Krug Park is an inviting mix of dark wood flooring, brick walls, exposed Edison bulbs and an assortment of tap handles lining the massive bar. A chalkboard menu features unique brews from all over the world. We slid into a black leather booth and began to catch up over beers served in a variety of glassware—tulips, mugs, goblets and what Liz described as snifters.
Krug Park was named after a popular Omaha amusement park and beer garden located in the Benson neighborhood in the early 20th century. The black-and-white antique photos hanging on the east wall and near the restrooms pay tribute to the old park.
"They have bacon-infused vodka and 12 choices of Bloody Marys," Stephanie exclaimed. "I know my next drink order!"
Over bacon-infused vodka-spiked drinks, ales, lagers and IPAs, we dished on what Stephanie, Liz and I had been up to over the past year—new jobs, new boyfriends; new city, same best friends.
"Dinner is just next door at Lot 2," I said. "Finish your drinks!"
Lot 2, one door over from Krug Park, features more brick walls and wood flooring. I chose this farm-to-table restaurant and wine bar because the owners are sommeliers and Stephanie is our wine girl—this is right up her alley. A chalkboard on the back wall reads, "A special thanks to…" with a list of farms from Nebraska, Iowa and South Dakota where Lot 2 buys their fresh ingredients. We tucked ourselves into a cozy corner table next to the window.
"Let's start with a cheese board and a bottle of red wine," Stephanie suggested. The board was served with a couple of dips, spiced nuts, stuffed dates and locally baked bread.
The farm vibe was displayed in the servers' uniforms—jeans and collared plaid shirts. Antique milk jugs were used as water pitchers. The chef strolled from table to table chatting with patrons and the one-page food menu was divided into "boards," "primers" and "mains." The menu featured unique tempting options like lamb tartare and bone marrow, as well as comfort food such as bangers and mash and the L2 Cheeseburger.
It might have been the mash talking, but I was overwhelmed with happiness. "I am so glad that we could all make this work," I said. "You two mean so much to me."
Liz and Stephanie grinned and held their wine glasses high in a toast. They appreciated my sentimentality as much as the cheese board, I'm sure of it.
The bottle finished but the stories we had to tell needed to be continued. Liz asked where to next.
"I thought we could stick around this neighborhood. There are a lot of great bars and a couple of awesome rooftop locations where we can get a bird's-eye view of the city over some cocktails," I said. "What do you think?"
"Lead the way," said Stephanie. "I just want to enjoy this stress-free and work-free time with my girls."
The great thing about Benson is that everything is pretty much on one street—Maple Street, between 59th and 66th streets—which makes it supremely walkable. Our next stop was Jake's, a great local dive bar with an entrance through a cigar and spirit shop.
We walked—past the humidor and small bar—into the main bar, where there were 30 beers on tap. Liz was pleased. It was obvious that Jake's was a popular hangout with the locals, and who could resist it? Good beer and an unpretentious setting always add up to a good time.
After a round of beer, we left Jake's and walked past 1912. The open floor-to-ceiling windows, with a great view of people laughing inside, drew us in. Just above the ceiling-height windows was 1912's large rooftop bar—"Remember that bird's-eye view?" I asked Stephanie and Liz.
"Who's up for some late-night fries?" I asked after catching the scent of a fresh basket delivered to the table next to us. Soft acoustic music was coming from the speakers and there was a perfect evening breeze to accompany the 70-degree weather.
From the rooftop we could see the bustle that is Benson on a Friday night. An older couple walked arm-in-arm into Lot 2, concert-goers lined the street outside of The Waiting Room—understandable, as the sign outside lit up with names of popular indie rock bands. Next door, a group of young guys in University of Nebraska shirts left Jake's and crossed the street to the Star Deli, an artisan deli and gallery (what a combo!) that features pieces by local artists.
Benson was alive with students, artists, yogis and young professionals, some with tattoos and piercings. Some stood in front of graffiti art, some in front of yoga studios, coffee shops, dive bars, tattoo parlors. I liked this place.
"I love new adventures with my girls," Stephanie said, and I agreed. The constant buzz of our conversation, followed by bursts of laughter complemented with gourmet food and drinks was just perfect. Our first night in Omaha had set the tone for a memorable weekend.
"There is just one place left on my Benson neighborhood list," Liz said. "Benson Brewery."
We finished our night at Benson Brewery, sharing a picnic table under white lights in an open-air beer garden. The picnic tables and Astroturf took me back to college, however, the homebrew was much more sophisticated than what we kept in our dorm fridge. Stephanie, Liz and I relaxed into the intimate setting and soaked up our time together. On Sunday we would go back to our husbands, boyfriends and jobs, but for now, our college trio was reconnecting in Omaha.
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