This My Type of Party: RnBrunch Omaha

Social media is a gift and a curse when you live in the “other” Midwest (which excludes Chicago, St Louis, etc.) Every week I’m exposed to great events that are impractical to attend (I’ve talked myself out of a $500 plane ticket for a one-day event more than once). So when Anthony Smith of Everythang’s Kosher announced he would be implementing monthly R&B (and reggae, and hip-hop and every other music genre I enjoy) themed brunch day parties I was sold. No longer would I be envious of the Brunchbounce and Views from the Grits crowd. Now, Omaha would have its own “thing”.

  


So on a sunny Saturday in July, I rallied my two closest friends and got ready to party. The inaugural Rhythm & Brunch was held in the Jackson Street Tavern Annex which had space for a dance floor, bar and breakfast buffet. Though the interior was a bit small but for the first event it was perfect and gave a real intimate feel. It also didn’t hurt the optics since the smaller space looked full without having to rely on a huge first crowd.

I, of course, made a beeline to the complimentary mimosa bar which offered the standard o.j. alongside cranberry and mixed berry juice. Blueberries or raspberries could be added if you were feeling fancy as well. A full cash bar ensured attendees were appropriately turnt, especially those who opted for the $10 unlimited rum punch. I love themes and specials so hopefully there’s a new drink next time or specialty shots.

The brunch buffet included bacon, a scrambled eggs bar, fruit, home fries and chicken & waffles. There were more hits than misses including the perfectly cooked bacon and scrambled eggs bar which I enjoyed for the variety. The home fries, unfortunately, were cut too small and ended up being dry and the waffles on their own were too blah.


Arguably, the selling point of RnBrunch is the music. The one aspect Anthony is in full control of is consistently stellar. Imagine every song you love but haven’t really considered the possibility of it getting played when you’re out. Then imagine you get to hear one or two of them mixed with new Drake, Bey, bounce music and reggae. If you don’t find yourself singing along the whole time or twerking in your seat I don’t know if we can be friends or what you’re doing with your life.


Above all, I admire Anthony’s drive to make this event better. Not discouraged by Omaha’s notorious reputation for not showing up, he still plays the best music, searches for better venues and gives back whether it’s a discount for partner organizations or donating proceeds to causes he holds near and dear (August’s Rythm & Brunch will donate 50% of the proceeds to help Baton Rouge during their time of crisis). Both the event and the intended audience has a journey ahead to perfection, but it will get there .. if only Omaha lets them.


Tickets are now on sale for the August 27 RnBrunch. Brunch tickets are $20 and available until next Thursday. General admission is $10.

Texas Take Two

I began and ended the first month of 2016 in Texas.

Partially because of fondness, mainly out of a commitment to travel more (so I can eat more; which should lead to writing more). Here are the foods (many new, some old favorites) that promise many more Texas trips for ashleyraeturner.com.

 

To start, I met a friend who is simultaneously the worst person but the best at finding really good food to eat. He recommended Sissy’s and told me not to waste my time with anything but the fried chicken to start. Chicken and waffles (dark meat) it had to be then with sweet tea and a side of mac & cheese to share. The brined and pressure fried chicken was at once moist and juicy with the prerequisite crispy exterior. Would have liked a bit more pronounced flavor but sometimes, chicken just needs to be freshly fried chicken. The waffle was sufficiently fluffy and held it’s own against the chicken, butter syrup barrage I put it through.

 
The mac and cheese was a creamy, cheesy baked pan of great. I found the choice of noodles interesting, but a good call as it held on to the creamy sauce perfectly.A great start to my mini Dallas/Ft. Worth mini adventure.  

 
That night, back in Forth Worth my friend, her boyfriend and I set out in search of an authentic Mexican taco truck. We’ve all had Torchy’s and other “chain” taco shops but the lure of authentic, straightforward Mexican cuisine took hold that night. After a quick stop to get cash we located a truck so authentic, nothing on the menu or truck was even in English. I will probably never recall the name and will always rely on them to remind me where it was these tacos were everything you could want. I tried barbacoa, carnitas, pork and chicken; all perfectly cooked and not overwhelmed with more than onion and cilantro. Their green and red salsas were spicy enough to require some thought before slathering them over everything in sight.

   

To really make this a night out we also stopped at the Southern Classic Daiquiri Factory. Under advice I misguidedly took I got both a 12 oz and 32 oz daiquiri. One a “Twerk Sum’n” and one a special listed on a little board on the counter. The vibe inside the shop was festive Friday Night with a packed party room and a line before 10. We took ours to go so they provided little convenient tops so no open container arrests needed to be made. And as blasphemest as it sounds both daiquiris I ordered (one with an extra shot one without) were stronger than all the ones I had when I visited New Orleans.

 

The next morning, we paid Shipley’s a visit. By far the lightest donuts (doughnuts) I’ve ever had in life I went with a cherry glazed and strawberry glazed. They were unfortunately out of country sausage kolaches, yielding my Shipley’s mission unfinished.  

 
After some other random errands and my first experience with eyebrow threading (nowhere near as painful as I expected) we headed to Steel City Pops (another recommendation from the worst). The fact that it was warm enough for us to eat popsicles while walking outside should be lost on no one but I was grateful for the opportunity. Micks went with peanut butter covered in chocolate; me, a strawberry lemonade pop. At once super tart and juicy I could see why it’s a favorite. You could literally see the strawberry seeds in the pop, affirming the presence of strawberry puree. A Pop bag is coming home with me next time.  

 
If you know me (or have just read my previous Texas trip post) you know I can’t enter the Lone Star State without at least one visit to Whataburger. This time would not be the exception.

   

I should probably be ashamed of this next part, but I have never had bbq in Texas. Not even in college when I visited Austin. None of my trips to Houston. That had to change so off we trekked to Deep Ellum for a night at Pecan Lodge. Initially, we thought the lines would be too crazy and we’d end up turning around but we were at the counter in less than 30 minutes.  

 
Because it is very hard for me to decided one thing to eat I went with the two meat platter. Brisket was an obvious choice and fried ribs were the perfect wildcard item. Add a side of their mac & cheese and collard greens and I was good to go. I also snagged a Blood & Honey Pale Wheat Ale while waiting for my food, brewed locally in Granbury, TX. Perfect for all the smokey goodness I was about to enjoy.  

 
The brisket was by far my favorite. SUPER juicy and buttery, it had the right amount of fat and wasn’t covered in distracting sauce. The fried rib was an interesting experience. I did like the nice crunch to the outside, but the ribs weren’t very meaty so you got the feeling that most of the rib you would enjoy, got fried up. Would love this technique employed on meatier ribs. The mac & cheese was good, far better than most I’ve tried at bbq joints. The bacon was a nice touch but baking them would have raised it up a notch. The collard greens, however, were not good. They were super sweet as if a pound of sugar was introduced while they simmered. Nice tenderness and it had bacon, but I could not get over the sweet juice leaving it all on my platter in the end.

 

Brunch was the next day, at Brewed Forth Worth. After waiting ages we were seated near the bar. I started with a poinsettia which is a pomegranate juice version of the mimosa. Loved it since it wasn’t 85% juice.

   
I was quite excited for the scotch eggs I ordered as I’ve wanted to try this dish in general for a while. Overall a fabulous dish that was super filling. I wished the eggs were a little softer in the middle but I’m sure that’s just part of the process in making sure the sausage exterior is fully cooked. The aioli was really good, I only wished there was more of it and the arugula was a nice contrast as well.

  
The serrano grits I ordered as a side weren’t as impressive. Don’t get me wrong they were a great consistency, smooth and creamy, but since I was in the South I expected good grits. These did not have the flavor punch I was expecting from serrano peppers. My bowl barely had any, my friend had a bit more. Could be improved with some sort of spicy cheese as well. Micks ordered the chicken & waffles with a side of grits. She loved her waffle, was less impressed with the chicken as it didn’t have much flavor.

   

After a harrowing day that included my flight getting cancelled and talking to various people on the phone to end up paying $380 to return to Omaha before a blizzard that never appeared, I stopped at Green Door Public House before heading to the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. I got an Irish Mule featuring my favorite whisky, Jameson, and a baked avocado (a whole avocado halved and stuffed with goat cheese, bread crumbs, bacon, pico de gallo and topped with balsamic reduction.  

 
The mule was delicious as expected. I really liked the avocado in concept. The balsamic reduction was just such a contrast to the pico that it ended up being weird, especially against the slight tang of the goat cheese. I think I’d really enjoy it without the drizzle, substituting a hot sauce in instead.

   

I always enjoy getting away to Texas and with my mother and NaNa potentially moving there within the year there will be more tasty trips to come. A few on my list for next time: Rudy’s, a Shipley’s kolache, Whiskey Cake and a return to Austin finally.

Mantra: a review

If you’ve ever driven down Maple, past 72nd towards Historic Benson — you’ve seen Mantra Bar & Grille (6913 Maple Street). A small space that ordinarily would get overlooked, its neon trees catch your eyes no matter how focused on the road you are. With its modge-podge parking spots (pro-tip: always aim for the garage doors facing Maple first), intimate patio area and open bar next to the interior dining space Mantra nails the hole-in-the-wall ┬ávibe without crossing over into divey.

 

Larger parties get the privilege of being the center piece in Mantra, flanked by smaller groups along the back wall and patio entryway. Food comes out quickly for the most part and Mantra has a good selection of cocktails, wines, beers and other libations to take your mind off of how hungry you may be. Their bottomless mimosa special is standard fare (pro tip two: ask them ┬áto add pineapple) jazzed up by the promo “penny a piece mimosas after purchase of two”.

 

My first Mantra visit was for a birthday dinner. As we waited for everyone in the party to arrive the bartender let us order a drink while we waited. I started with a peach julep because it was one of the few bourbon based specialty cocktails. Ended up being just a little too sweet for me.

 

Someone at the table ordered spinach artichoke dip to share. Creamy deliciousness in a good sized ramekin that wasn’t overpowered by any one ingredient. It came with both pita crackers and crusty french bread. The french bread was definitely the better choice for this appetizer.

 

I decided on the seafood enchiladas, which I knew could be risky. The scallops were definitely fresh and the cumin cream sauce would be good on quite a few things. The filling did come across very bland, the strongest flavors came from the cream sauce and beans (which weren’t choke full of it either).

 


I also tried the black and blue Manhattan that night. A much stronger drink choice than the julep, the blackberry jam didn’t make the Manhattan too syrupy sweet.

 


My next visit to Mantra was for brunch. We started with the obligatory mimosa which had a good ratio of booze to juice.

 


Although I’m not a huge crepe fan I tried their special that day — a crepe with chorizo and jalapeno hollandaise. The crepe was fabulously done and there was enough filling to give it real substance. The hollandiase wasn’t too spicy and the side of potatoes were just crispy enough. The English muffins were the best I’ve had at a restaurant in a while.

 


If you find yourself driving down Maple and have a few hours to spend Mantra is definitely worth a visit. While their menu isn’t huge, they take the time to get many things right. And who doesn’t want to eat dinner by neon tree light.