Jukebox Skipping

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Good Life -- Omaha Wing Challenge

1203 South 180 Street
Let's eat some wings

Omaha NE 68130
402 933 2947

Sitting in the same location as the former Axe-riddled Draft House, The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill is a new entrant into Omaha's ever-expanding wing scene (for the record there really isn't a "wing scene", I just felt like throwing in an Internet buzz word).  Now, in full disclosure of this review, I've had the wings here several times since they opened two months ago and every order had been GREAT...except of course, the day I come prepared to review them.

For a complete list of HitThatDive wing reviews, click right here.  For those wondering how this works, 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 gallbladder-seizing wings at the Buffalo Company which clocked in at a pathetic 16.

A bit off this time
First Impressions:  I always hate when wings are relegated to the bottom of the "Appetizers" section of the menu.  Be proud of your wings if they're good!  Have a "Wings" section.  You have to specify if you want regular or boneless wings...for the record...boneless wings are chicken fingers and should be in the Kid's Menu right next to the PB&J.  After you order, the wings usually take about 15 to get to your table, which is a good thing because that generally means that they're not festering in a heating tower getting all soggy...right Oscar's? (Side note...Oscar's has been slipping badly of late, look for a new review to see they have slipped all the way to Buffalo Wild Wings status). Order the hot sauce, and all but once, a steaming mound of well-coated, uniform-sized wings are placed in front of you just spicy enough to burn your nose ever so slightly.

Total: 9

Sauce:  Up until yesterday, the sauce had always been the perfect mix of orangeish, spicy Frank's-like hot sauce with just the right amount of butter to give it authentic Buffalo wing taste.  Yesterday was a bit bland, and the coloring was off as well.  Other than yesterday, the hot sauce has had the right amount of kick that you can still taste it on the corners of your mouth on your way out of the bar, without being so overpowering that you're doubled-over in the can 2-8 hours later.

Total: 8

Good size
Crispy:  Ugh!  Until yesterday this was always consistent, and by consistent I mean consistently perfect. As stated on the menu, the wings here are hand-breaded (which I usually don't like) but does give them a nice crunch without ever getting soggy...and that's included a few 20 piece orders where even the ones on the bottom stayed crispy even after sitting at the bottom of the basket for more than 10 minutes.  Yesterday's wings just weren't that perfect level of crispy as they've been previously here. Had I not been here before this might have been a "6" instead of the "10" I thought I would be giving in this section, so let's just split the difference and chalk it up to an off night.

Total: 8

Size:  Another strong point of the wings here is that they're usually uniform in size (on the smaller side which is good) and I have yet to encounter any of the over-sized mutant buzzard wings that can NEVER be cooked properly with smaller pieces mixed into the fryer with them.   Not a single complain here.

No complaints here
Total: 10

Extras:  Yeah, you get blue cheese (unremarkable).  Yeah, you usually get a bit of celery (generally not enough).  But, you never seem to get enough napkins, if any additional ones, and there's never an extra basket for the bones. Again, none of that is a make-or-break for how the wings taste, but some of these are such small details to easily fix, why overlook them in the first place?  Again, not a huge deal, let's just call it friendly advice.

Total: 8  

Final Score 43

That's a pretty good showing for the new wings on the block.  Like I said, had I done a review the last time I was in here the score would have been closer to 47, AND had I only gone strictly from the wings yesterday the score would have been closer to 37.  In any case, these are some pretty damn good wings at a decent price.  Go on a Thursday and you can get a 32 ounce Bud Light for $5.  Give The Good Life wings a try and then let me know what you think...they are definitely worth a shot!

A few more "extras" would be good

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Spruce Street Tavern, Valley, NE -- REVIEW

327 North Spruce Street
Valley, Nebraska 68064

The only consistent thing about my bar reviews lately has been just how inconsistent I've been about writing them.  So, it struck me quite odd yesterday that (out of the blue) I decided to hop into my car and drive to Valley, Nebraska to review a bar I've driven past before, but can never remember the name of the place.  Much like the One Horse Saloon and the now infamous Bar-M Corral that I reviewed earlier in the summer, a drive to Valley makes it feel like you're a lot further out of Omaha than you really are.  Just be careful on the drive back on Dodge...the cops are usually everywhere!

PROS: Opens at 7 M-F with three separate happy hours. Great service. Good bar food.
CONS: Slightly dull-looking inside.  The price of toppings for my burger.

First Impressions:  Yep...that's the place I was thinking about when I left the house...Spruce Street Tavern...why can't I remember that name?  For those of you familiar with the area, this was formerly known as Willie's.

The new green awnings almost make the place look too nice, but a sign at the front door stating that the first happy hour of the day starts at 7:00 AM, let me know that this was going to be a good time. As I walk in and sit down at the rather long bar two things hit me immediately.  One...the fries in here smell like kick-ass bowling alley fries...and Two...did I just spot a jar of pickled eggs behind the bar? Oh HELL yes!

The Bar: It's kind of bland as you take a look around, but look up and check out the old school ceiling. I will say from the second I sat down there was a cool and relaxed feel to the bar and even though the people in here were nothing but pretty regular, regulars, I never once felt out of  place. They have four beers on tap, a smaller than average-looking collection of booze and a great smelling kitchen.  The long bar easily seats 13 people comfortably, and 6 assorted tables and chairs have plenty of room for you to stretch-out and eat in peace.  Do not confuse this place as a restaurant that sells alcohol, this is bar that serves burgers and pizza.  Of note...I had to remark just how neat and clean this bar is....something tells me that was NOT the case when it was Willie's.

I drink alone
The Crowd:  Pretty decent-sized crowd for a Wednesday afternoon.  Most were over 50, carried flip phones, and had a good old time carrying on about nothing much in general. These didn't seem to be the type of people out to make many new bar friends, it seems like they're just fine with the people that they already know.  But again, at no time did I ever feel unwelcome, and for once, it was nice to just sit and listen to conversations without trying to be part of it.

Service: Those that are regular readers of HitThatDive, know that this category alone is where the difference between good bars and bad bars has the greatest disparity. And maybe that's why, ultimately, I like this place so much. It's not that anyone wants a bartender to kiss your ass from the second you walk in the door, it's more about the simple things like: not letting a beer get empty, asking how my burger was, interacting with everyone sitting at the bar and even yelling across the bar "Bless You" as I let out a monstrous sneeze. Not only that, but she also was training a new bartender who fit right in on her first day and was busting everyone's balls.  Simple fact, good bars know how to attract good bartenders...bad bars do not.

Roomy and clean
Price:  Three big draft beers in an honest-to-goodness frosted beer mug with a $5 burger (plus .25 cents for onions and lettuce) set me back $11.25, so that makes it like $2 a beer, right?  A borderline-looking hobo sauntered into the bar as I was about to leave and ordered a Bud bottle which set him back $2.75.  Of note...that dude clearly was NOT a hobo, because hobos always go with the cheapest option in a bar. Also they do have THREE happy hours a day, 7am-10...3pm-6...and 11pm-1am. This bar most definitely will not break the bank for a morning, afternoon and/or evening of fun.

Food:  The brand new kitchen serves up some good old-fashioned burgers with fries, onion rings or tater tots.  They also have a few appetizers, pizza and even wings were on the very limited bar menu. Pet peeve on this one, my good enough burger did not come with fries...those were a $1 extra.  Would it kill you to throw a handful of generic potato chips from Costco in the basket with my burger like, oh you know...for free?  No pickle, all toppings excluding ketchup, mustard or mayonnaise (from a room temperature squeeze bottle) cost extra too.  You have a good bar going on here...why charge a few extra dimes for condiments that generally are considered part of the food?  Not a huge deal, just kind of seemed odd to me.

Eat soup right from the urinal! 
Entertainment:  Thumbs up to a bar that will play an actual Pandora-like station to keep the mood in the bar fun.  I would question, ever so slightly, the choice of the music channel. While it was great to hear "Dancing in the Moonlight" and even "Sweet Baby James", having to endure "Morning has Broken" by Cat Stevens was a bit odd in a bar of this nature.   Other than that, there's a pool table, dart boards, Golden Tee and and a jukebox if Cat Stevens is NOT what you care to listen to with your burger and beer.

Bartender Chat:  Line of the day was provided, of all people, by the bartender on day one of her new job.  When she asked the regular bartender if she should ring out one of the regular bar goers, she was told "yes".  She turned to a few of the other regulars and said "I just wanted to double-check before I got my hand in her drawers."  Double entendre with the regulars on the first hour of your shift on your first day in the bar? This woman will workout just fine I think!

Cool ceilings 
Restrooms:   CLEARLY recently remodeled...this men's room is easily one of the newest and cleanest restrooms in a bar in a 50-mile radius.  This is even cleaner than what I assume half the bar kitchens look like in town.

How Far Did My $20 Go?:  Hold off on the food, and you're looking at 9 big frosted mugs of beer with money leftover for a tip.  Even if you're eating (making sure not to overdo the condiments that will drive up your cost) you're still looking at a burger and 6 beers...not a bad deal!

Final Impressions:  The only real question I had on my way out the the was why did this place have a Husker flag AND a Boise State flag hanging on the back wall?  Other than that lingering question, this is a great little place to show up early and drink late into the night in a great bar atmosphere.  It's well-run, fun, clean (albeit nearly a bit too sterile) and the perfect place to grab lunch or dinner without ever feeling out-of-place. The only downside was the aftertaste of my .25 cent onion on my burger... but hey...what fun would it be if everything was perfect and there was no reason to write these damn bar reviews in the first place?  In any case...HIT THIS DIVE!


Three happy hours per day!

Friday, October 4, 2013

HitThatDive is Bringing Happy Hour to Your Bar!

Bar owners and regulars...here's your chance for HitThatDive, with the help of New Belgium Brewing, to bring a free happy hour to your bar on November 1st, 2013 between 5-7!

As you may, or may not know, HTD is one of the sponsors of the Super Cruiser Ride that takes place on October 19th.

What's the Super Cruiser Ride you ask? 

Well it's a superhero-themed non-competitive bicycle ride (with beer) that will visit bars throughout Midtown Omaha as a way to raise money for Make-A-Wish Nebraska.  Look...any chance you get to drink beer and help Make-A-Wish you do it...no questions asked! Winning the happy hour at your bar is easy as this...

First...round-up everyone that hangs out in your bar and knows how to ride a bike. Then...register your team by clicking on this link.  Finally...get ready to have fun on the 19th!  

The bar with the most registered participants on the day of the race wins a happy hour of free New Belgium Beer...and so much more, including:

1. Hosted by Jim Siedlecki of WOWT, we will present your bar with a snappy-looking plaque to hang on the walls right next to your happy hour signs.

2. It's a HitThatDive event, so OF COURSE we will be giving out tons of prizes.

3. We're even bringing DJ the G-MAN from Technical Hype to liven the joint up.

4. If free beer isn't enough, promotional models will there to hand out a free liquor samples.

5. Plus, stuff I haven't even thought of yet...it is still a month away.

It's a non-Husker football weekend...so you have NO excuses not to participate.  Please consider registering to have a fun afternoon of bicycle riding and beer while at the same time...helping to grant the wish of local child.  Bring the most people...and we will party in your bar on the 1st!!