Nosh Wine Lounge's valiant experts curate a diverse list of vinos for at-home enjoyment with the wine club. Induce heightened senses of fermented nirvana with two carefully selected wines each month, which in the past have included Australia's Ringbolt cabernet sauvignon and Oregon's Foris pinot noir. The four bottles of wine arrive in monthly pairs accompanied by a fact sheet that details tasting notes, suggested pairings, and a photograph of the wine's childhood home. Club members dining at Nosh receive a mélange of extra benefits, such as a coupon for a free appetizer from the lounge's chef-created menu, which includes a delectable crab-cake or caprese salad. Waived corkage fees on club bottles of wine whet appetites, and invitations to an annual wine tasting help to prepare members to decide how to use discounts on future events and on bottles of wine from the retail shop.
Omaha Performing Arts brings world-class entertainment to its two distinct but complementary venues. Built in 1927 as a vaudeville palace, the fully remodeled Orpheum Theater evokes the gilded concert halls of Europe with magnificent chandeliers; gracefully vaulted ceilings; and intricate, decorative metalwork. The newly built Holland Performing Arts Center surrounds the action with modernist elegance, featuring clean, geometric lines and a lobby with floor-to-ceiling glass windows. The main Peter Kiewit Concert Hall's gently curving shoebox design ensures clear sightlines and comfortable feet, and organically placed wooden panels sharpen the acoustics and bestow the space with a warm glow.
"No cookbooks. No measuring cups. No measuring spoons. No scales. I know from experience," Be Lam—the executive chef of Saigon Surface—responded when Jane Palmer of the Omaha World-Herald asked if she uses a cookbook. Lam, who runs the restaurant with the help of her daughter and son, Ngoc and Tu Nguyen, told Palmer that she learned her culinary and artistic techniques from a group of elders in her native Saigon. She creates her signature grilled pork dish, for example, not from a written-down formula but from a memorized marinade that developed over years of practice and bestows flavor to the meat over several days.
Though steeped in the food wisdom of several generations, the restaurant's overall vibe is decidedly modern. The Omaha World-Herald, which had already named it one of the Top 8 restaurants in 2011, said that it "mixes the traditional with the technological to great effect. It's a welcome addition to the downtown dining scene." There's an iPad at every table, which guests can use to order a lychee martini from the lime-green-backlit bar or fiddle with when their dates decide to show their ventriloquism skills. The walls, meanwhile, are covered with dark wood paneling, which provides a pleasingly stark contrast to the sleek white booths and tables.
Union's menu is dripping with hot, steaming New York–style cuisine, from meaty, meaty pizzas to foldable, Brooklyn-style buffalo wings. Start out strong with a helping of hearty hot wings doused in Louisiana, sweet and sour, barbecue, spicy garlic, or Jamaican-jerk sauce (half dozen, $6.99; one dozen, $9.99; two dozen, $18.99) before dipping into a 16-inch pizza such as the Union Special (sausage, peppers, onions, extra cheese, pepperoni, beef, black olives, and anchovies on NY-style pizza crust, $16.99). Force hunger to experience its last gasps with the Whiskey Strip, a 10-ounce NY strip steak grilled to taste and served with a garlic knot, a dinner salad, and your choice of side ($16.99). For dessert, grab a slice of real NY cheesecake ($3.99), transported across state lines in secret compartments beneath car seats.
Eschewing fancy trappings for a simple, everybody's-welcome atmosphere, The Foundation's lurid neon lights, exposed brick, and oak-beamed ceiling are a means to an end—and that end is the bar's 25 beers on tap and 100+ bottled varieties. Say the word and The Foundation's bartenders will slice off a frothy cut of Fat Tire, Goose Island, Skinny Dip, or Boulevard Ale and magically capture its thundering majesty inside a pint glass ($4). Or venture further into the realm of crafts and imports with a bottle of Purple Haze, Saint Bridget's, or Summit Pale Ale. To offset the usual side effect of carbonated beverages––weightlessness––a hearty menu of classic pub grub will keep you tethered to earth. Pre-game for the Huskers with an avalanche of Foundation nachos ($7.95, or keep one hand open for celebrating touchdowns by munching on an Omaha Reuben ($7.59), served with a side of fresh-cut fries ($8.59 with fries). Gamblers who are short on cash after foolishly taking the long odds against the sun rising tomorrow can find solace in the Cheapskate (two sliders and fries, $3.99).