March had finally arrived, which meant that it was Berkshire time. Every year, my husband, Peter, and I look forward to attending the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting in Omaha.
Meeting attendees like us eagerly anticipate Warren Buffett’s words of wisdom. But, admittedly, I get equally excited about trying Omaha’s newest restaurants and my long-loved favorites while I’m there. Peter and I are self-proclaimed foodies, so we take this golden opportunity to experience the best of Omaha’s culinary scene. We refer to eating fabulous meals all over town as “research.”
Anthony’s Steakhouse is one of our long-time favorites. There is no better greeting for out-of-towners than an Omaha steak, and Anthony’s prix fixe menu never fails for the larger groups that we sometimes join.
Peter and I eagerly booked a meal there, anticipating that it would be as wonderful as always. We clinked martinis at Anthony’s Ozone Lounge and listened to some live music, which sets a fun vibe and is always a highlight, before heading to our table. The bartender from the Ozone Lounge shook up a mean dirty martini for me, which I brought with me as we took our seats.
As expected, our meal at Anthony’s was fantastic. The steaks were cooked just right, which means medium for me with a whiskey sauce accompaniment, and medium-rare for Peter, with a few seared scallops and a green peppercorn cream sauce on the side.
While I knew Anthony’s would be on our list, the next few meals were a mystery (Peter had done most of the research on new spots and established classics this year). As we enjoyed our last bites, I nudged him. “Give me a hint—what’s for lunch tomorrow?”
Peter grinned and replied, “Buffalo mozzarella and fresh basil.”
I had a hunch that we were heading to another place we love: the Old Market. The Old Market has a huge variety of shopping, dining and charming cobblestone streets, and is extremely walkable and is a favorite among locals. Can’t go wrong.
My hunch was right. The following afternoon, we found ourselves dining on the tree-lined, red-brick patio at Nicola’s Italian Wine & Faire in the Old Market, where soft and subtle Sinatra accompanied the symphony of chirping birds. We’d never come here before, but Nicola’s was quick to make a positive impression with its cozy dining room and shelves of wine. The beautiful weather inspired us to dine al fresco. Soon we discovered other charms.
There was just enough bustle on the street outside our patio oasis to make us feel connected with the Old Market scene, yet we still had a sense of feeling “away from it all.”
Then, there was the man in a black beret who assumed a shaded spot on the patio and, without giving an order, was served a plate of the cheesy lasagna and a frosty Moscato cocktail. A regular, I assumed. This place had that allure.
It was easy to relax here, especially with a refreshing Bellini in-hand.
“Now that we have our drinks, may I interest you in something from our antipasti menu?” our black-clad server asked. We went for the Antipasto Italiano, a dish with some of our favorite Italian flavors: buffalo mozzarella, basil, olives, Genoa salami, olive oil, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.
For the main dish, I had the Penne al Ragu, arrabiata-style, which added a spicy kick to the hearty ragu sauce and meatballs. Wide-eyed and eyebrows raised in pure yum after my first bite, I served up a small bite of my dish for Peter, who offered his Panino Campagnolo—a panini with grilled eggplant, sun-dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts—in return.
“Just wait for dinner,” Peter said.
Sometimes, attending a meeting is the best experience ever.
Arriving at Peter’s next choice, The Grey Plume—another new place for both of us—we were led to our white cloth-draped table. On our way to the middle of the restaurant I noticed the kitchen, which was clearly visible through the bar. I trusted a place that didn’t hide the kitchen, but The Grey Plume was visually stunning in other ways, too. Walls featured agrarian art by local artists, on display beneath a lot of white low lighting. The local vibe was definitely coming through on the menu, which named local suppliers in dish names (TD Niche Farms pork, for example). I suspected that this would be a great, only-in-Omaha experience for us.
Our server recited exquisite dishes from memory while noting that most everything was made on-site. “The butter is churned, the bread is baked, and the meat is all cured here in the kitchen.”
I had the Morgan Ranch Wagyu beef with spring onion, zucchini and, oddly, coffee, which was a perfect seasoning. And Peter didn’t leave a bite of his Blue Valley Steelhead Trout with crème fraîche spätzle.
At the end of our meal, Peter had one last spot up his sleeve. “And next, we need dessert and drinks—how about artisan cocktails and chocolate mousse?” he asked.
I knew exactly where we were headed. It was one of our favorite yearly haunts, The Boiler Room in the Old Market.
We entered on the second floor of the restaurant and peered down into the beautiful scene of the shadowed bar filled with diners enjoying their creative fare. We made our way downstairs, sidled up to the bar and were welcomed right away. I ordered a Tim’s Cup—gin, Campari, Triplo and lemon—while Peter requested Sophie’s Mug—Venezuelan Rum, Sibilla, Cafe Moka, cold brew, whipped cream and nutmeg.
“These cocktails alone could be our desserts,” Peter said, amazed at their complexity.
Maybe for him, but not for me! Without another thought I ordered the dessert that I had been craving since last year. “Sir, may I also have a chocolate coffee mousse, please?” I could hardly wait—the brownie/coffee caramel/chocolate-coffee macaroon mousse promised an extraordinary experience for my taste buds.
I sat back and thought about all the wonderful dining we had experienced that day, and was pleased that we’d found some new places to add to our ever-growing list of must-eats for our trips to Omaha.
“Another visit to Omaha, and this is the most delicious one yet.” Then, my thoughts were brought back to enjoying the moment when the bartender placed the mousse in front of me.
“Enjoy,” he said, and I dug into my chocolate heaven. Even though we were in town for the Berkshire Hathaway meeting, I felt like I was on a vacation. “I’m already excited for next year! Can you plan our meals again?”
“Not so fast. We have lunch tomorrow, too! You’re going to love it. It involves Parisian decadence...”
This was another hint that I got right away. It wouldn’t be a shareholders meeting without getting a glass of wine and a bite from the handwritten (and constantly changing) menu at La Buvette. Peter was brilliant to end on this note.