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 1912," I said. "Finish your drinks!"
1912, one door over from Krug Park, features more brick walls and wood flooring. I chose this farm-to-table bar and grill for the cool vibes and awesome rooftop patio. The craft cocktail menu and beer selection had everyone salivating. We tucked ourselves into a cozy corner table next to the window.
"Let's start with nachos and cocktails," Stephanie suggested. The pulled pork nachos arrived piled high with fresh cheese, pico de gallo, frijoles borrachos, and lime crema.
The menu took "bar food" to a whole different level with smoked brisket, hearty pasta dishes, and an array of burgers.
It might have been the jalapeno siracha burger 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 glasses high in a toast. They appreciated my sentimentality as much as the nachos, I'm sure of it.
The meal 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 another awesome rooftop location 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 continued our adventure.
We strolled together taking in the bustle that is Benson on a Friday night. An older couple walked arm-in-arm into Au Courant Regional Kitchen, 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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