Parker’s Smokehouse

Lisa and I finally got out on the Harley last night and took a ride out to Parker’s Smokehouse.  We hadn’t been there in a while.  The weather was perfect, a glorious night for a motorcycle ride.

Since it was a Monday night, we were able to get a booth without waiting.  We decided to split their sampler platter (an appetizer, but enough to feed two easily) and a couple of side salads.  I have to say, the food has actually improved – and that is no mean feat.  The salads were a couple of notches better than we had had there before; a nice bed of Romaine lettuce, nice toasty croutons, well presented.  We were off to a good start!

I had always liked their ribs.  They have always been very good, but maybe not the most tender I’d had.  Last night they were much more tender and a little smokier than we’d had there before, and seemed to have a little more sweet BBQ flavor as well.  Not overpowering or trying to hide the flavor of the meat, but really good.  We also noticed that there was more meat on the ribs.  I’d say they are some of the best ribs we’ve had in a restaurant anywhere.  The rib tips were also superb, very smoky.  The chicken was very tender and juicy, and the catfish fingers were done to perfection.

We’ve seen a lot of restaurants start out great and gradually decline (like Colton’s, for example, or Millard Road House).  Parker’s seems to be getting even better than they were, which means someone is working hard.

I keep breaking airplanes…

Well, someone does anyway.  Today I flew with Jerome.  I preflighted N698FL, we had the tanks topped off and took off from Eppley headed for Blair.  I handled all of the radio calls, the only mis-step was when Departure told me “Own navigation, at or above 3500” and I responded “Own navigation, at or above three thousand five hundred, 8FL, good day”.  That last was a little premature, since he hadn’t told me radar service terminated, frequency change approved.  Not a big deal, he called a minute later to see if I was still on the frequency.  I was, having not switched to the Blair AWOS frequency yet – since he hadn’t told me I could yet.  Minor procedure thing, no biggie.

We did a T&G at Blair.  My pattern was “just OK”, not great, but I got it in.  I didn’t get the nose up enough in the flare and landed fairly smoothly but flat.  John would probably have been on the controls, but Jerome let me muff it so I knew what it would do.  Flaps up, full throttle, around again.  Second approach was too high and too fast, I did a go-around.  The third time I was long on the downwind and too low when I turned final, so I added power and basically flew it flat until I was in the right spot, then dropped some power and flaps.  I landed a little longer than I planned and was a little slow making the decision, so I didn’t think I had enough runway left to suit me.  No problem, taxi back and take off.  Well, on the way back — a 4200′ taxi — the nose wheel started to shimmy, badly.  Jerome tried a takeoff run but it was almost immediately apparent it was a no-go.  We parked, called the office and tied down the plane.  The front office girl was nice enough to come out and pick us up (thanks, Unique!) and get us back to Eppley.  From there I met Lisa at Stella’s for an incredible burger; if you haven’t eaten at Stella’s, you really need to.  It would be like living in Chicago and never eating at Portillo’s.  Then it was off  to Bellevue West for an AOPA safety seminar.

This makes three times I’ve left there with an airplane INOP for various reasons.  N698FL with nose gear issues all three times, plus N5533F with a broken pilot side yoke once – I found that on preflight.  I like the school, I like the people, but the maintenance issues are starting to wear a little.  Only .9 in the log book today.  On the bright side, we did have some time to talk while waiting on our ride back.  I think I have a better approach to try — no pun intended.  Jerome’s suggestion was to trim for a 500 FPM descent as soon as I reduce power and drop the first notch of flaps, and keep trimmed.  I’ve been needing a LOT of back pressure to flare.  I keep hearing that it shouldn’t take a lot of effort, but by the time I’m flaring I’m having to damn near lean back to get enough back pressure.  Next time I’m going to try doing a lot more trimming and see where that gets me.  Maybe I can reduce the workload in the pattern and concentrate more on watching the airspeed and turns.


Okinawa Sushi

Last night Lisa and I had dinner at Okinawa Sushi, in the “L Street Marketplace” shopping area north of L between 120th & 132nd.  We have a sushi place a lot closer to home, but — well, they’re snooty and the service isn’t that great, and we don’t go there if we don’t have to.  So, being in the mood for sushi, we tried the new place.

I wold say we were both pleasantly surprised.  The interior is fairly generic but clean, with granite table tops in the booths.  There is a certain Asian flavor to the restaurant, but of course there’s only so much you can do in what is pretty much a strip mall.  No matter, we are in suburbia after all.  We ordered a couple of the daily special drinks, a Cruzan rum and coconut ting that was quite good and a very reasonable $4 each.  We also ordered some edamame, which was quite good and there was enough for both of us.

The biggest challenge, honestly, was deciding what to order!  The menu was excellent and included sushi rolls, dinners, a few Chinese staples like General Tso’s Chicken and such.  There are also raw fish dishes and a number of “chef’s choice” combinations of sushi and raw fish.  I ordered the Sweetheart Roll and the Jazz Roll, and Lisa had the Crunchy and one I don’t remember the name of.  All were excellent, with Lisa especially fond of the Sweetheart Roll.  I’d say the food was as good as any sushi restaurant we’ve been to.

Service was friendly even if at just a little more relaxed pace than we would have liked.  Still, I wouldn’t say it was slow enough to be a problem.  The bill for two drinks, an appetizer and four sushi rolls was under $60 including tax.  In the end, it was good enough that we plan to be back — probably more than once.  There are still a lot of items on teh menu we want to try!


Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill

Lisa and I had dinner at Lazlo’s the other night after seeing a movie.  The short rundown:  We’ll probably be back.

The restaurant is located just a bit north of Center on 192nd Ave., a little out of the way for most people but not “out in the boonies”.  They have three different dining areas that I saw.  There’s a regular dining room, divided up by chest-high walls into smaller areas.  The bar area is open seating, with a mix of high and low tables as we ll as booths along one wall.  There is also an outdoor patio, where we would have sat if it had been a few degrees warmer.  I didn’t have my jacket, Lisa did.

The food was pretty good.  Lisa had a salmon salad on assorted greens, with a really good avocado dressing.  I had their Reuben, which while not in my top 3 or 4 of all time was pretty good.  Both of us ended up having leftovers for lunch the next day.  We also had some beer cheese soup — pretty good.  I like the gouda ale soup at Upstream better, but we just quit going there because we got utterly lousy service the last 2-3 times.  The soup was rich and creamy, and they brought out some beer bread which was also pretty good.

We each had a Bermuda Triangle, which is an odd mix of a dark beer, some dark rum and root beer.  Lisa liked it…  I didn’t.  Service was not the best, but we were in the bar and there was apparently no assigned wait staff.  I think if we’d been in either of the other areas we would have had a little more prompt service.  It wasn’t horrible, just a little slower than I would have expected considering the light crowd.

Lazlo’s is at 2425 S 192nd Ave, open Sunday – Thursday 11 AM – 10 PM and Friday & Saturday 11 – 11.  They do takeout too.

The French Cafe, again

I have to admit that I feel a little guilty. It seems we only dine at French Cafe on our anniversary. We’ve done so the past several anniversaries, and we have really come to regard this place as our “special evening” restaurant.

Really, though, it’s more than that. While the French Cafe is a very upscale and romantic place to eat, it’s also a place we should probably go more often. It’s one of the few places that has been under the same (local) ownership and management now since it opened over 40 years ago. Tony’s (and now Valerie’s) attention to detail and insistence on perfection is what really makes this restaurant.

The food is, as it always has been, truly outstanding. You won’t find a better French onion soup anywhere, and the escargot is good enough to convince you that snails were meant to be eaten. Their menu is varied and updated, and there is always something new to try. It’s elegant without being snooty, accessible without being overly informal. We’ve also noticed that the cost seems to be lagging significantly behind inflation; our dinner bill was lower than expected (possibly due in part to the fact that we skipped drinks and wine).

We had Chateaubriand for two, prepared tableside by an excellent waiter. After dinner was the minor spectacle of seeing our cherries jubilee prepared, followed by the even more enjoyable eating of them. And of course one of the best parts is the after-dinner stroll through the Old Market before returning home (or wherever you’re staying).

You may think French food is for snobs, you may think the French Cafe is expensive. If so, I would respectfully say you’re wrong on both counts. If you haven’t been to the French Cafe, or haven’t been there recently, make it a point to do so, and soon. You deserve it.

Parker’s Smokehouse

It’s been tough to find really good barbecue around here for a while now. First Tony Roma’s, then Famous Dave’s slid from outstanding to mediocre to not-wort-it. Dickie’s looked promising, but I suspect their obscure location and high prices were what led to their early demise. I haven’t been to McKenna’s in recent years, so we’ll have to try them again some time. But until then…. we’ve been to Parker’s a few times now, and the food has been uniformly outstanding. If you like BBQ, this is the place to go! There are three locations that we know of — Nebraska City, Lincoln and the one we’ve been to, between Ashland and Greenwood on Highway 6. It’s not too much of a drive from Omaha, a nice unhurried run down 6 from Gretna.

The wait staff is knowledgeable about their menu and the various sauces. The ribs, chicken, brisket and pulled pork have all been excellent. What really surprised me was the catfish. Many places serve their catfish cooked beyond death, a heavily cornbreaded bit of fishy leather. No so Parker’s! The catfish was tender, juicy and some of the best I’ve had anywhere that I can recall (the absolute best had to be from Smoky Bones). They have half a dozen sauces that your waiter or waitress will walk you through, with some potato wedges for sampling them. The sauces range from pretty good to truly excellent. None are blazing hot, but a couple do bring a reasonable level of spiciness.

The atmosphere is very informal, but not the throwing-biscuits-at-you kind. They play decent music, though the place is loud enough most of the time it’s just background noise. It’s not objectionably noisy; you can still carry on a conversation with others at your table. Just don’t expect to eavesdrop on the next table over. Prices are moderate and reasonable, portions are average to generous, appetizers are pretty good. They do carry-out as well, though it’s a bit of a drive (or ride)… so you’ll probably want to grab a table and enjoy it hot.

The Drover

Last night I had the opportunity to have dinner at The Drover (off 72nd & Mercy Rd) for the first time in years.

If you have never tried the steak at The Drover, you really do owe it to yourself to go there.  The decor hasn’t changed much since the 60’s, but it’s clean and well maintained.  I had the 14 ounce whiskey ribeye, which honestly was about twice what I should have.  The steak was easily as good as any I’ve had outside of a Ruth’s Chris.  In hindsight, the whiskey filet would have been a better choice.

The salad bar is the original item installed in 1968, one of the first in Omaha according to the attached plaque.  It’s probably the oldest now, and is about what you would expect in an Omaha steak house.  Good stuff, but Lisa’s not going to find her Romaine and spinach there.

We had a plate of bacon wrapped shrimp as appetizers, which were excellent.  The grilled asparagus was OK, nothing spectacular, I’ve made better.  Overall, The Drover still hangs in there with their signature and rightly famous whiskey marinated steaks.  The rest of the menu isn’t spectacular, but doesn’t disappoint either.  Prices are moderate to a bit high — $34 or so for my steak, with some lower priced items.  I heard no complaints from anyone in our party of 8.


The French Cafe

We’ve seen a lot of restaurants come and go.  Many follow a path that is, by now, rather predictable.  We saw it with Colton’s most recently.  A new restaurant opens, and it’s great – great food, great service, nice decor, etc.  We go there fairly frequently (for us anyway).  Then something happens; the food quality falls off, service gets sloppy.  Pretty soon we don’t go there any more, and more often than not the restaurant ends up closing.  So, it’s good to know there are some places that have not lost their edge over the years.

If you have not eaten at the French Cafe recently, you really do owe it to yourself to do so.  Lisa and I had our anniversary dinner there.  It’s really the only place I can think of that has remained consistently close to flawless over the years we have been going.  Our most recent visit was every bit as impressive as our first.  The service was spot on, attentive but not intrusive.  The food was beyond excellent — where else can you get French onion soup that good, and escargot?  Nowhere that I know of, not around here.

The menu is fresh, not just the same thing year after year.  Tony and Valerie Abbott keep things new without getting too far out in left field.  I can only hope they keep it going at the same outstanding level until they can pass it along to someone who will do as good a job.  I hope to have our 50th anniversary dinner there too!

Bonefish Grill

We had dinner at Bonefish Grill in Regency last night for the first time. The food was quite good. I believe the calamari may have been the best I’ve ever had. We also had the Bang bang Shrimp appetizer (spicy and not bad).

The menu is varies, with plenty of seafood entrees (of course) in addition to steaks, salads, etc.  I had a Caesar salad with dinner, but next time I’ll try the house salad, which looked excellent. My fish was perfectly cooked, stuffed with crab and shrimp with vegetable and jasmine rice sides.  The sauce was a creamy lemon caper sauce that worked well with the fish.

Service was a little off, but not bad — they forgot the occasional drink, but overall it was a good experience. A word of warning: the desserts are more than enough for four people. They’re enormous.

We’ll probably be back.

Lied Lodge in Nebraska City

We spent the past weekend at the Lied Lodge in Nebraska City. My side of the family had our family reunion there, and I have to say we’ll be back!

The lodge itself is beautiful, well maintained and well staffed. Natural timbers are used throughout, and the huge lobby and quiet veranda are a couple of very relaxing spaces to sit and read, talk with family and friends, play cards or whatever. We also spent some time wandering through some of the many trails, visiting the Morton house and carriage house, playing some games on the lawn, etc.

The restaurant puts on a pretty good buffet for breakfast. In fact, after a large, late breakfast we skipped lunch both days. I don’t think we ever had dinner at the hotel restaurant. We wanted to do the free wine tasting (Sat & Sun. nights) but the timing didn’t work out right either evening.

All in all, it’s a beautiful place and one we’ll visit again. I could see an annual stay there, in fact.