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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who Has the Best Wings in Omaha -- KING OF THE WING

The question WAS pretty simple a few years ago...who has the best Buffalo wings in Omaha?  As it turns out, my premise was somewhat flawed from the beginning.

You see, authentic Buffalo wings, and the wings more popular here in Omaha, vary somewhat. What's the biggest difference? The phenomenon we now know as "Char Buffed" wings.

First...let's have Omaha's Buffalo wing expert, and good friend, Ray Bullock of Ray's Original Buffalo Wings tell you what is technically a "Buffalo"wing.

The real difference is that technically Omaha wings do have sauce on them, but when they're char buffed, the sauce is is grilled into the wing to create the "char".

See, at Ray's you'll never get a char buffed wing, but at places where you can order an "Omaha wing" they also will "double dip" them back into sauce to give it a more traditional Buffalo feel. Confused? I think I am a little. But stick with me.

From here on out, HitThatDive will rate three types of wings...Buffalo-style as described by Ray. Omaha-style which originated, and are done to perfection daily at Addy's. And "Other" for when I run across wings like I had at Cruisers that were fantastic, but don't fit into either category.

What's missing from this list?  Let me know. But, as it stands for now...here is the most comprehensive list of wing reviews in Omaha!

Pheasant Tavern
13909 S St 
Omaha, NE 68137
(402) 859-3311

48 out of 50 points
Choo Choo's Bar  and Grill 
14240 U Street  
Omaha, NE 68137
(402) 895-6617

This place is under new ownership and word on the street that the wing quality has slipped dramatically since this review. But at one point they were damn good Buffalo wings. Who wants to do a updated review of this one for me?
48 out of 50 points
Addy's Sports Bar and Grill
14110 S Street
Omaha NE 68137
(402) 991-2663

Now we're talking!  Not sure I have enough flowery language in my limited vocabulary to describe just how perfectly Addy's wings are cooked.  They are super crispy on the outside, hot and juicy on the inside, they are easy to pull from the bone...you get it.

47 out of 50 points

Oscars's Pizza And Sports Grille
17330 Lakeside Hills Plaza
Omaha, NE 68130
(402) 758-1910

The first thing I noticed, because usually I’m here with a buzz and not really taking notes on about my food, are that these wings smell JUST like the wings we would make at tailgate parties in Pittsburgh.

47 out of 50 points
8100 Cass Street
Omaha, NE

This was a perfect score. These were wings the size I remember growing up...the size where you can plow through 10 of them...and still complain about being hungry.  But, you fell like you go your money's worth too.

45 out of 50 points

The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill
1203 South 180th Street
Omaha NE 68130
(402) 933-2947

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.
43 out of 50 points

Buffalo Company
4725 South 96th Street
Omaha NE 68127
(402) 592-9999

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.

40 out of 50 points

17330 Lakeside Hills Plaza
Omaha, NE 68130
(402) 758-1910

I get out my stopwatch and hit "Go" just after the server enters my order. Seven minutes, 16 seconds and .4 hundredths of a second...my wings arrive.  HOLY DOG SHIT...that's fast by fast food standards!

38 out of 50 points

8634 F Street
Omaha NE 68127
402- 614-7445

* Keep in mind that Cruisers didn't even get points in the sauce category, and even with that hindrance, they scored better than a lot of wing places in the area who are far more well-known.  For the record, the sauce easily was an "8" which would have made these clock in at an impressive showing of 44 points. 

36* out of 50 points

Two Fine Irishmen
18101 R Plz  
Omaha, NE 68135
(402) 933-3990

Out of 13 wings, I would say just about half of them were the right size with a few mutant super-sized gristly bad boys thrown in the mix as well.
35 out of 50 points

15505 Ruggles St # 106
Omaha, NE

(402) 884-5100

No celery…are you shitting me??  Look if I order spaghetti and meatballs, I already assume that you’re going to give me sauce with my order.  Celery and wings is like peanut butter and jelly for crying outloud!  No celery with wings is inexcusable!

34 out of 50 points

13806 P Street
Omaha NE 68137
(402) 933-6612

Sauce: In a word..pepper.  Actually, pepper bordering on being Mace.  The sauce contained enough pepper to make any montreal steak in town feel completely inadequate.   When I equate "Hot" with wings I think in terms of Scoville Units not anti-riot pepper spray. 

31 out of 50 points

Brick Street Tavern
4936 South 135th Street
Omaha NE 68137
(402) 359-1604

Some were pretty crispy, some of them weren't. Kind of a mixed bag on this one. But it seemed that as I worked my way from the smaller ones to the larger ones...they were decidedly less crispy. And then...IT HAPPENED!

27 out of 50 points

7101 South 84th Street
LaVista, Nebraska 
(402) 339-1606

Quite frankly, you'd have to intentionally try to make something this bad. Worse yet, it took them nearly 20 minutes to get them to me after I ordered.  I assume 18 of those minutes were fishing around the dumpster out back to find ones left over from the night before.

2 out of 50 points

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Omaha Wing Challenge -- Big Red Restaurant and Sports Bar

Big Red Restaurant and Sports Bar
8100 Cass Street
Omaha, NE

As if I didn't learn my lesson from the last time I ordered wings at a keno joint, I decided to meet up with part-time HitThatDive wing reviewer Speck at Big Red Restaurant and Sports Bar because word has it, unlike the vomitous wings at LaVista Keno...these are actually really good. Settle down everyone...I'll be the judge of that!

Show of hands...who's seen the movie Ratatouille?  It seems like more and more that I start to feel like the food critic Anton Ego whose reviews of restaurants can "make or break" a place.  OK...well THAT part isn't true, but it's getting to be where I sit there and feel like I look a lot like this as I take notes about the food I'm eating...

Not really me.
And as always...I throw in a totally unrelated element as my way to foreshadow something that happens later in the "review".  So keep reading. 

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. TWO? For reals!

Odd pricing
First Impressions: Speck was running behind, so as I sat at the bar for I while, I could smell wings that someone else ordered...and they smelled good! But at that point of the afternoon, I would have said the wings at LaVista Keno didn't smell too bad either because I was HUNGRY.

After waiting about 20 minutes after we ordered (which is the right amount of time to make a batch of wings the right way) these babies looked just the wings I ate growing up in Pittsburgh. Score! They weren't necessarily steaming hot, which Speck and I both noted, but who cares...let's eat!

Side Note: They price their wings pretty oddly here...$10.59 for 12 OR $13.99 for 18. Do yourself the favor and just get the 18...it's a way better deal for some strange reason.


Good stuff!

Sauce: Really the only "weakness" to the this order of wings was the sauce...and don't get me wrong...it was actually very good. But, for what was called "Hot" sauce on the menu, this stuff really didn't have any real bite to it at all.  But it was good and tasty, like in really good, just not outstanding.

However, because the sauce wasn't SO overpowering, Speck and I were able to plow through all 18 wings in no time flat.  And also a big thumbs up for wings that are well-coated but not too messy to eat and aren't swimming in the stuff by the time you get to the bottom of a big order.


Crispy: Oh, so close on this one. They could have had just a touch more crunch to them...but man it was ever so close. Expertly fried to near perfection, none close to being too cool on the inside, yet not one overcooked chewy piece out of all 18. Well done!

It was a bit cold in the building today, and since these didn't come out smoking hot, they cooled quite quickly (even though Speck and I were throwing them down like Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble) which made the last few even a bit less crispy than the first few...but still very good.

Hard to take away points because of today's arctic-like temperatures, but a big thumbs up for almost a perfect 10 on this one.


Perfect again

Size: This was a perfect score. These were wings the size I remember growing up...the size where you can plow through 10 of them...and still complain about being hungry.  But, you fell like you go your money's worth too.

If all restaurants served wings that were this uniform in size, there would be a lot less undercooked, or jerky-like wings in the world. Not sure it even makes sense to belabor this point.

SCORE: 10 

Not bad
Extras: Both the Blue Cheese and Ranch had a good homemade taste to them. After fishing around for a bit, I even found I nice big chuck of blue cheese at the bottom of mine. Celery is by "request" and they came served in big salad bowls like you would find at P.F. Chang's...which I thought was slightly odd.

Even though these weren't messy in the least, it would have been nice to have just a few more napkins handy...but really not much of an issue for me or Speck.

Final Score: 9

Total Score: 45 out of 50

I was amazed (Still not really me) 

Just like the food critic at the end of Ratatouille...these wings reminded me over and over again of the ones I would get from little Mom and Pop places back in Pennsylvania when I was growing up. Sometimes there's a real benefit in not over-thinking things and just keeping it simple.  Which is why, I guess, I was so amazed at the quality of the food here in a corporate Keno joint.

I suppose that's my way of saying that maybe my opinions were a bit jaded because every bite reminded me of sitting around my dorm room in Latrobe, PA eating wings, drinking beer and not having a care in the world. I still do two of those things, but man, that last one gets harder to do the older you get...but I digress...

Add to the fact that I would not hesitate to bring kids here, unlike a few bars with wings, and this entire (unplanned) trip turned out to be one of the most unexpected surprises in a while.

In no way did I expect a trip down memory lane, while eating wings in a Keno bar in Nebraska and making odd Pixar movie references...and yet...that's exactly what happened.  In any case...try these wings...trust me!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

50 Shades of Grey -- Hit That Movie!

I know, this is a little off topic for HTD...but ever wondered what would happen when you take a few dive bar regulars out of their element and attempt to sprinkle a little culture into their normal routines?   Me either.

BUT...that didn't stop me from rounding up a few HitThatDivers for a first-ever live movie review and of course I picked 50 Shades of Grey as the first (and potentially) last movie we ever attempt to "review".

Join us tonight!

First let me introduce you to our cast of characters for tonight's cinematic viewing extravaganza. This was going to be an "all dude" event, but we had one brave woman volunteer for this hazardous duty too. And, quite frankly, we'll look far less creepy with with "Whiskey Holly" as part of our regular group of knuckleheads.


Listen to the Pat and JT Morning Show tomorrow (February 13th) at 9:30...they can be heard on Omaha's Q98.5. Be listening tomorrow for the name of the first person that giggles out loud at tonight's movie viewing. If you're the first person to correctly name the guilty party and... post it on the HitThatDive Facebook page...you win a $25 gift card to The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill.

Our "Reviewers":

Dan The Man


Kickin'  Kevin


Whiskey Holly

Scuba Steve
So here's how it's going to work. We're meeting up tonight at The Good Life in West Omaha...feel free to join in...the more the merrier.  After a few 32 ounce $5 beers...we're off to Village Pointe for the 9:00 p.m. showing of 50 Shades of Grey. (Tickets Still Available by clicking here).

Each reviewer goes into the movie with 100 HitThatDive Points. From there, you can only lose points for things like giggling (minus 2 points), both hands not visible at the same time (minus 5 points), excessive squirming in your chair (minus 10 points), lose a point per second for every second of a bathroom break that lasts more than two minutes.  Don't take a bathroom break? 15 bonus points!

We'll finalize all the ways to lose and earn bonus points tonight before the movie, and everyone's final score will be posted along with our review, pictures and video tomorrow right here on HitThatDive.com.

Of note...If a person hits zero points, or pulls a Pee Wee Herman, they're immediately disqualified and will be made to feel shame.

Join us tonight or wait until tomorrow and read about what happens when HitThatDive invades West Omaha surrounded by a bunch of sexed-up suburban Moms as we review a mainstream bondage movie!

On Twitter? Get the play-by-play action of everything that transpires tonight by following me at @HitThatDive1.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Brick Street Tavern -- OMAHA WING CHALLENGE

4936 South 135th Street
Omaha NE 68137

Oh boy. This one gets a bit interesting about half way through so hang in there.  First off, let me preface everything that transpired with an interesting statistic from the National Chicken Council. During Super Bowl Sunday, Americans consumed more than 1.25 BILLION chicken wings. That's a lot of damn chickens!

So, that also means that the quality of wings on the market (to meet that insane amount) can potentially suffer quite a bit to meet such incredible demands. Remember that statistic, it plays into this review a little later on...I think.

Not a bad start
So here we go...I was asked a question on Twitter about a place to check out for wings out west. Since it was a Tuesday, for whatever reason, the Brick Street Tavern popped into my head because I know that's when they do their .55 cent wing special.

I've only had wings there once before back in July, and from what I remembered, they were pretty good for the price. Then I figured, what the hell, why don't I head out there too. Made plans to meet up with "Hit That Diver" Asian Joe...and off to Millard it was.

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 gag-worthy wings at LaVista Keno which flatlined at a 2. TWO? Yeah...they were that bad.

First Impressions: An order of 10 wings came right from the kitchen and they were steaming hot. But, WOW, these things are all huge...like in an over-sized novelty way. As Asian Joe pointed out, they looked like chicken legs for the most part and not wings. I've eaten countless thousands of wings and something looked just slightly off to me.

But can't argue that they are big and meaty, and even had some char marks on them. These aren't quite as I remembered them from my last stop here...but so far so good.

Score: 8

Not too messy
Sauce: I do remember from the last time that the hot Buffalo sauce was HOT. So I just went with regular Buffalo sauce, well, because that's just what I usually do. Not very authentic as far as real Buffalo wing sauce goes, but nothing all that offensive either. Definitely a lot more "zing" than just a regular sauce, as the sweat from Joe's forehead would indicate.

In fact, the word that I wrote down about the sauce was "aggressive". Again, it looked like they had been charred on a grill just a bit, so the sauce was a somewhat baked in...but still a little messy on my fingers. I don't know, not the worst...not the best and a little bit better than average.

Score: 6

Looks weird
Crispy: Some were pretty crispy, some of them weren't. Kind of a mixed bag on this one. But it seemed that as I worked my way from the smaller ones to the larger ones...they were decidedly less crispy. And then...IT HAPPENED!

Joe takes a bite into a wing the size of a turkey leg and OH MY GOD...it's raw on the inside. Which, I guess, frozen things are crispy in their own way. But we're taking poultry here and not freeze pops.

To get clarification on how something like this comes out of a kitchen, I asked Chef John Horvatinovich of Salt 88 what he thought was going on.

Look, shit happens. The dude working in the kitchen looked to be a hard-working guy that I'm sure doesn't want to have raw wings coming out to customers. Was the whole batch like that? No.  Do I think the owners of Brick Street want to poison customers? Of course not. But man, that was pretty nasty thing to encounter. I stopped eating at that point.

Score: 4

Flipping me off?
Size: Let's get to the root of the problem here, shall we? These bastards were HUGE, but not all of them were gigantic. And, that will always be an issue when wings are all fried at the same time...you run the risk of the GIANT ones being undercooked...in this case by a wide margin.

Like I said at the beginning, good quality wings are much harder to find this time of year due to everyone pigging out during the Super Bowl.  And, it may just be a case of Brick Street having to deal with what they're supplier had on hand. But, man, if you see you're serving wings of mammoth proportions (including one giving me the finger) you just have to adjust your cooking methods to compensate for longer cooking times.

Of note: These were some of the funkiest shaped wings I've seen in a while.  For those people that like gigantic wings...these are all you. But man, I just think life is easier with wings that are a bit smaller and more easily prepared. But, as they say...to each his own.

Score: 5

What IS that thing?
Extras: Oh, you know, I don't want to get too nitpicky on this one. The blue cheese was fine enough, no celery, no extra plate, no napkins at first.  Wait...I guess I am being a bit nitpicky. Look, for $5.50 for an order of 10 wings...I really can't complain on this one. I guess what this section really indicates is attention to detail.

And maybe attention to detail is really the biggest issue. Add to that the Brick Street Tavern didn't fair all that well in a recent Restaurant Report Card from WOWT...and maybe just an ounce more on the overall details of the food coming out of the kitchen would go a LONG way...because this is actually a great little bar with a ton of blue-collar regulars.

Score: 4

Final Score: 27 out of 50

Let's be clear, these review are simply my experience...almost like an unpaid secret shopper. Never do I leave my house thinking "Man, let's find something really awful about the place and only write about that!" Bar Rescue already does that for me.

The Brick Street Tavern is the kind of place I like to go to, and root for to succeed. But I've also built a reputation (for what it's worth) of being, if nothing else, honest with what I see. And what I saw yesterday was not an issue with one person...just a bit of lack of attention to detail top to bottom. This could, and should, have been a much better experience. And who knows...maybe next time it will be. The devil, my friends, is always in the details.

**EDITOR'S NOTE** Just received this message from the Brick Street Tavern. Very cool response...as I figured...this was basically an issue of getting wiped out of supply during the Super bowl.

"How's it going? I'm the kitchen manager up at brick street tavern. First off, I just really want to apologize to you for the undercooked wing. That should not have happened. I wasn't there last night, but I saw your photo. Second, I want to thank you for the honest and fair review. 

You were pretty much correct in your assumptions. Our normal wing stock got cleared out this weekend during the Super Bowl, so we had to go to Sam's to grab some more to hold us over until our food truck made its delivery. These wings are oddly shaped (like you said) and were flash frozen. 

Our normal wings are kept fresh and not frozen. Most likely the wing wasn't fully thawed in the middle before it was fried. It's no excuse, I just wanted to explain what happened and offer my sincere apologies. Next time you stop out here, your meal is on me. Thanks again, stay warm!"