Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Omaha Burger Legends Part 1

I get emails all the time from people looking for great local joints to try when they come to Omaha. With the College World Series just around the corner, those emails have come fast and furious from all over the country. The one thing that everyone wants to know is "Where to get the best burger in town" Now Omaha has a alot of great places to get a burger. Let face it, Omaha is know for it's beef and so travelers expect to get legendary burgers when they come to the Metro.

Now I have been here my whole life and I fancy myself a hamburger connoisseur, but I can't tell you the absolute best burger in town. I can tell you about 3 legendary burger joints that I love and they all have great burgers, alot of history and charm. If you ask me about burgers in the Omaha Metro area, I will tell you about the 3 burger legends - Dinkers, Stella's and Louie M's BurgerLust!

Since I just can't play favorites, because I think these place all are incredible. I want to share with you a little bit about the history of each place. So in no particular order - here we go!

"In 1980, Louis Marcuzzo began a catering service out of what would become the Burger Lust kitchen. After some time supplying food service to area daycares, word got out to local business owners that Lou was cooking up some great tasting food in the location … and they began using the vacant diner portion of the building as an ad hoc breakfast meeting location.

One thing led to another and Burger Lust was born, growing from simple donut and juice breakfasts to a full-service, 7-day-a-week restaurant where you’ll find some of the tastiest breakfasts and lunches in the region.

Of course, word continues to spread. From College World Series fans to motion picture location scouts, everyone loves to share their Burger Lust stories. The diner was even a major location in the 1995 Shannen Doherty and Ed Asner movie, “Gone In the Night.” Gone in the Night is a 1996 television movie based around the Jaclyn Dowaliby murder case, with Shannen Doherty and Kevin Dillon as Cynthia and David Dowaliby.
So next time your at Louie M's ask for the Ed Asner booth!
By the way, my mom and her friends were extra's in that film!

Stella's is a restaurant rich in tradition and history. To be sure, the name, "Stella's," was not randomly selected, but is the name of the founder, Estelle Francois Sullivan Tobler, Bellevue's first tavern owner, a mother who raised her four children alone, and the creator of the famous Stella Hamburger. Stella and her first husband, Al Sullivan, moved to Bellevue in 1930 to operate a service station that her uncle built, located on the corner of Betz Rd and Lloyd St. The couple lived in a small house nearby. Stella soon converted one room of their three-room house into a tavern, originally named "Francois and Sullivan" and sometimes referred to as "Grandma's." The 12 by 15 foot room couldn't accommodate very many customers, but "in those times, they'd take their bottles outside," Stella said. She purchased her first beer license for $50 and her first tobacco license for $2. At one point another tavern opened within a couple blocks, and after two owners unsuccessfully attempted to get the business going, the building was offered to Stella and in 1939 she moved into bigger quarters. Sadly, Stella's husband died that same year leaving her with four children to raise on her own, as well as two businesses to operate. It was 20 years before Stella married her second husband, Dean Tobler. As business continued to flourish, Stella attempted to purchase the land upon which the tavern was located, but her landlord refused to sell. In 1949, she purchased the land at the current location which had once been a dairy farm. She then had the building moved there on Friday, May 13, 1949 and renamed the tavern, simply "Stella's." The new location was ideal since it was located next to a drive-in theatre and race car track. It's the "World Famous" cheeseburgers and the down-to-earth friendliness that continues to set Stella's apart from a state full of burger joints. Remember those fresh, generous, and rather messy burgers the little old cafe in everyone's home town used to make? Stella's still makes them. The burgers are good and, well, greasy, and that's part of what makes them good, and so real. The burgers are served on paper napkins and the freshly cut "Stella Fries" are served in plastic bowls lined with waxed paper. Stella's philosophy was, "Good food doesn't need to be fancy." Stella's attained its world famous status, thanks to the millions of Offutt AFB airmen and officers who've frequented the establishment throughout the 70 years it's been open, and subsequently spread the word at air force bases internationally. Although a heart attack claimed Stella's life on April 3, 1985, her picture is still prominently displayed in the bar, with the legend "Our Founder" written on it. She was a remarkable lady who built a successful business based on integrity, hard work, and a willingness to serve others. Her philosophy in life was "Help others out of the kindness of your heart without expecting anything in return." Her son, Al Sullivan and his wife Mary took over full-time management in the mid 1970s when Stella suffered a stroke and her doctor advised her to slow down a bit. Al and Mary continued Stella's legacy until they retired in June 2007 and sold the business to their cousin, Stephanie Francois who is Stella's great, great niece. Even though Stella's underwent a much needed renovation upon change of ownership, Stephanie maintains Al Sullivan's philosophy, "If it ain't broken, don't fix it." The same "world famous" burgers and fries are still being served today because the family secrets were handed down, and the original well-seasoned cast iron griddle is still in use. Special thanks to all our loyal customers and most especially to those who have enthusiastically shared their memories with us! We are here to serve you!

Located just off the I-80 Martha Street Exit, Dinker's is nestled in the heart of one of Omaha's oldest neighborhoods. We have been serving up Omaha's Best Burger for over 60 years. Our extensive menu features a variety of Original burgers, homemade daily lunch specials, and American classics.
Easy access to Downtown Omaha makes us a great stop for Creighton Bluejay games and Qwest Center events or enjoy watching your favorite team on one of our 6 high definition televisions. Our bar features a variety of daily drink specials and we always have deals for "the big game."
Dinkers has been an Omaha landmark since 1965. In August of 1965 "Dinker" Frank Synowiecki opened Dinkers, a small neighborhood bar in the heart of Sheely Town, a Polish immigrant area. Our staple then was cold beer, good friends, and friendly service. More than 40 years later, we're proud to say that while our staple has expanded from cold beer, to cold beer and great food,the corner- stone of our business still remains the same. We are a friendly family establishment, serving up the best hamburgers and homemade specials in Omaha!

In my next article we will be taking a look at a classic cheeseburger from each of these historic places!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Corned Beef Dinner Tangier Shrine

Check out this post from Chef Dad Omaha.
This is a GREAT!!!! Corned Beef Dinner served all day at the Tangier Shrine on 84th and Center in Omaha Ne.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Zemog's Cocina Mexicana

On the corner of 108th and Q Street sits a great little Mexican restaurant called Zemog's Cocina Mexicana. Translated Zemog's Cocina Mexicana means Zemog's Mexican Kitchen. That is what the experience feels like at Zemog's, like hanging out at a friends house while they cook up some great food in the kitchen that is just feet away! We went to Zemog's twice in the last month. We were thrilled with the food and the service both times! Not only did we find some dishes we loved but the staff was friendly and fun. This made our experience fun on top of the great food.

After being seated, you are greeted by your waitress with fresh made chips and some of their home-made salsa. When I said the chips were fresh, I mean warm right out of the cooker! The salsa has ton a flavor and a little heat. I would classify the salsa in between mild and medium, as far as heat. I would classify the flavor as off the charts! Now as good as the salsa is, I will also suggest you get a cup of their White Que-so Dip. I promise you, we will not go to Zemog's with out ordering the White Que-so Dip!!!!! This is awesome! If they made a tooth paste in this flavor, it would be the only thing I used. For those of you that can't take a hint. You really need to try the White Que-so at Zemog's.

As for our entree's my wife ordered the same thing both trips, the Zancho. "Zancho... Just like a Sancho but better! This 12 inch tortilla is filled with refried beans, seasoned beef, chipotle sauce, sour cream, onion, cheese, tomatoes and black olives, then it's topped with our delicious White Queso." The folks at Zemog's must of designed this dish just for my wife. It has all of her favorite ingredients wrapped in a soft tortilla and topped with that family favorite White Que-so Dip. This dish is perfect for someone who loves loaded nacho's. Hey, it's loaded nacho's in a wrapper. So when your Mom's says "you can't have nacho's for dinner - that's a snack, you need a well balanced meal" Well now you can order that Zancho, and have everything you like and Momma will be happy too!

I ordered different things both trips. The first trip I ordered the Mogzilla Gringo Enchilada. "The Mogzilla Gringo Enchilada... Hungry carnivores, we are here for you! We take a 12 inch flour tortilla, cram it full with almost a pound of taco meat and onion, drench it in our mild red garlic sauce and a quarter-pound of cheese. It's pretty big. Seriously" To translate - Mogzilla Gringo Enchilada means... a freaky huge enchilada with a cows worth of beef in it! They did not bring it out on a plate. They brought it out on a platter. The floor shook as they carried it out! Women and Children ran screaming when it entered the room. Even grown men trembled as it entered the room. OK - do you get it - It was really big. I wasn't scared, I am a big eater. I am a carnivore! So a dug in - and dug in and who I am trying to kid? The Mogzilla Gringo Enchilada kicked my ass. I only ate about 3/4 of it, but I'll be back.

In out next trip I had the Fish Taco. "Fish Taco... Even fish haters love this taco! Huge swai fillets (it's like tilapia) hand dipped in our homemade batter, fried crispy and tasty, then wrapped in our huge homemade flour tortillas with lettuce, our unique chipotle sour cream, cheese and pico de gallo. Holy Chihuahua! It's a meal!!" Now I have to admit I love fish tacos but I have had a hard time finding good fish taco's in Omaha. Here is the deal I either like the fish grilled or if it's breaded I want a nice light crisp breading. At Zemog's the fish is breaded and it is very but nice and crisp. Unlike most places you get a big hunk of fish! Being built on a good foundation of a great piece of fish, the go on to layer the flavors on perfectly. I can add Zemog's to a very short list of places with great fish taco's in Omaha.

During one of our trips I had some of their homemade lemon-aid. That was some really good stuff. This isn't a powdered mix, this home made lemon aid. It had a perfect blend of sweet and tart. Like all of the drinks at Zemog's, they serve it in a glass the size of popcorn bucket. Between the size of the drinks and the attentiveness of the wait staff, if your glass runs dry, you probably spilled it. By the way I spilled on our second trip. opps.

In Omaha you have a lot great choices for Mexican Food, but I encourage you to go check out Zemog's. They food is GREAT and the staff makes you feel at home!
So what are you waiting for - Get out of your rut and try something new - Try Zemog's

Zemog's Cocina Mexicana
10904 Q St
Omaha Nebraska

Call In Orders 402-933-2509

Fax In Orders 402-933-8226


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Share Our Strengths Cooking Matters®

They other day I got a chance to talk to some of the great people at Share Our Strengths Cooking Matters®. This is a wonderful program that gives people like me that have a passion for cooking and food, a chance to share our knowledge with young people! I really look forward to doing some volunteer work with this organization. I wanted use my blog to share with you a little bit about this great program.

Share Our Strengths Cooking Matters® empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals. With the help of volunteer culinary and nutrition experts, course participants learn how to make nutritious and low-cost ingredients and prepare them in ways that provide the best nourishment possible to their families. Cooking Matters is nationally sponsored by ConAgra Foods® and generally supported by the Walmart Foundation. For more information, visit CookingMatters.org.


Facebook- “Cooking Matters Omaha Metro Area”- http://tinyurl.com/4fon5gp


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Gusto Cuban Cafe

Saturday night we were looking to try something a little different. Our tasted buds were begging for a surprise! So I decided to take my wife for a traditional Cuban meal. Now I am not Cuban but I have heard from a couple of my Cuban friends at my lodge that the Gusto Cuban Cafe is the real deal! So it was time for Omaha Yum to pay them a visit!

So first off, what are the characteristics of Cuban cuisine? According to Hector Rodriguez the author of Cuban Food Profile: Cuban Food History - "Cuban cuisine is a fusion of Spanish, African and Caribbean cuisine. Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some influence in spice and flavor. This results in a unique, interesting and flavorful blend of the several different cultural influences. A small, but noteworthy, Chinese influence can also be accounted for, mainly in the Havana area. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions along with them."

Well after having my first Cuban meal, I can tell you that the combination of influences makes for a explosion of great taste that will please your taste buds. Yes, my lodge brothers were right the Gusto Cuban Cafe is the REAL DEAL! We had a great meal in little cafe that made you feel like you were dinning 90 miles south of Miami, despite being 4 degree out.

We started our experience with a round of drinks. Now the Gusto Cuban Cafe has a full bar with a large selection of drinks, but I knew before I walked in the door, I was having a traditional Mojito! A Mojito is traditionally made of five ingredients: white rum, sugar or sugar cane juice, lime juice, sparkling water and mint. The Mojito is one of my favorite summer time drinks! They are a cold refreshing drink that blends the sweet, the tart and the mint flavor to make an incredible drink. I have had some good Mojito's, but I can tell your hands down, the Gusto Cuban Cafe makes the BEST Mojito's anywhere! My Wife ordered a Banana Mojito, which is basically the same drink with a nice banana flavor added on top. I am looking forward to this summer, and going to the Gusto Cuban Cafe to sit out on their outdoor patio and enjoying a mojito and try one of their nice selection of cigars!

Prior to our dinner coming, our very nice waitress brought out a basket of a bread which was really good. I think it was dusted with a dry cheese and had a real nice flavor. Now their was a bottle of a flavored oil on the table, and I am not sure what it was seasoned with, but WOW - AWESOME!! I think it had garlic, lime, some type of mild pepper and maybe cumin, parsley and thyme in it. OK I forgot to asked what it was called or what was in it, but this was absolutely incredible. To be completely honest, I am not even sure if I was suppose to put it on my bread, but I am going to do it again next time I go there, it was that good. Any way I have sent Roberto an email asking him about the wonderful oil and I will keep you posted! Remember if your see a little bottle of oil with a bunch of seasoning in it, try it!

Now for our main coarse we both order something different and as always we traded taste. My wife ordered the Bistec de Palomilla. The Bistec de Palomilla is a Top sirloin cut thin served with home made french fries and onions. This is the perfect dish for someone that has never had Cuba food and are not very daring. You get a huge thin cut top sirloin that has a real nice flavor but nothing over powering in it. It is topped with fresh white onion and some great thin cut fries. My wife chose for her side white rice, black bean and the plantain. My wife had never had Cuban food and wasn't sure if she would like it, but she has already asked - When are we going back?

I had the Masitas De Cerdo Fritas. The Masitas De Cerdo Fritas is fried marinated morsels of pork. These bite sized morsels of pork and just packed with a tangy flavor. I will certainly recommend these to everyone. You get the tangyness of the marinade along with the crispiness of the fried pork, and WOW what a combo! It is like little meat candies! For my sides I had red beans which were very tender and served in a great bean broth. I also had the congris. Congris is traditional Cuba rice with black beans. I also had the plantain. We both agree that this is the best plantain we have ever had. I have had it other place and I have tried making it at home, but it is never been as tasty and as tender as it was a Gusto's. You have got to try the plantain.

Now here is the deal, we had the bread, a drink and our entree, and we were stuffed! The problem is, we saw people eating incredible looking appetizers, and delectable desserts, but we had no room for them. The only thing I can think of, is to go back! They also have great selection of sandwich's at lunch time! The Gusto's Cuba Cafe was a great find and we will be enjoying this place more in the future.

If your looking for a change of pace and an incredible meal with lots of choices. Stop and see our friends at the Gusto Cuban Cafe and take your taste buds on a wonderful journey!

Gusto Cuba Cafe
7910 Harrison Street
Ralston Nebraska 68128
(402) 614-7800