Thursday, November 26, 2015

25th Annual BlackOUT Friday -- Thanksgiving Tradition

Being completely allergic to stores, and the people in them, BlackOUT Friday started as a way to NOT go shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.

This year I am proud to announce that the tradition of not shopping, and sitting in a (strip) mall bar instead, will continue at The Good Life Bar and Grill  (TGL) promptly at 11:00 AM on Friday.

Here's what I had to say about TGL in my column earlier this year in the Omaha World-Herald...The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill. 

Come get your free HitThatDive shirt tomorrow. While supplies last!

Show up with a pack of Camel (non-filters) or wearing a cowboy hat and I, Scuba Steve, will buy your first drink and give you a HitThatDive t-shirt to proudly add to your collection!

But, what exactly are the origins of BlackOUT Friday? And, how does someone properly celebrate it...let me explain.  

Origins:  Thanksgiving of 1991, my college roommate (Smitty) and I (one year removed from college graduation) remained woefully unemployed.  To kill time over that year, we would meet every Friday at 11:00 a.m. at various bars and order the same thing…beer and wings.  (Keep in mind that this weekly habit led to the end of Smitty’s 10 month marriage to his high school girlfriend.)  

I too had recently ended a four year relationship with my college girlfriend…which meant that neither Smitty or I (being newly single and hopefully unemployed) were feeling very festive for the upcoming holidays. 

We decided that even though it was the Friday after Thanksgiving we should stick with our routine at the local “mall bar” The Ground Round…they had pretty good wings and 22 ounce draft beers.  

And we thought, “what the hell”, let’s see if we can find some Christmas spirit and hit the mall after a few beers and see what all the crazy people were up to.  In order to not look like complete degenerates, we enlisted one of our more upstanding friends (Chic) to join us.  To this day, Chic IS still married to his high school sweetheart.

Not the original
We had some wings, a few too many beers, walked around the mall, made fun of people that we knew there and eventually went home.  It was an amusing way to kill an afternoon and all agreed to do it again the following year.

1992:  I had moved out of the Pittsburgh-area, as had Chic,  so word got around town that we would all be at our same bar stools as the year before at The Ground Round the day after Thanksgiving.  A few more friends decided to join us, so it turned into more of a reunion than anything else, ultimately we decided to skip the mall and spend the afternoon drinking with friends.   

Smokes anyone?
1993-1996:  The new “rule” for the day after Thanksgiving was that you were not allowed to coordinate meeting at the mall bar.  It was a word-of-mouth invitation and either you showed up or you didn’t.  During these next five years, a few things happened:

  • We seemed to get progressively drunker every year;
  • More people started to “attend” our yearly ritual;
  • Shots became part of the tradition;
  • They put a bar IN the mall
Up until the opening of the mall bar (Ruby Tuesday), we would get fairly buzzed throughout the afternoon and call it a day.  But, the draw of a bar in the mall just seemed to be too much for the group to pass up.  Oh, we still drank the same amount at the first bar, which meant our decision-making once we took seats at the bar IN the mall were more than slightly impaired. 

1997:  We all took our same spots in the Ground Round, at this point the bartender already was expecting us, but there seemed to be an extra ounce of tomfoolery in the air.  By the time we hit the mall bar, we were all pretty ripped and hell-bent on shots once we got to the mall.  

Being their busiest day of the year, I have to assume that the management of Ruby Tuesday were not very thrilled to have a bunch of drunk rowdies in the place chasing off the customers that were there for a quiet lunch.  

How do I know that?  I believe we were asked to leave several times…which we promptly ignored.  Somehow we befriended an honest-to-goodness cowboy that we referred, oddly enough, only as “Cowboy”. 

3-2-1 RUN!
We decided that, since it was the start of the holiday season, we should join in the spirit of giving.  Not wanting to actually go shopping, we decided to buy a few packs of Camel (non-filters) from the vending machine and hand them out to all the mothers and daughters that were eating lunch. 

Who would have guessed that not a single one of them thanked us? It was evident that we would be forcibly removed from a Ruby Tuesday at 4:00 p.m.on a Friday (has that ever happened before?) so we promised the bartender we would leave after a few more rounds (and this time we mean it).  

As we get ready to leave, Cowboy asks us “where to next?”  To say Cowboy was a bit creepy is an understatement. 

It was then that a group of us huddled up and decided we had to “lose” Cowboy.  Those in attendance might remember it differently, but what I recall is on the count of three we all scattered as fast as we could in different directions throughout the mall.  

Things get a little fuzzy from there, but I do remember Cowboy being much harder to lose than my drunken brain had anticipated.  All I really remember about the rest of the day:

  • Not sure how I got home
  • Stopping at someone’s house because they had a beermeister
  • Smitty out cold in a car
  • “Falling asleep” and coming to just in time to watch Pete Gonzalez of Pitt beat West Virginia in the “Backyard Brawl”. Of note...this game is no longer even played. 
The gift that keeps giving
1998:  Mrs. HitThatDive caught wind of a few of the stories from the year before and implemented a new system.  Everyone who attended this year was given 6 drink coupons for a program that she would administer.  One coupon handed to her allowed you to purchase one beer, and handing her two coupons allowed you to purchase a shot.  

They were non-transferable, and once the coupons were all gone, she would drive us home.  Safe to say, the day did not end with a group of us drunkenly sprinting through a crowded mall to escape from Cowboy. 

1999-present:  I haven’t been in the Pittsburgh-area for Thanksgiving since 1998, but to this day the tradition of BlackOUT Friday proudly has continued in Northern Virginia and now for more than decade right here in Nebraska!

Whether in Pizzeria Uno inVirginia, the now defunct Draft House in Omaha, or even  Jerry's Bar in Benson...I have lived up to my word more than two decades ago that no matter where I am, I’ll be seated in a bar at 11:00 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving to have a beer(s) and toast all the friends from over the years that I wish were sitting there with me. 

Now...who wants some shots at The Good Life Bar and Grill. I'm buying! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Bar is OPEN -- Thanksgiving 2015 Edition

There's nothing like spending the day with family from near and far watching football and stuffing your face with home-cooked food. But let's face it, by about 5ish (or so) all that togetherness can get a little...well...let's just say you're ready for a break from your grumpy old uncle.

And this year, we have TWO bars on our list that get the fun started right at 6:00am!

So, with that in mind, we have yet again compiled a list of HitThatDive "Certified" bars that will be more than happy to sling some drinks on Thanksgiving...after everyone's food coma wears off, of course.

Go home're hammered. 
The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill: Open from noon to 2am. Home of tomorrow's 25th annual HitThatDive BlackOUT Friday.

Blind Dave'sBar: 11:00 a.m. til 2:00 a.m.

Elbow Room: Ready to roll at 6 p.m. $2.50 domestic bottles/tap, $3.50 premium/import bottles/tap $3.50 shots/bombs.

The VillageBar:  HitThatDive's "Bar of the Year" is open from 7:00-2:00. $3 "You Call It" shots.

Sneaky Pete's Saloon: 6am -2am ALL DAMN DAY!! 38th L street

Addy's Sports Bar and Grillopen 6 pm to 2 am with full kitchen.

Hit That Dive!
Leavenworth Bar: Say hey to Kirk and the gang anytime after 8 p.m.

Maloney's Pub:  Opens at 7 and will have $3 Fireball shots all night. 

Buck's Bar and Grill:  6pm no kitchen. "If you need food that day, you're doing it wrong. No kitchen on Thanksgiving. Nikki, however, will be offering free family counseling at the bar.

Observatory Lounge : Opens at 7pm.

Lookout Lounge: will be open 7pm-2am with FREE COMEDY

Lighthouse Bar & Grill:  Thursday - 3PM to 2AM; Happy Hour 4PM to 7PM - $4 35oz domestic draws, $2 domestic bottles & pints, $2 wells. No Kitchen.
  • Friday - opening at Noon for the game - Happy Hour 4PM to 7PM - $4 35oz domestic draws, $2 domestic bottles & pints, $2 wells, 10 Jumbo wings for $6, one topping personal pizzas for $5.$3 Long Islands, Margaritas & Hurricanes - All Day, Every Day!

The White House Bar: Will be open at 5pm

Crossbones Bar: Will be open at 7pm with the lovely Cherie!

Happy Thanksgiving Uncle Larry...I'll be right back after 10 beers at the bar. 

Dundee Dell: Will be open at 5 pm.

The 108: Opens at 6am

Pheasant Bar and Grill: Open at 6 pm and the kitchen will be open too

Underwood Bar: Opens at 5 pm

The Sydney: Opens at 7pm.

Don't forget to read HitThatDive tomorrow as we name the location for our 25th annual BlackOUT Friday! A tradition so great, it's celebrated the same way in several US time zones.  

Nap time.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Omaha Wing Challenge -- Dudley's Pizza and Tavern

2110 South 67th Street
Omaha NE 68106

Trust me on this, I don't make it a point to seek out bad wings...they just always seem to find me. Case in point, my first (and maybe only) trip to Dudley's in Aksarben Village. (Note to self...stop ordering wings when in this outdoor mall-like thingy-area as evidenced by last week's DJ's Dugout Wing Review).

Dudley's is a French word that means "bad wings"

Now, over the past year I've had more than a few people say to me that Dudley's has some great wings, but being a person that operates by the old Russian phrase "Doveryai, no proveryai" (Trust but verify) made famous by Ronald Reagan...the lovely Mrs. HitThatDive and I were off to the the shopping area named after Nebraska spelled backwards...

Scuba Steve's Rules: I rate wings in five categories for a total potential perfect score of 50. The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48. 

But, for those that recall, the real reigning HitThatDive "King of the Wing" for 2015 is Ray's Original Buffalo Wings by virtue of our roving band of wing judges earlier this year.  Read it all right here...HitThatDive King of the Wing 2015

And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the severed toe wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. Just click right here to get the complete list of HitThatDive wings reviews. Even the ones that I'd rather not remember. 


First Impressions: Before we get to the wings, let me just say that our server was great! (It always makes me feel better to say something positive before everything else I write is completely negative.) Now, for the rest of it. As is the standard, I ordered my wings with traditional Buffalo sauce....from this point on it all gets a little strange. 

Now, quoting directly from their menu, "Golden fried wings tossed in one of our many signature sauces, char-grilled and then sauced again. Available boneless. Choose from 7 sauces created with an award winning BBQ chef we call Dad:" 

Looking for that extra plate

Not only were these wings not fried, char-grilled or even tossed in anything...they were served up on a fancy plate at room temperature after being hosed-down with a few squirts of what surely was Sriracha.  And hey Dudley's, I would highly suggest that you shop for your celery somewhere other than Goodwill.  

Score: 1 out of 10 

Sauce: "Signature sauces"?  Squirting some Sriracha on wings and then dumping some black pepper on for good measure does not even qualify for being called a sauce.  

For the first time in my life, I may need to take a break from wings AND Sriracha after belching these things up for most of the afternoon.  Not sure I even need to waste anymore time on this part. But the question always remains...why did I just keep eating? 

Does this appeal to anyone?

Score: 0 out of 10

Crispy: The only thing less crispy than the wings was the celery at Dudley's...not sure that's ever been accomplished before...bravo! As I've said, there was no evidence whatsoever that these things ever saw a fryer or a grill as stated in their menu.  I'm not even sure these were cooked the day I was there. I could be wrong on this one, but these wings seemed to be reheated from the night before. 

Now, if this section was called "Luke-warm and Chewy" this would have received a perfect 10! As it stands...not so much. 

How old is that thing?

Score: 1 out of 10 

Size: All but one seemed to be wing-like size. But one oversized bad boy, while having the good fortune of being on the bottom of the pile and missing the Sriracha shower...seemed to have the misfortune of getting an extra dose of black pepper, caraway seeds, or ants....I'm still not sure which it was?

And one sad little guy was the right size, but was so withered it looked like the skin of a 90 year old man who just spent the better part of two-hours soaking his toes in epson salts.  Other than that...80% of the wings at least looked the part! (My form of a compliment)

What exactly is that?

Score: 4 out of 10

Extras:   See, this is where simple attention to detail really shows. If you're a bar or restaurant that has wings on the menu, several things should be fundamental.  One: Extra napkins. Two: An extra plate. Three: Serving celery from this decade. 

Throw in that the blue cheese that I ordered seemed to be some sort of chunky verified by Mrs. HitThat Dive...and they couldn't even get that right.  

Ultimately, I'm throwing five points to Dudley's for simply including celery...but immediately deducting three points because it was old and withered.  But at least it did make it to the plate. Yay!

Older than Dick Clark! 

Score: 2 out of 10 

Final Score: 8 out of 50

Scuba's Final Thoughts: Unlike a few places this year that actually served me still-frozen-on-the-inside wings...these were just a sad attempt to grab $9 out of my wallet without putting in an ounce of effort whatsoever.  

How lukewarm wings can make it from a kitchen to a customer's table is just mind boggling to me. Here's a tip...if you don't see steam coming off of chicken wings you're getting ready to throw in front of're doing it wrong! 

Chunky Ranch! It's all the rage. 

Now, Mrs. HitThatDive ordered some kind of wrap that she said was pretty good, and some of the other things in the place smelled fine enough to me.  But, at the end of the day, I can only write about what I was served...and these were a total failure from the second I saw them.  And yet, I ate most of them in the name of entertainment...what is wrong with me? 


Friday, November 20, 2015

Omaha Wing Challenge -- DJ's Dugout (Aksarben Village)

2102 S. 67th Street
Omaha NE 68106

I almost forget how to do this. Oh, but I bet I can get back into the groove of making snarky comments in written form as easily as sliding a LaVista Keno wing off a dirty plate and into the dumpster from which it came. ( IS easy to get back into the groove!)'s a sports bar. 
Why haven't I done a lot of dive bar or wing reviews lately? I have no idea. At some point this year I just seemed to have lost my creative "mojo", so instead of  mindlessly cranking out reviews that I wasn't happy with...I just walked away from the whole thing for a while. the delight of some...and the dismay of others (I'm looking at you Finnegan's Pub and Grill) I'm back at it!

For those that might forget how this all works, and as a reminder to myself, here's how this whole shebang goes.

That's why I'm here. 

Scuba Steve's Rules: I rate wings in five categories for a total potential perfect score of 50. The current reigning champion (by virtue of a committee vote) is The Pheasant with a total score of 48. 

But, for those that recall, the real reigning HitThatDive "King of the Wing" for 2015 is Ray's Original Buffalo Wings by virtue of our roving band of wing judges earlier this year.  Read it all right here...HitThatDive King of the Wing 2015

And, for shits and giggles (mostly to get the shits) the worst score has been the severed toe wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. Just click right here to get the complete list of HitThatDive wings reviews. Even the ones that I'd rather not remember. 

Now...onto DJ's Dugout...why I picked this place...I have no earthly idea. But be that as it we go!

First Impressions: Usually this starts when the wings come out of the kitchen. But on this occasion, I could not help but make a note of the front of the menu...because nothing says "Welcome to our all- male sausage-fest" more than three AXE-wearing douchebags on the front. Now THAT'S a great first impression! 

These guys! Don't bro me if you don't know me!

Why are we here again? Oh wings...that's right. And after about a 10 minute wait, the bartender (who also must double as a mime in his spare time) plopped down my order.  Ummmm...DJ's here's my first tip. Why not toss the wings in your sauce instead of just sort of splattering it over them like a like a four-year old with a paint brush? Just a thought. 

First bite and I could clearly taste a rubber chicken baked quality to these things.  My guess here is that they bake up a batch for the day and then toss them in a fryer for exactly 59 seconds to "crisp them up" and off they go.  Not awful...not great. 

Unoffensive so far
Score: 5 out of 10 

Sauce: As is my standard, I went with the "Buffalo" sauce to keep things consistent.  And, you know what, every now and then it seemed like that sauce was trying to play the hero and make these wings halfway decent. But alas, the overpowering baked taste, combined with the splattered nature of the sauce itself...just ultimately couldn't save the day. 

To their credit...the wings that DJ's splattered with more sauce (than less) did have a decent zip to them...and really wasn't half bad.  My biggest beef with the sauce wasn't so much the taste of it...but more with the lackadaisical application of it to the wings themselves.  Cest la vie. 

Splattered paint?

Score: 7 out of 10

Crispy:  Oh, you know, they were crispy-like. It's impossible to get an authentic crispy chicken wing if it's mostly baked. They weren't totally soggy or anything, but, they were overly chewy. 

It was almost like there was some type of film surrounding each wing that provided the impression that they were slightly crispy with each bite...which they weren't. But again...not the most awful wings in Omaha. 

Half baked? 

Score: 4 out of 10

Size: They were all fairly uniform in size and on the smallish side, which I actually have no problems with. Out of the six I ordered, there was really only one "outlier" big boy which was just slightly undercooked and more chewy then a fistful of Double Bubble from the bottom of last month's Halloween candy bag.  But other than that, not awful.

Double Bubble

Score: 5 out of 10

Extras: The mime behind the bar didn't ask me if I wanted blue cheese (because he didn't talk) so I ended up with Ranch...which was equally as unremarkable as trying to have a political discussion with the mime.

You know, to their credit here, there were plenty of extra napkins, an extra bowl, celery and not one but TWO wetnaps!

And remember kids, the real beauty of the wetnap is that the corner of the packaging can double as a toothpick to dislodge any wings that may have become stuck between your front teeth.

Score: 7 out of 10


Final Score: 28 out of 50 -- Middle of the Road! 

Scuba's Final Thoughts: Overall, they really weren't awful, but definitely not the place to make a special trip to for the true wing connoisseur.  They were not messy in the least and if this is a compliment...they weren't offensive either. They were just sort of there.

These wings reminded me of the scene in Animal House where the member of Delta House are voting on new members and they get to Larry Kroger and halfheartedly basically say "sure why not" and someone says "We need the dues." That's exactly how I feel about these wings!

Look, a place like this only really wants to do one thing...make money on overpriced beer ($4 for a pint of domestic beer) and mediocre food from dudes that just HAVE to be in a "sports "bar with a zillion TV's as they look at their phones to see how they're doing that day on FanDuel.

The real appeal of this place was summed up perfectly with a conversation I was having on Twitter as I sat at the bar...

Dudes come here for this...not the food or overpriced swill beer

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

HitThatDive's 3rd Annual Office Christmas Party

For the third year in a row on December 6th at 1:00 PM, and then again at 5:00 PM, we are throwing a good old fashioned, KICK ASS, Office Christmas party, like you were always thought you would be part of as an adult at The Village Bar in Ralston.

Last year the money we raised helped families all over the city...and even generated some unintentional, but great, news coverage.

Get your tickets by clicking right HERE!

Bad Santa and his elves
From KETV:

"A citywide Christmas spirit may have started with a man's bar and a man's blog."We thought it was a good idea," Steve Gates, who runs the Hit That Dive blog, said. "Did we think it was an idea a few weeks later we'd still be talking about? No."

KETV met Gates and Brock Hatterman, owner of Ralston's Village Bar, when someone was being generous at local grocery stores.

Even the WWE was there last year

"There was no rhyme or reason to it," Hatterman said. "We just randomly picked out people and went for it, and it was the best feeling in the world to do people."

Raising $3,000 with a Christmas party using all of it to do good, but they said what's been truly incredible are the effects of that party.
It's ALWAYS a party

"It's amazing what $20, $25 per person does," Gates said. "We were able to touch people's lives around Omaha. I was getting calls from all over the country: people I knew, people I didn't know."

And a great way to help our community! 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Bar Rescue -- Back to the Bar in Omaha

Because they just can't seem to stay away for too long...Jon Taffer's crew once again traveled to the Omaha-area to document whatever became of some of the most "notorious" bars ever on that fantastic(end sarcasm) show.

"Why did you ask me to pull your finger? "

Now, I'm not here to pimp Bar Rescue anymore than I have to. So if you want to learn more about the episode that debuts tomorrow and includes the OFace Bar and Sorties all mean click right

But, since I know that a lot of you are fans of the show (or just watch for the joke of it all) I asked the three owners of Sorties Tavern to come into the 1290 KOIL studios yesterday as I co-host the Bob Bruce Radio Experience.

Live in-studio at 1290 KOIL

If you didn't get a chance to listen live yesterday, here are links to the three segments where the guys opened up a bit about it was really like to deal with Jon Taffer...and if they would have gone on the the show in the first place if they knew what all would happen during the tapings. Good stuff!

Sorties Tavern on 1290 KOIL (Part one)

Sorties Tavern on 1290 KOIL (Part two)

Sorties Tavern on 1290 KOIL (Part three)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Best Patios for Drinking in Omaha -- 101.9 The Keg Exclusive

When the phone rings and it says "Crash Davis"...that's a call I always take no matter what what I'm doing. Why? Well, for one Crash is a good friend. And two, it usually means he has a new idea of something fun I can get into.

So, what was this call about? Simple. Coming up with my "Top 10 Patios to Have a Drink on in Omaha" of course.

So, knowing I was going to be on the air with 101.9 The Keg first thing in the morning, I went right to work.  For those HitThatDive purists, these are NOT all dive bars...take a deep breath. It will all be OK.

The majority of them are dives, but I thought for this particular Crash Davis assignment, a more compete list was the better approach. So, after much deliberation, here is the "Scuba Steve" Top 10 Patios to Have a Drink on in Omaha...your list may vary.

The Nest Lounge: What better place to knock back a few drinks and keep an eye on the kids as they're at the daycare directly next door? Oh yeah, and by the way, it's one of the best spots in West Omaha to sit outside and enjoy the summer air.

Ask for the Sunny D and vodka

Rose and Crown Pub: Keeping with our places to sit outside and have a drink (or two) while keeping an eye on the kids, the Rose and Crown is directly across the street from the Omaha Children's Museum and boasts one of the best deck scenes in town. Is it a dive? You bet. Is it made for some patio drinking? You be your life it is!

Avoid the Children's Museum here

Mr. Toad's Pub: Smack dab in the heart of Omaha's Old Market, Toad's was a stop on last year's HitThatDive Haunted Hangover Tour. And, from what most will tell you, is the prime spot in the Old Market to suck back a few drinks and just sit and people watch. Is it a dive? You make the call.

Old Market people watching central 

Heron Bay: No doubt this IS a dive, and a bit oddly situated, and basically next to a  Sanford and Son junkyard. However, it has one of the best decks in Eastern Nebraska to sit and have an amazing view of the Platte River. For my money, the closest you can get to drinking at an ocean bar anywhere in Omaha. (Prices are a bit steep, be warned Amigos.) This is always a prime stop for anyone that rides a motorcycle.

River. Beer. Fun.

1912: Have not been to this one in Benson yet, BUT, when a Benson spot comes highly endorsed by MarQ Manner....that's all I need to know. Many people wrote in and said this is THE spot for an outdoor patio in the Benson area...and it sure looks that way. This is the only place on my list that made it sight unseen. MarQ's word is gold in my book...give this one a look when you're in that part of town, and then let me know how it is.

Always trust MarQ Manner

Poop Deck: Is this the most elaborate deck in Omaha? Hell no. But it's the Poop Deck which means it's automatically HitThatDive certified, and, it's the only spot on this list where you can sit outside and watch the sun raise with a drink or two when they open the doors and 6:00am. Early morning bartender Chuck, is one of the best in town! I love the Poop Deck so much that's me in the picture below after getting there at 8:00 am to hang out with the Bergan Mercy nurses after an overnight shift.

A classic!

Crossbones Bar: The covered back patio at Crossbones is one of the best year-round spots in town. Oh sure, I froze my ass off back there on St. Patrick's Day, but it's fully covered by a roof, and always has the South Omaha equivalent of the trade winds blowing to keep you cool in the summer regardless of the temperature. Throw in one of Omaha's best Bloody Marys on a Sunday morning, and this might be the best hangover spot on the list.

Always a good time

Beer City: Hey, weekend warrior golfers, I've got a spot for you. Save the fortune that you're going to pay on greens fees (and golf course beers) and head to the corner of 42nd and L Streets. Grab your drink, head out the back door, and get ready to practice putting on Omaha's only outdoor putting green attached to a great dive bar. Is it the world's best patio? Hell no! But you're at a bar practicing your putting...on a real putting green...where else can you do that? This is Golden Tee for real people!

I putt, you putt...

Salt 88:  Yes, I know, this most definitely is not a dive bar. But who cares? John and his gang have the BEST patio in the Omaha city limits, incredible food, an extensive wine list and PBR Tall Boys! This is the only place in town where both Mrs. HitThatDive and I can go together and both be happy the entire time we're here. We bring the kids, come here for date nights, hell we just find reasons to come should you too. Don't let the fancy appearance scare you off...this place is great for anyone no matter what your taste might be.

Have a PBR Tall Boy

The Doghouse Saloon: When Crash asked me to put this list together, the Doghouse in Waterloo, Nebraska was the first place that popped into my mind. Small town honky-tonk bar. An amazing outdoor set up with a stage, plenty tables, TVs and the best part of all...honest-to-goodness truck tailgates that you can sit on and enjoy the day. Want the fun of tailgating, but don't want to do all the work? The Doghouse is just what you're looking. When you think of an outdoor bar to hunker down and spend a lazy summer afternoon...this is the spot I head to first. Did I also mention it's hangout for fans of my hometown Pittsburgh Steelers? Here we go we go!

Yeah baby!

There you have it, that's my list. What did I miss? Let us know if there's something you think needs to be added as one of the Omaha area's best bar patios. Have a complaint about this? Call Crash at 101.9 The Keg...this was his idea! (Just kidding) Now get out there and enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

First Annual HitThatDive Omaha Wing Challenge

Let's start off with a few things. Before you send me a message saying "But why wasn't MY favorite place on this list???" The answer is simple. To be included on this year's review list the ONLY requirement was that the participating bar had to donate $100 (all tax deductible) to Ted E. Bear Hollow.

So a big thank you is in order to all nine local wing places that each donated directly to an amazing charity to be part of this year's competition.  Who was on the list year? Here they are in order of which way the HTD judges traveled around Omaha sampling some of the best wings this area has to offer one-by-one. The contestants are...

The Good Life

Again, these are all locally owned small businesses that rely on the support of the people in our community to provide jobs, and well, keep us happy that we have so many great options for wings and beer!  

So thanks again to everyone that participated. And for those of you reading this...make it a point to try each and every one of these places in the next few weeks...we'll tell you exactly what to order when you're there...just keep reading. 

Not my sippy cup

How It Worked

A casting call was sent far and wide to assemble a rag-tag bunch of judges of anyone that loved to eat wings, and had some time over the course of two weekends in June. Our cast of nearly 15 judges were provided with score sheets and asked to rate wings on the now famous/infamous HitThatDive scoring criteria, which always include the following five categories. 

  • First Impressions
  • Sauce
  • Crispy 
  • Size
  • And the always ambiguous "Extras" 
Judges were asked to grade each type of wing, at each place, with a 0-10 in every category...which means a 50 is a perfect score...and a ZERO of course means we must have made a wrong turn and are now eating at LaVista Keno.  

Judges took it seriously 

I (Scuba Steve) did not take place in any of the judging, and was just there to eat wings and answer any questions in regards to proper scoring.  Keep in mind that the HTD judges ate at nine places and had been served, in some instances, more than 10 varieties of ONE stop.  So this was no easy task to judge and score.  The HitThatDive judges did an amazing job, so thank you all for your time, efforts and stomaches.  

Lessons Learned for Next Time

  • Judges will eat at no more than THREE places per day...we are not competitive eaters. 
  • Bars will submit no more than three wing flavors in advance.
  • Judges must fast for 24 hours before we eat. (OK, well that's not really going to be a rule...but as we's a damn good idea!)
  • We will draw straws to decide order because the most difficult spot to be in for bars are the ones going first or last. 
  • Ultimately, we learned a lot of lessons on how to do things much better the next time we do this. Promise! 
Scoring some wings at Addy's

Let's Get Down To It

For this section, we'll walk you through each bar and let you know if any of the wings that the judges scored received a 35 (or higher) out of 50 points (combined average)...those are the ones you should order for sure next time you're in these places. 

Wing categories were broken down into three separate flavors which included: Traditional Buffalo. The now (almost) famous Omaha Charbuffed. And specialty...which can include anything from teriyaki to peanut butter and jelly. 


The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill -- This, our first stop, we were just trying to figure out how all of this would work in real life. After figuring out how to eat and write at the same time, the judges all agreed that the Teriyaki (both bone-in and boneless) and the BBQ wings were the winners of the bunch here at TGL. 

Judge Quote: "Good sauce. Right amount. Tasty." 

Oscar's Pizza and Sports Grill -- Judges here, according to their score sheets, were highly impressed with the flavor of the double-dipped Buffalo wings and made several comments on the great heat-to-flavor ratio of the wings and the sauce. 

The Charbuffed wings also rated out above a 35, but  several judges pointed out that they love the Charbuff wings here but these were not quite as good as usual. But this is Oscar's after all, and even if not firing on all cylinders...they're still good enough to make the leaderboard. 

Judge Quote: "OMG! This had a great "hot" flavor that lasts!" 

Chicken Dance

Observatory Lounge -- The OB pulled out every stop to make an impression on the judges...and they all took notice. Oh, did I also mention that everything wing that they served us all earned rave reviews too?  Several score sheets went out of their way to mention the great impression that the OB made on them including an honest-to-goodness rendition of the Chicken Dance! 

The winners here were the Buffalo (Mild and Hot) and the Parmesan Sean's.  Of the parmesan wings, several judges pointed out that they're not really into that flavor but here "Parmesan all day baby!" 

Judge Quote: "Probably the most interesting taste I've experienced...ever!" 

Paloozas Sports Bar and Grill -- This stop brought us to the end of the first day of judging, and for nearly every judge, the first time here.  For being a newcomer on the block, Paloozas clocked in with four wings that broke the 35 average point total that included their Charbuff, Breaded BBQ, Dry Rub BBQ and their Memphis wings. Also of note, is that this is the home to arguably the largest wings we had seen on the entire competition. 

Judge Quote: "So...definitely different. Breaded which is a treat. And good! And the chef is definitely proud of his work!!" 

The Buffalo Company

Addy's Sports Bar and Grill -- As to be expected, Addy's scored big on five varieties of wings including their Spicy Garlic, Hot Buffalo (charbuffed), Bloody Mary, Teriyaki and the hottest wing we tested Sriracha Ghost Pepper. As noted by one judges after eating just one sriracha ghost mouth is still burning and that the heat sure stays with ya!

Judge Quote: "Sweet with a kick! Nice change from the traditional teriyaki wing sauce!"

The Buffalo Company -- I always enjoy the guys at the Buffalo Company, and they did not disappoint scoring on all three types of wings the judges sampled including their Medium Buffalo wing, Garlic Parmesan and one I had never seen before their Rubbed and Charred wing. Across the board, judges were impressed with the overall crispiness of all the wings here. 

Judge Quote: "Way better than expected! Pleasantly surprised!"

More wings!

Donohue's Pub -- Often overlooked when people are thinking of new places to try wings around the area, Donahue's made the judges take notice by scoring above at 35 on their Original Buffalo, Spicy Garlic and their Peanut Butter and Jelly wings. One judge ever went so far as to say the PB&J wings here were the most original we had tried at any place on this year's tour. 

Judge Quote: PB&J -- If you like peanut butter chicken, this tastes like really good chinese peanut butter chicken. 

Ray explaining what makes a good Buffalo wing

Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- To sum up our stop at Ray's, one of the judges comment on their score sheet "The other bars should be glad we came here towards the end! I'll be back!" Ray's wings all earned rave reviews for their Medium and Hot Buffalo and for Teriyaki wings. Also noted on several scoresheets was Ray's homemade blue cheese dressing. 

Judge Quote: "The medium buffalo was awesome and the blue cheese was amazing." 

The HopHouse Bar and Grill -- Our final stop also was a first for many of the judges (including myself) and even though they had the unenviable task of being the last stop on this year's wing challenge, made an impression on the judges with their PB and J wings and also with their Parmesan sauce. 

Judge Quote: I sort of feel bad...last stop of the challenge and it's hard to compare to eight others!" 

So, there's the quick tour through all of this year's stops. So, I know what you're asking...who are the damn winners?!  

Extras matter!

Here's how were going to do it, the top three places in our three wing categories (Buffalo, Charbuffed and Specialty) will be listed as well as the top three overall places based on average score of all their HERE WE GO! 

Biggest ones we saw!

Final Results 


3. Donahue's Pub -- Spicy Garlic: (41) TIE
    Addy's Sports Bar and Grill -- Sriracha Ghost (41)  
2. Observatory Lounge -- Parmesan Sean's: (43.1)
1. Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- Teriyaki: (45)


3.  Oscar's Pizza and Sports Grill -- Charbuffed Hot: (37.5)
2.  The Buffalo Company -- Rub and Charred: (39.5)
1.  Addy's Sports Bar and Grill --- Charbuffed Hot: (40.2) 


3.  Oscar's Pizza and Sports Grill -- Double Dipped Buffalo: (40.7)
2.  Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- Medium: (45.5) TIE
     Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- Hot (45.5)
1.  Observatory Lounge  -- Buffalo Hot (45.7)


3. Addy's Sports Bar and Grill -- (40)
2. Observatory Lounge -- (43.1)
1. Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- (45.3) 

We have a winner
How close was the scoring? Keep in mind that between third and ninth place there was only a difference of 7.1 points...TOTAL! The voting was that close...and in most instances...a point one way or the other could have made a huge difference for just about every bar on this list in every single category. 
Over the next few days, I'll be hand-delivering the original score sheets to every bar owner and will be available to walk you through the scores...that is if you want and any additional detailed insight. 

Thanks again to every bar that participated! 

People of Omaha...if you want your favorite wings included in this challenge next time...start telling your favorite bar owner(s) to pay attention to HitThatDive when we're looking for places to include in the future! 

Scuba Steve 

Who's still hungry?