I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to look well into 2021 toward some of the things I’ll most welcome back into my life post-vaccine.
What are you most looking forward to? Share it in the comments.
Remember randomly running into friends? Deciding at the end of the workday to head to a dive bar with friends for happy hour? Spontaneously driving to a different part of the city for dinner?
I think that’s one of the things I’ve missed most: being spontaneous. The past year, dining has required planning (particularly now that it’s cold outside) and calling before you head anywhere to find out if they have new hours, heated outdoor seating or a patio that stayed open, among other things.
I also desperately miss the random conversation that used to be a part of life. Now, we mostly see our friends and family over carefully planned Zoom calls, and when we have seen them in person, it’s been an outdoor, socially distant and hug-free experience.
I can’t wait to make random plans five minutes before I walk out the door, talk to someone I haven’t seen in real life since 2019 and welcome back into my life the restaurants I love that don’t have outdoor seating.
I could make an endless list for this one: The bar at the Boiler Room. A bustling Saturday night at the Dundee Pitch. Tiny House Bar. Nite Owl. Krug Park, Mercury. Omaha’s old-school steakhouses (particularly a Manhattan and a plate of onion rings at Johnny’s Cafe.)
I mean, my living room is nice enough, but to be honest, I’m sick as hell of it. I promise that when this pandemic ends, I’m accepting every and any invitation to get out of here, and back into our city’s great scene.
For Christmas in 2019, Matthew gave me a most excellent present: Dinner for two at The French Laundry, in Napa Valley. We’d originally planned to go in the fall of 2020. Not only did we not go, we worried that the restaurant would still be open post-pandemic. (So far, so good, though it’s temporarily closed for now.)
The same way I can make a long list in my head of Omaha experiences I miss, so it goes for travel, and my favorite restaurants in my favorite cities, plus the ones I haven’t had the chance to visit yet. Matthew and I have already decided the first city we’re headed to is New York, and we’ve got a working list of all the places we miss that we will visit.
I can’t quite put words to how much I miss fine dining in Omaha — and how much Matthew and I both miss seeing our friends in the industry.
Matthew in particular remembers the night we sat at The Boiler Room bar talking about the gossip of that day: A photo of a manhole fire that made its way around social media, and whether or not it was real. Not only did Matthew get to the bottom of it, he got interviewed by the legendary New York Times journalist David Carr as a result.
What a great night.
I like to think about all the times sommelier Matt Brown has served me surprising and interesting wine pairings against the always challenging and forward-thinking cuisine in the basement of the passageway at V. Mertz. I like to also think about the wonderful “Hamilton” inspired dinner we had there with friends before seeing the musical at the Orpheum.
I remember the times Matt also hooked us up with winemakers in Napa Valley and Willamette, Oregon, where we had experiences we still talk about to this day.
I like to think about the time I sat across the Yoshitomo bar from one of Japan’s most famous sushi chefs. Or the two times chef Austin Johnson cooked for me, along with a handful of other lucky people, at his pop-up series at Block 16.
It makes me sad, in a way, to have nearly a whole year pass without any of those memorable moments. And those are just three of many, many more.
I plan to make up for it twofold — and support those local restaurants — as soon as it’s safe.
The new places
Do you know how bad I want to sit in the reopened Cottonwood Hotel and eat a Reuben?
Bad. Really bad.
But I will.
It’s not that we haven’t tried some of the new restaurants this year — we’ve had plenty of takeout. But I can’t wait to try Lucky Tiger’s Peking duck hot out of the oven, or sit in the dining room at Pacific Eating House over seafood and an Oregon pinot, or drive out west and try new Thai and Indian places I’ve been jonesing to sample.
The good news about all of this is that soon, none of the things we’re longing for now will be off limits.
I’ll see you at the bar (or at the airport.) Cheers to a return to normalcy.