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!