 15 years I've lived across Charles Street from it and retained the "Best Chili Dogs" sign until the current owner took over last year. The current owner has totally changed the inside and it will probably never be a bar and/or grill again. A-United Glass and Door is there now.

MaryLou Kallmeier said...

Thanks for the Memories!
Oh, how I wish things were so sweet and simple as they used to be. You jogged my memory on a few I had forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Great Blog! Brings back so many memories. But where is Ross's Steak House? My mother worked there and waited on lots of celebrities, including Frank Sinatra. Frank asked for "al dente" (cooked firm when bitten) spaghetti. The pasta at Ross's was pre-cooked and kept warm on the stove in a pot of hot water. It was always overcooked. My mother tried to get the cooks to make some fresh and al dente, but they refused. When she served him the plate of spaghetti, Frank took one look at it and knocked the entire plate off the table with a swipe of his arm. He then resumed his conversation as if nothing happened. He did leave her a $100.00 tip however!

Anonymous said...

Great! But where is B&G's?

Joyce said...

Mr (John, I believe) Hayden of "The Hayden House" fame, started his restaurant business in my Grandma Larson's little building in North Omaha. He rented from her for years until he expanded to the airport, but still rented his first one. He was good to her, a little widow with only that building as her income, besides ironing for others, and did not forget his "roots". He even upped her rent without her asking. It was at the Hayden House ... Airport where I celebrated my 21st birthday in 1957. Vowing not to drink until I was 21, I could hardly wait to have a "Pink Lady" I saw at a college dance, but when my time came, I didn't know if it was a before or after dinner drink, and not wanting to appear stupid ... I never had my drink! To this day, 56 years later, I still haven't had a "Pink Lady"! Wonderful memories of so many of these places. Thanks!
Joyce Olson Hagberg

M Splittgerber said...

Omababe: Another great job. Your blog seems to jog so many memories in just about everybody. Omaha restaurants had the complete package....scenery, location, sounds, smells, and tastes. Each and everyone of them unique in their own way. I had personal involvement in Lay's Arbor Inn, working there 1965-67. It was owned and operated by John and Myrna Lay. They are both deceased, however their daughter is married (now Baumgartner) and living somewhere in Minnesota. In addition to an interior that was well appointed and elegant, the wait/server personnel were likewise. All African-American men attired in white tuxedo coats and black bowties. Dinner was served table side from a chafing platter/grill (on a cart) heated by sterno. Standard side dish was green beans cooked in Italian dressing. House specialty was the prime rib, and the fillet mignon was also excellent. Menu also included frogs legs. The kitchen: Big Bob Reeves, Richard Halcomb, Joanne the salad lady, Freddy Damper,and Wally (can't remember last name), Waiters were James Morrison, Jay Washington, and others. Thank you Omababe. As Freewheelin' Franklin would say....Keep on Truckin'

Anonymous said...

Another Omaha native now living in Houston (there seem to be a lot of us, judging from comments here). Grew up around 52nd & Leavenworth. Remember Bishop's Buffet, Northrup Jones, La Casa ... too many of the places mentioned in cuisine I and II to list. Used to work at Venice Inn and Kenny's. Thanks for bringing back the memories. I loved looking at all the old ads. I visit Omaha every year and how it has changed!

Anonymous said...

Also, how about the Hilltop House on about 49th and Dodge sts?

Anonymous said...

Lots of great Omaha eateries and memories here, and an interesting blog site overall!

Some additional info:

Top of the World was closed sometime after 1983. My understanding is that upper management at Woodmen wanted the space (and view) for their offices.

A South Omaha favorite in the early to mid 1950s was Marlow’s, a diner on South 24th Street on the business strip. The aroma of hamburgers on the grill wafted out onto the street and made it difficult to pass by. Can’t find much info on it, but its address was 4721 South 24th, near L Street.

Richard Perry said...

I didn't see the Virginia Cafe in there. One of the other 24/7 downtown places. When you went in you were greeted by a huge cross section of a redwood tree that had dates in history marked on it. I also didn't see the Hilltop Inn that was roughly across Dodge from Spomps 49er. Oh and the venerable Kings Food Host on 72nd and Underwood. OTW, I loveed it.

Suzie Troia said...

I just now got wind of your "Forgotten Cuisine" article on your blog and tonight I am perusing "Forgotten Cuisine: Part Deux". What a fun walk down Memory Lane. I recall many of the old eateries that you listed in both of the blogs. Even though my brother-in-law's family owned the original Gorat's we didn't visit it all that frequently. But it remained a steakhouse mainstay on Center Street for many, many moons.

The paragraphs that you dedicated to the "Here's Johnny's" that was located on 72nd, also, jostled some memory cells. When I was a young pup I was hired on with the original crew when the store first opened. Johnny Carson actually made an appearance at the store shortly after the restaurant's "soft opening". Unfortunately I was only able to hear about his visit since I was recovering at home from a car accident. UGH! I recovered from the accident but never totally recovered from missing the opportunity to see Johnny since he was one of my favorite celebs.

We haven't lived in Big O for over 20 years now but I still think that Omaha has the best pizza, (La Casa) best tacos (Nettie's and Howard's) best hot beef sandwiches (the old Ambassador and Petrow's)and best chocolate malts (Goodrich) that I have ever savored. I hope you decide to make "Forgotten Cuisine" into a trilogy. I'll be anxiously watching for Part Three.

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