Saturday, October 25, 2014

Haunted Hangover Part II -- AFTER DARK

I bet you're here looking for the EVP from O'Connor's Irish Pub I just referenced on the Pat & JT "After Dark" Halloween special tonight.  So, who I am to disappoint.

Here's the story, as we were videoing the promo for this year's Haunted Hangover, a few of us headed over to O'Connor's Irish Pub (known to be the most haunted bar in Omaha).  As far as video shoots go, it all was pretty routine...we shot about an hour's worth of footage and went on our merry ways. 

After a quick stop at The Elbow Room, Mrs. HitThatDive and I were heading back home.   Curious to see how the quality of the videos turned out, I started watching the first few clips.  As usual, the audio wasn't perfect, but, nothing too awful.  In one of the last clips I shot, I heard a voice that did not appear in any of the other 45 minutes of video that I just listened to.  

This is what I heard...

As a pretty picky videographer, if I would have heard a voice that loud and I would have immediately said "STOP TALKING" to the other two people in the room.  I never heard a peep in the upstairs bar until I watched this video footage.  Is it the voice of a spirit?  I guess you'll have to be the judge of that for yourself.  

The Story of "Lock Up Bob"

As I mentioned on the radio broadcast, "Lock Up Bob" was a longtime employee of The Dubliner.  It was his job, oddly enough, to lock up the bar for the night at closing time which used to be 1:00 am here in good old Omaha.  

After he died a decade or so ago, he apparently wanted to ensure that the bar was being locked up every night and decided to check in on his replacement one night.  As the new lock up guy was counting money from the cash register after closing, he felt an odd presence.  After looking up from the table where he was finishing things up for the night...the spirit of Lock Up Bob was standing right in front of him staring.  

Needless to say, it didn't take the guy long to run the HELL out of there.  Bob has been described as a large, quiet man.  But is the the ghostly image you want to see when you're in a dark bar all alone at night? 

Lock Up Bob
Tomorrow we will embark on the second annual Haunted Hangover.  These are just a few of the haunted bars on this year's tour.  Happy Halloween to all.
Haunted back bar at The Dubliner
The Upstairs at O'Connor's is the most haunted

We will see if Borgata has any paranormal activity

The remains of a bar patron named "Q"

Happy Halloween from HTD!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Haunted Hangover Part II -- Old Market Edition

For those of you that were lucky enough to snap up one of the 100 spots on this year's Haunted's a sneak peak of what you have to look forward to.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

HTD's Words of Wisdom from Julian Young

It's not very often that a get off topic here on good old HitThatDive.  But every now and then it might be a good idea to sprinkle in some words of wisdom that I hear while throwing back a few beers with friends.  

Last month I met Julian Young, and even though I'm sure we took completely different paths to get where we are in life today, we seemed to arrive at the same conclusions in how we should approach life moving forward.  

In an article earlier this year, the Omaha World-Herald wrote this article about's just a short intro from the article. 

"Julian Young might have wound up as one of those sad clich├ęs — the troubled youth whose rough childhood, adolescent drug use, college drug dealing and violent temper landed him in jail or a grave. Instead, he has published his fourth self-help book.  Julian's path from drug dealer to model citizen hasn't been an easy, straight line."
Julian and I met up last Friday in Benson for a few beers and great conversation.   Never underestimate the power of bar conversations.  Why is that?   Well, let's have Julian explain...

The Power of Follow Through: Three Unexpected Relationship Lessons that Blue Moon and Some Good Conversation Taught Me

It’s amazing what you can learn when you listen. I mean, really listen and observe and connect the dots in your life and relationships. With so many things taking up our time, we often overlook the power of building healthy, long-lasting relationships. What are the pieces? What do we need to feel secure about and around the people we give our time?

Over a few cold beers, (yes, Blue Moon was my drink of choice) and a quiet night at Liv Lounge, I found myself knee-deep in a conversation with someone I’d been in an early stage business relationship with. 

Suddenly I realized I was making the same subtle mistake that had snared me in business relationships in the past. I wasn’t truly being observant and paying attention. Not to what the person said, but to the actual reality of how much of what they said actually lined up with what they did.

Here’s some critical relationship building lessons I realized over a Blue Moon, the best salsa and chips ever, and some damn good conversation:

1.  Things Easiest to Overlook are Often the Most Influential

It’s ironic isn’t it? That most of the things we tend to bypass on the road to solid relationship building are the things that tend to impact us the most if people don’t do them. Simple things like: being straightforward and honest, being clear about our intentions, following through on our word, or really listening… and I mean listening to the other person’s needs during conversation. As easy as it is to skip past these simple elements, their impact in our relationships is immeasurable.

2.  How a Relationship Starts Sets the Course for its Destination

I wrote a blog post awhile ago called “Ship Happens.” It’s based on the idea that in life things like relationships, leadership, stewardship, etc. all have “ships” attached to them because they must be steered or navigated… In a snap shot:

How relationships start is a prediction of how they will end up, unless we steer or navigate them in a different direction.

3.  Where Actions and Words Meet, a Promising Future Lies Ahead

In my conversation, I realized something you probably have realized too, just on a much bigger scale than I expected. When a person’s natural conversation about their life continually shows up in what they do, you can expect some amazing things from that relationship. 

Of course, this doesn’t exclude you; none of these lessons do. So you can look at this blog post as a bit of a two-edged sword: You can either lead by the example or become it. No one is an exception to these rules.

In essence, never underestimate the power of a good conversation. Whether it’s over a good beer, a glass of wine, or some steak tacos (because I could go for some right now), sometimes it’s the best way to connect the dots and add up all the pieces to where a relationship stands and is actually headed.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Haunted Hangover Part II -- A Gathering of Spirits

Last year, as kind of a joke almost, I asked how many haunted bars there were in Omaha.  Being completely overwhelmed by the response, I thought "HEY! This sounds like a good excuse for a bar crawl!"  And, just like that, the first "Haunted Hangover" was born.

So here we are nearly a year later, and I'm getting ready to give the details about this year's Haunted Hangover on The Pat&JT Morning Show...that was a fast year!  On a side note, thanks to both Pat and Jill for giving me a shot and having me on the show more than a year ago, and then inviting me back to me part of the fun...I can never thank the two of them enough.

Oh,'re here for details.  Well that's have to wait.  Well, not really, you just can't sign up until October 1st at the stroke of midnight.

Here's what I can tell you:

  • When: October 26th, 2014. Starting at O'Connor's in the Old Market at 11:30
  • Ticket Price: $20 to benefit Siena/Francis House of Omaha
  • We will visit five locations including Borgata Brewery and Distillery, T Henry's and two "secret locations"
  • Live paranormal investigations by Brian Kent and my friends at Paracon 
  • Only 100 tickets will be sold
  • This is an all walking tour throughout Omaha's haunted Old Market
  • Appearance by amazing illusionist Joe Brogie
  • Samples of Jim Beam Jacob's Ghost and Beam Kentucky Fire
  • Fun provided by HitThatDive's "Master of Entertainment" The G-Man
  • Historical presentations about the Old Market
  • Shirts, raffles, giveaways...and that's what we cooked up a month in only gets better from here!

If you're new to the Haunted Hangover, here's a few links to give you an idea of what it's all about. 

At the end of the day, this is a fun Halloween-themed event that raises money for people in our community that need a helping hand.  Halloween is meant to be a scary time...wondering where your next meal is going to come from never should be. 

So, think about joining us this year as we wander the streets of Omaha searching for spirits, as we sip on (several, or more) spirits.  

Tickets go on sale October 1st...don't miss out!  Make sure you're always up-to-date with following on Facebook and Twitter, if you don't already that is. 

Get your tickets right here at on October 1st. Haunted Hangover Part II will be the most fun you can have having a few drinks, as you get scared half-to-death, while helping those in need in Omaha area.  See you on the 26th of October!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Doe's Place, Fremont, Nebraska -- REVIEW

148 North Main Street
Welcome to Doe's Place

Fremont, NE 68025

Kids, did I ever tell you about the time I was transported back to the year 1971 after walking into a bar in Fremont?  Really?  I didn't?  Remember, the story that included free "Alabama Slammer" Jello-O shots, a scene right out of the Twilight Zone, and a John Wayne movie that I had never heard of before?  I didn't?  How did THAT slip my mind.

Well, in that case, go grab me the entire six back of Tall Boys out of the fridge, pull up a chair, and take the phone off the hook.  Yes, "take the phone off the hook", that's what I said.  You don't know what that means?  Oh for crying out loud, just put your damn iPhones on mute.  And, before you ask, no you can't get the new iPhone 6...end of discussion.

It all started one Saturday afternoon...

PROS: Great bartender. Real people hang out in here. A melancholy feel, in a good way (if that's possible).

CONS: Some dude sitting in the bar had his new shoes stolen off his feet the night before. Rod Serling never made an appearance.  

Plenty of room for such a small bar
First Impressions: Imagine if you will, you're traveling through another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind.  OK, that's going a little too deep, but just down Main Street in Fremont, a few blocks from the cluster of dive bars in town sits Doe's Place. It looks like any other bar in Fremont from the outside, but because it's a few blocks down from the other ones, it seems to be isolated in its own decade.

Letting my eyes adjust the the extreme contrast of a sunny day, and a very dark bar, the first thing I noticed was a group of older men sitting at a table playing cards that reminded me EXACTLY of the picture of dogs playing poker.  As I grabbed a seat at the end of the bar I hear a loud THHHH-WACK! "Just need to get these guts off the counter" the bartender said as I sat down.  Pesky fly bartender 1.  I take a look around and see that there's a John Wayne movie playing on the TV (this is foreshadowing, remember it for later).  So far, so good.

Dogs playing poker!
The Bar: Standard-looking bar area.  Nothing fancy, but certainly not a dump by any stretch.  And for what it's worth, Doe's has some surprisingly nice tables throughout the entire place.  The bar seats roughly 10 people and has your choice of Bud or Bud Light on draft.  Looking to catch a quick smoke?  Just walk right outside using the door by the bar and you are good to go rain or shine thanks to the patio covered by a Menard's carport.

And thumbs up to a bar that can cram just about as much stuff in to one tiny bar as I've ever seen, but still has enough room to shoot pool. This place is magical I tells ya'! Of can of Busch Light was a bit smelly, not the beer (although some will argue with me on that too) but the can itself.  Hold your nose and drink I suppose, right?

No flies...for now
The Crowd:  Well, let's have the table of dudes playing Hearts...a few people that were trying to shake off yesterday's hangover by drinking cans of pop (or soda, depends on where you're from)...a few hard working farmers...and eventually a tan version of Boo Radley.

In a scene that I will never be able to forget, when asked where his new shoes were Boo, sort of matter-of-factly uttered that they were stolen the night before.  Presumably off of his feet while he was "sleeping". He was roughly my age, looked thoroughly defeated in life, and sat quietly at a table by himself.

For those of us that have complains about the size of the new iPhone, or the leather seats in your SUV burned the backs of your legs, take note...this is a person with REAL problems.  I wanted to buy him I drink, or snap a quick picture, then I thought to myself some people come to bars to be with other people, and some want to be totally alone (around other people) and decided to leave him alone. Good luck in life my friend, if anyone deserves a new pair of shoes ever's you.

Just chillin' 
Service:  Faster than John Wayne with a six-shooter, the great bartender (occasionally on her flip phone) was as fast at slinging me another beer as she was with her trusty flyswatter...KAPOW!! Bartender 2 -- Pesky flies 0.  I didn't even finish my first beer out of the smelly can before she cracked another for me without asking. Yes! Two sips into that one and she offers me up a free Alabama Jell-O shot...who am I to say no?

Prices:  Standard dive bar pricing,  I think I was paying $2.25 for cans of domestic beer.  Looked like the Jello-O shots were a buck, if I didn't get mine for free, and they have quite an extensive collection (14 different flavors) of pop for sale for $1.50.  Who comes to a bar and buys a can of Squirt, when you can pay .75 more and get a beer?  Well, other than the people to my right drinking Diet Coke, so forget I asked.

Food: Didn't look like much more than Slim Jims and pickled eggs (.75 each) for food options.  But, on a neatly hand-written sign behind the bar they did mention that Friday is "Free Food Friday Noon-until it's gone!" While not actually food-related the sign also noted that the band "Welfare Lonnie and the Food Stamps" played there the night before as well.  Almost sorry I missed that one....

14 kinds of pop
Entertainment: Standard bar stuff...pool table...dart board...tons of sketchy games of chance that I'm never really sure how to play...and...three TVs. Now, on one of those TV's was a John Wayne movie (as has already been mentioned).  Not being the world's John Wayne movie fan, I finally had to ask a guy sitting next to me what movie it was.  With out hesitation, the entire bar says in-unison, BIG JAKE!!".

Two things happened at the exact moment, I was immediately reminded of The Lemonheads song "The Outdoor Type" because any ounce of dive bar "cred" I may have earned with this crowd was immediately gone for asking such a stupid question.  For those that don't know the lyrics from The Outdoor Type here's just a few of them..."I've never slept out underneath the stars, closest that I came to that was one time my car broke down for an hour in the suburbs at night, I lied about being the outdoor type."

For whatever reason, I was OBSESSING about what the vibe of what year this bar was giving off. 1967? Nope 1979? Nah.  1959. No that's not it either.  It was like the "spirits of dive bars past" wanted me to write down a specific number...keep in mind that I rarely (if ever) obsess about anything. And certainly nothing as totally meaningless like this. Finally, it hit me 1971...and for whatever was like I could move on.  Like that was the correct answer to a pop quiz from a bunch of drunks long gone.  I even made a note that just said "odd" next to the numbers 1971 when I finally was able to do something check out the men's room!

A few hours later I got home and decided to look up more information on the movie Big Jake.  So off to IMDB I go.  Movie -- Big Jake. Starring -- John Wayne.  Filmed -- 1971!  For whatever reason, that kind of freaked me out, if only for a bit. OK...maybe that wasn't totally from The Twilight Zone...but I think I do need to run this story by Psychic Andy Meyers next time I see him.  In retrospect, I should have played the same numbers that day in Keno  and moved on with my day.

Restrooms:  Small. Clean.  Not too horrible.  If anyone from Doe's ever reads looks like it's time for a new Air Wick in the men's room.  The current one looks like it's been around guessed it...1971!

I can live with this
Bartender Chat: When not hunting down every last fly in the joint, my bartender for the day (Max I believe) was a hoot to talk with too.  And, it's hard to argue the logic of a bartender that says things like "When I wanna get drunk, I cut right to the chase. Shots!"  Amen, sister. Amen.

Final Impressions:  I walked out of Doe's not really sure what the hell happened?  Last time I ever do an Alabama Slammer Jell-O shot...I know that much!  Ultimately, I gained an even deeper level of appreciation of people that hang out in local bars, work hard jobs at a place like the nearby Hormel Plant in town for $8.75 and hour, and could spend their entire day complaining that life wasn't fair...but chose not to.

As I said in the "Pros" of the bar that there was "melancholy feel, in a good way" at Doe's...and I'm sticking with it.  My time at here was far more moving to me on a personal level than I could have ever imagined.  Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes people steal your shoes.  And maybe, just maybe, if you acknowledge some of those simple facts (and not let them get you too down)  you can find a way to stagger back to a bar where your friends hang out and see if today just might be slightly better than the day before.  If not, you're in're already at a bar so just cut right to the chase...shots!

Hit This Dive!


I blame this

Friday, September 5, 2014

Where to Grab a Drink in Omaha -- Ebola Edition

Theoretically're in from out of town and have never been to Omaha before.  After a flight halfway across the globe, and a police escort to one of our top-notch medical facilities, you find yourself sitting alone in your sparsely decorated containment facility.  What's a guy to do?

In our haste as a community to report every last second of the bubonic-like plague you've contracted, we've neglected to be a gracious host to our city. Among the things I'm told this city has to offer is a world-class zoo, underrated performing arts scene, and more one-named restaurants than almost any other city this size (I don't get it either) .

And, we have dive bars.  Like, a whole bunch of them...and some of the best ones are right outside the doors of the Nebraska Medical Center.  The Med Center is situated right smack dab in the center of town, an odd place to bring an Ebola patient, but that's now water under the bridge.

So, when nobody's looking, sneak out of your hyperbolic chamber, pretend to be the new orderly in town, take the freight elevator to the ground floor, walk out the back door of the hospital...and be ready to get your drink on!

**A note of caution**  Here in Omaha we're a bit new to the whole "I could potentially die from a predominately third-world disease" thing.  So, when out visiting some of the best dive bars we have to offer, always practice our now required "Ebola Greeting".

Know it, learn it, live it.

Bud Olson's Bar -- About as divey as a dive bar can get, Bud's is the perfect place to have a few cold beers between life-saving treatments.  And, the best part is Bud's is open Monday-Friday at 6:00...perfect for those round the clock nurses that seem intent on waking you up every few hours.

Alderman's Bar -- This has to be one of my favorite bar in Midtown on Leavenworth Street. It's a great place to get drunk, have fun and drink on the cheap. This really is a place that you would think most great dives should look like...complete with the kind of barflies you want to drink with...well when you're no so under the weather I suppose.

Marylebone Tavern -- You're in luck...the "Bone" has food on a Friday night.  Try the wings and tacos...and then head out back to their great patio to keep a safe distance from the one here wants to call in sick on Monday with Ebola...but I suppose I don't have to tell you that.

Barrett's Barleycorn -- I'm assuming that volleyball isn't all that appealing at the moment. But, that's OK, stop on by anyway to try a cheesesteak and checkout the pretty diverse selection of beers. I just know the food here is going to be way better than the slop you'll be forced to eat at a hospital.

The Down Under --  For my money, the best place to hide out on this list.  It's just tucked away enough, and plenty dark, that nobody will really notice any potentially festering sores on your skin. Ask John about the special of the day...he's always got something good going on.

The Leavenworth Bar -- Tell Kirk and the gang that HitThatDive sent you.  Have a seat at the bar, shoot some pool and use the backdoor to occasionally check to see if anyone from the Medical Center has formed a posse to track you down.  Most of us have seen the Dustin Hoffman movie "Outbreak" and would prefer not to deal with that on a weekend, well, or ever for that matter.

The Neighber's -- Careful in here, there's a reason that this bar opens seven days a week at 6:00 AM, and that's because most of the staff of the Med Center clock out and immediately make a B-Line for this place the moment in opens.  Don't be confused, the beer comes in mason bars, those are not for specimen samples.

By my calculations, there's only four hours a day you can't find an open bar in that part of this a great city of what! Enjoy your time here, get better, and remember it's not that we're not a friendly bunch...we're all just a bit miffed (and somewhat freaked out) about the whole Ebola I'm sure you are too!  In any case, enjoy your time in our city. Cheers!

Welcome to Omaha...enjoy your time here.  

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Billie's Bar, Rising City, Nebraska -- REVIEW

730 Main Street
Only Bar In Town

Rising City, Nebraska

What are the odds that I can't even get a simple bar review right these days?  Gee, I don't know, like a 100%? Last week I ventured out past Loma, Nebraska on my way to the "town" of Garrison to stop by the Little Water Bar & Grill. And yep, you guessed it, of course I ended up at a bar called Billie's Bar without ever stepping into the place I just drove more than an hour to get to.

A few things before this one starts: 1) This isn't an "official" HitThatDive review because I didn't meet our "strict" editorial guidelines of having at least three beers. 2) I have a backlog of things that need to be written, so this one will be someone abbreviated.  3) Speaking of abbreviated, did you know that Rising City was the home of Clifton Hillegass, A.K.A. "Cliff" of Cliff's notes fame? Writing that just made me feel like Cliff Clavin...enough with the Cliffs already!

OK, so back to the Little Water Bar & Grill, apparently they don't open until 4:00 during the week. So if you ever feel like driving there in the middle of the week (like I did) please keep that in mind. Looked like a good little dive, and even had fresh horse poop on the street right in front.  Well, now that I think about it, so do many of the bars in the Old never mind that part, horse poop in front of bars is a dime a dozen these days.

This Place Was Closed
Now I'm just stalling...let's get to it.

PROS: Friendly regulars. Good food. Owner Billie seems like she would be fun to party with.

CONS: Arguably too nice inside to be considered a dive. My picture of the men's room came out blurry.
Super Clean

First Impressions:  Knowing not one thing about this bar before I walked in (other than it was listed as Hinkle's Pub on my AroundMe app), I was surprised it was as much of a place to eat than it was a bar.  Those of you in Omaha, think in terms of a place like Danny's on 72nd Street.  For whatever reason, from my seat at the corner of the very big bar, I was immediately reminded of the diner where Clark Kent got beat-up by a trucker in Superman 2...and I have no idea why.  To this day however,  Superman 2 is one of the few sequels that's better than the original. ..just FYI.

The Bar:  They have exactly one beer on tap (Busch Light), a fairly small selection of liquor but plenty of room to sit at the bar itself. Like I said earlier, this is as much of a place to eat as it is a place to drink.  My guess is, in a small town like Rising City, Billie's fills many roles including bar, restaurant, community get the picture.  Only other place that a saw where people could meet up was the Post Office next door...but what fun would that be?  Of note...this might be one of the cleanest-looking bars in a 50 mile radius.  Looked pretty much spotless to me.

Hello Fellows!
The Crowd: In reading a lot of the response about Billie's on the HTD Facebook page, I bet this is the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night for a good old time. Now, when I was here, it was mostly just a few older dudes having lunch and drinking lemonade.  Toward the end of my visit, a guy that looked like Uncle Rico form Napoleon Dynamite showed up, slugged down a beer, and went on his merry way. The rest of the crowd here could not have been more friendly to the outsider (that would be me) who was clearly the new guy at the bar.  I'm sure Billie knows who all was there that day, so buy them all a beer for me and I'll settle up with you on my next visit!

Service:  Friendly small town bar = friendly small town service. (See Cliff's Notes comment above)

Price:  Busch Light cans were setting me back $2.25. And the Philly Cheesesteak that I ordered (and came out on toasted Texas Toast and was surprisingly great that way) was less than $5.

The Tagline Says It All
Food: On a food note, I was there on enchilada day...and they also looked pretty damn good.  What you'll like when you stop by here is the homemade nature of all the food I saw coming from the kitchen that day.

Entertainment: What you would expect...jukebox...pool table...plenty of TVs to watch a game on. But, in doing some research, I did notice that a few months ago they had an evening of hot oil wrestling.  I can only imagine how that evening turned out?  For those that were there, any pictures of that evening will be added to this post if you send them to me! And let me know if you have any upcoming "Foxy Boxing" matches scheduled for the Fall too.

Restrooms: Much like the rest of Bille's, good and clean. There was some sort of spit cup on the wall in the men's room...I'm sure there's some story behind why it's there in the first place. Or, maybe it's just there to spit into. Sometimes I seem to over think things hanging on the walls in men's rooms...character flaw on my part.

Side Note: Billie's is easy to find if you're driving from Omaha.  Drive to Wahoo and get on Nebraska 92 going west. Keep driving until you see a store called "Pump N Munch"and bang a right. (Pun intended)

I Didn't Spit
Final Impressions:  I wasn't here long enough to give Billie's a final I guess I'll have to go back! Although, I don't really need to do a whole lot more research to know that this is a great place that if you like a fun down home bar scene, you'll fit right into this bar with no problems.  So, back to an earlier Billie's actually TOO nice to be a "dive".

The HTD definition of a dive bar is pretty simple...and that is it's the people IN the bar that make it a dive (that IS a term of endearment) and NOT how a bar looks... for good or for bad.  So, much like the Homy Inn IS NOT A DIVE BAR...a place like Billie's is a "dive" simply by the fact that it's frequented by a group of hardworking local people who I can only assume know how to cut loose after work or on a weekend night.

Billie's Bar is definitely worth a stop if you're even in that neck of woods...I know I'll stop by for a few next time I'm out that way.  Thanks Billie!  Hit This Dive.

Just Look for the Pump N Munch!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

10 Things You (Probably) Didn't Know About Omaha-Area Bars

Seems like every lazy writer on the Internet these days is posting a list of some sort.  And, since I am a lazy writer, I figured why not jump all over that trend...eventually.  But what?  Well, I do write about bars (duh) but I don't want to walk down the slippery slope of ranking the Omaha-area's "best" bars....because God knows anytime I try and do something like that everyone gets mad at me.

So I figured, what if I come up with a list of quirky little things that the regulars in that bar already know, but the average person would have no idea about.  To me, other than the people in the bar, it's the quirky little things about the place that really give it character. So here, in no specific order, are some things about Omaha-area bars that I'm sure you probably never knew...

Knock Three Times

Never been to The Elbow Room before?  This classic American dive bar has great drink specials everyday of the week, great regulars, and is a place I love to frequent...there's just one catch. The front door doesn't open from the outside. So, the only way into the bar is through the door in the back that looks like it should say "Employees Only" on it.  Park your car in the tricky parking lot and hightail it in through the door in the back of the building.  Don't be afraid, just pull the door open (if it's daylight let your eyes adjust to the darkness) and walk right on in. Bar's to the right...belly up and ask for today's specials.

Not knowing this little "insider's tip", I almost never walked in here the first time four years ago. Thankfully I didn't, because "The Bow" might actually be the exact image of a dive bar, if I had to explain what a dive bar looks like in my mind to a police sketch artist.

Don't Use That Door
Ready For My Close Up

Less than an hour from Omaha is the town of Hooper, home to some of the most active HitThatDive followers on Twitter, and also home to the Sodbuster Saloon.  Now, I'm actually not a huge fan of the Sodbuster, but Academy Award-winner (and Nebraska native) Alexander Payne sure was for the movie "Nebraska".  All of the interior bar shots in the movie were filmed right inside of the good old Sodbuster.

But why that place?  Dennis Washington, production designer for “Nebraska,” said the Sodbuster was appealing for a variety of reasons. “It’s one of the best-looking bars I’ve seen,” Washington said. “It’s the tone of the walls with the dressing, as we call it, on them, and just the configuration of it.”  Not sure I agree, but he makes movies, and I sit in Starbucks and write a maybe he's right.

Academy Award Nominee? 
Have a Seat...Just Not There!

One of the best neighborhood bars is Omaha is Andy's Place.  It's one of the first places I mention when people ask me "What's your favorite bars in Omaha?" But, as I found out earlier this year, Andy's has its own "secret society". Know as "The Table of Knowledge", it has a very Freemason-mystique history. In fact, I tried to get one of its members to talk about it on camera and got a stern lecture from one of its more senior members for even asking about its origins in the first place. I've never sat there again.

But don't let that scare you off.  There is no better place in town to just sit, have a few beers with some of the best people I know, and watch the world go by. Just avoid the only long table toward the north side of the bar that is situated east to west. Capiche?

Did You Choose Your Seat Wisely?

Hit a Dive During the CWS

There's something about the whole tent scene at the College World Series that I just don't like.  Well, I'm not a fan of the price of beer in the vagabond-looking tent areas for sure, but it all just lacks a certain atmosphere that a real dive bar gives you.  But don't fret, in the shadow of TD Ameritrade Park is the not-so-well-known Happy Bar.  Well, Omaha's only gumshoe reporter Matthew Hansen knows about this one, but it seems to fly under the radar for the two weeks of beer drinking mayhem that is the CWS.

Next June, stop by Happy Bar and throw back a few with some real bar people as a way to avoid the over-priced frat party chug-fest that is the refuge-like tent city.  Not that there's anything wrong with it.

Better Than a CWS Tent Party

It's Never Too Early for Happy Hour

It's 6:00 AM on a Tuesday morning and you're dying for a drink...where do you go?  Well, around here, stop by The Poop Deck or the Neighber's Bar (that's how they spell it) and catch yourself an early morning buzz.  Now, before someone gets too judgmental about a person wanting to have a few drinks that early in the morning, keep in mind that a lot of the customers just got off work from the late shift at one of Omaha's fine medical facilities, and that 6:00 AM for them is most people's version of 5:00 PM...aka same as YOUR after work happy hour.

Of note, The Poop Deck opens at 6 Monday-Saturday and opens at 9 on Sundays.  But the Neighber's on the other hand is open at 6 everyday of the week!

Editor's Note: Thanks to the keen eye of local bar legend, Eric Franz, I left off another 6:00 AM bar... and that's the dive-o-rific Bud Olsen's Bar. Bud's opens at 6:00AM Monday-Friday. 8:00AM on Saturday and 12:00 PM on Sunday. Thanks for that catch Eric!

Can't Drink All Day If You Don't Start at 6:00 AM

I Ain't Afraid Of No Ghost 

Omaha's Old Market is home to some of the oldest buildings in the city (hence the word "Old" in the title), so it stands to reason, it's also home to some of the most haunted bars around.  But, the bar most highly regarded as "Omaha's Most Haunted Bar" is O'Connors Irish Pub.  Again the starting point for this year's Haunted Hangover bar tour, O'Connors has just about anything you want if you're a fan of the paranormal like me. Spirits that hide your keys? Got it. A couple of spirits that sit a table on the back wall and smoke? Yep.  A creepy presence in and around the ladies room? Of course.

Personally, I've never had an experience in there...not for lack of sitting at the bar looking for one either. But, make it a point to stop by here and ask owner Katie O'Connor her story about the "ghostly pens" encounter.  That story gave me goosebumps one afternoon.  And be prepared for this year's Haunted Hangover on October's going to be GOOD.

Can I Bum a Light From You Two?

Last Call...Forever

Today, The Village Bar in Ralston is a place to drown your cares away as you have a few drinks at HitThatDive's Bar of the Year.  But 100 years ago, this was the place they brought you after you actually drown.  As in like, right after you died.  Yep...this cozy little Ralston bar was once...home to the only undertaker in Ralston.  Just a floor below the bar, dead people were examined and embalmed for burial.  On that cheery note, the next logical question would The Village Bar haunted? Hmmmmmm...well, unlike O'Connors...I DID have an odd experience in here.

One day while "taking care of business" in the men's room, I watched the faucet on the sink turn on a full blast.  So who knows? During last year's Haunted Hangover, we also learned (via a spiritbox) that at least one of the entities that hangs out in the bar is named David.

Want to check this out for yourself?  Mark your calendars NOW for our HitThatDive/Village Bar End of the Summer Street Party on August 31st! More details on that one coming up.

Says So Right On The Front Door

To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Betty

In the town of Loma, Nebraska (population 54), which is a less than 90 minute drive from Omaha, sits the Bar-M Corral. Owner Betty passed away last year, so now the bar is closed, but in it's heyday...the stories that have emanated from this place were simply astounding.

But Loma also has its own place in Hollywood history.  In 1995, Loma became the fictitious town of "Snydersville" in the movie "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar". Former Loma resident Ross Benes wrote about what is was like to live in Loma when Patrick Swayze and Wesley Snipes were running about the "Bohemian Alps" of Nebraska in this great article he wrote for Esquire...complete with a HitThatDive shout out!

The Bar-M Corral may be closed for good, but for those that walked through its dirty screen door (even once) it will never be forgotten.

A Nebraska Original 

Step On a Crack, Break Your Father's Back

This might be one of those pointless little tidbits of information that only I find kind of cool, but as you walk into HitThatDive's 2012 Bar of the Year, Jerry's Bar, take a look at the original 1950's flooring.  It, well, it looks like flooring. But, did you know that the flooring was originally installed by Jerry's Bar owner Rob Rutar's Dad?  In fact, Rob didn't even know that when he bought the place a few years ago.

It wasn't until several months after Rob Bought the place that his Dad offhandedly mentioned that he installed the floor in his son's bar decades ago. A bit shocked that he didn't know that before, Rob asked his Dad why he hadn't told him that when he bought the place.  Rob's Dad hit him back with one of the most logical answers ever.  Something to the effect "I installed A LOT of floors over the years, hard to remember all of them."

Rob's Dad Does Good Work

The Legend of Table 19 

A short 35 minute ride from Omaha sits the town of Memphis, Nebraska.  The town of 114 people is home to one of the best out-of-the-way dives in the area...Don's Bar.  Now, before I go any further, the first time I was in there...word got around that I was "That dive bar feller'" and that if I ever write about the bar, I better not attract any "hipsters" to the place. And that warning did not appear to be a joke. So, jaunty beret-wearing, scarf-tying, beard-growing, PBR-slurping, Homy've been warned.

Other than the fact that Don's still looks like a place where two cowboys would have Wild West pistol duel (to this day), it's also home to the "well known", and now infamous, "Table 19".  About a year ago I tried to track down the origins of what makes Table 19 so famous.  This is what I heard from HTD reader Debbie Frank:

"The tables have always been numbered, and the story is if you sat at Table 19, you were going to be there the entire night until close and you would be a mess by the time you left. Table 19 is a big table and is the closest table to the bar. No wait for drinks and people gather around it buying round after round for the table. So, if you sit at Table 19 plan on staying awhile...and you'll probably need a ride home afterwords."
Hop in the car. Jump on your motorcycle. And make the short ride to Don's for a seat at Table 19. Bring your appetite, because the food is great. Just don't bring your hipster friend...for obvious reasons.

Pull Up a Chair to Table 19

Now you too can walk into a few bars in the area, for the first time, and talk like one of the regulars! Know a interesting /historical/bizarre story about the bar you hang out in?  Send them my way!

Scuba Steve

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Buffalo Company NEW OWNERS -- Wing Review

Buffalo Company
MUCH Improved
4725 South 96th Street
Omaha NE 68127

Last year I wondered into Omaha's Buffalo Company because the Omaha World-Herald named it the place for "Omaha's Best Wings". Please don't make me relive the rest of that review...just go ahead and read it here.  Let's just say I had the complete OPPOSITE take on their gut-wrenchingly bad wings. 

Flash forward to this year.  I received an email from the new GM of the NEW Buffalo Company that read: 
"Hi Scuba Steve,
 I read your last review back in April of 2013 on Buffalo Company and was hoping to talk you into a revisit.  Hopefully if I give you the full history on how and why the restaurant was the way that it was when you visited, maybe you will give us a second chance?  What happened to a really great place of almost twenty years was that it had deteriorated rapidly over the last two years when the original owner sold the business. 
That's why a long time customer and HUGE fan of Tim (the original owner) bought the business when it folded in December 2013. He brought back Tim to train the staff, remodeled the place top to bottom and just reopened it on April 23 2014. All your old favorites are on the menu along with some new exciting additions as well. I think you'll find it to still be the best place in town (again) for Wings, Pizza & Subs. Come back. I know you'll be surprised and thrilled. Hope to see you soon."
Seems legit enough.  So I stopped by a month or so ago and sat down with GM Clayton, the kitchen manager Mike, and one of the new owners.  All great guys.  All want to make that place successful again. And, they paid for all my food.  So, it didn't really seem right to me to do a review on wings that I didn't fork-over the cash for.

I vowed to be back there in a week or so, and yadda...yadda...yadda...I made it back there last week with two of my kids.

First Impressions:  Keep in mind that I've been in here once before so I can already tell you that place is 100% cleaner than before.  The first thing that will pop out at you when you order is the price. 10 wings will set you back $10.25.  Just for comparison sake, that same order at Oscar's will cost you $6.99.  Like in the old place, you place you order at the front counter and grab a seat.  In 15 minutes or so, they brought out our wings and they looked (and smelled) very Buffalo wing authentic.  Always a bonus when they come to your table still steaming hot and the spice from the sauce burns your nose just a bit.  Celery? Check Bleu Cheese? Check.

Score: 8

Great Sauce
Sauce: As usual, I went with the medium Buffalo sauce to keep things consistent, and it was great. Nice orangish color, great smell, and very authentic Buffalo flavor.  Some of the best sauce in town. All 10 wings were coated pretty uniformly but there may have been just a bit too much sauce for the ones on the bottom.  Not like they were totally drowning or anything, but, you run the risk if your wings aren't always crispy enough that this could potentially make the ones on the bottom a bit soggy.

Score: 9

Perfect Size
Crispy: For those that follow HitThatDive on Facebook, you'll see the comments from others that have been here on the "crispy factor".  And as you read, the number one complaint that other's have had was the lack of real crispiness.  I have to agree here.  All 10 wings were thoroughly cooked, yet they all lacked that desired crunch.  I know Clayton and Matt will read this, so just leave the wings in 1-2 minutes longer than and I think that takes care of this once and for all.  When it comes to chicken, I always err on the side of a bit overcooked as opposed to a bit undercooked.  Just my opinion.

Score: 6

Could be More Crispy
Size: As their menu states: "At Buffalo Company we only use the plumpest, juiciest and largest chicken wings available.  Out wings are always fresh, never frozen." I can't argue with any of that.  Good-sized wings...big but not HUGE. All pretty uniform in size so they're easier to cook...just leave them in a bit longer.

Score: 9

No Complaints Here
Extras:  Always a thumbs-up for a wing joint that has the common sense to put a roll of paper towels on every table! As far as the bleu cheese goes, I didn't mind it at all.  Not great, but not awful.  Local wing expert Matt Morinelli did not like the bleu cheese at all...and I generally trust his judgment on everything wing related.  So, let's call that one a toss up.  My only other observation, and this may be my ADD talking (and the fact that I walked in just after what would be a lunch crowd) is that it gets a tad bit boring as you sit there.

In a place like Chipotle, you already have your food when you sit down.  And in a traditional bar/restaurant, you have servers checking on you and swooping in to bring you another beer while you wait, which some how is just enough human interaction to make a wait seem not quite as long.  Keep in mind that I generally need a Mariachi band following me around to keep me from getting bored in less than two this one might just be me.

Other than actually HAVING a Mariachi band, I don't know how this one could be fixed.  Maybe the best thing to do for impatient bar people like me is to go next door to the 21st Saloon and order Buffalo Company food from there...which you can do by the way.

Score: 8

Final Score: 40 out of 50

Keep in mind, that my first trip to the old Buffalo Company ended up with a final score of these guys are in the right direction for sure.  Are there still a few small things to work on...I think so. But nothing glaring...and nothing that can't easily be remedied the longer they're in business.

And while this was strictly a wing review...don't sleep on the rest of the menu.  They sell good pizza (even by the slice) and have some of the best bread in town that's flown in directly from one of the oldest Italian bakeries in Buffalo, New York.  I would HIGHLY suggest the Buffalo Chicken Sub.

Ultimately, give Clayton and Mike a shot one day for lunch and dinner.  Give them your honest feedback...they're looking to make this place one of the best in town again and I can't say enough about how great they are to talk with.  Just keep those wings in the fryer a tad bit longer.

Bufalo Chicken Sub on a KILLER Roll