Jukebox Skipping

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Best Patios for Drinking in Omaha -- 101.9 The Keg Exclusive

When the phone rings and it says "Crash Davis"...that's a call I always take no matter what what I'm doing. Why? Well, for one Crash is a good friend. And two, it usually means he has a new idea of something fun I can get into.

So, what was this call about? Simple. Coming up with my "Top 10 Patios to Have a Drink on in Omaha" of course.

So, knowing I was going to be on the air with 101.9 The Keg first thing in the morning, I went right to work.  For those HitThatDive purists, these are NOT all dive bars...take a deep breath. It will all be OK.

The majority of them are dives, but I thought for this particular Crash Davis assignment, a more compete list was the better approach. So, after much deliberation, here is the "Scuba Steve" Top 10 Patios to Have a Drink on in Omaha...your list may vary.

The Nest Lounge: What better place to knock back a few drinks and keep an eye on the kids as they're at the daycare directly next door? Oh yeah, and by the way, it's one of the best spots in West Omaha to sit outside and enjoy the summer air.

Ask for the Sunny D and vodka

Rose and Crown Pub: Keeping with our places to sit outside and have a drink (or two) while keeping an eye on the kids, the Rose and Crown is directly across the street from the Omaha Children's Museum and boasts one of the best deck scenes in town. Is it a dive? You bet. Is it made for some patio drinking? You be your life it is!

Avoid the Children's Museum here

Mr. Toad's Pub: Smack dab in the heart of Omaha's Old Market, Toad's was a stop on last year's HitThatDive Haunted Hangover Tour. And, from what most will tell you, is the prime spot in the Old Market to suck back a few drinks and just sit and people watch. Is it a dive? You make the call.

Old Market people watching central 

Heron Bay: No doubt this IS a dive, and a bit oddly situated, and basically next to a  Sanford and Son junkyard. However, it has one of the best decks in Eastern Nebraska to sit and have an amazing view of the Platte River. For my money, the closest you can get to drinking at an ocean bar anywhere in Omaha. (Prices are a bit steep, be warned Amigos.) This is always a prime stop for anyone that rides a motorcycle.

River. Beer. Fun.

1912: Have not been to this one in Benson yet, BUT, when a Benson spot comes highly endorsed by MarQ Manner....that's all I need to know. Many people wrote in and said this is THE spot for an outdoor patio in the Benson area...and it sure looks that way. This is the only place on my list that made it sight unseen. MarQ's word is gold in my book...give this one a look when you're in that part of town, and then let me know how it is.

Always trust MarQ Manner

Poop Deck: Is this the most elaborate deck in Omaha? Hell no. But it's the Poop Deck which means it's automatically HitThatDive certified, and, it's the only spot on this list where you can sit outside and watch the sun raise with a drink or two when they open the doors and 6:00am. Early morning bartender Chuck, is one of the best in town! I love the Poop Deck so much that's me in the picture below after getting there at 8:00 am to hang out with the Bergan Mercy nurses after an overnight shift.

A classic!

Crossbones Bar: The covered back patio at Crossbones is one of the best year-round spots in town. Oh sure, I froze my ass off back there on St. Patrick's Day, but it's fully covered by a roof, and always has the South Omaha equivalent of the trade winds blowing to keep you cool in the summer regardless of the temperature. Throw in one of Omaha's best Bloody Marys on a Sunday morning, and this might be the best hangover spot on the list.

Always a good time

Beer City: Hey, weekend warrior golfers, I've got a spot for you. Save the fortune that you're going to pay on greens fees (and golf course beers) and head to the corner of 42nd and L Streets. Grab your drink, head out the back door, and get ready to practice putting on Omaha's only outdoor putting green attached to a great dive bar. Is it the world's best patio? Hell no! But you're at a bar practicing your putting...on a real putting green...where else can you do that? This is Golden Tee for real people!

I putt, you putt...

Salt 88:  Yes, I know, this most definitely is not a dive bar. But who cares? John and his gang have the BEST patio in the Omaha city limits, incredible food, an extensive wine list and PBR Tall Boys! This is the only place in town where both Mrs. HitThatDive and I can go together and both be happy the entire time we're here. We bring the kids, come here for date nights, hell we just find reasons to come here...as should you too. Don't let the fancy appearance scare you off...this place is great for anyone no matter what your taste might be.

Have a PBR Tall Boy

The Doghouse Saloon: When Crash asked me to put this list together, the Doghouse in Waterloo, Nebraska was the first place that popped into my mind. Small town honky-tonk bar. An amazing outdoor set up with a stage, plenty tables, TVs and the best part of all...honest-to-goodness truck tailgates that you can sit on and enjoy the day. Want the fun of tailgating, but don't want to do all the work? The Doghouse is just what you're looking. When you think of an outdoor bar to hunker down and spend a lazy summer afternoon...this is the spot I head to first. Did I also mention it's hangout for fans of my hometown Pittsburgh Steelers? Here we go Steelers...here we go!

Yeah baby!

There you have it, that's my list. What did I miss? Let us know if there's something you think needs to be added as one of the Omaha area's best bar patios. Have a complaint about this? Call Crash at 101.9 The Keg...this was his idea! (Just kidding) Now get out there and enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

First Annual HitThatDive Omaha Wing Challenge

Let's start off with a few things. Before you send me a message saying "But why wasn't MY favorite place on this list???" The answer is simple. To be included on this year's review list the ONLY requirement was that the participating bar had to donate $100 (all tax deductible) to Ted E. Bear Hollow.

So a big thank you is in order to all nine local wing places that each donated directly to an amazing charity to be part of this year's competition.  Who was on the list year? Here they are in order of which way the HTD judges traveled around Omaha sampling some of the best wings this area has to offer one-by-one. The contestants are...

The Good Life

Again, these are all locally owned small businesses that rely on the support of the people in our community to provide jobs, and well, keep us happy that we have so many great options for wings and beer!  

So thanks again to everyone that participated. And for those of you reading this...make it a point to try each and every one of these places in the next few weeks...we'll tell you exactly what to order when you're there...just keep reading. 

Not my sippy cup

How It Worked

A casting call was sent far and wide to assemble a rag-tag bunch of judges of anyone that loved to eat wings, and had some time over the course of two weekends in June. Our cast of nearly 15 judges were provided with score sheets and asked to rate wings on the now famous/infamous HitThatDive scoring criteria, which always include the following five categories. 

  • First Impressions
  • Sauce
  • Crispy 
  • Size
  • And the always ambiguous "Extras" 
Judges were asked to grade each type of wing, at each place, with a 0-10 in every category...which means a 50 is a perfect score...and a ZERO of course means we must have made a wrong turn and are now eating at LaVista Keno.  

Judges took it seriously 

I (Scuba Steve) did not take place in any of the judging, and was just there to eat wings and answer any questions in regards to proper scoring.  Keep in mind that the HTD judges ate at nine places and had been served, in some instances, more than 10 varieties of wings...at ONE stop.  So this was no easy task to judge and score.  The HitThatDive judges did an amazing job, so thank you all for your time, efforts and stomaches.  

Lessons Learned for Next Time

  • Judges will eat at no more than THREE places per day...we are not competitive eaters. 
  • Bars will submit no more than three wing flavors in advance.
  • Judges must fast for 24 hours before we eat. (OK, well that's not really going to be a rule...but as we learned...it's a damn good idea!)
  • We will draw straws to decide order because the most difficult spot to be in for bars are the ones going first or last. 
  • Ultimately, we learned a lot of lessons on how to do things much better the next time we do this. Promise! 
Scoring some wings at Addy's

Let's Get Down To It

For this section, we'll walk you through each bar and let you know if any of the wings that the judges scored received a 35 (or higher) out of 50 points (combined average)...those are the ones you should order for sure next time you're in these places. 

Wing categories were broken down into three separate flavors which included: Traditional Buffalo. The now (almost) famous Omaha Charbuffed. And specialty...which can include anything from teriyaki to peanut butter and jelly. 


The Good Life Sports Bar and Grill -- This, our first stop, we were just trying to figure out how all of this would work in real life. After figuring out how to eat and write at the same time, the judges all agreed that the Teriyaki (both bone-in and boneless) and the BBQ wings were the winners of the bunch here at TGL. 

Judge Quote: "Good sauce. Right amount. Tasty." 

Oscar's Pizza and Sports Grill -- Judges here, according to their score sheets, were highly impressed with the flavor of the double-dipped Buffalo wings and made several comments on the great heat-to-flavor ratio of the wings and the sauce. 

The Charbuffed wings also rated out above a 35, but  several judges pointed out that they love the Charbuff wings here but these were not quite as good as usual. But this is Oscar's after all, and even if not firing on all cylinders...they're still good enough to make the leaderboard. 

Judge Quote: "OMG! This had a great "hot" flavor that lasts!" 

Chicken Dance

Observatory Lounge -- The OB pulled out every stop to make an impression on the judges...and they all took notice. Oh, did I also mention that everything wing that they served us all earned rave reviews too?  Several score sheets went out of their way to mention the great impression that the OB made on them including an honest-to-goodness rendition of the Chicken Dance! 

The winners here were the Buffalo (Mild and Hot) and the Parmesan Sean's.  Of the parmesan wings, several judges pointed out that they're not really into that flavor but here "Parmesan all day baby!" 

Judge Quote: "Probably the most interesting taste I've experienced...ever!" 

Paloozas Sports Bar and Grill -- This stop brought us to the end of the first day of judging, and for nearly every judge, the first time here.  For being a newcomer on the block, Paloozas clocked in with four wings that broke the 35 average point total that included their Charbuff, Breaded BBQ, Dry Rub BBQ and their Memphis wings. Also of note, is that this is the home to arguably the largest wings we had seen on the entire competition. 

Judge Quote: "So...definitely different. Breaded which is a treat. And good! And the chef is definitely proud of his work!!" 

The Buffalo Company

Addy's Sports Bar and Grill -- As to be expected, Addy's scored big on five varieties of wings including their Spicy Garlic, Hot Buffalo (charbuffed), Bloody Mary, Teriyaki and the hottest wing we tested Sriracha Ghost Pepper. As noted by one judges after eating just one sriracha ghost wing...my mouth is still burning and that the heat sure stays with ya!

Judge Quote: "Sweet with a kick! Nice change from the traditional teriyaki wing sauce!"

The Buffalo Company -- I always enjoy the guys at the Buffalo Company, and they did not disappoint scoring on all three types of wings the judges sampled including their Medium Buffalo wing, Garlic Parmesan and one I had never seen before their Rubbed and Charred wing. Across the board, judges were impressed with the overall crispiness of all the wings here. 

Judge Quote: "Way better than expected! Pleasantly surprised!"

More wings!

Donohue's Pub -- Often overlooked when people are thinking of new places to try wings around the area, Donahue's made the judges take notice by scoring above at 35 on their Original Buffalo, Spicy Garlic and their Peanut Butter and Jelly wings. One judge ever went so far as to say the PB&J wings here were the most original we had tried at any place on this year's tour. 

Judge Quote: PB&J -- If you like peanut butter chicken, this tastes like really good chinese peanut butter chicken. 

Ray explaining what makes a good Buffalo wing

Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- To sum up our stop at Ray's, one of the judges comment on their score sheet "The other bars should be glad we came here towards the end! I'll be back!" Ray's wings all earned rave reviews for their Medium and Hot Buffalo and for Teriyaki wings. Also noted on several scoresheets was Ray's homemade blue cheese dressing. 

Judge Quote: "The medium buffalo was awesome and the blue cheese was amazing." 

The HopHouse Bar and Grill -- Our final stop also was a first for many of the judges (including myself) and even though they had the unenviable task of being the last stop on this year's wing challenge, made an impression on the judges with their PB and J wings and also with their Parmesan sauce. 

Judge Quote: I sort of feel bad...last stop of the challenge and it's hard to compare to eight others!" 

So, there's the quick tour through all of this year's stops. So, I know what you're asking...who are the damn winners?!  

Extras matter!

Here's how were going to do it, the top three places in our three wing categories (Buffalo, Charbuffed and Specialty) will be listed as well as the top three overall places based on average score of all their wings...so HERE WE GO! 

Biggest ones we saw!

Final Results 


3. Donahue's Pub -- Spicy Garlic: (41) TIE
    Addy's Sports Bar and Grill -- Sriracha Ghost (41)  
2. Observatory Lounge -- Parmesan Sean's: (43.1)
1. Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- Teriyaki: (45)


3.  Oscar's Pizza and Sports Grill -- Charbuffed Hot: (37.5)
2.  The Buffalo Company -- Rub and Charred: (39.5)
1.  Addy's Sports Bar and Grill --- Charbuffed Hot: (40.2) 


3.  Oscar's Pizza and Sports Grill -- Double Dipped Buffalo: (40.7)
2.  Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- Medium: (45.5) TIE
     Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- Hot (45.5)
1.  Observatory Lounge  -- Buffalo Hot (45.7)


3. Addy's Sports Bar and Grill -- (40)
2. Observatory Lounge -- (43.1)
1. Ray's Original Buffalo Wings -- (45.3) 

We have a winner
How close was the scoring? Keep in mind that between third and ninth place there was only a difference of 7.1 points...TOTAL! The voting was that close...and in most instances...a point one way or the other could have made a huge difference for just about every bar on this list in every single category. 
Over the next few days, I'll be hand-delivering the original score sheets to every bar owner and will be available to walk you through the scores...that is if you want and any additional detailed insight. 

Thanks again to every bar that participated! 

People of Omaha...if you want your favorite wings included in this challenge next time...start telling your favorite bar owner(s) to pay attention to HitThatDive when we're looking for places to include in the future! 

Scuba Steve 

Who's still hungry?