Sunday, August 1, 2010

Meatless in Omaha?

1122 Howard St.
Omaha, NE
Visited July 27, 2010

Beer selection: A few interesting microbrews

Food: Southwestern with an apparently vegetarian bias

If a foreigner asked you where he could find America, you could do a lot worse than pointing him to Omaha, Nebraska. The heartland. Good people. Traditional values. Corn and cattle.

A city where the wheels of productivity still hum.

So why do places like Omaha have such an inferiority complex?

That complex is personified by Stokes, a last resort for a suit in a strange place.

It was Tuesday night at 10pm and there was an unexplained power outage across most of downtown Omaha. To put it succinctly, my options were limited.

Stokes was open and still serving food. I was hungry.

The sign said “Southwestern Cuisine”. I like Southwestern.

Under normal circumstances, the fact that I was in Omaha and not Santa Fe might have prompted me to keep walking, but, as I said, the situation was somewhat desperate.

The first problem came when I tried to order a much needed beer.

The only microbrew listed on the menu was Boulevard Pale Ale. I’ve had the Kansas City brew before. It’s good. I was content with that decision -- until the waiter told me that what was listed on the menu and their actual beer selection had very little connection to each other. There was no Boulevard Pale Ale.

Astutely sensing that I was looking for something different than the usual crap beers, he offered an IPA in the bottle from Colorado. I gladly accepted.

The next problem came when I ordered food. I noticed that most of the menu was seafood, chicken and vegetarian dishes.

I’m in Omaha! Is it too much to ask for some dead cow?

So I settled on the steak tacos.

Unfortunately, they were out of them – the price to pay for coming to the only restaurant open downtown at 10pm.

My second choice was a spicy wrap with beef tips, habaneros, jalapenos, potatoes, onions, peppers and cheese.

If I hadn’t been under the gun to promptly come up with a Plan B, I might have taken the time to wonder to myself, “What exactly is a wrap?” I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a heterosexual man order one.

But any buyer’s remorse disappeared as I contemplated the brilliant strategery of ordering BEEF tips in Omaha. When in Rome, right?

So you can imagine my disappointment upon actually eating these wrap things. Bite after spicy bite. Surely the next bite will reveal the promised mouthful of bovine?

It never came. Lots of vegetables. Little of anything resembling meat to be found.

The fact that the spicy peppers and vegetables were tasty in a weird healthy kind of way only made the disappointment that much more soul crushing. Imagine how good this would be with some actual meat?

Alas, I didn’t even finish them – why waste the calories on vegetables? As I sat there finishing my second IPA in a stupor of depression I suddenly noticed the absolutely atrocious music blaring over the sound system. Is that Hall & Oates?

Am I really in Omaha? Sitting at a restaurant with a homosexual love music sound track that just ran out of beef?

If there is anything at all wrong with cities in fly-over country like Omaha, it reveals itself in places like Stokes. Not content to cater to down-home, meat loving Nebraskans, an inferiority complex produces lame attempts to replicate some vegan hipster hang-out on DuPont Circle.

But our nation’s capital is a long way from here. Geographically, politically and culturally.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Of course, I’m sure if I spent my entire life toiling in Omaha, I too might eventually crave something more, something different, something exotic. But Stokes ain’t it.

That’s why God invented airplanes. Midwest Airlines has two non-stops per day from Omaha to Reagan National. Memo to embarrassed, fly-over country wannabe hipsters: you are now free to move about the country.

Rating: Wouldn’t Wear The Shirt If They Paid Me

Stokes Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

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