pplaying catch up from a hospital bed in dsm, post arm surgery, and no joke…my nurse is name bob
which brings me to our Sunday in Omaha which was a lot of fun. We stuck to our neighborhood, the Blackstone District and when the wait was too long for the early bird restaurant, we went next door to bobs donut coffee and chicken where we had two of the three (I don’t get the chicken thing). It was perfect and I enjoyed watching tattooed parents coming in with their little kids for breakfast.
from there we drove downtown to the Nebraska side of the bob (Kerrey) pedestrian bridge whic has some great views of the two states and the river. Found a spot to be in Nebraska and Iowa simultaneously.
onto some other Omaha hotspots that we have somehow missed during brief drive throughs in the past. Our kids, when they were little, would have loved Hollywood Candy, which not only has an outstanding selection of vintage candy (my Royal Crown sour candys greeted me right at the front door) but also an amazing collection of vintage kitsch, old pinball machines, lunchboxes, trolls, records.
we didn’t go into the exhibits at the Durham Museum but we walked around the Art Deco former train station in awe. Lunch was a surprisingly good shared tuna sandwich at the Cubby convenience store near the Old market (it even has an outdoor patio, away from the gas pumps.) . We were saving up for Coneflower icecream in the Blackstone District which was excellent (the garden mint chip really did taste like it had I mint from our garden). Omaha was fun!
We have passed through Omaha many times, sneaking in a quick visit to the Indian restaurant in the Old Market, but we have never stayed overnight to explore. So here we are, staying in a spacious 1920s era apartment (thank you Airbnb) in the recently revived Blackstone District on Farnam Street, about 2 Miles west of the old market area. It consists mainly of about 4 blocks of interesting restaurants, bars and a few shops in older brick buildings in what was not long ago, we’ve heard, a rundown area. So basically, our kind of place.
We stopped at Blackstone Meatball because we’d never been to a meatballery before and sure enough they had quite the selection including a meatball flight (a variety of 5) and the meatball of the day (chorizo). We split a small meatball slider – pork with peppers, ricotta, Parmesan, garlic. Very moist and flavorful. Almost light.
we also chanced upon an artist’s in residence open house at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, located in a big red brick former warehouse near the old warehouse district. It’s been around for decades but we’d never heard of it. Our Airbnb hosts suggested it. Walking around the studios that double as living spaces on the second floor, we met an artist from Dublin and another from Riga, Latvia. Word has it there are 10 artists in residence who get a three month live/work studio here — as part of one of the top international residency programs. The work was pretty avant-garde. The main floor is a huge gallery, which was devoted to a one -woman show of “Hot Mess Formalism” by nyc artist Sheila Pepe, with giant fiber macrame installations, as well as ceramics and other mediums. To mark the show, free “hot mess” ice cream (a strange mix of vanilla ice cream and chocolate chips and bits of red licorice was served in little Chinese takeaway cartons. We were advised by some of the artists not to try the other option — avocado ice cream
we also dropped by the Hotel Deco downtown which has a tiny intact original Art Deco lobby and some interesting little bar spaces. Omaha is looking good!
We found our J & J Jackson water bottle that we mistakenly left behind!
We visited the place where the council in Council Bluffs comes from. Who knew, although I could have guessed, that the council refers to a meeting between native Americans and the explorers Lewis and Clark. We learned this while visiting a very cool, somewhat hidden memorial marking this council, located high on a bluff with a panoramic view across the Missouri River of downtown Omaha and the Omaha airport.
What did we do before Google and cellphones? (My mother, writing in her travel journal 25 years ago, asked “what did we do without faxes?”) We found this place, off a winding country road, past horse farms on the outskirts of Council Bluffs, after I googled to find a picnic spot with the best views of the river. It turned out to be a dramatic overlook with some 1930s’ poured concrete, possibly WPA reliefs, depicting the “council.” It seemed like a local secret. There were several well positioned picnic tables, although we could have used a little shade.
Will Forte, a star of the new film “Nebraska” had some interesting restaurant suggestions after shooting the film in Omaha. So for the record, he told the NYTimes he liked The Boiler Room in Omaha and Dixie Quicks for breakfast in Council Bluffs. He liked staying at the Magnolia Hotel in Omaha and also recommended the Occidental Hotel in buffalo, Wyoming which we also liked when we stayed there (it is supposedly where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stayed when in town…Will didn’t mention another good place in Buffalo…Tom’s Main Street Diner on, you guessed it, Main Street.
My son’s flight from Omaha to Lima (by way of Houston) was delayed two weeks ago so we had some time to kill on a Monday morning. We drove to the nearby “NoDo” neighborhood (aka north of downtown) but it was pretty sleepy at 10 a.m. We did peek into the windows of The Slowdown, an indie rock club, and neighboring Saddle Creek Records, an indie label whose artists include a band my son likes, Bright Eyes. The two are connected and both looked promising. About the only signs of life on the one block stretch of shops and restaurants was at the Blue Line Coffee shop. We also stopped at the Old Market area but that too was very sleepy – what shops are left (the district seems to have far more restaurants than I remembered in earlier years) weren’t open until 11 a.m. Oh well.
I was despairing over the inexplicably high price of a plane ticket from Des Moines to New Orleans – where I hope to meet up with old friends from London in the fall – when I discovered, thanks to a new friend, that I can fly for about half the cost by leaving from the Kansas City airport ($230 vs. $450 or so from Des Moines). There’s even a direct flight from Kansas City, although it’s more expensive. It’s been awhile since I’ve schlepped to Kansas City to fly – we used to fly Southwest to Albuquerque until Southwest was no longer such a great deal. But it may be worth the drive and expense to park my car to leave from K.C.
I also discovered that a two-flight trip to Lima via Houston costs about the same from Omaha as it does from Chicago (not from Des Moines alas) so we’re thinking seriously of opting for that since driving to Omaha takes about 1/3 the time it takes to drive to Chicago (2 vs. 6 hours.)
Bring it on! There will now be a Megabus from Des Moines to Omaha – and two additional D.M.-Chicago (via Iowa City) buses which is great news. My only concern is that Megabus can handle this expansion! Last time I took the Megabus, there were significant delays and disorganization.
The two new Chicago-bound buses will leave at 12:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. (12:30 a.m.? guess this is the red eye…means a very early arrival in Iowa City.) This is in addition to the 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Chicago-bound buses. Somewhat oddly, there will be four Chicago-bound buses from Des Moines – but only three Des Moines-bound buses from Chicago (leaving at 11:15 a.m., 5 p.m. and 11:15 p.m.) On second thought, maybe that’s not that odd. If you’re traveling to Iowa City, that 11:15 p.m. bus will get you there around the unpleasant hour of 3 a.m….
The Omaha buses leave DM at 5:35 a.m. (kinda early) and 5:35 p.m. One thing that might be good – taking the bus, if it’s reliable, to fly out of the Omaha airport which has had cheaper fares than Des Moines in the past. (Haven’t flown out of it in a few years.)