Spirited food-smiths at Jazz, a Louisiana Kitchen, divvy fresh ingredients into a mouthwatering menu of authentic creole and Cajun recipes. Shrimp and scallop pontchartrain zestfully sautées in a tequila-lime cream sauce ($13.99), and succulent oysters on the half shell slip into mouths more peaceably than scorpions onto a pitchfork ($7.99/dozen). Bite into a juicy grilled pork chop accompanied by a vegetable medley and garlic mashed potatoes or cheese grits ($13.99), or revel like a repressed math teacher on spring break in the energizing flavors of crawfish étouffée stewed in a flavorful roux and stock broth ($11.49). Live music frequently rouses diners ($0.50/item upcharge when bands are present), promoting digestion while drowning out the fervor of nearby filibusters.
Chefs spin classic American dishes with a touch of gourmet flare. The "Americana fusion" technique, which yields such comforting cuisine as smoked-chicken-enhanced gouda mac 'n' cheese, helped Zin Room earn a spot on the Omaha World-Herald's list of Top 8 Restaurants in 2011, as well as ongoing usage in love songs written by foodies.
Located inside the luxurious Hotel Deco, the restaurant features sleek lights and chandeliers that softly illuminate diners' artistically arranged plates and rough-hewn pillars that support two floors of seating. Behind the stocked bar, bartenders mix drinks and use the wine wall's sliding ladder to allude to former lives as librarians.
"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.
Once you've assembled a guest list of up to 80 close friends and local dignitaries, The Foundation Bar will grant your band of revelers access to its VIP Lounge for three to five hours and set you up with a personal bartender, along with a manager to handle the legwork and security to keep out the press and break up any Monopoly-induced fistfights. Boasting a stylish vintage-lounge ambience, right down to the black sofa, old-fashioned lamps, and deep-crimson walls, the Foundation lounge also packs a mezzanine of pool tables, flat-screen TVs, a fireplace, a pristine sound system, and even a handsomely framed portrait of the World's Most Interesting Man. Although alcohol is not included in this Groupon, your bartender will happily set up a tab so that your guests are free to voyage through the bar's 25 craft beers on tap, more than 100 bottled beers, and array of high-end liquors. Kegs are also available for purchase to ensure the party keeps flowing steadily. Call ahead to schedule your shindig.
Backed by a cavalcade of positive press, Vincenzo's has been serving up tongue-tantalizing Italian dishes for years. Its menu contains a cornucopia of comforting classics to pacify the palate. Appetizers include delicately fried calamari ($6.95) and shell-clad escargot, prepared slowly to mimic their speed in nature ($7.95). Penne diavolo, a house favorite, combines tubular pasta with spicy italian sausage, onion, black olives, and mushrooms in a rich roasted-red-pepper cream sauce ($11.95). Vincenzo's also serves a selection of chops, steaks, seafood, and St. Louis–style pizzas to satisfy hunger or jog ancient memories of eldritch arch-shaped structures.