Saturday, July 24, 2010
The Elbow Room--REVIEW
4973 Center Street Omaha, NE 68106-3247 - (402) 556-0867
Thanks to a suggestion from brooke_murphy (one of my smattering of Twitter followers) I hopped into my car and drove to The Elbow Room. This was uncharted territory for me so I pumped for a new dive bar adventure. I pulled into the small parking lot and thought “oh shit, what did I get myself into?” How do I describe the outside of the place? It’s a cross between some type of 1950s bomb shelter and what I assume a crack house to look like.
I tried to enter through the front door that faces Center Street, but oddly, there was no handle to open it. The door was warped at the bottom, so I grabbed the part that was sticking out and tried to open it that way. No luck. Shit. What do I do now? Part of me thought, screw it let’s get out of here. But my more ballsy-side came to the rescue and said there HAS to be a way in. I did several laps around the place and did notice a door in the back (completely unmarked by the way). After my third lap around the place, I figured I either could try the unmarked door, or continue to look like a scared white guy looking for a hooker. I chose the former…
First Impressions: I opened the unmarked door and walked in (this IS the door to use by the way). The bar was dark, even in the daylight, but not intimidating. There were a decent amount of people sitting at the bar and at tables throughout the place. I grabbed a stool at the end of the bar hoping not to stick out. (To try and look like a “local” I even donned my one and only shirt that has the words Omaha printed on it.) I ultimately thought to myself, if something goes wrong I am well-versed in the oldest from of self-defense. Running!
The Bar: The bar, in a word, was awesome. It reminded me of a really cool Pittsburgh-type social club (i.e. Italian club) mixed with a really funky basement bar like my grandmother’s brother “Uncle Ted” used to have in his house (He came complete with a cancer kazoo in his throat, but that’s a story for another day). There were signs for drink specials EVERYWHERE and the place came equipped for the standard dartboard, pool table and pinball machine (Family Guy pinball at that!). For the beer drinkers in the crowd there were 10 taps (Everything from PBR to Boulevard Wheat) and a very well-stocked cooler of just about anything you would want. What really gave the bar that “Je ne sais quois” was that orange shag carpet on front of the entire bar. Dive-o-rific!
The Crowd: A nice mix of men and women of all ages drinking everything from Bush Light to shots of Jager and Rumplemintz. Some of the women were even quite attractive (and this was sans beer goggles!). Conversation was so friendly throughout the place I even overheard a table of women talking about “the time Radar walked in the O.R. white as a ghost…” to which I immediately blurted out “not the episode where Henry Blake dies!?” We all agreed that was the saddest day at the 4077.
Service: I don’t get treated this well by my own family members. Bartender Ben was the kind of guy you’re known your entire life, you’ve just not met him until now. He was an late 20s/early 30s guy who you would easily pour your life story out to (if you were so inclined) but even better…Ben would be the type to listen intently and offer advise. Ben’s replacement bartender came in toward the end of my stay and seemed equally great. He was the type that seemed like he would bust your balls and lend you the shirt off his back at the same time. This begs the question…why do people go to “fancy” bars and pay a cover charge to be treated like shit? That will never make sense to me.
Drink Prices: Let’s just say this. CHEAP. There are so many special listed around the bar (and in the bathroom) it was hard to figure out when it wasn’t happy hour there? The average price of a beer seemed to be around $2.50. But at happy hour you can buy a pint for a buck. Shots of the “bomb” variety seemed to be around $4-5. And there was even a sign for $3 Captain and Cokes. Let’s just say this…if you don’t like the prices here…only ever drink at home.
Food: Nada. Zip. Zilcho. Not even a bag of chips. If you’re hungry just go to the Runza across the street.
Restrooms: Ummmmmm…yeah. In fairness I’ve been in (and smelled a lot worse). This was no Trainspotting restroom. But, you’d be well-served to hold as long as possible and then make a quick dash in and then right back out again. Purell is a must for the germophobes in the room.
Bartender Chat: In the time it took for me to order several rounds I found out a lot about Ben. Maybe it was because the Dog Whisperer was on (or maybe because I was bemoaning the fact we had to take our hound to the kennel tomorrow) but I learned that Ben just had to have his dog of nine years put to sleep a day earlier. Only in a real bar, do you get real stories from real people. Sorry for your loss dude. He does however, still have a cat that he doesn’t seem to mind. Again, you frequent places like this to meet new people and share stories (it's like Twitter with beer)…that’s what makes a dive fun.
How Far Did My $20 Go: I did some creative happy hour math from the signs on the wall and determined that 20 bucks could buy you 5 pints of domestic beer, 2 well drinks and a JagerBomb. That’s what I call bang for your buck!
Final Impressions: THIS. IS. A. DIVE…in the greatest sense of the word. Friendly people, cheap drinks, cool dive atmosphere…what more could you want? (Well, if it also had the world’s greatest wings that would be nice too…but now I’m being nitpicky). The one thought I did have (because of all the people walking in and out to have a smoke) was I wonder what I would have smelled like if Omaha did not enact a smoking ban in bars?? Thankfully there is one which makes it easier for people like me to enjoy a truly great Omaha dive. If you love dive bars, do not hesitate to belly up at The Elbow Room…you’ll thank me when you do. HIT THIS DIVE!
DIVE-O METER 8.5