A Night Out in Nebraska: Butts, Raccoons and Champagne on Tap
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this could be one of the oddest nights of your life.
By Nick Fouriezos
There might be six degrees of separation between us all, but in Nebraska, there is oftentimes just one — it seems as if everyone is connected to everyone in this state of 1.9 million people. The kind of place where the U.S. senator moonlights as an Uber driver, all that familiarity requires a certain number of watering holes, for which the so-called “Gateway to the West” has been happy to oblige. Drinking options abound, even though there is no evidence of Omaha having the most bars per capita of any city in the country, as residents boisterously proclaim. But to truly celebrate the quirky nature of Nebraska’s blossoming biggest city, you have to embrace some eccentricity. Here are some of the highlights.
This beachy dockside hangout is family-friendly, with live folk and rock music, a bouncy house for the kids and its famous fried catfish dinners replete with the fixings: fries, slaw and hush puppies served with honey. Down below, boaters enjoy the slow pace of river life, idling their engines, floating by — and taking a reprieve from steering as they enjoy a few cold ones. Stick around and you’re likely to get flashed (kids be damned) by the revelers, who are known to bare their butts and breasts at haughty restaurant-goers.
In early evening, this casual bar is as hushed and haunting as the music of its hometown owner, Bright Eyes’ moody frontman Conor Oberst, who opened it in 2012 with fellow local crooner Phil Schaffart. The afterwork crowd has plenty of space to sprawl out on black leather rolling chairs, as old-school music videos play on a projector screen before the real party begins. Up next on the calendar: Monday concert mosh pits, Wednesday literary pub quizzes and Thursday ragtime pianists. The hipster denizens of the music scene congregate here and at Brothers Lounge, a punk bar across the street from Middle House, a longtime home to musicians where “crusty” characters party late into the night, says Jacob Greve, an Omaha photographer.
This family-owned restaurant on the outskirts of town serves up dinner and a show — one that’s unlike any you’ve seen before.
The neon sign reads “Champagne on Tap,” and this comfy hideaway delivers on its promise: There’s sweet, dry, peach and strawberry flavors to choose from — plus sangria, also straight from the tank. The inn appeals to an eclectic crowd, from friendly old-timers to college sorority crowds. Unassuming against the backdrop of rustic newspapers, baseball cards and Beatles memorabilia is a classic crane machine — only instead of stuffed animals, it offers bulging dildos and other sex toys (a favorite of the weekend wedding parties that stumble in looking to down some bubbly). “All the guys gotta get one for the girls,” says Jim Lafavor, who has been visiting here since 1958, two years after the inn opened. “It’s a junkie’s haven: The guys spend so much money trying to get the prizes.”
This family-owned restaurant on the outskirts of town serves up dinner and a show — one that’s unlike any you’ve seen before. Glen Robey, the 86-year-old owner, says that raccoons and stray cats have been coming to the Alpine Inn since before he bought it in the ’70s, but today, guests can watch the critters feed through large viewing windows. “Sometimes you can’t see wood, you just see fur,” Robey says of the platform where they dump the scraps from their signature dish, a fried chicken platter. Robey’s granddaughter, a waitress, leans over with her iPhone: “There were 47 that night; 68 is the record,” she says. “It was all fur balls.”
Other Omaha Bars to See
- Touring the Benson neighborhood gives glimpses into local hot spots, such as the beloved Beercade (booze plus arcade games), Jake’s (a cigar-lovin’, whiskey-drinkin’ paradise) and Krug Park, an old-timey ode to the former Omaha amusement park that was the site of the then most deadly roller coaster accident in American history, in 1930 (apparently they make a great Bloody Mary).
- The revitalized Blackstone district, birthplace of the Reuben sandwich, has its delights, with good eats and drinks at Crescent Moon, Huber-Haus and Nite Owl.