02 July 2006

Trip Log, Day 6; Omaha

Note: This is one of a series. You can find the complete series index here.

One of the biggest lessons that I learned from typing this trip journal is that I really need to do a better job of daily writing when I am on vacation and then just put it into proper format and add pictures. On the other hand, this is a great way to relive a wonderful vacation, so maybe it is not so bad that I am still writing about my Omaha adventures almost a week after the College World Series ended (unhappily, I might add).

This shaped up to be a weird day. One of the things that we tossed around for an agenda prior to the trip, was the idea of seeing the early game in Omaha, then driving back to KC to see a game between the two worst teams in the majors (Pittsburgh was in town), catch one more meal in KC, and fly out the next day. The scheduling gods were not with us, though, as the "early" game was scheduled for 4 pm local time. There would be no chance to see any part of that game, and then make the drive to KC for a 7 pm start. Instead, our new plan would be a late lunch at the famous Johnny's Cafe, and then a day and evening of baseball, with evening food consisting of ballpark fare.

We got to Johnny's (4702 S. 27th St.) a little before 2 pm (good thing, too -- their lunch service ends at 2!). Johnny's is an old cattleman's hangout, just outside the Omaha stockyards. Greeting you at the entrance is a larger than life photo of Jack Nicholson, grinning ear to ear (naturally) in that way that only he does. Nicholson filmed "About Schmidt" here, and, even as shy and demure as he is, apparently had his arm twisted into taking a photo for the wall. The dining room is decorated in what can only be called 1950's chic - a dimly lit room with big leather chairs and booths. The server, a robust midwestern woman, takes her time greeting the table, but she is always moving. You definitely feel like you have taken a step back in time. Lunch is served with a somewhat pared down menu, but they note that dinner steaks are available for lunch, as well.

We both had our hearts set on two things - the filet and the hash browns. Our server told us that the hash browns would be an upcharge for the lunch-sized 6 oz. filets, but come as an standard side to the 9 oz. dinner cut filets. Hmmm...more steak? OK. As for the photo, no there is not a mirror splitting the middle of the table - but, when you know what you want, why order something else? Split open, there was a significant difference between my buddy's medium rare and my medium. Actually, I would be amazed if these guys EVER had a steak sent back. The hash browns lacked the crispness that I prefer. I recall them being a little crispier the last time, but I am not sure if I ordered them that way, or if at dinner time you just get better hash browns? I am not much of a wine drinker, but their house Cabernet was delicious, and I thought a bargain at $4.75/glass. The bread plate is pretty pedestrian, but the spread that was served with the bread was cottage cheese-like, and pretty tasty. Suuficiently stuffed, and wallets emptied ($70 lunch for two), we made off to Rosenblatt.

The beginning of the first game was lightly attended, so we were able to walk right in again (no general admission line) and secure decent seats behind home plate. Today's session was two games long, so unless you had the desire to see one of the two teams playing the early games, you didn't need to arrive particularly early. Knuckleheads like us, on the other hand, were able to get good seats! My favorite thing about Tuesday in Omaha is that it is "Elimination Day!" Both brackets have both of their teams with one loss play each other. Since this is the double elimination part of the tournament, the losers go home. The first game was Cal State Fullerton against Clemson. Two of the top seeds in the tournament, who had each lost a game to North Carolina. I thought this was going to be a great game - two of the top teams, and each looked better than at least three of the four teams in the other bracket. It was a shame that someone would no longer be playing after this contest.

The reality didn't live up to my self-promoted hype. The game was sloppy and long. It took over four hours before Fullerton came back and broke the hearts of these guys sitting behind us. As a matter of fact, it was the second or third longest nine inning game in CWS history. What that meant for us was sheer baseball overload. We'd seen enough. I wasn't looking forward to sitting through a 50-minute break to see Oregon State-Miami, a replay of the lone blowout in the entire CWS. It seemed Miami would have it in the bag (hmmm...have I been RIGHT yet?). Instead of catching the late baseball game, we could just grab one more good meal in Omaha, and that is what we decided to do.

The Bohemian Cafe is another of the legendary Omaha restaurants that most people just assume you hit when you tell them that you went to Omaha. I had never been there - heck, I wasn't really sure that I liked Czech food, but what the hey...I'll give it a shot. The recommendation that we got was to order the duck and pilsner. I like duck and I like beer - should be a winner. Again, we walked in the door just about as the place was closing. I wouldn't think that a Tuesday night in Omaha would be all that hopping, but 9 pm seems to be when the whole town shuts down. We were seated, graciously, and next to us was a father/son duo who had clearly made the same bee-line for the place as we did from the stadium. They must have had better seats or a better parking spot, because they already had their food. I also let the sight of their meal talk me out of the duck.

I ordered the jaeger schnitzel, sort of czech veal cutlets in what tasted like a very thick marsala sauce. It came with a cup of their chicken and dumpling soup, which was fabulous and two of the thickest and tastiest dumplings I have ever had the pleasure of consuming. My buddy stuck with the roasted duck, and was not disappointed. The Pilsner Urquell is served on draft in a frosty ceramic mug. Homemade bread accompanies the meal, but there is enough carbs in those dumplings to get anyone with even the slightest sense of watching their carb intake to take heed. For the first time on this trip, I could not finish the meal. I couldn't come close to finishing this meal. I left a whole dumpling, some of the veggies, didn't touch the bread, and it was even tough to finish the beer.

Needless to say, this was the perfect ending to a great trip. The flight the following day left little room for anything but a wake-up and a drive south to the KC airport. Fortunately, we were back in first class on the way home, so even though MCI-ORD (O'Hare) offered little more than a bag of pretzels, our flight from ORD-MCO would at least give us a similar snack to the flight up. Refer back to the first post in this trip report if you must, but this is a great vacation for any true baseball fan who has had it with the typical spoiled professional athlete!

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