Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Two Fine Irishmen -- Omaha Wing Challenge


Can't beat the price
18101 R Plz  
Omaha, NE 68135
402 933-3990

It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and I needed something to do with my 11 year old daughter…I’ve got an idea…I should take her to a bar for a wing review!  So, the choice was up to her where we reviewed (my “Father of the Year” award should arrive any day now) and she picked Two Fine Irishmen because it’s her favorite popcorn in any bar in town.  Yes, yes, yes…I bring my kids to bars.  I’ve previously reviewed Two Fine, and before 9:00 pm (when it turns into a bit of a douche central club) it’s a pretty good place. 

Side note…out of all the bars I’ve reviewed, I get the most email saying I missed the mark on my bar review of this place.  Oh well, this isn’t an exact science you know. 

For those keeping score at home, the best HitThatDive wing score is a total of 50 points based on scores from five separate categories. But, enough of me babbling…let’s eat some wings.  So far, the highest score has been a 48 at Choo Choo’s in Millard. 

Great sauce
First Impressions:  I’m not sure you can find cheaper wings anywhere in Omaha than what you first see on the menu “13 wings for $6.97”.  At first glance, they look and smell well-coated in a spicy Buffalo sauce.  But, the wings themselves just seem to look a bit odd, almost like a few of them had some extra gristle attached to the wings with spackling tape to make them appear supersized.   

SCORE: 8

Sauce:  I even made mention in the bar review from here that “And I will say this; the ‘hot’ sauce was very good”.  Now, I know what you’re thinking…how hard is it to screw-up hot sauce?  And you’re right, it’s really not that hard to use regular old hot sauce (it’s as easy as that) but you’d be surprised how many places can’t even get that right.  The sauce here has a good taste and kick to it, without being so hot that you regret in the morning.

SCORE: 9

MUTANT WING!
Crispy:  I said in my bar review about the wings, “I think they must bake them first, and then throw them in a fryer at the very end”…and I still stand by that.  They are cooked all the way through, in fact too much so.  Instead of crispy, they are more on the chewy side.  And the most odd thing of all, only here do I see wings where the bones are of a blackish-brownish color on the inside.  For those that have ever cracked Maryland blue crabs, it sort of resembles the nasty stuff you scrape off of the good parts you eat.  That being said, I’d rather have them overcooked than undercooked, but they do something funky before frying them if they’re overcooked and still not crispy. 

SCORE: 6

Size:  Out of 13 wings, I would say just about half of them were the right size with a few mutant supersized gristly bad boys thrown in the mix as well.   Again, they were all overcooked and still uncrunchy (is that a word?), so there is more than just frying going on here.  Not horrible, but it seems like they are not the highest grade quality wings in town…maybe THAT explains why they are so cheap?

SCORE: 6

Better size
Extras:  My 11 year old quickly pointed out that not only did I not get any extra napkins, but there also wasn’t a separate plate for the bones.  She also quickly observed that the celery was pretty “old” looking but that the carrots seemed fine.  She can’t stand bleu cheese so let me just say it really doesn’t taste like anything…which is hard to do with bleu cheese.  Oh well, at least it wasn’t horrible. 

SCORE: 6

FINAL SCORE: 35

Not even close in score to the current Omaha “King of the Wing” Choo Choo’s…but if you’re in the area and are looking for cheap, serviceable wings…you can do a lot worse.  My advice, come here on a Tuesday when it’s all-day happy hour and suck down a few $1 pints and order the wings and walk out the door full and a bit buzzed for less than $15.  Plus, after a few beers, you won’t even notice the weird blackish bones in the first place.  

My kid loves the popcorn here


Monday, November 19, 2012

King's Tree, Fremont -- REVIEW

Vampire friendly
1725 E Military Ave
Fremont, NE 68025
(402) 721-4212

I drew the short straw at home and found myself driving to Fremont for hockey practice on a Thursday night.  But, little did Mrs. HitThatDive know that I intentionally chose to “lose’ that round because the last time I drove to the rink in Fremont, I noticed a bar across the street…he shoots and scores!  Note to any hockey parents, send me an email for a complete list of places to grab a beer while your kid is on the ice…it sure beats freezing your ass off on metal bleachers just to watch practice.  Enough with my babbling…

PROS:  Polite regulars.  Vampire friendly. 
CONS:  Cramped bar area.  I did not see any of the Lost Boys.

First Impressions:  SHIT. Is it even open?  The sign was on in front, but that was it.  There was not a single ounce of light coming from inside the bar.  I took my phone out of my pocket and shined it in the windows…but I could not see a thing.  I figured, what the hell, and tried to open the door…AND…it opened.  What was behind the front door?  Another door.  I slowly opened the second door to reveal a crowed, well-lit and loud bar…I didn’t see that one coming.  I grabbed the only open seat at the bar…and waited. 
I see warm nuts

The Bar:  Since the bartender seemed more intent on cleaning tables, waiting on other people that weren’t me, and running the Keno machine…I had plenty of time to scan the rather small place.  A grand total of two beers on tap (Busch Light and Bud Light), nine seats at the bar (although mine was shoved in a corner and in the way of the front door) and eight tables…some of which were the smallest tables I have ever seen.   What really stood out to me was how the bar blocks out every single window and does not allow any light to escape out onto the sidewalk…at all.  Does Fremont have a large vampire population?  I would highly recommend thinking twice before ordering a Bloody Mary while you’re here.

The Crowd:  A common theme with the people in this bar was that they all generally were over the age of 50, prefer mixed drinks and are rather loud.  Now, not loud in a completely obnoxious way…but the words “inside voice” did not come to mind as I was sitting at the bar.  That said, everyone I talked to was extremely nice and one guy who was winning big at Keno when out of his way to walk over and buy me a beer.  In turn, I offered to buy him one as well and he said “That’s not how it works with me…I didn’t buy you a drink to get one in return.”  Thumbs up to honest and friendly regulars!
Thanks for the beer, dude

Service:  Kind of a mixed bag on this one.  It started off as non-existent but then progressively got better from there.  I was there just before a shift change, so it went from an older hard-working Johnny Lunchbucket-type to a much younger, and one of the cuter bartenders I’ve seen in a while.  In fairness to Johnny Lunchbucket, once he finally got around to asking for my order, he seemed to be a fine enough bartender.  His replacement was an upgrade in both service and aesthetics. 

Johnny Lunchbucket: C+
Cute Chick: A-

Prices:  Domestic bottles were setting me back $2.50 and mixed drinks, from what I could tell from looking at everyone’s pile of drinking money, were $3.50.  Maybe that’s why this place attracts so many mixed-drink drinkers (say that one three times fast).  Anyone remember what Bela Lugosi's drink of choice was?

Food:  By odd coincidence, I could not find a clove of garlic to save my life…Hmmmmmm?  The highlight of the food menu clearly was the buttery popcorn smell that overwhelmed the entire bar.  Other than that, as usual, there were some stale-looking non-descript bags of chips hanging on the wall.  Oh, almost forgot, they have warm nuts behind the bar.  (Editor’s Note…I will never get tired of typing the words “warm nuts”).
Vampires...all of them

Entertainment:  Even though this is a pretty small bar, they somehow managed to cram a dartboard into one of the corners…not sure there is enough room to play it so maybe just bring a wooden stake and hope for the best.  There also are a grand total of 2 TV’s and a lonely Internet jukebox that I’m guessing only gets played once in a blue moon. 

Bartender Chat:  In keeping with his Johnny Lunchbucket persona, when asked if he had any Dewar’s he responded by saying “Dewar’s? I don’t deal with that high-end shit!” Now, I’m not a scotch drinker, but I’m pretty sure a bottle Dewar’s White Label Blended Scotch Whiskey is NOT high-end shit. But thumbs up to bartenders that think it is!

Restroom:  Dare I go in there without Corey Feldman to provide me with back up?  Oh well, a job is a job…they were OK enough.  A bit on the smallish side, but not horrible…a toilet brush could do wonders in here if just given the chance. 
Is toiletbrush one word or two?

How Far Did My $20 Go:  I can’t lie, never got a chance to blow though all my drinking money here…as you recall I was driving my kid around and had to drastically reduce my now customary overindulgence.  But, $20 will get you eight beers…not great…not horrible. 

Final Impressions:  For me, it was a fine enough place to kill 90 minutes and avoid freezing my ass off in a hockey rink.  Should you go out of your way to stop in here?  I know I wouldn’t.  But, if you’re in the immediate area, or like I was, across the street why not stop by for a drink or two...it's a fine enough place for what it is.  A word of caution, I would avoid any conversations about “Team Edward” or “Team Jacob”…for all you know either of them might be lurking right by the warm nuts.  DAMN…it never gets old!

DIVE-O-METER
6

Not a bad little place...except for the vampires

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Choo Choo's -- Omaha Wing Challenge

No Frills-Looking Menu
14240 U Street  
Omaha, NE 68137
(402) 895-6617


Oh…about a year ago I set out to find Omaha’s best wings, and then as usual…after several reviews…I immediately became distracted by a dog with a puffy tail.  But, fear not…the quest continues again.  I was doing some online “research” and came across the bar Choo Choo’s several times as a place that had some of the best wings in Omaha… it even says so on their website.  And as you know, if you read it on the Internet, it must be true!  But, living by the philosophy “Trust but Verify” I figured I should go and find out for myself. 

For those keeping score at home, the best HitThatDive wing score is a total of 50 points based on scores from five separate categories. But, enough of me babbling…let’s eat some wings.  So far, the highest score has been a 47 at Oscar’s.

Looking Good So Far
First Impressions:  The most barebones-looking black and white menu I have ever seen. Hidden toward the bottom of the first page of the menu gives you the option for “Large Hot Wings (15-16 wings) $9.95”. Or “Small Hot Wings (10-12 wings) $7.95”.  I went with the small order in case they weren’t all that good…big mistake on my part. 

After being asked my preference in sauces from mild all the way to nuclear…I decided on hot to keep things consistent with other reviews.  From my seat at the bar, I could HEAR my wings being fried (always a good sign) and then bartender Dana brought me out a steaming basket of wings that looked and smelled incredible!

Score: 10

Sauce:  Even though Choo Choo’s owner Joe says the sauce is just cayenne pepper sauce, I SWEAR it tasted just a bit buttery (like Buffalo wings do in the east) and eventually had a nice kick after a moment or two.  Joe would know better than I would what he puts in his sauce, but in any case, it’s a very authentic Buffalo-tasting sauce that’s not too overpowering but still has a good zing to it.

Score: 9

Perfect Size
Crispy:  So what if they wings look and even smell good…the real question is are they crispy enough?  And at Choo Choo’s the answer is hell yes!  I will never understand how a bar that serves wings can undercook these damn things…but it happens all the time.  However, big thumbs-up to the staff at Choo Choo’s for frying my wings up perfectly and then even asking me after the first one if they were indeed crispy enough.  Answer…they are PERFECT!

Score: 10

Size:  When it comes to making great wings, size does matter and bigger definitely is not better.  Owner Joe and I both agree that places that serve the giant turkey-sized wings are doomed to never have them cooked thoroughly.  Where do chicken wholesalers even find chickens that do bicep curls seven days a week?  The wings at Choo Choo’s are the size that wings should be from non-mutant chickens…which enables their kitchen to fry them to perfection. 

Score: 10

Perfection Again
Extras:  My small order of wings came with so much celery that I don’t need to eat another vegetable all week!  The bleu cheese had more of a parmesan taste to it than bleu cheese…not awful…just a different taste than I was expecting.   The only “complaints” I have (if you can even call it that) would be a few additional napkins, a separate basket for the bones and the always elusive wetnap.  Other than that, the only other complaint I have is that I didn’t get the large order instead!

Score: 9

Reading around on Facebook, it appears that Choo Choo’s went through a complete change in kitchen staff within the last week.  But fear not, it seems that their formula for making great wings has not changed no matter who is doing the cooking.  Are they the best wings in Omaha?  Who knows…that’s why there’s a damn wing challenge in the first place!  But, as for now, we have a new HitThatDive “King of the Wing” and that is indeed Choo Choo’s with a new high score of 48!  A personal thanks to Joe and his son for a great afternoon and a free beer too!

New King of the Wing!
Choo-Choo Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon