Thursday, May 28, 2015

2015 (Hasty) Spring Stumble -- 5th Annual Edition

Join HitThatDive as we assemble for the 5th Annual Spring Stumble this Saturday at Alderman's Bar. Want to know all the details, stay up-to-date right here! Spring Stumble 2015...

This year's Stumble is free...but any donations will be gladly accepted for the Omaha Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Rusty Nail, Omaha -- REVISIT

14201 Pierce Plaza
Omaha NE 68144
402-933-9753

When I first started to write what we'll loosely call "dive bar reviews" nearly five years ago, never did I assume that I'd still be writing them today. Which means, I never really put in any thought about what happens when some of these reviews begin to show signs of being out-of-date.

We meet again
Over the last five years any number of bars have come and gone, even more seemed to have changed owners (multiple times) and others have expanded or even changed names...right Crossbones Bar?

So, in my infinite "wisdom", I guess now is as good of a time as any to circle back to some of the earliest bars reviewed by HitThatDive to see if well...I guess to see if my snap judgement critiques of a bar still seem accurate half a decade later. And, where better to start than Omaha's Rusty Nail Pub!

I'll admit, in the early days of HitThatDive, I was downright brutal to a few places. But I don't think I was stretching the truth at all when I wrote about the Rusty Nail in 2010:

"Hello? Service?? Hey…look over here. I WANT A BEER. Please. Just one? It took nearly five minutes for the Baby Spice-looking bartender to be pulled away from doing absolutely nothing and take the required six steps to see if the person who walked into her bar a while ago just MAYBE wants something to drink."
Clean bar

And of course:

"Bad service, weird vibe and no drink specials to speak of…why in the world someone would come in here more than once is beyond me? I couldn’t even make a left out of the place to go West on Pacific (the way I wanted to go)…so that just added to the “I’m never coming back here again frustration”. Do not hit this dive! This place can easily be summed up by the writing on it’s own restroom wall “Here I sit all broken hearted…”
With that as your background...away we go!

Quiet

PROS: Much improved drink specials. Lots of events listed of stuff going on during the week. 

CONS: Confusing service that can fluctuate widely in the course of an hour. 

NEW First Impressions: Well...looks...the same. Much like my first go-around, the place is eerily quiet even though there's a few people scattered around the bar. Keep in mind that this is a Saturday night around dinner time.

Unlike the first time here, I was greeted immediately by the owner with a hearty "Hello" so that was a nice change. This place still has a western-look...which I like, and is pretty much identically the same as it did the first time here. But it just always lacks a "fun vibe" to me for whatever reason? Your experience may be different.

Rumor is this place is haunted too. So, if that's the case, the ghost in here in not a party soul at all, unlike the spirit of "David" at The Village Bar that seems to encourage a big old party seven days a week....this spirt is far more...ummm...chill. Of note...this is all speculation on my part. So, who knows? Just a theory.

Big place!

The Bar: It's a big rectangle-shaped bar, and a huge room with tables and booths tucked away against the walls. In fact, I didn't even know there were people in a few of the booths...that's how hidden they are.  And that's not even counting the separate party room which occupies half of the rest of the building.

It's worth checking our their website to see what's going on any day of the week. That also saves me from listing it all here, I don't get paid to write this stuff!

In the course of an hour I made notes on the atmosphere that included everything from "This place is NOT the cure for boredom." To, "It's so quiet in here I just want to break into show tunes." But once a few people showed up I noted "there is suddenly signs of a pulse in here!" That of course was after someone finally dropped a few bucks in the jukebox.

The lack of "vibe"was part of my beef the first time here too, the only "entertainment"at this time of day is the radio, on Q98.5, and not even the sound from a few TVs playing sporting events.

Par-tay room

The Crowd: Here's where I see the largest change and a glimpse into that the fact that people are coming here and having fun... aka regulars! When I first sat down there were only five people, well that I could see not in booths, but about 30 minutes later that crowd nearly tripled and all seemed to know one another. Hell, even another regular called the bar just to say "hi" from out of state on a trip.

The fact that The Rusty Nail has some dedicated regulars says, to me anyway, that people willingly come back here because they feel they're treated fairly. Can't argue with people that willingly return to a bar...can you?

No one likes me

Service: This is where it gets OK then bad... then...well...gone. The bartender who first waited on me wasn't the same person that closed out my check...not sure whatever happened to the original one either? She just vanished.

They seem to employ some sort of odd "rotating-random" service that consists of a group of 3-4 women all huddled behind the bar and seemed to basically choose straws to see who was the bartender...who wants to wait tables...who wanted to run food from the kitchen...and who didn't want to do anything...at any given moment.

The people next to me were getting drinks from a different person than the person taking my orders...but both employees (and more) were working the fairly empty bar.

All but one of the four was more than friendly, although I never really had a conversation with any of the them. I did get a pleasant "Bless you" after I sneezed. So thank you!

Confused yet? I was!

Keno anyone?
I guess what adds to the general dull feel in here, from time to time, is that I watched the bartender/waitress brigade spend most of their time huddling behind the bar having their own private conversation. Also, a few oddly timed F-Bombs went ringing across the quiet bar for seemingly no good reason from the staff.

Not that I cared, but, if you're trying to attract new customers to be repeat customers, that may not be a good habit to practice too often. But I'm not a regular, so who knows...maybe it is.

But, my biggest beef with the service is that time after time, I saw customers greeted with "What can I get you? Cash or tab?" Now, if it's me bartending I'm throwing out a few "Hello...how's your day been?". Or, "First time here? Let me tell you about all of today's specials." Instead of just basically asking name, rank and serial number.

But, giving credit where it's earned, bartender Krystal was a shot in the arm of enthusiasm from the second that she walked in that the Rusty Nail could benefit from all day long from all  And also, thanks Krystal for your comments on the HitThatDive Facebook page!

Full menu

Prices: Thanks to the fact that it was still happy hour, even on a Saturday, I was paying $2.75 for a domestic pint...which is actually less than I paid here five years ago. What I do like about the drink specials here now is that they have a daily special that kicks in after happy hour ends...so there's always a decent drink price to be had.

Food:  They boast a pretty compete bar food menu, and I was lucky enough to be here for their "Prime Rib" night. For $12.99 I was able to get a thick slab of prime rib, salad and two sides...not too bad in my book.

Now, I'm not much of a prime rim aficionado (other than the one I make on Christmas) but it was good in my book. Of course lately, I'm on a bit of a diet and would have been happy with an old shoe at that point. Which reminds me of an old joke...what's the difference between Bea Arthur and and old shoe? Know the answer...send it to me on Twitter.

Good enough

Entertainment: Of course they have TVs and pool tables and the usual stuff. But they seem to have a packed calendar of events going on throughout the week blues jam, poker, karaoke, a psychic, local comedy...who knows...sounds like decent stuff...maybe I'm just never here at the best times?

Bartender Chat: This would be more like bartender eavesdropping. Again, I would say I had rude service (but that's not true), just nothing much to write about interaction-wise either.

I did have a short talk with whom I assume is the owner right as I was leaving, and he seemed like a good guy to me. But that was after I sat there for at least 8-10 minutes with an empty beer waiting to close out.  I'll never know where my first bartender vanished to...maybe this place really IS haunted?? Where's that psychic when I need her!

Restrooms:  Not bad, kind of hidden. First time here these were the highlight of my visit. This time around they didn't outshine the rest of the bar, but didn't make much of an impression one way or the other either.

How Far Did My $20 Go?: Well, over the course of an hour, I was there long enough to have a prime rib dinner and two beers brought my way for less than $20. I could have easily sucked down about eight beers, but like I said I'm on a bit of a diet, so maybe my original bartender/server vanishing was to my benefit.

Bar picture

Final Thoughts: Oh, you know...I hate to be too critical on this one. But the service IS confusing and just seems to literally vanish from time to time...that happened on my second trip here too as documented right here.

Ignoring customers to have an all-staff conversation, that lasts more than one minute, is enough to get employees canned from most bars.  Let alone a group huddle that continues over and over...maybe that was a fluke on this visit too...but a look at some of the comments on the HTD Facebook page seems to back up my observation.

Ultimately, it just might boil down to this spot is just not what I'm looking for in a "go to" bar. Which kind of sucks because it's not all that far from my house and is the only bar on Pacific Street between 180th and 120th. Again, I didn't hate it here by any means..and who knows...maybe the key is to show up more often to make friends with a few of the regulars so I don't get so bored...something that never happens at the bars I really love.

My advice...give it a shot. If you feel the same way I generally do when I leave here, then don't come back. Nothing I encountered here on this trip would keep me away from The Rusty Nail for good, yet I still struggle with why I personally would come here on a weekly basis.  But your experience may be vary, who knows?

Bartender/server Krystal pointed out on Facebook that this group of employees has stuck together through years of adversity, and that alone, is enough for me to be back again...hard to thumb your nose at people that are trying to earn your business, even if that doesn't always outwardly seem to be the case.

DIVE-O-METER
6







Monday, May 11, 2015

Register to be HitThatDive's Best Bar or Best Wings of 2015

In years past, I've tried any number of ways to pick the HitThatDive "Bar of the Year".  A few years ago, Jerry's Bar won by virtue of an online vote (back when Facebook allowed that function for fan pages).

The last two years I just decided to pick a bar I think is most deserving, based on a lot of factors, but mostly...does the bar try and make their surrounding community a better place? So, as many of you know (and have occasionally complained about) that honor has gone to The Village Bar...twice.

You'll get one of these

So, this year, I'm doing things a bit differently. ANY bar in the greater Omaha-Council Bluffs region is eligible to win....except The Village Bar...we will never have a back-to-back winner again.

In 2015, the Bar of the Year...and also Omaha's Best Wings...will be determined by a select committee of volunteers that will take an "oath" to find the best of the best when it comes to local bars...and the wings that they serve.

Of note, your bar doesn't need to serve food for bar of the year consideration, but it would be extremely helpful if your place served wings for the best wings category...

And...the bar of the year generally makes for a great local news story...like this! HitThatDive Bar of the Year.

The winner keeps this for a year


How It Works

For the second year in a row, I'm a proud member of Mustaches for Kids -- Omaha. Last year, a dedicated group of "growers" (yep , that's what they call us) raised more than $250,000 for HETRA by doing nothing more than growing mustaches and asking for donations.  Simple, no?

In fact, in the six years Mustaches for Kids Omaha has been raising money, the fellas have collected donations of nearly $775,000...making it the largest operation of its kind anywhere in the country. 

This year, we're raising money for Ted E. Bear Hollow. If you don't know about Ted E. Bear Hollow they provide free grief support for kids, teens, adults and families...follow the link to read about all the amazing things they do all over Nebraska and Iowa...I'll wait. 

Hey, you're back! Awesome...so where do YOU or YOUR bar come factor in to all of this? Well, I need donations. And...well...you want the accolades, positive news stories, and kick ass trophies that come with winning this year's award!   So what do you say we come up with a deal? 



  1. To be considered for 2015 Dive of the Year, or Omaha's Best Wings 2015...it's going to cost you to enter....sort of.  For the mere price of a $100 donation (which goes directly to Ted E Bear Hollow and is 100% tax deductible) your bar (or wings) will now be on the HitThatDive review committee list. 
  2. Committee reviews will begin by June 10th, and will conclude no later than the final week of September 2015 (depending on how many bars participate.)
  3. Bars will be split into several categories so there's a chance to recognize several types of local dives...but there will only be one overall winner. 
  4. Wings will be judged in three categories and there will be three overall winners. Categories include "Best Traditional Buffalo Wings", "Best Omaha Wings"...aka char buffed and "Best traditional Wings" aka...teriyaki, garlic parmesan...you get the picture.    
  5. Every bar and wing joint that registers will receive a HitThatDive "Dive Bar Certified" or HitThatDive "Wing Certified" decal to proudly display on your front door.
What our committees look like

How To Register

As simple as a few clicks of your computer, smart phone or tablet. 

  1. Go to www.M4KOmaha.com and click on the "Donate Now" button which takes you directly to the Ted E. Bear Hollow donation page. 
  2. Enter your amount and click the "Check Out" button. 
  3. Fill out your contact and credit/debit card information. 
  4. In the comments section please name your bar or restaurant and if you are entering in the "Dive of the Year category or the "Omaha's Best Wings category. 
  5. Lastly and most important. Where is says "Grower Name" just below the comments section enter the name "SCUBA STEVE". 
  6. Click the "Proceed" button and you are almost done!
  7. Expect two emails. One from Ted E. Bear Hollow acknowledging your donation. And one the following day from HitThatDive telling you how awesome you are...and with further information about what's going to happen from here. 
  8. DEADLINE TO REGISTER IS MAY 27th! 
So, break those piggy banks, pass the hat, have a raffle...or just take $100 out of the drawer and get ready to be called Omaha's best dive bar/wings by people that actually know what the hell we're talking about!

Want to be a "committee member"? Look for how to sign up to be a member of one of HitThatDive's expert committees tomorrow! 

Questions...just send them to HitThatDive@gmail.com 


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

HTD's Best Beard in Omaha and Calendar Pin-Up Contest

Do YOU have what it takes to be named Mr. or Mrs. HitThatDive? Full details, and sign-ups, will be ready to go on Friday...right here at HitThatDive.com!


Sunday, April 19, 2015

Omaha Wing Challenge -- Pipeline Tavern

1300 South 72nd Street
Omaha NE 698124
402-399-8774

I'll be fair to start this one off, I actually like the food at the Pipeline Tavern...but until last night I had never ordered the wings. Let's get to the moral of this entire story...if you're here on a Saturday...order the pretty awesome burger and fries for $5. Now, about these wings. Oy vey...where to begin?

Oh, I know, I'll start with something pleasant.  I was at the Pipeline in the first place to catch up with Bob Bruce to see how his colonoscopy went from a few days ago. Yeah...this is the pleasant part. For those that don't know...Bob Bruce and the BBRE can be heard Monday-Friday on the Mighty 1290 KOIL with yours truly joining the fun every Friday from 5-6. 

Keep in mind that I actually like this bar.

Now, let's review some wings. 

How It Works: Wings are rated 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. 

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. 

Uninspiring
First Impressions: I knew there was going to be a problem when, in a completely empty bar, an order of wings came out of the kitchen in less than 8ish minutes. Why is that a problem you ask? 

Well, I figured since the cook literally had nothing to do, it would have been the perfect time to throw some wings in a fryer and watch them sizzle for the appropriate amount of time of ...12 to 15 minutes. It would at least beat watching the paint in the kitchen dry. 

But son of a gun, here they are in the blink of an eye.  And at least from initial impression...they were indeed steaming hot. I just know that something seems "fishy" with these wings (and boy was I right...you'll see why in just a bit). Something seemed off with the sauce too, but I think there's an actual section in the wing reviews that addresses that topic...but it's been awhile since I wrote one of these so I can't seen to remember. 

SCORE: 5 out of 10

Wing-like

Sauce: A ha! I do write about the sauce. I knew it!  You can order the wings here with three pretty bland-sounding sauces. The closest I assumed to Buffalo sauce said something to the effect of "Frank's Hot Sauce" as one of the options...so I went with that. 

In something I had never seen before, it was like the wings were coated with Rain-X and the chicken literally seemed to be repelling the "sauce".  Which actually, was neither here nor there because so far the stuff masquerading at Frank's Hot Sauce is as uninspired as everything about this order of wings. In fact, the sauce was so bland and uninteresting I never even made a note about it. 

Since it practically was invisible, I'd like to make a suggestion to rename the stuff so they have their own signature wing flavor. So next time I order wings at the Pipeline, I would like to have the "Claude Rains Sauce" as one of my options. Ask for it by name. 


I'll have mine with an extra side of Claude, please
Score: 2 out of 10 

Crispy:  Here's my guess as to  how they could pump out an order of wings in eight minutes. These wings gave off a distinct baked flavor, so I'm guessing that they bake up a whole batch, keep them in the refrigerator and then wait for some unsuspecting sucker to order them.  

Once ordered, a few of the baked (and cold) wings get tossed into a fryer for a minute or so, then get slapped into a bowl with some Claude Rains sauce, hustled onto a plate and brought out faster than you can say "pass the Tums."  

Not only were they not crispy, in the least, they had the same slimy consistency of swallowing a raw oyster...remember I said something seemed a little fishy (ZING!). Not to mention that they were slightly undercooked and suddenly you have a rather unremarkable plate of $7.95 wings that there was no chance I was going to eat all of. 

It repels sauce

Score: 0 out of 10  

Size: This is a direct quote from the HTD Facebook page that I could not agree more with. "I can only imagine what they even did to make a chicken that big...I wouldn't eat if even if it were cooked properly."  And that's  the problem,  far too often anymore, bars are serving GIANT mutant wings and they have no idea how to cook them properly. 

When you take a nearly cooked pterodactyl wing, let it cool, and then toss it in they fryer for a bit, there is no chance that it's going to be remotely close to being cooked properly. It might technically be "done"...but this isn't horseshoes. Close does not come close to cutting it. 

I was not surprised in the least when I bit into one of the biggest of the Solomon Grundy-looking chicken toes to find that it was cold on the inside. Not frozen like some of the ones I've had recently...but still. Cold chicken that came to the bar with steam coming off of it?  How do you even pull that one off? Oh wait, I think I just did figure that out. 

Score: 3 out of 10

Oyster anyone?


Extras: Oh, you know, I have to immediately deduct five points for no celery. But other than that, I guess I don't have much to bitch about on this one. Extra napkins? Check. Not horrible blue cheese? Check. All the other food I've ever had here before. Usually great. So I'm not going to nit-pick too much here.

Score: 5 out of 10

Final Score: 15 out of 50

Stick to burgers

Every now and then I'll offer my suggestions on how to improve things in the places that I write about. And, I feel that I need to do that with the wings at the Pipeline. So here it goes...just take them off the menu! Please. 

Places that make great wings care about every aspect of the wings they serve to their customers. That clearly is not the case here. Wings are not a priority, and that's fine, focus on the food that you do make well and leave the wing making to to places that give a damn.  

That being said, I'll be back here soon (I'll never order the wings again) but the burgers are great and it's a fun bar to kickback in and have a few beers.  Just do us all a favor, get a Sharpie and cross any reference to your sad and uninteresting wings off them menu...the world will be a happier place when you do. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Scuba Steve's Latest Column for the Omaha World-Herald

In case you missed it.




Read the complete HitThatDive review of Crossbones Bar right here ==>> Crossbones Bar Omaha.


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

What's Your Story?

What's YOUR bar story? Have a funny story to tell from a bar...HTD wants to record you telling it just like Kirk from Leavenworth Bar. Give this first one a look and see if you can top it.


So, the question is, who has the next funny story? 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Scuba Steve on TBL with Mike'l Severe

Earlier this month I sat down with Mike'l Severe to talk dive bars, food and why I'm wearing shorts in March...in Omaha.



Friday, March 13, 2015

Finnegan's Pub and Grill -- Omaha Wing Challenge

4390 120th Street
Omaha NE 68137
402-333-6181

I swear, it's not like I leave the house hoping to get some gut-wrenchingly bad food. But I'll be damned if that doesn't seem to happen more than it doesn't these days. Case in point...Finnegan's Pub. Not sure I would have ever ventured into this establishment if not for more than a few folks who stated they have "The best wings in Omaha!"

For whatever reason, I was highly skeptical of that claim for no other reason than not sure I've really ever heard anything about the food here. Making the horribly awful mistake of wondering to myself on the way out the door "How bad can they be anyway?" I was off!

And, like the good little salmonella  magnet that I am, I was headed to a place I had no real prior reconnoissance on...so you can all thank me now that I've done it for you.

Shiny
Some of you know how this works, for those that don't here's how it goes...wings are rated in 5 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.  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. But look out boys...you have a challenger trying to beat you to the bottom of the HitThatDive scrap heap.

First Impressions: For the record, I had no issues with the bar or the service. Kind of a neat little pub tucked away next to a giant gun store. Also, did I mention that I sat at the corner of the bar right next to a garbage can? This turned out to be a handy place to sit.

Trouble
I ordered 8 wings with hot sauce. "Do you want them char buffed?" I was asked.  "Why not!" I eagerly responded. I figure, if the bartender is offering a suggestion that's the way I go. I can't lose.
After about 12 minutes, or so, I rather bland-looking plate of wings came out from the kitchen.  They had an odd shine to them and didn't really smell like anything.

Looks like a manta ray

This will not go well. But, as I've been told before "Love everything for 5 minutes." So I'm going to give it a go.

Score: 2 out of 10

Sauce: Unlike the sauce at LaVista Keno that seemed to be almost mean and vindictive, the sauce here just seemed sad and lonely...like Charlie Brown on Halloween.

Oh how I wish
After several bites, I still could not pick up on any flavor...at all. After chewing a bit longer I did finally detect a hint of something flavor-wise.  But what? As close as I could tell it was the equivalent of eating construction paper in elementary school. Did it taste good? No. Will it kill you? Not so much.

But, at some point in life (even at the age of 8) a person has to be introspective enough to wonder why they decided to eat paper in the first place.  Maybe some Elmer's Glue would have helped at to give things a little "kick"....but alas...there was none to be found. Can't score points if you don't actually serve wings that taste like anything. 

Score: ZERO out of 10. 

JUST SAY NO!
Crispy: Oh, let's not beat around the bush on this one. Serving undercooked frozen wings is never a good practice. And, quite frankly, could be quite dangerous to people that consume them. Except for me of course...I have an iron stomach.  

Out of eight wings, 4 were completely cold and raw in the middle. I managed to choke down three and a half of the "cooked" ones until  until the growing puddle of red ooze became too much for me to look at. Wing number four went right in the trash can I was sitting next to. That was the first good thing that happened since I started eating here!

Size: A grab bag of oversized Jersey Shore-looking "mooks" each one more over injected with steroids than the next. Maybe way too much Axe Body Spray would make these things look better, well, if they follow the Jersey Shore way of thinking anyway.  

These didn't come from any chicken I've even encountered. One was so grotesquely larger than the rest, I just knew I needed a box for it (and a few of his other goombas) to take out for further inspection later. 

Score: ZERO out of 10

Paging Dr. Addison

"Dr. Addison"
I took a few at Addy's Sports Bar on the way home to have Tim Addison and Adam (kitchen manager for Addy's), Omaha's Char Buff Experts, weigh in on what the hell was going on here. After watching Tim dissect the largest of the bunch, I almost puked at the bar. (For the record, I did not). 

"Dr." Addison confirmed my original diagnosis, that this was indeed still raw chicken. I much more brave man than I am, Addison pulled the wing apart to find a good third of is completely uncooked...of course he didn't have a few of them marinating in his digestive track like I did. 

He could even pick up on the very distinct smell of raw chicken. Refusing his offer for me to smell it too...that was all I needed to know...this was gross by any standards! 

Class is in session
Extras: Oh, do I have to? Fine. The celery was fresh. The side of white stuff wasn't offensive, and I did enjoy the people working behind the bar....so the wings here have that going for them...which is nice. 

Score: 2 out of 10 

Final Score 4 out o 50

It is what is . Does this happen to other people, or only to me? Seems like I've consumed way too many undercooked wings in Omaha lately. Is it because that people know sort of know what I look like now and they're intentionally trying to poison me? For the record...I sure hope not! 

Would Finnegan's probably like a redo on the order I wings I was served? I sure would hope they would. But, see, that's just it...shouldn't you want safe food coming out of your kitchen regardless who's sitting at your bar?

It's not like this is a "I wanted MEDIUM RARE a steak and damnit this steak is MEDIUM!! Head's will roll!" Sort of situation. This is simply cooking poultry to right internal temperature. 

Not sure if it's ready to serve? Use a meat thermometer right after you pull the batch out of the fryer. Here's a hint, use the biggest wing as your test subject, if it's internal temperature reads 34 degrees...start again. Blah! 


What IS that first one? 



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Scuba Steve Co-Hosts The Pat and JT Show Omaha Q 98.5

In case you missed it from earlier today, HitThatDive's Scuba Steve filled in for host Pat Safford on Omaha's Modern Music station Q 98.5. Can you guess his middle name?

Listen to the entire hour right here ==>> Scuba Steve Co-Hosts Pat and JT.