My friends John and Rebecca, my wife Janie and I had been planning this trip to Omaha for weeks, and we couldn’t wait. Living in a small town in western Nebraska, we don’t make it to the big city very often, so when we do we enjoy making a night of it!
During the drive east toward town, we chatted about how much fun we were going to have hitting the restaurants and bars in the Midtown area. When we venture to Omaha, that’s the spot we love the most–Midtown Crossing, in particular.
The beauty of Midtown Crossing is that everything is within walking distance.
There’s even a hotel on-site, which means we can enjoy the night to the fullest. John and I joke that it’s the best place around to get our wives out of the house and away from the kids–leaving our cares behind us, even if for just a night. I can see in Janie’s smile and peppy step that she is happy and ready for a night in the city.
Our evening started just beyond Midtown Crossing, in the adjacent Blackstone District at a hot new Mexican place, MULA. The menu is inspired by Mexican street food, down to the homemade tortillas crafted from local corn ground right in their kitchen. We couldn’t wait to give it a try.
Gleaming wood floors, red brick walls and exposed ductwork created an interesting, comfortable atmosphere as soon as we walked in. Star-shaped light fixtures hung above the tables, and turquoise wooden shelves held liquor behind the bar, adding a festive pop of color. Janie and I order the baja fish tacos, filled with crispy cerveza-battered fish and spicy house slaw. John and Rebecca both try the carne asada tortas, brimming with cerveza-marinated steak and charred green onion. Everything is delicious, and we agree that this is the right way to begin our night on the town.
After a fantastic dinner of great food, drinks and friendship, we enter Midtown Crossing and stop into Brix, a wine lounge, for a couple of glasses of vino and some dessert. The evening reminded me of one of my first dates with Janie, when we walked for hours in the moonlight, losing track of time.
Once inside Brix, we make the rounds at the lounge’s wine-serving stations, trying several different tastes until we each settle on our own unique glass. We find some cozy chairs near the fireplace; although due to it being a beautiful summer evening, it wasn’t lit. Still, the setting proved a wonderful atmosphere for conversation and lots of laughter.
The wine alone is amazing, but when a glass is coupled with a slice of Brix’s Flourless Chocolate Cake…the combination is unstoppable. Warm, thick and gooey, it’s almost rude to ask a question to someone who has just taken a bite–it’s so rich, it’s a little hard to answer for a while! When Rebecca and Janie order a slice, John and I decide to let our wives (silently) bond. No worries, we know they’ll get to chatting once the plate’s clean.
John and I announce that we’re going to stroll over to Grane, a bar with an unparalleled selection of whiskeys and other spirits.
Between bites, Janie says, "We’ll meet you out on the patio to listen to the jazz in the park in about an hour!" She smiles at me as we rise to leave.
As John and I enter Grane, we’re caught in a time warp of sorts as the ’20s and ’30s theme sets a wonderfully relaxed mood, highlighted by the reprints of newspaper headlines announcing "Prohibition Ends at Last" boldly above the bar.
"You know, this is one of my favorite Midtown places." I remarked.
"Me, too." replied John. "That historic atmosphere is inviting."
I order bourbon, imbibing the smoky-yet-smooth flavor, and John enjoys a dark glass of sweet brandy. While cigars aren’t allowed inside Grane, there is a smoking patio outside, and with each opening of the door we get a wonderful whiff of the sweet scents as they waft inside. Coupled with the whiskey and brandy, it makes the experience even more intoxicating.
One of the greatest things about Midtown–in addition to the great food and variety of restaurants and bars–is that during the summer there is live music in nearby Turner Park. On Thursday evenings there is Jazz on the Green, and the park is covered with lawn chairs and blankets–but we prefer to arrive early enough to get a great seat on Brix or Black Oak Grill’s outdoor patios.
The ladies moved outside at Brix just in time to get a table overlooking the park, and we join them after our beverages at Grane to enjoy the wonderful, lyrical jazz below us. I grab Janie’s hand and we stand up near our table for a quick dance, laughing in the moonlight. There’s nothing quite like a wonderful breeze, the moon above and jazz below to get your feet tapping and heart racing. This is exactly what we had in mind when we decided to spend the weekend here.
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Still feeling the deep rhythms of the trumpets and piano from the park stage after the concert ends, we cross the street for a post-concert treat at Delice, a Midtown Crossing bakery and coffeehouse located beneath the movie theater.
The group orders lattes and mochaccinos, and I convince John to order a cheesecake with me–the ladies aren’t the only ones here who are passionate about dessert! I love the velvety, chocolate taste of the chocolate chip cheesecake complete with a smooth latte. The combination of flavors is sinfully transcendent–a perfect pairing.
During our time at Delice, we recount our fantastic evening thus far, marveling at the wonderful food, drink and festive atmosphere at every spot we’d been to so far. There’s a reason we come back again and again, and the night is still young. As we grab our things to leave, we decide to head to Nite Owl for a nightcap, just down the street.
Janie and I let John and Rebecca go ahead of us. We smile as we watch them walk in the distance, hand-in-hand.
"What a fun night." Janie says with a relaxed smile.
"Spending time with our friends, checking out Omaha… this was perfect." I grab Janie’s hand.
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