An Omaha.com interview sheds light on how Chef Ismael draws inspiration from his native Zanzibar—where he also trained at the International Culinary Institute. With this education and the help of Chef Zo, he crafts the aromatic cuisine that is typical of the region. Together, they grill up fresh ingredients, simmer stews, and add spices to ward off snowmen.
John and Holly McManus preside over three Heidelberg locations, which fill with the jangle of silverware, the snap of ricocheting billiards balls, and the click of toasting glasses. Chefs craft more than 90 items, ranging from traditional fish and chips and rib-eye steaks, to half-pound beef, elk, or bison burgers. They toss dough, which they roll into crusts for specialty pizzas or wrap around a signature burger. The dough forms a crisp shell around the burger, allowing the flavors of bacon and barbecue sauce to bake into the bun and patty. Heidelberg's also promotes revelry with pool tables, video games, and big-screen TVs broadcasting sports or showing the popular show Friends in its original Gaelic.
Through a historical brick archway in the Old Market Passageway, V. Mertz crafts elegant plates of contemporary American recipes. In addition to tasting and prix fixe menus available throughout the week, patrons can sample the main dinner menu, which changes frequently, and can include plates of housemade charcuterie, grass-fed lamb with polenta, mushrooms, and goji berries, and roasted vegetables with oat crumb. A wine rack lines the rear wall of the dining room, and its vintages complement meals alongside specialty cocktails. Exposed-brick walls and rustic wooden beams envelop the dining room, where tables don crisp white linens, and chairs are draped in white slipcovers emblazoned with the restaurant's initials and the initials of diners' grade-school crushes.
Wooden beams and stone walls set a traditional scene inside Catfish Lake, and that ambiance meshes well with a menu of fresh seafood, hand-cut steaks, and other classic American cuisine. In addition to crisp fillets of fried walleye and catfish, diners can savor hand-breaded fried chicken, alaskan king crab legs, and slow-roasted prime rib au jus that's carved onto sandwiches.
Perched above the restaurant’s entrance, the Cat Daddy’s catfish mascot welcomes diners into his digs, sporting a sharp fedora and a devious grin. He's a symbol of what patrons are in for: catfish with a kick. At Cat Daddy's, the cooks fry up spicy Cajun catfish in addition to a slew of southern-style eats. The surf side of Cat Daddy’s menu rolls out heaping platters of shrimp, white fish, and tilapia, complementing inland specials including fried chicken and full pounds of rib tips. Down-home to its core, Cat Daddy’s surrounds meals with collections of knickknacks and keepsakes lining its wood-paneled walls, and outside, a spacious patio hosts heated bites during summer months.
Anthony Hensley and his wife, Rosie, have gone to great lengths to offer something for everybody at B&J's Family Restaurant and Lounge. As a result of working in bars and restaurants for more than 30 years, Hensley believes he knows what people like to eat when they dine out, which is why he offers such an eclectic menu of American comfort food. There’s pasta for those who like a little Italian, homemade strudel, battered cod, even puerto rican tacos made with picadillo––a latin american hash traditionally made from ground beef and tomatoes.
But no matter what people order, Anthony and Rosie have ensured that the food is as fresh as possible. "We cut our own lettuce for salads," he explained. "Mostly use Omaha beef. Order local bakeries. We try and shop local for everything."
Anthony describes B&J's dining room as having a "kind of a small town, hometown feel," complete with diner-style booths, pinball machines, video games, and antique parking meters that only accept gold doubloons. It’s the type of place where regulars frequently gather, shooting the breeze at the full-service bar or whacking balls around the pool table. "Some of the regulars," he said, snickering, "my son, Tony, beats them at pool. I taught him how to play when he was 7. The thing is, he's only 12 years old."