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means, I never really put in any thought about what happens when some of these reviews begin to show signs of being out-of-date.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
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2 comments:

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  2. Glad that you're keeping your diet in mind. At least the ghosts have your back if you are struggling. Haha

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