Things are changing for the Omaha culinary scene, and they have been for a few years. “Foodies” or people who just like to eat no longer have to long for many of the things only accessible by television or a trip in 2015. Food trucks, farm to table, you name it and Omaha has it.
While aspects of a secret dining scene, supper clubs or “pop-ups” have emerged in certain pockets, never has one aimed to be accessible to young minorities in Omaha like Omaha Supper Club (OSC). Part pop-up (venues change for each supper) and not entirely secret (details can be found on Facebook and easily by word-of-mouth) Omaha Supper Club brings a take on dining that’s commonplace in many bigger cities. While still a newcomer to Omaha’s culinary climate, the two dinners have made an impact on all that have attended.
Shalauna Wilkins, a repeat Supper Cluber, believes in the sustainability of OSC due to its uniqueness.
“It’s a classy event. Each time you come it’s a different chef that’s featured … The chefs can show their talents, eventually even getting examples from the guests about things they want to see in the future like an Iron Chef theme. It’s different for up and coming chefs to be able to present their craft.”
I was excited to experience OSC for the first time having followed the movement in other cities for quite some time. The energy was palpable as this supper would be showcasing the creator of the organization, Chef Alexander. He’s built up a following in Omaha offering southern favorites such as shrimp and grits and banana pudding. Surely he would pull out all the stops for this occasion.
Love’s Jazz & Arts Center is a nice venue for music and relaxing. The expansion of the bar in the front has only enhanced the attractiveness of LJAC for events. It was nicely divided between a cocktail hour and the dining space. The one caveat is there isn’t much room for prep in the back. This made the time between dishes being prepared, plated and served a little longer than most guests would have liked. The social media user in me also hates the lighting in Love’s, no great selfies or Snapchats if that’s your thing.
OSC is meant to be an experience. While me and my friend were easily the youngest two in attendance, I didn’t feel out-of-place. The music was in turn current (The Internet) and classic (DeAngelo) while plenty of room was left for mingling. You could tell many in the room were on dates and for the most part, people dressed accordingly. The excitement was palpable as everyone waited for the main event. For everyone in Omaha that complains they’re tired of the bars or have nothing to do, OSC may be the answer– especially for the young professional crowd. The night ended with a comedy performance which was nice. Had the entertainment been during the cocktail hour I probably would have focused more instead of facing a potential food coma.
Meatball etouffee & mini stuffed peppers
I enjoyed both of Chef Alexander’s starters although calling it “etouffee” may have been a bit of a stretch. The gravy was nice and flavorful with bell pepper present but didn’t have the kick I’m accustomed to from an etouffee. Would have liked to see the meatballs incorporating rice as well, a riff on etouffee and the traditional boudin ball starter. The spinach dip inside the pepper was delicious and I’m so happy it wasn’t the cold version many use in peppers.
Spring greens with roasted apples, chevre, walnuts & balsamic vinaigrette
Objectively, this salad was great. I love chevre (goat cheese if you are like many who were in attendance who’d never had it) and balsamic vinaigrette together and the roasted apples were a good seasonal touch. Keeping that in mind I was a bit disappointed in this offering as it was very “safe” and I don’t think “cajun” or “creole” when given a spring green salad with goat cheese and balsamic.
Seafood grits — shrimp, scallop, crawfish and andouille over southern grits with cajun cream sauce, collard greens & stewed tomatoes | Josh Chardonnay wine pair
On its face the seafood grits were a dream. Each shrimp was plump and the sausage and crawfish lent the dish a nice depth. The cream sauce melded everything together and the collards had the spice the dish needed. I don’t really eat collards unless they’re from my grandmother or NaNa’s kitchen, but their addition took these grits to the level they needed. Unfortunately my grits were cold when they arrived, I attribute this to the time it takes to plate in a tiny space in a short span of time. The scallop was nice and buttery (coming from someone who doesn’t even care for scallops this was hard to come to terms with). The chardonnay was a good pair but also reminded me how I wish the seafood grits were spicier. But we live in Nebraska where some can’t handle too much.
I’m probably in the minority, however, I was looking forward to having something other than shrimp and grits (albeit one on steroids) from this dinner. We’ve seen what he can do with this dish, it would have been nice to see him flex his muscles a bit with a totally different entree.
Hennessy Bananas Foster over cream cake & vanilla bean ice cream
Desert was a real treat with a flambe demonstration for the crowd.
The butter cake oddly enough reminded me of cornbread. A little on the dry side but a good portion so you don’t feel guilty about having too much. Each component was plated semi-separately, wonder if the melted ice cream from the sauce over the cake would have changed my perception of the cake. I’ll get crucified for this but I didn’t love the substitution of Henn for rum. Never considered myself a BF purist but something was missing for me here. Maybe I’ll ask for two fingers of Hennessy on the side next time.
Omaha Supper Club deserves the support it needs to grow and improve. With any new venture there are problems that, with time, will resolve themselves. The amount of aspiring chefs in Omaha alone who could benefit from the exposure here makes it worth the price of the ticket. As more and more young professionals, older professionals, folks who love food and people just willing to try something once look for more than most sit down or fast food restaurants can offer, the space OSC is currently pioneering will widen. Experience it before the space gets too crowded.
Omaha Supper Club occurs monthly.
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Chef Alexander couldn’t be reached for comment.