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Last week marked the first time I have ever visited the State of Nebraska, and I didn’t know what to expect from the food scene. Luckily I have a close friend who lives there and runs the great outlets Moms Good Eats and Life Done Well, and she really knows good food. Dana pointed me to 2 great restaurants in Omaha that I want to share with you, just in case you ever find yourself in Nebraska and aren’t in the mood for Waffle House (which I love BTW).
Located in Omaha’s historic Old Market district, V. Mertz is tucked into a narrow covered alley in between two old brick warehouses. The entire area has been redesigned beautifully, complete with a glass atrium ceiling to protect from the elements. The effect is charming, with little shops, galleries and restaurants tucked into the old granary basements. Even more charming is the surprisingly good V. Mertz restaurant.
Focused on a contemporary American cuisine, V. Mertz serves up a remarkably interesting menu that measures up against any fine dining restaurant across the US. Yes, really. Very inventive flavors and incredibly plated dishes are offered in Tastes, Small Plates, Large Plates and Desserts. The bar is exceptionally well stocked, including a bevy of top-shelf scotches that made me envious (and thirsty). GM Matthew Brown and Chef Jacob Newton really know what they are doing, and clearly love doing it.
My dining partner and I chose to order all small plates to share. Some menu stand-outs included a baked cauliflower en croute, white asparagus with egg three ways, an interesting oyster mushroom melange and a black sea bass that was to die for. I wish I had taken a photo of the menu so I could remember the exact descriptions, but take my word for it – they were so damn good.
Hook & Lime
Coming from San Diego, I am most definitely a Mexican food snob. So imagine my surprise when we tasted the food at Hook & Lime, a modest and fun little eatery a block from the TD Ameritrade Stadium that serves up delicious versions of authentic Mexican favorites. Proud to offer only house-made everything – including the juices for their kickass margaritas – Hook & Lime is the brainchild of local restauranteur Robbie Malm. Dude knows his stuff.
Even the house-made chips and salsa measured up (made from scratch tortillas always help). From the variety of taco choices, I settled on a trio of flavors with distinctly different profiles. The carnitas taco was juicy and flavorful, topped traditionally with salsa verde, onions and cilantro. The braised short rib taco came with jalapeno, cilantro, crema, radish and pickled vegetables for a savory bite. My least favorite was the seared mahi taco, with Confit Lemon, Crispy Capers, Spicy Remoulade, Micro Greens. Coming from the home of the fish taco (go Rubio’s!) my expectations were hard to beat here anyway. If that is the only minor disappoint in an otherwise fantastic meal, I’d say they were doing pretty great.
Oh, and the house margarita. Those hand-squeezed juices really do make a difference, blending the tart lime and orange flavors with the tangy tequila mix. Authentic Mexican food in Omaha? Who knew.
So now I wonder, what other culinary experiences can I expect from Omaha, Nebraska? Guess I’ll have to visit again and find out what else exists beyond these 2 great restaurants in Omaha.