Issue 27

Eating, Drinking & Biking Around Omaha

Eating, Drinking & Biking Around Omaha

Oh, the bicycle.

There is no nobler method of transport; its awe-inspiring grace only surpassed by unparalleled precision, and such simplicity! A design centuries old, yet capable of propelling even the modestly athletic to daring speeds. And it’s the speed that hooks you. The exhilaration is incomparable to any other mode of street travel. Those in the sports car commercials are only operating with a fraction of what a bike will get you.

I’m going to take ya’ll on an abbreviated bicycle tour of this big beautiful place we call Omaha; hooking you up with some good routes and nifty food and drink spots to hit up along the way. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there are most certainly folks in this great town who are more knowledgeable about biking in Omaha than I, not to mention stronger cyclists too, but you know what? They aren’t writing this article. In fact the most qualified guy I know barely knows how to read or write (rhymes with Fat Grover).

So where to begin? Well an obvious choice would be, how about where you live? But since any good tour needs some direction we’re going to start where I did. And I don’t mean when I first started riding initially, mind you. You see, like most broke numbskulls I tooled around on a junk mountain bike for about a year until I finally had the scratch to get myself a proper road bike. That day biking immediately went from a cheap way to get around/not be grotesquely fat to wow I’m having fun, cool. So that’s important, if you’re reading this and you got some broke-ass Huffy sounding like its got baseball cards in every spoke even though it doesn’t; buy a real bike. Best $400 I’ve ever borrowed from my girlfriend (and eventually paid back years later).

After careful deliberation I’ve decided we should start this thing downtown. Now, unless you’re some smarmy douche you probably don’t live downtown so let’s get there first. There are dozens of ways to do that and they’re basically all fun because you’ll be going downhill and therefore really fast. You see the neat and also crappy thing about Omaha is that it is situated in a river valley. As a result the terrain around town ranges from slightly hilly to hilly as crap, buddy, and that will be something you’ll always want to keep in mind when you’re planning routes around the city.

Now back to getting downtown, I prefer Jackson street because it’s got plenty of lanes, light traffic and, if you time it right, you can bomb all the hills and get there in no time. The best part of Jackson is what I call the “home stretch”. It starts right around 28th street, just a block or two after the interstate. You’ll know you’re there when you reach the top of a hill and all that lies before you is about a mile and a half of road, all downhill, with only a few stoplights to potentially impede your progress. What’s nice is these lights are timed with the car traffic, and what’s even nicer is if you have a fast bike and a decent pair of stems you can keep up with traffic and catch all the lights! There isn’t a feeling quite like blazing down a street and seeing the look on a motorist’s face as he notices a cyclist is passing him. Even if Jackson Street is out of the way for you, it’s worth taking just for the opportunity to encounter one of the greatest feelings you can experience on this Earth.

Before we hit our first stop, I should mention that I’m operating under the guise that it’s a gorgeous afternoon sometime in the distant, not frozen future. And hopefully, it’s around three in the afternoon which is exactly when the Upstream Brewing Company’s excellent happy hour starts. Now if you’re one of those rabid, weirdo go-getters that get out of bed before the high temperature hits then you probably have some time to kill. A person of your ilk would probably enjoy milling around the Old Market for an hour or two, or if you’re more like me you could bop across the pedestrian bridge and gamble some of that hard-earned dough away at the boats. That’s right my friends, there is a safe and reliable way to ride a bicycle to a floating casino. What a country! Anyway, about the Upstream –   It’s hands down the best place to do some day drinking in the Old Market, especially when the weather’s cooperating. The deck on the second floor is perfect for having a couple craft beers while soaking up some sun heat. They also have a really marvelous pool hall and, yes, it turns out shooting billiards is really fun. When you think you are about ready to move on, order one more beer. The next leg is kind of rough.

Remember flying down Harney Street? Well unfortunately what goes down must come back up, and we got some climbing to do. Stay on Jackson Street West and merge onto St. Mary’s Avenue. It’s relatively flat up to this point but you’re coming up on K-19 aka the Widowmaker. Just maintain a steady cadence and keep breathing regularly and eventually you’ll get to the top. I’ve found it helps significantly if you play Bad Company songs in your head and try not to think about how much further that damn hill stretches. If you don’t want to tackle the whole thing all in one swoop, the Rose & Crown is strategically placed part of the way up the hill. The RC also is endowed with a magnificent deck, the best in the city I’m tempted to say, so if you find yourself enjoying it instead of endlessly pumping those scrawny legs of yours, don’t feel so bad.

Salvation! The worst hill of the trip is behind you, but sadly there isn’t much time for a breather. We’re about to merge onto Leavenworth Street and we’ll be riding on some heavily trafficked roads for the next few miles. It can be pretty terrifying having cars whiz by you, affording maybe a centimeter or two of space as the driver sneers at you maliciously, so be sure to be extra careful. And if some motorist tries to give you guff, flip him off and remember you got just as much right to the road as they do.

Well on that note, who’s getting hungry? Better make a quick pit stop for some really great Indian food. I’m referring of course to Mother India, conveniently located in what appears to be a TuffShed on 35th and Leavenworth, but don’t let it’s modest appearance fool you; the food is excellent. I usually go with the Lamb Curry, but I’ve yet to be disappointed with any of the other entrees. And as an added bonus, I don’t know if it’s the spices or what, but Indian food always seems to give me a ton of extra energy which is helpful when your vehicle is self-propelled. That’s a fart joke.

All refueled and ready to press on, get back onto Leavenworth and continue to ride the alternating hills until you get down into Saddle Creek. Turn south onto Saddle Creek and contemplate stopping at the legendary O’Leaver’s Pub. Just keep in mind that if you do decide to stop, your tour is probably over. It is nigh impossible to simply pop into O’Leaver’s and have “one or two”, I’m sorry, but that just isn’t going to happen. You see, O’Leaver’s is the kind of place that simultaneously evokes memories of zaniness past while concurrently dispatching the vibes of wacky shit to come. I know it sounds ridiculous, but the theory has been around for centuries. T.H. White wrote a book about it. It’s called, The Once and Future Party. You’ve been warned.

Looks like you’ve taken my advice and we can proceed. Excellent. Continue south on Saddle Creek until it merges with Center Street. Take Center west for a little over a mile and, please, do be careful, neither of these roads have bike lanes, but they’re both very flat and the faster you can go, the better. As you approach the 72nd Street overpass you will dread the very possibility of having to climb that hill, but don’t worry we’re taking a right and entering that new hotspot for the young people, Aksarben Village! If you’ve got a hankering for some BBQ or rather a cupcake, you can stop at either Mojo’s or Jones’ Brothers Cupcakes, but otherwise press on because we’re in the home-stretch.

That Aksarben Road will take you all the way north to Pacific, which you will cross and enter Elmwood Park. Elmwood is a delightful little jaunt but always be wary of errant golf balls, those can ruin your day right quick. Stay on Elmwood and take a right just before you begin to climb up into the University. This will lead you into one of those traffic circles (what are those things called anyway?) get out on Happy Hollow. This will start you on a little route I call circle-to-circle; continue northeast on Happy Hollow across Dodge, past Underwood, past Cuming, until it drains into another one of those traffic circles. From here you can take a quick detour east on Saddle Creek to an Omaha staple, the Homy Inn. Renown for having champagne on tap, the Homy’s also got an underrated tap selection and you can also eat peanuts out of a dog dish like some filthy animal. Make sure to fill up on those nuts because this is the last stop until the end of the line, or as it is more commonly known, Benson.

Head back into that traffic circle and exit onto Country Club. From here all you got to do is follow the signs! That’s right, there are helpful signs posted along the remainder of the route because you are on the officially sanctioned Omaha, Nebraska bicycle route to the borough, Benson, 2013, thank you. Easy enough, right? You’ve just completed this beginner’s bike route that I arbitrarily created so congratulations! Celebrate with a lovely dinner at one of the first-rate eateries Benson has to offer like Lot 2 or Taita. Or perhaps you want to cultivate that growing buzz of yours at one of the several hundred bars Benson has to offer. I’d be remiss (and probably fired) if I didn’t mention the cream of the crop, Benson’s piece de resistance, Jake’s Cigar’s and Spirits. Nowhere else on Earth can you possess a preference anywhere from PBR to 30 year old scotch and feel right at home. So order yourself something special and try not to think about how you still have to bike home. Ride safe everyone.

Lucas Korth

Lucas Korth

Lucas Korth has been writing for Food & Spirits Magazine for probably over a handful of issues. Longevity is his greatest strength. He enjoys cycling, baseball, his wife Becky and their cat, Mr. Jingles. If you'd like to tell him his articles stink in person, he can often be found at Jake's Cigars in Benson; where he is the bar manager. He is remarkably unfunny.


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