Traditional recipes

Silver Saddle Steak House: hit or miss... this time a miss

Silver Saddle Steak House: hit or miss... this time a miss

hit or miss... this time a miss

We were in for dinner tonight, which we visit about once a month. Tonight I have to tell you, I am not sure we will be back! I made the mistake of answering yes when the waitress ask if I cared to have it seered on the grill! The cook BUTTERFLIED MY 21.00 PIECE OF PRIME AND COOKED IT LIKE A STEAK! Why would someone EVER do that WITHOUT ASKING THE GUEST IF THAT'S OKAY! seriously, it took all the juice out of the meat, the bottom piece of butterfield meat was about an 1/8 of inch thick, and if I wanted a steak I would've ordered a t-bone! they were gracious enough to take the dinner off our bill, but it kinda ruined the dinner of which I have maybe one to two nights a month that I that I am not too busy to go out to eat! We use to visit the Outback on Ina, but it has seriously went down hill also! Not sure where we will go now? The poor server was shocked when I handed her the 20.00 tip, and said she could accept it, but I quickly told her it was NOT her fault, IT WAS THE COOK!


Eating Around Tucson

The Ajo Cafe
on Ajo and Country Club by TEP and the sister cafe Bread and Butter on NW corner E. 22nd St. and S. Columbus
Breakfast-Lunch: Picture Mel’s diner and Flo is there taking your order at the counter or booth. Home made pie and cinn. rolls!!

Blue Willow
2616 N. Campbell Ave.
Tucson, AZ
520-327-7577
Breakfast – If you want to take time for a nice, leisurely breakfast, this is THE place! Food is great, prices are reasonable. It is in a house converted to a restaurant.

Bobo’s Restaurant
2938 E. Grant Road 520-326-6163 http://www.bobostucson.com/
We at there ‘more than once’ in 2014! Everything is GREAT! I have to be gluten free but try the pancakes! They are the size of a plate! The omelets are WONDERFUL! Check out the deserts!

Caruso’s
on N. 4th Ave at 6th.
Great Italian: Do not miss the spumoni… fabu. Gavi’s on Broadway at Pantano out East usually a wait at both.. go early.

Chuy’s Baja Broiler
7101 East 22nd Street (520) 722-5117
Good food, GREAT chip and salsa bar, but if you go, you MUST the pitcher of Margaritas! Don’t order a pitcher just for yourself IF you are driving! ‘Nuff said!

Daisy Mae’s Steak House
2735 W. Anklam Rd.
520-792-8888
This is just down the street from the condo we rent while in Tucson. Great steaks!

El Beto Mexican Food
32 N Campbell Ave 520-628-7462
3680 East Grant Road (520) 318-4787
2100 West Grant Road (520) 624-7751
If you’re looking for something that will keep you going through MOST of a day visiting shows without having to stop to eat lunch, try the burritos at any El Beto! There are many breakfast burritos available and VERY reasonably priced. Last year the one on Speedway was closed for remodeling. I hope it has reopened as it is so convenient to several of the shows. Look for a El Beto!

El Charro Cafe, Bar Toma! & Gift Shop
311 N. Court Ave.
520-622-1922
This place has been in business since 1922 in Tucson! That says it all! The restaurant is located in the original family home in the El Presidio Historic District.

El Minuto Cafe
354 S. Main Ave.
520-882-4145
This is my wife’s favorite for Mexican food!

Gandi’s
On Fort Lowell at Stone..
Indian: good spicy food and nan wonderful nan

Guadalajara Grill West
1220 E Prince Road-520-323-1022
(also 2nd location: East, 750 N Kolb Road, 520-296-1122
We went to the one on Prince the very last night we were in Tucson 2013. Large parking lot that was FULL! It took us 15 minutes or more to find a parking place … then about 30-45 minutes to get a table … BUT it was more than worth the wait! HUGE portions of GREAT food at reasonable prices! You WILL enjoy it!

Jun Dynasty
Jun Dynasty has crazy-different Szechuan chow. Some of their chiles literally numb the mouth. Grant at County Club. NW corner.

Kampai Sushi
6462 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704
Also Sushi Cho on SW corner Broadway and Campbell/Kino look for Carl’s Junior.
Great Sushi:

Le Rendez-Vous
on Fort Lowell at Alvernon
Real French food…. heaven.

Lil Abner’s Steakhouse
8501 N Silverbell Rd.
520-744-2800
This is a MUST for Tucson show visitors. I remember going there a lot of years ago when this place was truly “in the middle of nowhere”! If you go this year, you’ll she how that has changed. It use to be a drive out into the desert! Any of the show weekends will have tons of show folks there! The steaks rival Silver Saddle but everything is served with a salad, beans, and bread! LOVE the atmosphere there!

Little Anthony’s Diner
7010 E Broadway Blvd, 520-296-0456 http://littleanthonysdiner.com/

Mariscos Chihuahua
Have you tried the Culichi fish or shrimp at Mariscos Chihuahua? Great stuff. Grande Ave three blocks north of Pat’s Dive In.

Maynard’s Kitchen
Maynard’s Kitchen in the downtown train station has been good. Looks like they still have foie gras. Outback Wyatt and Doc are fix’n to murder Stilwell.

Mi Nidito Cafe
1813 S. 4th Ave.
520-622-5081
I have not visited this one but it comes HIGHLY recommended by locals. We tired to get in a couple of times and the wait was between 1 and 2 hours!

Pat’s Drive In
1202 West Niagara Street
520-624-0891
I should not list this first, but I AM! I first read about Pat’s in Arizona Highways magazine. It is a tradition in Arizona! It is on a side street off N. Grande Ave, between Speedway and St. Marys. It is near the condo that we rent each year. I had driven within half a block of it for years and did not know it existed! If you like the old drive in restaurants, this IS the place for you! If you like greasy fries by the pound, this is for you! If you like GREAT chili hotdogs, this IS the place for you, please note that they have three degrees of heat for their chili!

Poco and Mom’s
1060 S. Kolb Road just north of 22nd Street.
520-325-7044
They specialize in Hatch Chile dishes.

Robert’s Restaurant (closed Sunday)
3301 East Grant Road, (520) 795-1436 http://www.robertstucson.com/
We also visited Robert’s a couple of times! Robert’s is just down the street from Bobo’s but on the opposite side of Grant! You cannot go wrong with either choice!

Silver Saddle Steak House
310 E. Benson Highway
6th Ave. & I-10
520-622-6253
This place is near downtown and has some of the best steak that I’ve had in Tucson. If you’re going for dinner, it is best to get there early or be prepared to wait 30 minutes to an hour. It IS worth the wait! I do not think that they take reservations. We ate at Silver Saddle at least twice in 2013 … and probably will top that this year!

Sky Bar
536 N. 4th Ave.
520 622-4300
Just North of 6th St. on the east side of the street Next to ‘ Brooklyn Pizza Company

Vivace
Vivace has been reliable for years for higher end Italian, in their old location and the new. Campbell just north of Skyline, east side.


Go to the butcher whenever possible.

Shutterstock

You can find steaks at any grocery store, but you don't necessarily know where they came from—or how long ago they were cut. Instead, opt to go to a butcher for all your steaks. And if that's not feasible, shop at a grocer that cuts meat in the store, like Wegman's or Whole Foods. Speaking of grocers, find out if your favorite made the list of The Top 15 Grocery Stores in the United States!


Don't miss the Chick-fil-A sauce.

"I've searched a long time and now I have my favorite sauce. I had ribs in the Crock Pot and I simmered my sauce for 40 minutes. I then poured some of it on my ribs and let it keep simmering with the ribs. Thirty minutes later the ribs were done and the sauce's ingredients had married nicely."


How about in the pressure cooker?

Pressure cooker beef stroganoff is doable too! Simple start out the same way, only instead of putting your pan in the oven, pour the mixture into your pressure cooker and cook for 50 minutes on high pressure. Then add your sour cream once its done.

This beef stroganoff recipe is truly one of my kids favorites! It has become a staple in my house. Whats great about it is that I almost always have the ingredients on hand. I buy London Broil when its on sale, as well as Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom soups. Also, Lipton Onion soup is an inexpensive pantry item!

Make this beef stroganoff recipe this season! You family will surely love it!


I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

This is a simple recipe to clone the contents of the seasoning packet that bears the Taco Bell logo found in most grocery stores these days. You probably expect the seasoning mix to make meat that tastes exactly like the stuff you get at the big chain. Well, not exactly. It's more like the popular Lawry's taco seasoning mix, which still makes good spiced ground meat, and works great for a tasty bunch of tacos.

Give yourself some time to make a tough decision when you get to this casual chain because there are nearly two dozen gourmet burgers on the Red Robin menu to pick from, not to mention scores of other fantastic food choices. Red Robin claims the steak fries served with your burger are world-famous. I'm not sure if that's been confirmed, but I do know one thing that makes the fries popular in my book: they come in an all-you-can-eat bottomless portion. Want more fries? Just ask, and you can have as many as your belly can handle. As you're stuffing yourself, you may notice that the burgers and French fries at Red Robin have something in common that makes them taste so special. That's right, it's the seasoning blend. And I've got a clone for you right here that includes instant tomato soup mix as the secret ingredient. So, next time you make a burger, sprinkle some of this TSR version of the seasoning blend on the patty. When you cook up some frozen steak fries or French fries, sprinkle a little of this blend on them as soon as they come out of the oven or fryer. Soon, you'll discover all sorts of uses for this versatile spice blend. And the recipe here makes a portion that fits nicely into an empty spice bottle.

Try this on one of my copycat recipes for Red Robin's signature burgers.

At these New Orleans-inspired quick-chicken restaurants portable paper pouches of this seasoning blend hold about 1/4 teaspoon of tasty sprinkle, and Popeyes doesn't sell it in stores. The only way you'll get a decent portion to use on your home foods is to either horde dozens of envelopes of the Cajun seasoning or whip up your own home version. I recommend the latter. One secret ingredient in this basic seasoning blend is MSG, or monosodium glutamate, which is an important part of the delicious flavor. You'll find MSG near the other herbs and spices in your market under the brand-name Accent. If you don't want MSG on your food you can certainly leave this ingredient out of the mix. You won't get the best Top Secret clone, but the blend will still be very good on anything that needs a dash of salt, flavor, and a little bit of spicy heat.

Try this seasoning to your home version of Popeyes chicken sandwich or their famous fried chicken. Get all of my Popeyes copycat recipes here.

Peruse a menu at one of the 270-unit LongHorn Steakhouses located throughout the eastern half of the U.S. and you'll find this seasoning blend on battered onion petals, spicy fried shrimp, pork chops, and steaks. Just combine these eight common ingredients in the comfort of your home, and you will have quickly cloned a versatile seasoned salt that can be added to everything that needs flavor, from steaks to chicken to seafood. It's also good sprinkled over eggs, burgers, even popcorn.

This seven-ingredient clone of Lawry's Seasoned Salt can be made in a small bowl, but it's best used when poured into an old spice bottle that you've cleaned out and saved. You've got one of those somewhere, right?

One of the best tools I have for analyzing seasoning blends—besides the old tastebuds—is a video microscope. With this microscope I was able to clearly see that the salt used in an acquired sample of Mastro’s secret steak seasoning was fine salt like the stuff used on popcorn, and that there was some flour in there, probably to help the seasoning stick to the meat. Identifying those ingredients plus a few more made it very easy to assemble a clone of the blend that you can now use on your favorite cuts at home.

This is a clone for the stuff you buy in 1-ounce packets to create, as the package says, "a fun-filled Mexican fiesta in minutes." Ah, so true. In fact, thanks to Lawry's, my last Mexican fiesta was filled with so much fun that I had to take a siesta. And I promise you just as much fun with this TSR clone. Maybe even a tad more. Just mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, then add it to 1 pound of browned ground beef along with some water and let it simmer. Before you know it you'll be up to your nostrils in good old-fashioned, taco-making fun.

Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

The spicy seasoned salt mash-up that Lawry's and Tabasco created several years ago garnered a cult following. Unfortunately the number of fanatics that celebrated the delicious salty, sour, and spicy blend was too small to satisfy the manufacturer, and today this tasty blend has joined the growing list of Dead Foods. The good news is I've discovered a technique for a home version, and the process is a simple one. We can duplicate the sourness that comes from vinegar powder in the real thing by adding Tabasco pepper sauce, which contains vinegar, to a handful of dry ingredients and then letting the blend dry overnight. The hardened chunks are then ground with a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder, producing a fine blend that can be poured into a spice shaker and sprinkled on anything from French fries to eggs. It's back.

Need a recipe that copies Shake 'N Bake in a pinch? Here's the TSR solution for a quick clone that will give you the same texture and flavor of Kraft Shake 'N Bake using very common ingredients. You may notice the color is a bit different in this clone when compared to the real thing. That's because this recipe doesn't include beet powder—a hard to find ingredient that lends a red/orange tint to the original. But after you sink your teeth into the chicken baked the same way as described on the Shake 'N Bake box you'll swear it's the same stuff. When you're ready to get shaking and baking, use this breading on 2 1/2 pounds of chicken pieces or on 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

The little red packets of viscous hot sauce at the fast food giant have a cult following of rabid fans who will do whatever it takes to get their hands on large quantities. One such fan of the sauce commented online, "Are there any Wendy's employees or managers out there who will mail me an entire case of Hot Chili Seasoning? I swear this is not a joke. I love the stuff. I tip extra cash to Wendy's workers to get big handfuls of the stuff." Well, there's really no need to tip any Wendy's employees, because now you can clone as much of the spicy sauce as you want in your own kitchen with this Top Secret Recipe.

The ingredients listed on the real Hot Chili Seasoning are water, corn syrup, salt, distilled vinegar, natural flavors, xanthan gum, and extractives of paprika. We'll use many of those same ingredients for our clone, but we'll substitute gelatin for the xanthan gum (a thickener) to get the slightly gooey consistency right. For the natural flavor and color we'll use cayenne pepper, cumin, paprika, and garlic powder, then filter the particles out with a fine wire-mesh strainer after they've contributed what the sauce needs.

This recipe makes 5 ounces of sauce— just the right amount to fit nicely into a used hot sauce bottle—and costs just pennies to make.

So here's the challenge with this clone recipe: get the right ratios for nearly 20 different spices, and come up with a way to get the same lemony tang that makes the real Mrs. Dash the tasty salt-free seasoning blend we've come to know and love over the years. Sure, we could use powdered citric acid, or sour salt. But then we still need to figure out the "lemon juice solids" part. Ah, but wait, there's citric acid and lemon juice solids in Kool-Aid unsweetened lemonade drink mix. It's perfect! Add a little of that drink powder to the spice blend and we have a clone that in a taste test could fool even Mr. Dash.

Source: Even More Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

For 25 years Fuddruckers has been serving huge, cooked-when-ordered beef patties on freshly baked buns. You decorate your hamburger creation with sliced tomato, onions, lettuce, pickles, peppers, relish and whatever else is offered at the toppings bar. Everyone builds their burger differently, yet the company claims these are "The Worlds Greatest Hamburgers." What makes them so good? Fuddruckers boasts that it uses only 100% USDA choice, aged ground beef. What Fuddruckers won't tell you is which secret ingredients make up the delicious burger seasoning used on each of those patties. After analyzing a sample of the blend used in the shakers back by the griddle, I've come up with this simple clone which you can now mix up at home, and pour into an empty shaker bottle. Sprinkle it onto 1/3- or 1/2-pound ground beef patties just before they cook, then grab some fresh buns in the bakery section of your store. Add your choice of other fresh toppings, and you'll soon have a hamburger clone that tastes just like those served at the more than 230 Fuddruckers.

Doesn't a cold In-N-Out Burger Vanilla Shake sound good right now?

On his Food Network TV show Emeril Lagasse mentions "Essence" almost as much as "Bam!" and "Kick it up a notch!" He claims to put his special spice blend on "everything but ice cream." He suggests using it all your meats, veggies and pasta, and combining it with oil to use as a marinade. If you can't get your hands on the version that's sold in the bottle here's how to whip up a quick clone at home. (This recipe I created to clone the taste of the bottled product found in stores is different from the recipe in Emeril's cookbooks.)

With spice grinder in hand, Gustav Brunn traveled to America from Germany, and settled down in Baltimore on the Chesapeake Bay, where steamed crabs are a staple. Gustav began grinding. In 1939, after trying many different combinations, Gustav found just the right mix for a top secret blend of spices that would be the most-used seasoning on steamed crabs, shrimp, lobster, and other tasty seafood dishes for generations to come. But McCormick & Co., which purchased Old Bay in 1990, insists that the celery salt based blend is not just for seafood. You can also use the seasoning on chicken, French fries, popcorn, baked potatoes, deviled eggs, hamburgers, and even pizza.

Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

Louisiana chef Paul Prudhomme, America's number one Dom DeLuise look-a-like, hit it big in supermarkets with his magical brand of Cajun spice blends. Chef Paul developed his seasonings after years of making little batches and passing them out to customers in the restaurants where he worked. Now his Magic Seasoning Blends come in several varieties and are produced in a whopping 30,000-square-foot plant by 38 employees. Fortunately, it'll take only one of you in a small kitchen to make a clone of one of the most popular versions of the blend. Use it when you barbecue, roast, grill, or saute your favorite chicken, turkey, duck, or Cornish game hens.

Click here for more famous seasoning and spice blend clone recipes.

Walk inside Steve Schussler's house in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and you’ll think you've stepped into a jungle. Seventeen years of research and seven years of construction went into re-creating a working rain forest inside the doors of his not exactly-humble abode. This is how Steve presented the idea for his theme restaurant chain to potential investors. One of them, Lyle Berman, liked the idea, and helped finance the first Rainforest Cafe in Minneapolis's Mall of American in 1994.

The popular chain uses Reggae Beat Seasoning in several of its recipes. In 1998, Rainforest Cafe bottled the spice and now sells it in the gift shops attached to each of the rain forest-themed eateries. Use this jerk-style seasoning blend on chicken, pork and fish.

Source: Low-Fat Top Secret Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

A couple years ago Taco Bell and Kraft Foods got together to produce a line of products—everything from taco kits to salsas and spice mixes—all stamped with the familiar Taco Bell logo and available in supermarkets across the country. The idea was a winner, and now the Taco Bell line of products is among Kraft's top sellers. The clone of this mix, made with a combination of common spices and cornstarch, can be kept indefinitely until your brain's fajita-craving neurons begin firing. When you're set to cook, you'll need some chicken, a bell pepper, and an onion, then follow the same prep instructions you find on the package of the real thing.

Top your fajitas off with one Taco Bell's famous sauces from my recipes here.

This orange-colored spice blend has been perking up salads, pasta, potatoes, hamburgers, and vegetables for years now, but there has never been a home clone for the stuff. Time to change that. While it's obvious that sesame seeds are a major part of this blend, you may not know that the main ingredient is Romano cheese—in the bottle it's tinted orange by the paprika. Be sure to store this one in the refrigerator. You might even want to keep the seasoning in an empty shaker-top spice bottle. And if you're in the mood for some tasty pasta salad, just check out the Tidbit below that comes right off the bottle of the original product.


Truckstop Wall Of Shame and Fame: January 2012 (part 2)

Ok, campers….it’s time for round two of truckstop fun. I’m going to leave Flying J alone, for now…but i’ll get back to them, later. Now for some of the better locations to stop, and unwind. It seems like the smaller “mom and pop” truckstops, are usually the best places not only to get a good meal, but also have a more relaxed atmosphere…and they also tend to be a lot cleaner, than the big chains. A lot of these were still thriving all the way up until the late 80s, but have since disappeared…which really is a shame, because they knew what meant to be a long-haul driver, and they still catered to truckers.

Now for some of the legendary places that are still around, that should be your first choice when it’s time to stop for a bit.

Tucson: Tucson Truck Terminal (Triple T Truckstop) I-10 exit 268.

This place is a legend..not only because it has been around forever, and the great service (yes they still have truck fuel attendants),but also because it’s one of the last few independent truckstops that hasn’t been bought by one of the bigger fish. Also, it hasn’t changed a lot over the years, unlike a lot of other places. Sure…you still get the occasional lot lizards, the ever-popular trash-talkin’ drivers..that just don’t have anything better to do, and the local fuzz still makes their rounds thru the parking lot, every night, along with a really cool guy by the name of George…you can’t miss him. One of the big plusses of this institution, is the fact you don’t have to go very far to get a cold case of beer. It’s readily available not only at Mr. T’s (the gas station/convenience store on the property), but also at the Circle K at the east end of the parking lot. There’s a laundry room upstairs, along with a tv room, and showers…not to mention decent motel rooms, all upstairs. The trucker’s store in the main building, also has a lot of items you may need for your journey.

I’ve been here many times, and it’s always a welcome sight for sore eyes…especially in the brutal Arizona summer heat. The food in Omar’s Hi-way Chef restaurant is the best you’ll get anywhere..bar-none. If you go hungry after eating here, then that’s your own fault. Sure the menu prices might be a little higher than your average TA or Flying J, but you definitely get your money’s worth. The full order of nachos is unreal….piled high on a platter, with everything you’d expect…including jalapeno peppers. The burgers are hot, huge and juicy. Huevos Rancheros….out-of-this world. Overall, the menu prices are reasonable, for the amount of food you get. If steak is your thing, there’s the Silver Saddle Steakhouse a little over 5 miles west…take I-10 to exit 262. S. 6 th Ave. Turn left, and go across the highway, and make another left onto the eastbound service road. Look for the Lazy 8 motel, and you’re there. You might be able to squeeze a bobtail in there, but you’re better off if you’re in a cargo/sprinter van.

As for truck parking, they don’t charge you $10, like all the dumps in Phoenix do…so your best bet is to park here, and avoid all of the hassles of the big city. This has always been my favorite place to park, every time i’m in the area. Five big honks and a yeeehawww, because this place rocks!

Little America: Little America Travel Center I-80 exit 68.

Ok…I know it’s not exactly a typical truckstop (more like a tourist trap), but…it has everything a trucker could want, or need. Clean showers, good food, good coffee, and a tv lounge that’s almost as comfy as your own living room (including a 50” big screen tv). Motel rooms look like they’re as clean as any major hotel chain. I’ve stopped here a few times on my way thru, and this is definitely one of the nicer places you could stop at. They even have their own radio station on the property, which might seem unusual, but look where you’re at…in the middle of nowhere. A welcome oasis in the middle of a harsh landscape…especially in the winter.

Four honks for the little town on the Wyoming prairie.

I know there are more out on the open road, but I have yet to find them. And when I do, i’ll make sure I post them on here for everyone. Until then, keep your ears on, and the hammer down!


Sourcing Your Salmon:

I want to give some extra attention to sourcing your salmon, as it&rsquos a subject about which I&rsquom pretty passionate. Knowing where my food comes from and feeling content with my ingredient selections is half the fun in cooking for me. I get a feeling of satisfaction each and every time I buy local or domestic goods from a quality source, knowing I did my part in promoting sustainability. Plus, I find fruit, vegetables, and animals that have been grown and harvested with care always yield the freshest, tastiest meals.

Copper River Salmon (an organization of fishermen in Cordova, Alaska that brings freshly-caught salmon from the Copper River and Prince William Sound to market) sent me a huge (3-pound-ish) fillet of King Salmon &ndash fresh off the boat! &ndash last week. You may have seen my instagram post of the gorgeous salmon fillet before it hit the grill. King Salmon is known for its super rich flavor, brilliant texture, and high oil content. It has the highest content of omega-3 fatty acids of all the wild salmon species. And you guys&hellipit melts in your mouth.

I was so excited upon its arrival that I instantly knew what I wanted to do with it: 1.) Grill 2.) With friends. And wine. All a fillet of this caliber needs is a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, since the flavor of the fish is so fresh and buttery. I did add some spices to the fillet prior to grilling, but kept them pretty light. Because the fillet was long, I cut it in half in order to make it easier to flip on the grill. The other half, I broiled in the oven, which also turned out magnificently.

Visit Copper River Salmon&rsquos site and learn more about the organization and its commitment to sustainability. You can also find CRS near you by using their store locator . You&rsquoll be seeing more delicious salmon recipes in the future, courtesy of the folks at Copper River Salmon. ALSO, stay tuned, because I&rsquoll be visiting Cordova, Alaska in September to see the Coho salmon run!


My Blog

(Benson fans may appreciate a walk-through of Benson's central business district, HERE.

(Yet another update, March 30. A vintage Club 64 menu has surfaced! Read All About It HERE.)

(Another update, Friday, March 19. HERE.)

(Update: I posted a follow-up to this article on Friday, March 12, 2010, responding to some of the recent and not so recent comments received here. You can read this follow-up HERE)

When you think of Omaha cuisine, what comes to mind?

The Reuben sandwich, perhaps? Two Omaha institutions (or more) claimed to have invented it, neither of which survive to back up their claims.

The TV Dinner, maybe? Uh-huh, TV Dinners were invented here! (Hmmmm . you really don't hear the expression "TV Dinner" anymore, do you?)

The Runza? Well, sortakinda -- uh -- no, not really, actually.

The Tavern sandwich? Nope, that's Iowa.

Unlike other major cities, Omaha doesn't really have its type of pizza, borrowing from many others (okay, okay, maybe Godfathers, but that's really a brand, not a style!), nor its type of barbecue, borrowing from Kansas City, Memphis and others.

The one thing you do think of when you think of food in Omaha is steak! Omaha is in The Beef State, and has a long history with the meatpacking industry.

What I first remember as what I would call "Omaha Cuisine" was that which was featured by countless independent Omaha steak houses, most of them operated by multi-generation Italian families.

These were not unlike the Sicilian red-sauce places back east, but featured more steaks, chops, and seafood to an extent, as well as the traditional Italian specialties.

The typical entree came with sides included, unlike the Morton-Chris ilk of today, with a house salad in a garlic-rubbed wooden bowl, and, of course, a side of pasta. :) A carafe of house wine was optional. :)

Let's take a few minutes and reflect of the cuisine long departed .

I'm also doing something I never intended to do. I'm using some photos other than my own, collected from various sources, as well as various ads, to illustrate what is long gone.

The first restaurant of this type I remember very well was Cantoni's, which stood for years at the corner of 19th. and Leavenworth. I became acquainted with the hostess, who recommended it to me, and I visited semi-regularly until its demise.

This was a true family-operated restaurant, operated at first by Lou Cantoni and family, and later by the Marchello brothers.

Nobody seems to know. It just closed one day at short notice, sometime around 1977. It reopened briefly as a Mexican restaurant, closed again, then opened again briefly with their former Italian-steakhouse theme, and then closed for good. The Marchello brothers remained in the catering business into the 1980s.

It's a bar. Connections. The Marine Room, their party and overflow room, is now a tattoo parlor.


The building, however, is better known for a latecomer to the restaurant scene, Dixie Quicks, which occupies the westmost portion of the building, a portion not occupied by Cantoni's. Dixie Quicks was featured on the Food Network's Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives program.

The Sparetime Cafe, operated by the Nisi family, has a long history in Omaha.

The Sparetime I remember was the one at 5th. and Pierce, right in the heart of Omaha's Little Italy. As I researched things, I found far more references to a Sparetime "On the Strip" on south 72nd.


I distinctly remember the Sparetime at the original location in the late 1970s, but those in the know tell me that they moved to 72nd., and a Mexican restaurant opened at the old location, until, yes, the Sparetime moved back!


The section of south 72nd. between Dodge and Pacific streets was known in the 1960s and 1970s as "The Strip", no, not for casinos, but for clubs and restaurants.

I really don't remember the Sparetime on the Strip, but the evidence tells me otherwise. :)










What happened?

As I said, I don't remember the Sparetime on the Strip. I best remember the Sparetime when it moved back to Little Italy to the original location.

In the mid 1980s, the Nisi family sold the original Sparetime building on 5th. to the operator of Bob's Country Fixins, which operated out of a much smaller location just south of the Burlington Station. Bob's moved to the old Sparetime building, only to be closed shortly after due to a tragic structural failure of the building!

There's not much left of the Strip on 72nd! I really can't think of any full-service restaurants on 72nd. between Dodge and Pacific.

Driving to the former Strip address, we see yet another cell phone office.


However, driving to the back brought back some memories. We see this building, shown below, now occupied by a social service agency. This was one of those "ah-ha" (Take On Me?) moments. :)

I remember dining at two restaurants in this building. First, a buffet kind of place, don't remember the name, but I was very underwhelmed.

Second, a Mexican place, again, underwhelming.

Both of these had to be in the late 1970s.

I believe that it was this building that housed the Sparetime on the Strip, with the cell phone shop being in what was the parking lot.


While the building on the Strip is recognizable, the site on south 5th. looks like a disaster area! It is!


This is all that remains of what was one of the most popular restaurants in the Omaha area.

Another family with strong ties to the Omaha restaurant and club scene is the Firmature family, and for years their flagship eatery was the Gas Lamp, at 30th. and Leavenworth.

Firmature's Sidewalk Cafe in the Regency complex served "Gas Lamp Prime Rib" into the 1990s, but that location finally succumbed during a Regency remodeling.


Nothing much! A parking lot. If you look carefully, you may see the remains of part of the foundation of what was the Gas Lamp.

There can be no discussion of family-operated restaurants in Omaha without mentioning the Caniglia family.

Although everyone pronounces this "can IG lee uh", those in the know tell me that it's properly pronounced "can EEL ia", with three syllables.

The Caniglia family is credited for popularizing pizza in the Omaha area, opening their long-lived flagship pizzaria and restaurant on south 7th. shortly after World War II.


The original restaurant was expanded several times throughout its lifetime.

Townhomes, on Caniglia Plaza.


As the Caniglia family grew, so did its imperium, with several spinoffs, one which survives today.

One of the Caniglia's first aggressive expansions was the Palazzo 'Taliano, on south 84th., which some tell me was originally intended to replace the '40s vintage building in Little Italy.

I don't know. They appear to have shifted their emphasis back to the original Little Italy location, which lasted until the mid 2000s.


It's a Shriners hall. Same building, still in great shape.

They tell me, however, that it had a brief second life as a dinner theater in the early 1970s.

One of the Caniglia brothers, Yano "Mr. C.", took off in a different direction in a different part of town. He opened the Royal Boy Drive-In, directly across from Fort Omaha, then a thriving Naval Reserve training center in North Omaha.


The drive-in was an immediate hit and became a popular hangout for North Omaha teens and sailors from the Navy base.

The drive-in expanded, added an indoor sit-down restaurant, and began to specialize in pizza and other Italian specialties, as opposed to burgers, chicken, and fries.


By the early 1970s, the drive-in was gone, and Mr. C's assumed the identity of a full-service restaurant.


The interior decor, although somewhat meretricious, was classy in its own sort of way, with dayglow dioramas and such. "We put up the lights for the holidays and never took them down!"


Outdoor dining was featured in Mr. C's heyday, quite the contrast to the original outdoor dining in cars!

Now now, in all fairness, one prevailing reason for the closure was that Mr. C. wanted to retire and none of the close family wanted to take over the business.

The Mr. C. complex is still there, but abandoned, occupying the better part of a city block.


The facility is very large, in disrepair, in an area that is regarded as somewhat unsalubrious.


Other Caniglia's ventures included the Drawing Room, their Millard location, and the Top Of The world, in the Woodmen Tower, on the tippy-top floor (and charge it, please).

Caniglia's neighbor to the north, on south 7th., was Little Franks. What I remember most about this was that it was very brightly lit, more so than Caniglia's, with caricatures of the proprietors on the marquee.

I don't think they can blame the casinos.


Trentino's / Angie's / Lucky's:

Three incarnations, all a bit different.

I first remember this as Trentino's, a very nice Little Italy club and restaurant, and I considered this to be a cut above Caniglia's, Little Frank's, and Sparetime.


With very little warning it morphed into Angie's, named after Angelina Bonofede, whose recipes were used.

One semi-interesting trivium is that Trentino's used a 10th. Street address while Angies and Lucky's used the 1001 Pacific address.



Angie's was gone in a flash, soon to be replaced by Lucky's 1001, which never really caught on. Notice the signage.

They blame the casinos, I think. (Blame Canada?)

Pssssst! Hey kid, wanna buy a restaurant?


The crown jewel of the 72nd. Street Strip was unquestionably Ross', operated for decades by the Lorello family. This has to be my all-time favorite Omaha steak house, and my first choice for introducing out of town guests to Omaha cuisine.

Ross' was a very classy place, and I am hard pressed to recall hearing even a single complaint about the place!



Hey, couldn't it have at least been a Ross's Dress For Less? :)

Another one of my all-time faves was Marchio's in South Omaha. This is another place where I would always take out-of-towners to show them what Omaha dining was like.

Don't blame the casinos, but you can blame the IRS!

Howard's, relocated from their 24th. St. location shortly after Marchio's closure.


This really wasn't a steakhouse, it was more of a "joint", something you might see on Diners, Drive-Inns, and Dives on the Food Network, were it open today.

I might go as far as to call this one a genuine "dive", but in a positive sort of way. It was nothing to look at, outside or inside.

The food was great! The atmosphere was, well . gritty! A hardcore inner-city eatery.

I don't know. One day I drove by and it was closed.

The building is there, still standing, vacant. Salatamu!

I ran across this while perusing old ads.

Whoever needs the Big Mac and the Whopper, when you have the Miss Monster! :)

Uh, what happened to the eighth, and the ninth?

There are others, there are many others, remembered and forgotten, and to try to name them is an exercise in futility. These are the ones I remember, and the ones for which I can attest to excellence.

So, are the casinos really to blame?

Whenever a restaurant in the Omaha area closes, it seems like the reason the owners give is competition -- both in terms of dining choices and competition for disposable dollars -- from the casinos. Does this pass the sanity check?

We now have three casinos in the metro area. All three have a buffet, a steak house, and some kind of a casual diner or coffee shop. That's nine eateries added to the market among the three casinos.

If we look on the streets, on line, or in the phone book, we'll see countless other restaurants which have opened during the lifetime of the casinos. These include more contemporary steak houses, such as Sullivans, Paxton Chop House, Spencers, etc., and Italian places such as Vincenzo's, Malara's, and a whole slew of more casual pizza-pasta type places.

Add to that the recent openings of numerous Mexican and Asian offerings of ever-increasing popularity. We're not even counting the various cookie-cutter formula restaurants which spring up (and die) like weeds along our thoroughfares.

The nine offerings at the three casinos are easily eclipsed by the copious assortment of others which have opened in the area.

The real answer, however, is the opening of several new non-gaming restaurants in the immediate vicinity of the casinos, such as Ruby Tuesday, Quaker Steak and Lube, and yes, Hooters. All of these are packed on Friday and Saturday evenings, only footsteps from the nine casino-based choices.

So, are casinos to blame? I don't know, you decide!

In an era dominated by formula eateries, prefabricated Americana, and predictable mediocrity, Omaha still boasts several of the original, mostly Italian, steak houses, living on and doing what they know how to do best, serving Omaha's cuisine to this generation and the next.

Let's take a look at those you can enjoy today, none of which appear to be on the endangered species list!

Johnny's Cafe has been an anchor of South Omaha, right on the edge of the former Union Stockyards. Johnny's was recently featured in the film About Schmidt .



Johnny's has a loyal regular following, although I do think it's slipped a bit since I first sampled their fare back in the 1970s. Johnny's is still operated by the Kawa family.

Johnny's had a short-lived second location in Millard.

The place known as Johnny's Italian Steak House in Village Point(e), which is a chain, has no connection to the original Johnny's in South Omaha.

The best preserved of the bunch, virtually unchanged from the 1940s, has to be Gorat's, a favorite of mine and a favorite of gazillionaire Warren Buffett.


Compare the porte cochere and the signage in the pre-Mastercard era ad above to the 2008 photo below, unchanged, yet timeless!

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Eat your heart out, Arnie Morton!

Another well-preserved specimen is Piccolo's, a.k.a. Piccolo Pete's.

The low-rise building, dating from the 1940s, has been spiffed up a bit in recent years, but the tradition lives on inside.


For those who don't know La Casa, take a look at the photo of their iconic sign. Don't look at the next photo, and tell me if this is a Mexican restaurant or an Italian restaurant. Which is it? :)

"La Casa" does translate to "the house" in both Italian and Spanish. I've known a few other restaurants in other locations known as La Casa, and all of them were Mexican. (I also remember an Italian restaurant known as The House in the Allston area of Boston.) :)

On south 72nd. Street, but several miles away from what was the "Strip", Anthony's has stood for decades in what is otherwise a warehouse and industrial area.


Several of the restaurants used to have a similar steer statue. Ross' had theirs in an almost identical display a couple miles to the north.


Anthony's is trying to keep up with the times, with their Ozone ultra-lounge.



The sign notes the entertainment which is featured on Monday's.[sic]

Caniglia's lives on! The sole survivor of the once-mighty empire still stands proudly on Pacific Street.

299 comments:

What about Comento's, down east of the Stations. Couple blocks north of Caniglia's and Frank's.

I've never heard about that one, sorry. It may have been a bit before my time.

Very cool list. I'm in town for a bit and wanted to take the family out. turns out that most of the first places I thought of are on the 'gone' list. :(

One family restaurant that also survives is the Bohemian Cafe. dono if it's a good fit for the list but they definitely have good food.

What a shame to see so many places gone.

Thanks for the memories. Sometimes when your mind forgets, your tongue remembers.

The one's I miss are the three Greek-American places used to be downtown. Ambassador, Olympic, and Virginia. Ambassador was at 25 and Farnam and was oonce the only full service 24 hour restaurant in Omaha. Olympic was at 15 and Farnam and was late night but I don't think 24. Virginia was owned by the family of movie director Alexander Payne.

Also Harry's steak house in the Conant Hotel. Sing along in the piano bar, songbooks on the tables.

Omaha used to have a White Castle, 25 and Harney, but the big one downtown was a dozen or so Harkerts Holsum Hamburgers for lunch. Also for lunch you had Bishop's Cafeteria and Northrup Jones. Northrup's had a sister restaurant, the Olde English Inn in Dundee, then moved to Countryside Village. Also the Hilltop House in Dundee. Sorry to ramble on but I did enjoy this and it brought back all kinds of memories.

>The one's I miss are the three
>Greek-American places used to
>be downtown. Ambassador,
>Olympic, and Virginia.

I remember the Ambassador quite well, too well, as I happened to be in there the night that one of the owners was shot. :(

I kinda remember the Olympic (Olympia? Olympus?) as a place where Jazz is now, but I was only there once that I remember. The others have to be before my time (in Omaha, that is).

Lucky's is still open at times for the bar and for special events. They may try to reopen fully.

You mention Harkerts as being all over downtown. Another all over the place was Reed's Ice Cream, long before Dairy Queen. Stands all over Omaha. Reeds closed and became the original Whirla-Whip in Wahoo and Fremont. Other great ice cream was Evan's at 35 and Center, also N Broadway over in CB.

Don't forget Goodrich malts. Still the best I have ever had.

Went to Ross Steak down by the stockyards when I was there in the 90's. The steak was disappoinging. not like the 50's.

Not mentioned on the menu from Oddo's was the "Henpecked Henry". Hamburger, cheese, hot dog, bacon, and a shredded lettuce, mayonnaise, pickle relish sauce. I still make them to this day.

Also King's with their Cheese Frenchee. Deep fried cheese sandwich. There was still a restaurant in the 90's that made them. Don't know what the name is.

I grew up in Omaha, a true Benson Bunny. I now edit and publish a weekly newspaper in North San Diego County (www.thecommunitypaper.com).

First, let me thank you for the many memories secondly, my compliments on your writing style. You're good. Very good.

I started as a broadcaster at KBON (long since gone) with the all night show. (I was there when Fritz of Omaha was all the rage). When on a break I'd saunter over to Harry's bar and grill Knew Harry quite well. I got to be a regular.

Don't get back to Omaha very often (and with this winter's weather, don't think I will till mid summer!)

Enjoyed your blog. Very well done. I have one as well, drop in anytime to Lyle's Place.
http://lyle-lylesplace.blogspot.com/

Oooops! Forgot to mention as a follow up to your excellent steakhouse feature . . . two other great memory places:
1. Roses Lodge - great chicken, now closed.
2. Irvington Ice Cream - Best ice cream ever. Now closed.
3. Steve's Bar and Grill, middle of 'downtown' Benson. Was still open a few years ago. Great hamburgers and fries, the old jukebox selector at each table, white tile with burgundy tile decorating here and there a real 'atmosphere' restaurant. If still open, I'll head there first when nexe "home" in Omaha.
4. Tiner's Drive In - long since gone. The "In" Place to gather for Burgers, fries and malts. I can drive to the old location but don't remember the address.
5. Royal Dairy Ice Cream Bar. Long since closed. Super ice cream. 69th & Maple.

You've jogged my memory cells probably more memories will come later.

Thanks for a really interesting blog!

Excellent reminiscence, and the other readers have brought back some happy memories. I remember as a 12-year-old in the summer of 1948 for the first time having hamburgers at a place at 30th and Fort Sts. called "Marshall's." This was the forerunner of "Mr. C's" and it remained "Marshal's" or "Marshall's Drive-In" until at least 1952. I recall the slow transition from drive-in to standard restaurant under "Mr. C's"
(Yano Caniglia's) ownership. My understanding is that "Mr. C's," like so many family businesses, ultimately closed because a younger generation was not inclined, or in a position,to continue the business. Still, my enjoyment of the place extended over sixty years.
I also remember my first meal at Johnny's Cafe in 1948. Indeed, I had my retirement party there in 2003, and it is still a treat to go there. My wife and I go often to the Venice Inn and Anhony's, so all is not lost!

Little Franks on 7th was sold to the Fraternal Order of Police aprx 1977. The FOP sold it in aprx 1990 to Caniglia's (next door). Caniglia's demolished the building and turned it into a parking lot. There was a small brick house between Caniglia's and Little Franks and the woman who lived there had the right to live there till her death aprx 1990. She was the wife of "Frank". There was a tunnel that led from Little Franks to her house - convenience for the family to travel back and forth to work! Story goes that the tunnel was originally built for bootleggin purposes - make the booze in the house and transport it sight unseen thru the tunnel.

It is hard to forget Short Stop in So. Omaha on 42nd St. They had the best fried chicken around.
Current place is Joe Tess which was on Diner's, Dive etc. Omaha has always had the best in eateries.

What wonderful memories this has brought. I must also mention The Ritz on 48th and Center - a neighborhood favorite.

I enjoyed this so much. Brought back many memories from my youth. I also recall a place called the "Blackstone" had great fare. Also a great drive through like Mr. C's only in west Omaha at about 83rd and Dodge called Todd's. Great greasy tacos. And B&G's, still operating at 78th and Dodge. Loose meat sandwiches to die for. Thanks again!

I am wondering if you know whatever happened to Roses Lodge that was near 72nd and Dodge Street I think. It was a chicken place that we would go to once in a while. I am a transplanted Nebraskan living in Houston and frequently think of places that we used to eat. I enjoyed looking at the places you've mentioned and remember many nights spent in Little Italy eating pizza.

What about Kenny's on 72nd & Dodge. The location is now a Borders book store. It was a great place to take the family.

Thanks for the memories, Went to North High and remember Friday nights at Mr.C's after the games and the sock hops. It's too bad our children will not know good resturants.

Ahh! Cantoni's! 70 cents for spaghetti and a salad--in the 50's. 90 cents if you wanted two meatballs. The sauce was not to be topped! One could buy a quart of the sauce on the way home from work at the UP.

And what about Tiner's Drive-in?

Jim in Grass Valley, California

HOW ABOUT SADDLE CREEK DRIVE IN & NIFTY BAR & GRILL BOTH HOLY NAME HANG OUTS

So many memories. how about Lay's Arbor Inn (90th and Arbor), Brother Sebastians (120th and Pacific), Caniglia's Venice Inn (69th and Pacific, with Davey Boldnose on the Piano), The Dundee Dell, Nasser's, Henry's Hamburgers, Burger Chef, the various cafeterias at the Brandeis stores, Charlie's Blue Room (40tha nd Leavenworth). Sure do miss Omaha.

I think Frank of Frankie and Phyls died last year. Never got there, until we read about it in the paper we didn't know it was there but it sounded good.

After I left Omaha & moved from Chicago to Mpls to KC & elsewhere, I would tell people about the great Omaha steak houses & they always thought theirs must be better. Finally, I visited O with some guys from Chicago & KC. Took them to the old Cascios and Al's nephew Larry served up some great fillets with spaghetti and soft bread sticks on the side and, of course their crisp salad. Wow! No more arguing about great meals.

Tiner's Drive In was at 44th & Dodge and Caniglia's North Omaha served their addictive Pizza Burgers! Wow! How many of those did I eat. I never could duplicate that original sauce. The last time I ate there, (ten years ago?) the sauce on the burger was not as good and the patty was way larger and not thin and crusty like the 60's grilled crisp with cheese burned on.
It was aleays worth a drive down Saddlecreek for a Goodrich Malt. And Tiner's had the best curly-cue fries I ever ate. Grew up at 40th & Dodge and then North Omaha.
Gary - St Louis Area

Just thought I would add that although it was stated that there were no complaints about Ross's steakhouse, I seem to remember that restaurant did not allow black people back in the 50's. So, as far as I'm concerned, they don't deserve any praise.

About Rose Lodge. It is long gone but not forgotten,,The cool (Judy) has had a place in Traynor Iowa that sserves the same menu. Mrs Rose retired and passed away in Fla years ago. My mother worked there for 45 years

Wow, that was a great summary. Thank you very much for taking the time to put all that information together. I am one of the third generation of the Caniglia family and I was practically born in one of our restaurants. I worked with my family at the original Caniglia's on 7th, Mr. C's, Caniglia's World (top of the Woodmen), Lou Caniglia's Steakhouse on 88th & Maple and Luigi's Restaurant on 114th & W. Dodge Road.

I also remember the Palazzo Italiano from when I was a very young boy. The reason that restaurant closed was that the city decided to close and widen both Center St. and 84th St. at the same time. It was a beautiful dinner theater and night club and the clientele didn't appreciate having to drive through mud to get to it. There was also one of the first frozen pizza factories ever, on the west north side of the building. The building was constructed with steel beams and was built so that more floors could be added if more space was required.

I really miss all of my family's restaurants but I am proud of my cousins at the Venice Inn and Piccolo's for continuing the tradition!

Does anyone remember the Old English Inn that was on or around 5oth and Dodge---not sure about that! We used to go there on Sunday for lunch and they had a ham slice with some kind of raisin sauce on it that was great.There was also a restaurant on Dodge that served prime rib that was great! Oh---I just thought of it's name--Hilltop House!

Evans ice cream was a big favorite of my family. Even though it was quite a walk it was not unusual for us to walk there on a warm night and have ice cream.

I don't know what Goldbergs is----I've never heard of it as a restaurant.

Anybody remember Club 89? They had great food and Vegas style entertainment. Our family has lots of wonderful memories of that place. It started out as a chicken joint and when it changed ownership the new people turned it into quite the hot spot. The same owner had another place, Club 64 in Council Bluffs but I think both places closed when the casinos came in. What a shame.

How about Bishop's Buffet? And, as far as I remember, Club 89 burned down.

Trentino's was the bomb. that was the epitome of the Italian steak joints.

Big Joe's Drive-in was THE place to go in South Omaha. We lost it when the new Hwy 75 was constructed.

My husband never forgets Rose Lodge for its chicken, the Brown Cow for its hamburgers & Evans Ice Cream for its "goop" sundaes.

We both miss the original King's & Bishop's cafeteria.

I've lived in Omaha all my life (60 years) & never heard of Comento's.

Wasn't Nasser's spelled Nasr's.

I remember Club 89 well - loved it! I remember when a patron, an off-duty policeman, was shot there. And yes, I do believe it burned down in the end.

Remember Wimpy's on 72nd, just south of Dodge? Nothing to write home about, but we had a large family (13 children) & I remember when our dad used to take us there & we could get 10 hamburgers for a buck. And we loved the sign with Wimpy from Popeye fame on it holding a stack of hamburgers. (probably 10 of them)

Gorat's is definitely the best steak house in town - LOVE it!!

Thank you for this trip down memory lane. I thoroughly enjoyed it! I had completely forgotten about Tiner's, but that was definitely a hot spot in its day.

How about the Italian Gardens? Louise Salerno ran a first rate restaurant. Great food and great ambiance.

And how did you forget the Cafe de Paris. That was real class.

How about Ceasar's Garden. I think it was on 70th south of Pacific

I think the place, just south of 72nd and Dodge, you're referring to was Henry's Hamburgers. They had a place on 44th and Center, too.
One of my fondest memories, growing up in South Omaha was a hamburger joint on 28th and Q, called Toms. ANYBODY from that neighborhood would remmber Tom's and his famous loose meat burgers. Anyone remember the pizzas you could have delivered from Chik n burger, on 50th And L? Best pizza sauce I ever tasted. I actually delivered Pizza and chicken for them in the summer of ཾ or ཿ.
One other place that comes to mind is the Slim Jim, on 24th and L. It was about 10' across, with 7' devoted to grill and counter space. Hamburgers there, were 5 cents. I remember my Dad taking the bus from 29th and Washington, where we lived, to South Omaha to get a sack and then taking the bus back. We either ate cold burgers, or heaven forbid, we had to warm them in the oven. No microwaves back then.

Oh yeah, another place I forgot was Netties. A Mexican restaraunt on Railroad Ave, south of Harrison. Been there at least 25 years I know of. And what about the fried chicken at Leisure Lanes? It ranked right up there with the Rose Lodge.

There must be 2 Sharons because the Caesar's Garden post was not from me.
Anyway, I think the burger joint just south of 72nd & Dodge was originally Henry's, but it later changed to Wimpy's. It wasn't Wimpy's very long, though.

I grew up on 20th & Q, but don't remember a Tom's on 28th & Q and I don't remember Slim Jim's either. As I said before, I was from a large family, so we didn't go out to eat very often. I graduated from high school in ྀ, though so that seems to be about the same time as you were delivering pizzas & chicken for Chik n Burger on 50th And L. Oh, well. they say the mind is the first to go. (smile)

On West Maple, there was also a restaurant called The Tommahawk which I thought was a Caniglia restaurant. Also a restaurant called Jonesy's. On Dodge Street at about 44th +/- there was a restaurant called The Mediterranian. On 44th & Center Street, there was North's Chuckwagon Buffet and at 45th & Center there was Paltani's. On Leavenworth, there was the Riveria Club. Also during the early 60s there was two Mexican Restaurants on South 24th Street, the El Charro and Howard's El Charro. The first one was in the basement of a home and had delicious food. Howard's El Charro, is the one who operates out of the Marchio's building. It is still my Mexican restaurant of choice. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

I browsed through pretty quickly, but didn't see any reference to the Fireside & Pirate's Den near 38th & Leavenworth. Great prime rib and fabulous buffet (all you can eat for $2.39) back in the early 70's. Excuse me if I missed it.

The Fireside Restaurant (with the Pirates Den in the lower level) on 38th and Leavenworth closed in 1975Before that it was the 11-Worth Grill and catered to hockey fans from the Omaha Knights.There was mention of the all you can eat buffet line. the cost of that was 95 cents for lunch and $ 1.25 for dinner. The prime rib lunch in the Pirates Den was $1.25
Dan and Ralph Cohen were the original owners. My name is Alan Cohen and Dan Cohen was my father.

Does anybody remember the B&G Drive-In and Romanoff's near Varly drug store? Don't you wish that we could go back and eat at some of these places? It's a nice trip down memory lane checking out these old restaurants.

Ah yes Oddo's, and Fat Man's Hamburgers.

And Caniglia's on 7th. The best Lenten potato pizza on earth.

Louise Salerno's Italian Garden was where I learned the proper way to each spaghetti. I still use several of her recipes from my mid 70's Cabrini cookbook.

The greatest burger name, however is from Oddo's-- the Pookeesnackinburger. thanks for the nostalgia!! John

Rich B Austin, Tx
I think the correct name of the restraunt in'Cruzin USA' comments on 24th and L was called 'Long and Slims'. We lived on 14th and M street and myself and my 2 brothers would walk up to 24th street to get yhe 5 cent hamburgers. Delicious! Even though I have now lioved in Texas for 40 years my favorite mexican food place is still Howard's El Charro. I actually taught the owners niece and nephew, who now run the place, when I was the P.E. instructor at St. Agnes Catholic school while attending the 'University of Omaha'. Also I rememver the precursor of the Bohemian Cafe (which I still Love and go to every time I'm in Omaha) was Chops Cafe. just a block east of the current Bohemian cafe. I remember running around the tables and sitting on Mrs. Chops lap while my parents dined there. Thanks for the many memories!

Love your Blog, brings back so many childhood memories. Can remember so many of those places and the great food in Omaha. I now live in SA TX and always manage to stuff myself when visiting by going to all my favorite places that still exist. What about Shoney's on 73/75 and Shakee's same area. Also Barnes famous drive with the foot long chili dogs and curly cue fries! Great food! I think they were on 10th street or in that area, maybe down from Chops Bowling Alley. Thanks for the memories!!

How about Pizza Oven where lansky's is now located/ Run by the Kolar brothers. Old Vienna Cafe on 24th street. The waitresses were like having your grandma waiting on you

I had forgotten about the Fireside and the 11worth grill. I grew up near 48th and Leavenworth and passed those places many times. I also was a HUGE hockey fan and always fantasized about going to the 11worth grill and seeing the players. Also went to Aksarben on Friday nights to skate and the Knights would have just finished practicing-----but I digress-----

Does anyone remember The Mayflower? It was on Leavenworth before the Interstate ruined a good
Italian-Irish-Jewish neighborhood.
How about Italian Gardens? It was on the same spot which became a very pricy European restaurant on
south 6th by Mosquito Hill. I remember they had great fish dishes.

Gotta jump in here! What about Kenny's Steak House on the corner of 72 and Dodge - now Borders. And Hollywood ice cream in beautiful downtown Benson and also Todds on about 75 and Dodge. Just a few more. I was also a Benson Bunny!

Oh! And one more. My grandmother used to take me to the Blackstone for lunch when I was a child

I remember these restaurants while going to CE School of Commerce in 1959-1960: Benny Davis (just north of Harney at 17th), Dixon's (across from the Greyhound bus depot), the Garden Cafeteria (north side of Harney just east of 17th), the Club Cafe (on Douglas at about 14th), the Black Angus in the Conant Hotel, Woolworth's cafeteria (16th & Douglas), Kresge's cafeteria (16th & Harney), the Commodore Hotel restaurant (at 24th & Dodge), the Fontenelle Hotel's ballroom & banquet hall, and the Whip-a-Dip (at 24th & just north of Poppleton, predecessor to Frankie & Phyl's in the same building), and Beaton Drug's fountain counter.

King's had the best burgers and fries (at about 29th & Harney). You'd order by telephone from your booth. Don 'N' Millie's has similar tasting food nowadays.

Later, you could eat at Maxine's atop the Hilton Hotel at 16th & Dodge. Also, fondue was good at the Golden Apple, near 88th & W. Dodge. One could eat dinner at the New Tower (78th & Dodge) and the Prom Town House (70th & Dodge). Bombay Bicycle Club was at about 70th & Dodge, too, but in later years, I think.

Kaufmann's had the best (and most expensive) pastries in town (about 39th & Farnam).

Dixie Kitchen -- where was it? Also, where was the Blue Ox? And the Ground Cow? What was the restaurant on the southwest corner of 72nd & Pacific a few decades ago?

There used to be a restaurant in the shopping center at 42nd and Center---upstairs in one of the buildings there. I have no idea the name of it but maybe someone else living in that area during the 50s and 60's might recall it.

I know it is not a restaurant,but it was called Evans ice cream, right next to Jim Gentilles Barber shop located around 35th and center st.
I worked there when i was 14 yrs as a car hop and made .35 cents an hour plus tips.

Great to remember a lot of old favorites. My family and I love to eat at some of them when we visit Omaha. There was a Kings Food Host on 60th and Ames. Used to eat lunch at Northrup Jones and Bishop's Buffet, Angie's, etc. downtown. Got engaged at Lay's Arbor Inn. sure do miss a lot of the old places. Had my rehearsal dinner at Mr. C's. The chain restaurants just aren't the same!

I believe that Dixie Kitchen was in Benson on the Radial, became a hardware store. The orgiginal Ground Cow was about 73rd and Pacific, it moved a little west to a stand alone building and is now Fernando's Mexican. How about "Cliff's" next to the Golden Spike drive-in. I believe it became, Jack & Mary's in the Old Mil area and is now just North of Dodge on 114th.

I believe the restaurant at the Center at 42nd and Center was the Cimmaron.

The 64 club in east Council Bluffs was worth the trip from Omaha to Council Bluffs - I think it had a different number when the highway number changed.

Yes-----that sounds right now that you said it!! Thanks!

It was a great ice cream place-----I lived not too far away and went there frequently for their homestyle ice cream---I think that's what they called it. I remember watching them pack up the quarts of ice cream for those taking it home!

Hey Omababe. I just tried to post a comment, and it disappeared. Think I hit the wrong key. Sorry if this goes through twice. I graduated from Westside in 1968. Knew lots of Benson Bunnies, both then and since. Several followup comments: 1. Fireside Inn. you are right on about Omaha Knights hockey. That's where they hung out. I played peewee hockey at Aksarben 1958 through 1964. Players I remember: Motto Maclean-considered by some to be the godfather of Omaha hockey he and his wife sitll live in Omaha and recently had a home fire. Hope they are OK. Also played hockey with their son, Jeff. Other Omaha Knights players: Jimmie Jamieson, Chick Chalmers, Gordie Dryden (goalie), Jake Jablonski, whose wife was the premiere figure skating teacher at Aksarben. What a great league too--the St Paul Fighting Saints, Fort Wayne Comets, Muskegeon Mich. (name?)When my mother remarried in 1957 the reception was held at the Fireside, largely because it was the restaurant of choice of my grandparents. At the reception, my grandfather helped me pull my first molar. Afterwards I hit the buffet line again for some of their excellent prime rib.
2. Burgers--I have it on good authority that King's secret ingredient on their burgers was a combination of freshly ground peppercorns, mixed with Adolph's tenderizer Is Stella's in Bellevue still open? Their burgers were/are fantastic Anybody remember Dog 'n Suds (84th and Grover) and/or the A&W joints? Someone else blogged about the Nifty Bar. They were located very close to Benson High, on the south side of Radial, right after the bend to head west. Fantastic burgers!!
3. Evans Ice Cream - I can remember what a treat it was when my Mom would let me have a "clown sundae" (vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, salted cocktail peanuts, and whipped cream) instead of the usual Lime Sherbert cone. My first "barbershop" haircut in 1952 was at Jim's next door. That whole Field Club area has interesting history.
4. Rose's Lodge--Believe they went out of business when O'Daniel Olds bought their real estate for expansion. A sad day indeed.
5. Jack Holmes Ground Cow --They had menu that read somewhat like Oddo's. My favorite was the Dagwood (Blondieeeee. ) They morphed into B-Piggs, a great night spot partially owned by Paul Ruebens.
6. Tiners - They were located on the south side of Dodge, just east of Radial Hwy. Think the real estate is owned by Mid-City Bank? Thing I remember was their iconic marquee sign. It was a curved panel, in the shape of an upsidedown and backwards J, with neon bars from bottom to top with an "eye" at the top. The sign would start with each neon bar coming on sequentially from bottom to top. When it hit the top the "eye" would go off like a super flash bulb.
7. Todds - Wasn't this owned by the Urosevich family? Believe their son Todd was whom it was named after. What a great place to hangout at on a Friday or Saturday night. Driving through and revving your engine to see who could make the most noise, laying down scratch, etc etc. Also going to Sandy's Escape in Benson to dance and listen to music. Wow!!
8. Other restaurants I wonder about: Surfside Club - A great place to eat chicken or catfish and watch the Missouri River go by The Ah-Ree-Rang Club just north of Surfside Pietro's on Center Street The Turf Club over by Aksarben? Anybody have a fix on these?
Great site. Hope you continue it. Congratulations.

Just a little up date Stella's in Bellvue still going strong and just as good.Anybody remember the Hayden House restaurants at the old train station. What ever happened to Skeet's bar-b-que?

My uncle Irv Frodyma was the last independent owner of Evans Ice Cream before he sold out to Goodrich dairy. It was the only place you could get a Sundae, Malt or B split served in a glass container dish with a long spoon in your car! Irv also ran Odo's Drive-In and named most of the crazy sandwiches and hamburgers.

Evans handpacked ice cream was to die for and I had forgotten about the glass containers! When I was young I loved the chocolate chip----it was fine little pieces of chocolate and it was so creamy and good.

Does anyone remember the name of a small bakery near 50th and Leavenworth St. My mom used to go there all the time when company was coming. They had great pecan rolls.

Nobody has mentioned Angelo's which was last located at 72 & Pacific. Saw Frankie Laine there and I think they were located on the strip north of Ross's prior to Pacific. Saw the Mills Brothers there.

Great memories while reading all the posts! I was born in Omaha in 1939 and raised in North Omaha (Minne Lusa area.) I especially remember Marshall's hamburgers on 30th before Mr. C took over the space. I didn't see any mention of a great South Omaha place: Joe Tess' Fish. They changed locations on South 10th several years back. They had and still have the best fried fish I have ever tasted. In the 50s their fish sandwich only cost $.25! Now, it's more than 10-times that, but still great. Late at night when they were closing, you could go to the drive in window and buy a whole bag of fish for $1.00. Haven't lived in Omaha for more than 20 yesrs, but still have fond memories of all the places to eat. Thanks, everyone, for jogging the memory buttons. (Dave S.)

Curious that there was no mention of Johnny Hrupek's Cafe at 30th & L Streets. Johnny was the name behind the original Johnny's (sic Johnny's Cafe) and was a partner with Frank Kawa for years before they separated. Many of the stockyard businessmen and workers, farmers and ranchers, visited the restaurant over the years. And it was the place for professional wrestlers like Killer Kowlaski, Verne Gagne. Man Mountain Dean, et al during the days before WWF as well minor league baseball players like Don Blasingame when Omaha was a St. Louis farm team.

Here are other long gone restaurants that have come to mind, sometimes with the help of old friends: Black Forest Inn at 36th & Giles Sidewalk Cafe in Regency Fashion Court (now just Regency Court) Winterset Inn on Hwy. 75 at Plattsmouth Gallagher's just north of Pacific at about 108th the Drawbridge near 130th & Arbor Coco's at both 120th & L and near 88th & W. Dodge the Commodore Hotel at 24th & Dodge the Bluejay at 24th & Chicago the Crystal Tree dining room in the New Tower at 78th & Dodge Dixie Kitchen in the Beverly Hills Plaza at 78th & Dodge Lyle DeMoss's restaurant (was it Lyle's Kitchen?) in Rockbrook A-Ri-Rang in the Ponca Hills area the Golden Apple near 88th & W. Dodge the Surfside Club is still up north on the Mo. River Alpine Inn is still operating in the Ponca Hills area and the Pink Poodle, famed for prime rib, is still in Crescent, Iowa, as far as I know.

Was there a restaurant called Katelman's? How about Club Bellevue? Was there one called the Firepit? (not Fireside). What about Regency Inn? My memory seems to recall those names, but can't be sure.

A bit of historical correction.
The original El Charro Restaurant on So 13th St actually started as Howard's near 27th & O near the Stockyards viaduct.It then moved to South 24th St as Howard's El Charro and finally to the Marchio Bldg on So 13th St

Syd in Lincoln - I grew up on
Woolworth Ave and walked almost every night to Evans - the
"clown" sundae was chocolate ice cream with marshmellow sauce topped with vanilla ice cream with fudge sauce then peanuts - memorable.

Do any of you oldtimers remember the Grass Shack Cafe on 33rd. & California St? It was between Master Pastry Shoppe and Bogards Pharmacy?

The original name of the Cimmaron Room at the top of The Center, before the fire, was Al Green's Sky Room. They had outside rooftop dining.

Also, what about Mac's drive-in on about 50th. and Center? He had a 'Big Mac' hamburger long before Mcdonald's.

Wasn't the hamberger place on 24th and L street in South Omaha called Long and Slims

Anonymous said.
Left Omaha in mid 60"s. Still return every year. First stop LaCasa's Pizza like none other I have ever tasted. Bring some home to Calif every trip. Joe Tessa's second stop. Ate there on Friday nites in 50's. Like Dave S said the best fish served on rye bread from Adler's Bakery in 50-60's. Birthday's were celebrated at Old English Inn-great brownie ala mode. Jackie S

Thank you-----I could NOT remember the name of the place at the Center. I'd forgotten the name Al Green's Sky Room.

I grew up on Pierce Street and although it was a long walk my friends and I still did it---cut across Field Club area to get there. It was worth the walk.

Roses Lodge Open in Treynor, Iowa

There was a small shack in South Omaha called the Silver Pit BBQ. The ribs, chicken and links had mild, medium or hot sauces to stimulate heart burn. The proprietor's first name was Jasper. I nicknamed him "fire chief" because of his hot sauce. A medical school classmate and I would drive over occasionally for lunch. I was told the place burned down several years after I left Omaha..

What about Domenico's, a place on 72nd st. north of Ross' that got blown away by the ྇ tornado? The hypnotist, Dr. J.B. Zee was often the headlining entertainer there.

Clyde/Corky
Boy do I remember Caniglias drive in. When I was 16 I had a motorcycle and every now and then I would pull in to Caniglias Drive in. When I did, a good number of those in cars pulled in their trays and rolled up the window. They new what was about to happen While I'm not proud of my behavior as a teenager, it just seemed like the thing to do. I simply took a hamburger or two off the tray of those that did not know my plight. In any event, I thank you for bringing my memories back to those days that were a lot of fun.

I did not see any mention of the Gold Coast located in the Blackstone Hotel. I understand in the 40's and 50's this was the place to eat. A favorite of movies stars. In fact my mother was a waitress there in the early 50's. One evening John Wayne was there at the table next to the one she was serving. Never ate there but heard it was great. Doug.

I embarrassed my parents at the Blackstone once when I ordered a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! I don't think they took me there after that!

Thanks for remembering Reed's (you're right, Marilyn)homestyle ice cream. They also invented the sundae quarts (round quart of cream with a hole drilled in the center for syrup) the "sidewalk sundae," (a small box of cream topped with frozen topping with a little wooden spoon and napkin inside the lid) and the homestyle malt (served in a coke glass for 5 cents during the depression it was the precurser to Wend's Frosty). (I'm really going way back here.)

Reed's didn't "become" Whirla-Whip Whirla-Whip was invented (by my father, Claude Reed) in the 30's and developed into a chain of drive-in's during the 40's and 50's. There is still a Reed's manufacturing plant in Des Moines, suppling commercial accounts. Claude passed away 7/11/08, and Dorothy on 5/15/09 both were 98.

Also, thanks for remembering Marshall's. Just burger, mustard and pickles, but unbelievably good!

Hello to all North High Vikings from Patti Reed.

Weren't Reeds ice cream cones those cylinder shaped things with a paper around the top of it that you had to take off?

The owner of Rose Lodge opened "The Rose" on Main St in Treynor, IA - just outside Council Bluffs to the east. My husband & I just ate there this past weekend - thanks to this blog jogging our memories! (smile)

Goldberg's is a bar & grill sill operating at 132nd & Center. great hamburgers.

Also, Club 64 (not Club 64) in Council Bluffs was owned by the same guy who owned Club 89 in Omaha. both great steak houses. Club 89 burned down & never re-opened. Owner just kept the 64 Club open & I don't believe that one is open anymore, either.

Re: Goldburgs. Weren't they preceded by Chicagos, on south side of Farnum at about 33rd. Am thinking there burgers were either from same recipe or owner?

Also in that neighborhood. Circo's had decent food as I remember.

There were some great places but what about other restaurants that were there forever but now are gone. Bonanza,Eddies(still their for catering)5oth L on the Corner their sat a steakhouse restaurant Little Willies my grandpa and I would go there and eat all the time. Thanks for the Memories.

Thank you all for the wonderful memories. Food is the way to connect good times with family or friends. My cousins owned Ross's steakhouse, my uncle owned the Mediterranean, only after he had managed the Blackstone and the Town House on 69th and Dodge. That was blown away in the tornado. It is very important to support family owned and operated restaurants even now. You can help create memories too for your family that they can reflect back with the same warm good feelings you are all having. The food was not always the best at all of the places, all of the time, but being together sharing the experience was. The owners were usually around to talk to, and that gave you a good feeling as well. We have a family owned and operated Italian restaurant in Omaha for eighteen years now, and we can only hope to be remembered for the good memories, and hopefully the good food too.

TRY IT YOU WILL BELIEVE IT IS WITHOUT A DOUBT

TRY IT YOU WILL BELIEVE IT IS WITHOUT A DOUBT

Piccolo's is still there on 20 St. just north of Martha. That was my first real job as a busboy. many moons ago! Still in the same family, although Tony Sr. has passed and his son Tony Jr. retired. STILL the best food in my opinion. I try to drive down there every-so-often. Club 89 went out of business after the shootings inside back in the late 70's or early 80's. My parents loved that place.

Grew up in "South O" in the 50's & 60's. still remember the Mr. Softy Ice Cream truck comming around the neighborhood on Summer evenings. Tiner's Diner "Hungry Diners Eat at Tiner's for Dinners that are Winners!" Still remember walking to the little cafe in the back of the "Roseland" on 24th across from "Phillips" Dept. store (had a full grocery store in the basement) My friends and I were regulars on Fridays & Saturdays at Sandy's Escape and out to "Merritts Beach" on weekends to dance to KIOL dee jays in the sand and rent surf-boards. why? Best time to be a teenager,ever! Met kids from all over the area! Nanjoj

And another to add to the list. Kenny's Restaurant at the heart of Omaha on 72nd and Dodge. They consistently delivered some of the best food in the city until they sold (it's now a bookstore. like we needed another bookstore).

Boy did that bring memories, I grew up on 7th & Pierce, right next to Caniglia's on 7th St.My Mom is a Caniglia & we loved having pizza there 2 or 3 times a week sitting at that little tiny bar. I worked at the Palazzo Italian when I was 16yrs, a hat check girl, when people wore hats..
Thanks Little Louie for you blog. Patti Incontro Johnson (Kenny's sister)

Back in the ླྀs, there were two drive ins on Saddle Creek. One was at dodge, and the other on Cuming. I can't remember for sure but one of them was Oddo's.
You have mention Petrow's at least. That grew from an extremely small drive-in to a very good sit-down diner.
The ླྀs were the years when the Smorgasbords exploded. I don't think you could go anywhere without being within walking distance of one.

No one mentioned "King Fongs" it is still in business. It could be the oldest eatery in town. I took a school mom there for dinner in 1945

What about KB's on 30th and Cumming, right east of Omaha Tech High School. It was THE place to be after football and basketball games, not just for Techsters, but the boys from Prep and all the ladies from the girls' schools. All the booths would be over-filled, with marshmallow cherry cokes and French fries crowding the table tops. The posts in the room were covered with photos of the reigning athletes from all the high schools and some of the Creighton college boys too. It was the "Arnolds" of our "Happy Days" in the 1950-60's. Then the interchange took everything in that part of town. I'm surprised KB's hasn't made the list.

I think the Dixie Kitchen was in a strip mall on the north side of Dodge somewhere between 72 & 84 St. We have a Dixie Cafe in AR and I have a hard time not calling it the Dixie Kitchen, although food is not the same as the good old time fare.

SNC - You can't forget Big Fred's, Great pizza!

Yeah. and how about Sortino's on the SE corner of 72nd and Pacific. I even waited out a blizzard one January evening in there!!

Is LaSolo Mio (sp) still on leavenworth?
I was born and raised in South O and now live in Colorado. Was just saying today I wish I could find a good steakhouse here like we had in Omaha. I really miss the beef.

Holy Cow. I have lived in Omaha for many years and I thought I knew all the restaurants in town.

The home that I live in now was once owned by one of the Ross family and we found lots and lots of the family memorabilia in our crawl space. It was pretty interesting.

IN THE EARLY FIFTIES AT 16 AND WEBSTER WAS BUD AND HAZEL"S CAFE. BUD SAT ON HIS REAR AND BARKED ORDERS WHILE HAZEL WORKED HERS OFF IN THE KITCHEN. WAITRESSES WERE BESS AND FERN. MY FAVORITE WAS ON FRIDAYS, THE MAC AND CHEESE LUNCH CAME WITH MASHED POTATOES AND GRAVY, VEGTABLE, ROLL AND COFFE FOR FIFTY FIVE CENTS.
BILL HOFF

Great list. some are still around..Sortinos on 78th and L. Big Freds on 119th and Pacific. Hey Makt Splitgerber, are you related to Paul Splitgerber? I worked as a busboy at Lay's with him. Allan Lindsay

Chicken Delight delivered . great fried chicken & bbq ribs
Minne Lusa Inn had good food too.
And how many of you remember Travatos? mmmmmm

Allan L. yep, Paul is my bro. Both he and I worked at Lay's Arbor Inn. My first job in the mid 60's, for a whopping 50 cents an hour. Some real characters at that restaurant. Bob Reeves, Richard Holcomb, Freddy Damper, Joanne the salad lady, Jay Washington, Jim Morrison. One night Doc Severinsen (Tonight Show orchestra) and his entourage ate there. He autographed a menu for me that I have in a box somewhere in my attic. Mrs. Lay passed away in Minnesota last November. Her daughter (Julie) married another one of the busboys that worked there about the same time I did. Great place to work, and fantastic food.

re: Fireside, son of Dan Cohan former owner of Fireside . Alan Cohan are you the writer "Alan Cohan"? if so, great books, thanks.

I probably missed it as I scrolled through but didn't see the Bohemian or the Hilltop House.

Just read the blogs, a friend passed them along. Have to mention Cliff's on on West Dodge, best chicken in the world. This was the forerunner of Jack & Mary's.

Grew up in Omaha and was a North High Viking, but haven't lived there for many years. Thanks for the trip down memory lane! Mr. C's was a big hangout for us "North" kids. Also fondly remember many of the great steak houses, Bohemian Cafe, and Kings. Ordering from a phone at your booth. wow. wish they'd bring that back!! Cheese frenchee's. yum.
Will be back in Omaha in Oct. for a reunion and will definitely stop at a couple of the places that have survived the years!!

I was just thinking about a Steak House the other day in the Florence area called "Red & Ted's. I remember the chicken fried steak and onion rings they had there. The location is now a Walgreen's.

anonymous remembers there was a diner at 29 and dodge street where burger king is, anyone remember the name of it? also a late night favorite was Ambassador Cafe 25ave and Farman.

Memory Lane - what a trip - thanks.

Tiners drive-in for yard long fries, Goodrich for shakes & Johny's for steaks.

Anybody remember the Garden Cafe near city hall. It was an English basement, half below grade, and a virtual jungle of greenery.

Dixon's Restaurant with the top hat and "walking cane" neon sign is fused in my brain.

Forgotten the name of the Blackstone Hotel restaurant.

Yes, Garden Cafe is still in operation at Rockbrook on 108th & W Center Rd. far southwest corner. LOVE it!! That downtown location was awesome, though!

This is a WONDERFUL compendium on Omaha's culinary heritage. I have lived in this city 50 years and have memories of many of these restaurants. Thanks so very much for putting this together!

Dont forget Big Joe's down on RR Ave. Moved there from an ice cream store at 37th & Q. They had GREAT fish sandwiches and big mugs of Root Beer.

By the way, it was the Muskegon Zephyrs.

I can't believe that no one has mentioned the damage caused by the big tornado that went up 72nd street, which destroyed much of the strip!

Wonderful post! Having grown up in Omaha and now living in Brooklyn, NY, I enjoyed this immensely. Thank you.

Great article. Thanks for all the work. Next time you might include Harry's. Great food and Harry was a great guy.

Nostalgic review. Thanks for preserving the legacy in this way. Lyle from KBON. was that the Lyle that did Big Red Football games? I wonder. There were more than a few great restaurants on the Near North Side that did not make the list. Many of them served a delicious Steak, too, among other fine cuisine. There was Carters Cafe and the Fair Deal, both on 24th Street near Lake St. Few customers outside of the Black community frequented these places so they were not too widely known by other than local folks, but they were landmark establishments nonetheless. Does anybody remember them? I grew up in North Omaha and worked as a TV News Reporter/Anchor at KETV with Lee Terry, Mike May, and Mike Murphy. This blog brought back many memories. Thanks for posting it.
Mal in Japan.

CLIFFS Chicken, Trentinos,Golden Spur in the Blackstone Hotel,Trovatos on Underwood Ave,Sodas at Cris Rexall and Ringle's
Hamilton Pharmacy and if you are really old, Fuffs(sp)Deli on 24th Farnam next to Hotel Delmonico..also a short lived Kosher Restaurant on 40th and Dodge.

I've lived in Omaha for over 80 years and never heard of Comento's. Now, I am a bit surprised. What may be the oldest restaurant still operating is never mentioned. For many years the only Chinese Restaurant in town, King Fong is still as campy and as good as it was 90 years ago on the east side of 16th St. between Farnam and Harney. Still busy at noon and when there are performances at the Orpheum.

Thank you for the memories. As Omaha grows so much of the past seems forgotten. I see mention of Harrys Pub. Was that on 16th in the old Red Lion? I believe the piano man was my dad, John Cole. He also played many of the lounges like at the Venice Inn. I have a few enternaiment magaznines from the late 60's early 70's. They are fun to look at.

Does anyone remeber the name of the steak houaw located om 84th street just south of Harrison one the west side of the street? It might have been used as a church for a time.

Rememner Eddie's in So Omaha. ad Travelers!

>Does anyone remeber the name of the
>steak houaw located om 84th street
>just south of Harrison one the west
>side of the street? It might have
>been used as a church for a time.

Yes, this was Mr. Kelly's (Kelley's?) and it was open when I moved here, closed maybe in 1980-something.

IIRC, it re-opened briefly as something else, then closed. Last time I remember driving by, it was for lease I think.

>Lyle from KBON. was that the Lyle
>that did Big Red Football games?

No, you're thinking of Lyell Bremser who did the play by play for years. "Man, Woman, and Child!" :)

>and worked as a TV News Reporter /
>Anchor at KETV with Lee Terry,
>Mike May, and Mike Murphy.

I take it then that you read Ted's blog too? :) Or do you want to? :)

"And Holy Moly" (Lyle Bremser)!!

Wow! What great old memories. This is for the North High grads who cruised 30th Street in the 50's and 60's. Does anyone remember the man who pushed a tamalie cart? He dressed in white and walked with a stiff leg. You could drive up to him and buy a tamalie and not even get out of your car. Boy were they hot.

Ok, I'm hooked . . . let me add my two cents worth . . . Jack Holmes Ground Cow was mentioned (great ribs AND hamburgers), but remember his original restaurant on about 50th & Center? (mainly a steakhouse but had great hamburgers then, too). And while we're on Center Street, how about a chicken place a few blocks east called the Rome (or was it Roam?) Inn? The original restaurants in the Blackstone Hotel were the Orleans Room off the lobby, the only 5-star restaurant in the area, The Plush Horse Room downstairs which had a buffet appetizer table, I believe, on Sundays which featured all the cold shrimp you wanted, and the coffee shop, both of which were morphed into the Golden Spur. And who can forget the A-Ri-Rang Club in all of its various stages. I'm going now to look in the mirror for all the others that are on the tip of my tongue . . . will report back.
Larry

This blog was awesome to read through. KINGS comes to mind we went there at least once a week, you placed your order from phones at your table. VENICE INN is still my favorite restaurant in town, mostly because I have such fond memories from going there as a little girl with my parents, they were both avid steakhouse eaters and I bet we dined at every one of these places mentioned.

For all the Omaha nostalgia, you bloggers will love this, check out ebay, a seller has the old "Vintage Richman Gordman playground animals for sale" Anyone remember the giant blue elephant slide, a camel, a hippo and a yellow kangaroo? The seller commented he got back 1000s of comments from people who remember these play animals in the RG stores. The elephant sold for $1700, I think some of the others are still in auction, type in Vintage Richman Gordman if you want to see pics. They also brought back many great memories, to me an everyone who saw them. Someone suggested they should donate them to the Childrens Museum, that would have been nice. Thanks!

That Richman Gordman blog really brought back memories. I lived in Lincoln and there was a great store on O street I think. My son, who was about 18mos. old at the time, stripped his clothes off and had a wonderful time playing there. His older sister came to me completely mortified! That same child also fell off of something there and got a big knot on his head!---Ah yes, the memories.

Hi, I love this page! I wonder if anyone has a picture of the "Long and Slims" on 24th and L from way back when? A friend of mine has been hunting forever, so a scan of it would be much appreciated if anyone has one!
My email is [email protected]!

Some additional info on mentioned restaurants -

Mister C's - Their famous mural is on display at the Durham Museum (behind the street car).

Kings - Cheese Frenchees are available at a number of places around Omaha. Don & Millies and Grandmother's were started by the former Kings owners and the Freenchee is just as good. Some other places offering Cheese Frenchees are Mama's Pizza, Millard Roadhouse and Farm House Cafe. Love 'em!

Nifty's - Still going at the same location.

This is great--thanks for putting it together. Many of these spots are beloved memories of my childhood in Omaha in the early 1960s. especially Cascio's, which is just down the street from my mother's childhood home at 8th and Hickory. We ate there a lot, and I still try to visit whenever I am back in town.

However. I seem to recall that when I was at Creighton in the late 1970s, the original building burned down and that the current one is a complete rebuild. That sound right?

Good God, does this bring it back! I grew up in Omaha in the 60s & 70s. Tiners. the Village Inn on Radial & Dodge. La Casa. Bronco's on Leavenworth. the Ground Cow. Martin's Bakery on 40th & Hamilton. fountain counters at Phil's Drugstore at 50th & Hamilton & Chris' at 50th & Dodge. my folks also liked that "Here's Johnny" place across the street from the Rose Bowl.

The Rose Bowl on 72nd. Paltani's on center, the Chicago bar! WOw
Cascios, venice inn, The short stop, Awesome memories! Great Food!

I meant the Ranch Bowl on 72nd!

Anyone remember the drawbridge restaurant . I wish that was still around, luv to take my kids to that place. Great exxperinces as a child.

The old Grass Shack moved to 73 and Blondo and I remember the decor including a whale in the 1960's. Anybody else remember it?

It makes me sad to see so many great mom and pop places gone. Like many of you looking back, I'm thinking of family memories while reading this great article and added comments. Love the old advertisements for the restaurants you added too.

There are way to many franchise places now and in my opinion they can't compare to the good family owned restaurants now long gone. It is nice to see many quality places still remain. Thanks for the memories. Best wishes to all reading this.

As a North High & Minne Lusa student in the 50's, I am happy to see all the local places featured here, especially photos of the interior & palazzo of Mr C's on 30th & Fort. It was so sad when they closed in 2007. Now we go to Venice Inn for similar great food. Great memories of Rose Lodge & many others lost forever.
I will try to follow up & go to as many of the places you listed as I can this year.
Thank You for this Blog. --Bon Appetit

Thanks for the blog. It is great to remember all the old restaurants that have gone. I grew up in North Omaha and remember Mr C's drive-in. I also remember Minne Lusa Tavern or someone called it Reds and Teds. They had the best onion rings. We used to go to KIngs on 60th and Ames and the A&W drive-in that was at Ames and Fontenelle Blvd. And one of my fondest family memories was driving all the way to Irvington for ice cream.

Hey Peggy. It sounds like I went to all the same places as you did. I even dated a girl who cut the onions at Red and Ted's. Bob Sanderhoff

Fred Ferguson
The Grass Shack Became Mt. Fuji. It is still operated by the same family. The mother Alice,passed away last year at the age of 93. It is one of my favorite restaurants.

Rose's Lodge was a victim of a fire, and yes you can get the same chicken in Trayner along with Pink Poodle's prime rib. The owner cooked at both places.

The steak house south of Harrison, was Kelly's, I believe.

My grandfather Ray Borkenhagen managed two restaurants in Omaha, Northrup Jones and The Old English Inn. Can anyone tell me a little about them?

When I first moved to the Gerald Ford Birthsite area, I used to go to Salvatores which is now a QuikTrip on Leavenworth! They were always a class act and we used to get sung to. I loved Bishops at the Westroads, the chocolate pie and the little light on the table for when you needed the waitress! As a teenager I worked at the old Woolworth's cafeteria downtown. And many teenage nights were spent at King's Food Host!

Can't forget Petrow's at 59th and Center St. Nick Petrow salvaged the Caniglia sign from the restaurant on 7th Street, restored it, an mounted it on the north side of his restaurant. All the Caniglia family was there for the ceremonial lighting. It is beautiful. Thanks, Nick. You saved an important part of Omaha restaurant history.

I remember getting to pick out a gift from the treasure chest when you left Dixie Kitchen. That chest was full of little toys that I wanted when I was a kid.

I also remember the Al Caniglia's Drawing Room. The food was great, the salad bar and salad dressings were unbelievable and Al would whistle by breathing in air, instead of blowing out air, to let his waitresses know that their order was up. Also loved all the caricatures on the wall - that was the reason behind calling the restaurant "The Drawing Room", I believe.

I loved all the old Italian steakhouses. Did you know that Omaha has more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the US? Also, I heard it was the Blackstone Hotel that invented the reuben. Regardless who it was, go Omaha! Does anyone remember New Tower Inn on 78? & Dodge with the swanky piano lounge?

Hey, I just posted about New Tower Inn & then I saw the post above me! I worked for Al Caniglia at the Drawing Room back in the 70's. Ha, we wore red turtlenecks, bibed hot pants and black boots. We would get packed after a Nebraska game. Go Huskers! lol.

The Blackstone Hotel DID invent the reuben sandwich----at least the whole time I lived in Omaha (30 yrs) that's what we were told!! I am a transplanted Nebraskan in Houston and love to read about all the places that people are mentioning on this site. I went to Central and after dances and ball games we would go down to 7th and Pierce street (or near there) to eat pizza or steak sometimes. I lived near Evan's Ice Cream shop on Center street and sometimes would walk there from home to get ice cream.
Sometimes, on the way to visit my grandmother where Papillion is today, we would stop and get ice cream at a place called Reeds---and the ice cream was in a shape like a toilet paper roll with paper wrapped around it and then put into a cone. cylindrical shape I guess.

What a great blog. Reading it has brought back so many wonderful memories of various eateries that have since gone their way.

A couple of favorite's of mine were Long and Slims, world's best burgers(only a nickle apeace), and Big Joe's Drive In. can't forget Joe Tess Fish sandwiches, they are the bomb.

Just for the heck of it I googled Tiner's Drive-Inn and found your blog. I flipped burgers there in ླྀ or ཹ on weekends while stationed at Offutt. The burgers were 15 cents and the fries were terrific. Can't remember if they were curly at that time. It's been awhile.
Worked for a very short time at Oddo's in ེ. Less that terrific. Mecelli's (SP?), next to the Farnham Lane's downtown served a small bowl of spaghetti for 50 cents. none of this kept me from moving back to the west coast where I've remained.

The Gas Lamp restaurant at 30th & Leavenworth Streets was mentioned. Previous to that I believe it was called Hanson's. A very nice restaurant.

Across the street to the south was a drive-in called Barnse's. A good drive-in sort of like A&W but a little better.

Another very good restaurant in the area, northeast corner of Leavenworth and Park Ave was called, I think, The Mayflower.

The Sharon Grill was across Leavenworth Street to the south.

Cantoni's was down the street but I never had the chance to go there.

Don't forget Todds drive-in on west dodge street,
the place to meet girls in the 60s.

Does anyone remember the name of the 50's style diner on Dodge at or near 49th and Dodge.

I am 60 and grew up in Omaha and lived there until 10 years ago. I was looking at an old scrapbook from 1981-84 and saw the name of two restaurants I could not remember. One was called the Great American Disaster where I ate steaks and all the fixins for $10 per couple. The other was Robin Hoods. Does anyone remember these and where they were?

A comment on one of the other posts. The original name of the Mt. Fuji Inn on 72nd and Blondo was Porpoise Palace. I went there as lived nearby and girls dressed as mermaids would swim with the dolphins which you could see beneath the glass floors of the dining area. It was really cool to watch in the 60's.

Needless to say I loved the blog, brought back so many memories. Sandy's escape, Drawbridge(at one time called Varities), Kaufman's bakery(I worked there in high school),King Fongs,Brandeis cafeterias(as a small child went there with my grandma daily)Merritt's Beach,Cafe De Paris,Goodrich Dairy, Royal Dairy etc.

I have not had that much pleasure recalling the past ever. By the way, Steve's in Benson is still open but now called Leo's Diner. I took an old friend there Summer 2011 and we took pics.. same old Steve's down to jukeboxes on the tables.

I used to love to go to downtown Omaha to go to the Brandeis cafeteria as well! My mom and I would take the bus from home---think we even had to change buses---to get there. My favorite items to have there were chocolate malts, mashed potatoes and iced tea! Thanks for bringing up that memory! Marilyn Scheffler

Yes Marilyn, Brandeis was one of my favorite childhood memories as well. The ladies that ran the cafeteria knew me so well that they automatically dished up my usual favorites: mashed potatoes, vanilla ice cream and chocolate milk(yummy to a child's palate) and always greeted me by my first name.

WOW! I read sooo many posts. Did anyone mention Bronco's across 30th street from Mr. C's? The Dundee Dell? The Virginia Dare Cafe downtown?

For my money, Casio's (sp?) in south O was the most consistent GREAT STEAK you'd ever find anywhere. But there were so many great steak houses. Living in St. Louis with lots of Italian restaurants on "The Hil" - I still crave Casio's, Ross's, Sparetime and Johney's.

Don't forget the Parkvale Bakery on 30th "T". The glaze donuts were to die for.

Wow!! So many comments!! I remember the dances at Peony Park sponsored by students and parents from Benson, Westside and Central. Following the dances we went to such places as the Colony Club, the restaurant side, the Hayden House, and the Blackstone. I had my first alcoholic drink there provided by my sorority sisters. My mother also waited up for me to return from dates so she could have cold pizza from Little Frank's or Caniglia's. Lot's of good memories. Thanks

Does anyone remember the Sharon Grill near Park Ave and Leavenworth. Good memories there.
We get the Omaha paper and read where Mr. Shada died. He had the drive in on Saddle Creek. We read that Shada's had the first speakers for ordering.
Our family had Chop's Cafe on 13th St for 50 years. We closed it in the 70's and moved to Las Vegas.

I may have missed it but didn't notice a mention of the Short Stop just No of L. Great Chicken. Became a Mexican Restaurant for awhile and now is a used car lot.

How about Beals cafe on 24th and Ca st. Old Creighton Prep & Creighton U students were Beal's main coustomers.

THE BEST PLACE TO SHOW OFF YOUR CAR WAS TODD'S DIVE IN ON ABOUT 78TH & DODGE. IT WAS POPULAR IN THE SIXTIES. HAD A 55 CHEVY CONVERTIBILE TO DIE FOR. GOLDEN SPUR AT THE BLACKSTONE WAS KNOW FOR THEIR RUBENS. KING FON'S DOWNTOWN WAS THE BEST CHINESE.

kshinee orelyiRoss' steak house! Now that was absolutely the premier steakhouse in Omaha. When I was young, my dad would take us there monthly (we had to quit going weekly as he insisted on paying and we were broke, and guilt overwhelmed appetite!). He had a tab!! Wow. To this day I've never had a better NY Strip than any of the 40 or so I had in that place.

The thing that a lot of people fail to recognize is that most of those independent steakhouses would get into bidding wars over blue ribbon winners from Nebraska State Fair. They would hang the blanket/banners inside the restaurant, and serve the meat from their regular menu. All of those listed that I can remember had at least a banner or two hanging. Ross' and Anthony's seemed to have the most.

LaCasa had the fine rectangular pizza with the ramano cheese. Awesome!

Goodrich put me in the hospital with their Santa Shakes. Peppermint Stick Ice Cream and Egg Nog. I still have not found a better tasting shake either. I'd get one on the way home from work every day during the season. Ended up sick after about 6 weeks. LOL.

We still talk about "The Homey Inn Chili Dog Flu", lmao!

WE YOUNG STUDENT NURSES AT ST. CATHERINES, AT 8TH AND HICKORY, WOULD WALK ACROSS THE STREET TO TRENTINOS..BEST STEAKS IN TOWN. OR LATE ON SATURDAY NIGHTS, AFTER A PARTY WOULD END UP IN DOWNTOWN OMAHA AT THE VIRGINIA CAFE. FUN TIMES, A MILLION PLACES TO GO!

I spent over an hour reading this whole blog and the comments and either I missed it, or noone even mentioned "The Quickie" on 24th & Leavenworth. They had THE BEST loose meat hamburger EVER, and noone can come close to duplicating the taste! My buddy and I used to walk miles just to get a few!

Great memories. I haven't been in Omaha since the mid-80's and must admit, I read every word of this blog. Two that came to mind, although chains, were The Rusty Scupper near Regency and the all-you-can eat seafood place that I believe was on 72nd. Sorry to hear that Brother Sebastians, Big Freds and Gallagher's are gone. Jack and Mary's had the best fried chicken. Is Harr's in Elkhorn still open? Still good? I live near San Francisco and have not had a good prime rib since leaving Omaha.

So many tasty memories! My first job was at the Palazzo 'Taliano as a coffee girl. My mom worked for the Caniglia family for many years and we both worked for Dick Glasford at the Club 89. Just recently, I have been able to reconnect with several of the caniglia's and Dick Glasford through Facebook. So many wonderful meals served and wonderful employees that cared about the service in these restaurants. Thank you for providing this "walk down memory lane!" Great steaks. great pasta dishes and service with a smile!

My dad owned Tiner's Drive In and if you can find any old photo's I'd love to see them! I love your blog and I'm so glad I found it! The family moved from Omaha in 63 to Las Vegas but I remember it well. I grew up by Memorial Park. Omaha is a wonderful city.

The site at 10th and Pacific Streets where Angie's and then Lucky's were located was recently purchased and the building torn down. It will the new home of the Blue Barn Theatre!

I'm from the Florence Area of Omaha and remember Andersen's Dairy in the 60's. My mom used to go there to buy milk in glass jugs and on our trips I would beg for one of their Vanilla Ice Cream Cones. I still remember the taste and texture. Not too sweet and the texture was sandy on the tongue from the ice crystals. I think it was a confection of mostly ice milk and some cream. What I would do to go back for one more cone! Anderson's went out of business sometime in the late 60's or 70's. Does anyone else remember Anderson's Diary? Debi

what fun it's been reading this and the memories that came back. I worked at Anthony's, the best steaks. also wprked at Bronco's, loved the pork tenderloins, and who can forget saddlecreeks footlongs with chili. Goodrich malts, leisure lanes chiken. I sure miss Omaha it's been too many years since I went back home. thanks for all the memories.

Just an update to a comment from anonymous who moved away from Omaha in the 80's, Big Freds and Brother Sebastians' are still open as I just visited Omaha over Labor Day Weekend. Omaha continues to thrive with more tasty eateries than any other place I know.

Loveland Shopping center -- 90th & Arbor Lay's Inn (?) prior to Senor Matia's.
Satan's Pizza in the Old Market
House of Pies (90th & Center)
Steak & Ale (72nd & by the Ranch Bowl)

When I was a kid in the late 50s and 60s, we'd drive to Omaha from Lincoln and have Sunday dinner at the Virginia Cafe downtown. Boy did I think I was in the big time. In fact, it was very nice although there were many better restaurants. Still, I can remember when it burned down about 1969. How disappointed I was.

Met my wife Judy, a waitress at Walgreens in the Crossroads Shopping Center in the 60's. I'd help her fill catsup bottles while waiting for her to get off work. You could see the layers!! Then we'd go to Todds for greasy tacos, or the Ambassador for a late breakfast. Sometimes we'd go dancing at the Cellar on 16th St. across from Bekins. After we were married we would frequently meet for lunch at the Prague Hotel, just north of the Bohemian Cafe. They had this fabulous hot turkey and ham plate, covered with fries and cheese sauce. OMG. And the Castle Hotel had something similar. My wife's friend was the chef at the Ranch Bowl on S. 72nd, so we went there a lot. We still go to B&G's, Broncos whose pork tenders are the best in this or any other universe! Another of our friends worked as a waitress at Mr. C's, we called her Potsie. Loved the lights and murals!! Thank you for a bunch of wonderful memories!! Oh, and once I went to Todds with my buddies. The guy driving had a blown 56 buick, and he had taken the interior out of it and drilled holes everywhere to make it "lighter". Seats were those cheap orange plastic things you used to see around. He had to squirt raw gas into the car to get it started. What a DEATHTRAP!! It was great growing up in Omaha. Surfside Club is gone now, due to the flooding a while back. Oh well, there's still Joe Tess's place - I worked with his nephew, Bill Teschnolidek (sp). Great guy.

I may have missed it, but I didn't see any reference to a Caniglia restaurant that is still open. The Levenworth cafe is operated by one of the next generation of Caniglias. I was raised in north O, moved away and came back to raise a family. I remember all the old places and pretty much ate at most of them. Our group "discovered" LaCasa's in 1958 after one of our Saturday night poker games. It's still the best pizza in town. As for best steak's now, my vote would have to go to the Drover.

There used to be an old A&W drive-in around 49th and Center Street that served KFC. I remember picking up a bucket of chicken, mashed potatoes, their "gooey" gravy and a gallon of A&W root beer after mowing grass at my grandmother's house back in the 1960s. I think Kubat's Pharmacy is there now.

Kings Restaurant--72nd and Cass, with Topper hamburgers and cheese frenchies and the best onion rings. Yum!! Bishops Buffet, lime jello with fresh grapefruit, big slice of lettuce wedge topped with blue cheese. Also Hilltop Cafe, with a basket of home made cinnamon rolls and other goodies.
I miss all of these.

I remember the Wooden Platter in Millard, Another example of the owners not feeling they had to pay taxes and the IRS shut them down. Millard ave and P st. Addy's sports bar is there now.

Paltani's on 44th and Center. Awesome Taco's!! Very similar to what Senor Matias was serving before they closed up.

I am a former Bunny too. was your maiden name Dinkel by any chance cz I've been looking for you! Suzanne Davis [email protected]

I am a former Bunny also. my step-dad was bartender at the old Town House on 70th and Dodge, also at Ross' Steak House and The Gas Lamp. I was coat/hat check girl at the Gas Lamp. We were friends with the Firmatures and I had a crush on Ernie and Bettys son Steve! Been living in the Phoenix area for a long time and when I go back can't find a good place anymore to have a steak. Miss all the old places. Miss Todd's Druve-In on Dodge too..used to go on dates and we'd cruise through there! Suzanne "Susie" Davis.
[email protected]

Hi I'm a former Bunny . thanks for mentioning Sandys Escape but what was the one on about 62nd and Ames..upstairs? Suzanne Davis living in Phoenix area [email protected]

My mom and step-dad worked as bartender and cocktail waitress at the Town House. Jerry and Linda Lucas. I found old pictures the other day. He also was bartender at Ross'then went to the Gas Lamp. Those were the days. great food, great families. We were friends with the Firmatures. I went to Benson, been in Phoenix a long time. Suzanne "Susie" Davis
[email protected]

Used to go there all the time. former Benson Bunny. been in Phoenix area a long time.
Suzanne "Susie" Davis. [email protected]

Nememan's Bakery in South Omaha was always busy on Saturday mornings with the counter ladies tying up boxes of donuts and cakes with string. And how about the Old Vienna in South Omaha, they had
goose dinners. Millie was the waitress there every day all day long. Love this blog, by the way!

Anybody remember the Ming Toy Cafe by the Military Theatre?

"Larry" mentioned Jack Holmes original resturant on 50th & Center. You bet! I grew up just north of 48th & Center. Nuncio Pomidoro took it over after Holmes moved out. My 1st job was there as a busboy in 1965 making $.50 an hr. Also bused tables at the "Roam Inn" just West of their inn 1966. And Gorat's in ཿ. Also cooked burgers and fries at "Mac's". And yes he did have a "Big Mac" long before McDonalds. Best flamed broiled burgers in town.

Does anyone remember the name of the tex mex restaurant that took over the Golden Apple in the former Indian Hills Shopping Center on 89th and Dodge? This would have been in the late ྌs. Also, Venice Inn is still open on 69th & Pacific - the last of the Caniglia family restaurants. And, does anyone remember Henry's Drive Inn in the 50th & Center area?

Robin Hood's restaurant was located on 108th & Q Street in Ralston. I remember the porpoise palace on 72nd and Blondo - my mom took me there once. Also Ricardo's Mexican Restaurant was just south of it by the Dairy Queen. It was where the Burger King is now. The Aquarium restaurant briefly took over the Steak & Ale on south 72nd and now it's an office building. "Here's Johnny" restaurant was next door to the former Steak & Ale and now it's a Credit Advisor's.

King Fong's is still open for business. They are cash only and do a good lunch and take out trade. The Dixie Kitchen was located in the Beverly Hills Plaza on 78th & Dodge where Beauty First & Jam's are located. They had a treasure chest for the kids and several flavors of hard stick candy for purchase at the cashier's counter. Former Husker Johnny Rogers dined there in the mid 70's. Arthur Treacher's fish and chips was another short term fast food restaurant in Omaha in the 70's.


I'm Todd Wilbur, Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

Includes eight (8) 79¢ recipes of your choice each month!

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I never thought dinner rolls were something I could get excited about until I got my hand into the breadbasket at Texas Roadhouse. The rolls are fresh out of the oven and they hit the table when you do, so there’s no waiting to tear into a magnificently gooey sweet roll topped with soft cinnamon butter. The first bite you take will make you think of a fresh cinnamon roll, and then you can’t stop eating it. And when the first roll’s gone, you are powerless to resist grabbing for just one more. But it’s never just one more. It’s two or three more, plus a few extra to take home for tomorrow.

Discovering the secret to making rolls at home that taste as good as the real ones involved making numerous batches of dough, each one sweeter than the last (sweetened with sugar, not honey—I checked), until a very sticky batch, proofed for 2 hours, produced exactly what I was looking for. You can make the dough with a stand mixer or a handheld one, the only difference being that you must knead the dough by hand without a stand mixer. When working with the dough add a little bit of flour at a time to keep it from sticking, and just know that the dough will be less sticky and more workable after the first rise.

Roll the dough out and measure it as specified here, and after a final proofing and a quick bake—plus a generous brushing of butter on the tops—you will produce dinner rolls that look and taste just like the best rolls I’ve had at any famous American dinner chain.

Getting a table at the 123-year-old original Rao’s restaurant in New York City is next to impossible. The tables are “owned” by regulars who schedule their meals months in advance, so every table is full every night, and that’s the way it’s been for the last 38 years. The only way an outsider would get to taste the restaurant’s fresh marinara sauce is to be invited by a regular.

If that isn’t in the stars for you, you could buy a bottle of the sauce at your local market (if they even have it). It won't be fresh, and it's likely to be the most expensive sauce in the store, but it still has that great Rao's taste. An even better solution is to copy the sauce for yourself using this new and very easy hack.

The current co-owner of Rao’s, Frank Pellegrino Jr., told Bon Appetit in 2015 that the famous marinara sauce was created by his grandmother many years ago, and the sauce you buy in stores is the same recipe served in his restaurants. The ingredients are common, but correctly choosing the main ingredient—tomatoes—is important. Try to find San Marzano-style whole canned tomatoes, preferably from Italy. They are a little more expensive than typical canned tomatoes, but they will give you some great sauce.

After 30 minutes of cooking, you’ll end up with about the same amount of sauce as in a large jar of the real thing. Your version will likely be just a little bit brighter and better than the bottled stuff, thanks to the fresh ingredients. But now you can eat it anytime you want, with no reservations, at a table you own.

You might also like my #1 recipe of 2019, Texas Roadhouse Rolls.

The talented chefs at Benihana cook food on hibachi grills with flair and charisma, treating the preparation like a tiny stage show. They juggle salt and pepper shakers, trim food with lightning speed, and flip the shrimp and mushrooms perfectly onto serving plates or into their tall chef's hat.

One of the side dishes that everyone seems to love is the fried rice. At Benihana this dish is prepared by chefs with precooked rice on open hibachi grills, and is ordered a la cart to complement any Benihana entree, including Hibachi Steak and Chicken. I like when the rice is thrown onto the hot hibachi grill and seems to come alive as it sizzles and dances around like a bunch of little jumping beans. Okay, so I'm easily amused.

This Benihana Japanese fried rice recipe will go well with just about any Japanese entree and can be partially prepared ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator until the rest of the meal is close to done.

For many years this entree has been a top menu choice at Maggiano's, the 54-unit Italian chain from Brinker, the same company that operates Chili’s Grill & Bar. The $30 restaurant dish consists of three 2½-ounce tenderloin steaks, swimming in a fantastic balsamic cream sauce with sliced portobello mushrooms—but a home version of the signature dish is only seven easy steps away, and it won't hit you in the wallet as hard as the pricey original.

Cracking this dish required a perfect hack of the sauce, and that came quickly after obtaining some very reliable information from my incredibly helpful server/informant at a Las Vegas Maggiano’s. Let’s call him Skippy.

According to Skippy, the balsamic cream sauce is as simple as mixing a sweet balsamic glaze with the chain’s creamy alfredo sauce. So, I first got a sample of Maggiano’s alfredo sauce and figured out how to replicate it. Once that was done, I measured increments of balsamic glaze into the alfredo sauce until the color and flavor matched the original. The rest of the recipe was easy.

This recipe will make two servings of the dish and includes preparation for the tenderloins and sauce. If you’d like to complete the dish the way it’s served at the restaurant (as in the photo), add some garlic mashed potatoes on the side, using my hack for Olive Garden Garlic Mashed Potatoes.

Crafting a clone of Olive Garden’s signature Lasagna Classico became the perfect opportunity to create a beautiful multi-layered lasagna hack recipe that uses up the whole box of lasagna noodles and fills the baking pan all the way to the top. This Top Secret Recipe makes a lasagna that tips the scale at nearly 10 pounds and will feed hungry mouths for days, with every delicious layer copied directly from the carefully dissected Olive Garden original.

I found a few credible bits of intel in a video of an Olive Garden chef demonstrating what he claims is the real formula on a midday news show, but the recipe was abbreviated for TV and the chef left out some crucial information. One ingredient he conspicuously left out of the recipe is the secret layer of Cheddar cheese located near the middle of the stack. I wasn’t expecting to find Cheddar in lasagna, but when I carefully separated the layers from several servings of the original dish, there was the golden melted cheesy goodness in every slice.

This clone recipe will make enough for 8 big portions, but if you make slightly smaller slices this is easily enough food to fill twelve lasagna-loving bellies. If you like lasagna, you're going to love this version.

Browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

This 220-unit downscaled version of P.F. Chang’s China Bistro targets the lunch crowd with a smaller menu that features bento boxes, bowls, and small plates. The bestseller on the menu is this orange chicken, which I have to say is pretty damn good orange chicken. Obviously, a clone is needed for this one, stat.

The name “Wei Better Orange Chicken” is a competitive callout to Panda Express's signature orange chicken, which is made with pre-breaded and frozen chicken. Pei Wei claims its orange chicken is prepared each day from scratch with chicken that is never frozen, so we’ll craft our clone the same way. But rather than assemble the dish in a wok over a high-flame fast stove like they do at the restaurant, we’ll prepare the sauce and chicken separately, then toss them with fresh orange wedges just before serving.

By the way, this dish goes very well with white or brown rice, so don’t forget to make some.

A recipe for Portuguese sweet bread inspired the soft rolls that became a big hit at Robert Tiara's Bakery & Restaurant in Honolulu, Hawaii in the 1950s. It wasn’t long before Robert changed the name of his thriving business to King’s Hawaiian, and in 1977 the company opened its first bakery on the mainland, in Torrance, California, to make the now-famous island sweet rolls sold in stores across the U.S.

King’s Hawaiian Rolls are similar to Texas Roadhouse Rolls in that they are both pillowy, sweet white rolls, so it made sense to dig out my Texas Roadhouse Rolls clone recipe and use it as a starting point. These new rolls had to be slightly softer and sweeter, so I made some adjustments and added a little egg for color. And by baking the dough in a high-rimmed baking pan with 24 dough balls placed snugly together, I ended up with beautiful rolls that rose nicely to the occasion, forming a tear-apart loaf just like the original, but with clean ingredients, and without the dough conditioners found in the packaged rolls.

Use these fluffy sweet rolls for sandwiches, sliders, or simply warmed up and slathered with soft European butter.

This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2020. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes for the year: Rao's Homemade Marinara Sauce (#1), Olive Garden Lasagna Classico (#2), Pei Wei Better Orange Chicken (#4), Chipotle Mexican Grill Carnitas (#5).

To get their Extra Crispy Chicken so crispy KFC breads the chicken two times. This double breading gives the chicken its ultra craggy exterior and extra crunch, which is a different texture than the less crispy Original Recipe Chicken that’s breaded just once and pressure fried.

As with my KFC Original Recipe hack, we must first brine the chicken to give it flavor and moisture all the way through, like the real thing, then the chicken is double breaded and deep fried until golden brown. KFC uses small chickens which cook faster, but small chickens can be hard to find. If your chicken parts are on the large side, they may not cook all the way through in the 12 to 15 minutes of frying I’m specifying here. To be sure your chicken is cooked, start frying with the thickest pieces, like the breasts, then park them in a 300-degree oven while you finish with the smaller pieces. This will keep the chicken warm and crispy, and more importantly, ensure that they are cooked perfectly all the way through.

On my CMT show Top Secret Recipe I chatted with Winston Shelton, a long-time friend of KFC founder Harland Sanders. Winston saw the Colonel's handwritten secret recipe for the Original Recipe chicken, and he told me one of the secret ingredients is Tellicherry black pepper. It's a more expensive, better-tasting black pepper that comes from the Malabar coast in India, and you should use it here if you can find it. Winston pulled me aside and whispered this secret to me when he thought we were off-camera, but our microphones and very alert cameramen caught the whole thing, and we aired it.

I first published this hack in Even More Top Secret Recipes, but recently applied some newly acquired secrets and tips to make this much-improved version of one of the most familiar fried chicken recipes in the world.

This recipe was our #2 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

Menu Description: “Creamy marsala wine sauce with mushrooms over grilled chicken breasts, stuffed with Italian cheeses and sundried tomatoes. Served with garlic mashed potatoes.”

This recipe includes a marsala sauce that even marsala sauce haters will like. My wife is one of those haters, but when she tried this sauce, her eyes lit up and she begged for more. That’s great, now I won’t have to eat alone.

Not only is Olive Garden's delicious marsala sauce hacked here (and it’s easy to make), you’ll also get the copycat hack for the chain's awesome Italian cheese stuffing that goes between the two pan-cooked chicken fillets. Build it, sauce it, serve it. The presentation is awesome, and the flavor will soothe your soul.

Try this dish paired with my recent clone of Olive Garden’s Garlic Mashed Potatoes for the complete O.G. Stuffed Chicken Marsala experience.

Braised and shredded pork shoulder is a staple of Mexican cuisine that Chipotle prepares with a simple blend of flavors, and a surprising ingredient you may not have expected: juniper berries. Once you track those down (they’re easy to find online), the berries are combined with thyme and bay leaves in a braising liquid that will transform your own pork roast into an easily shreddable thing of beauty in under 3 hours. Then you can use your freshly cloned carnitas on tacos, in burritos, or in a bowl over rice and beans just like they do in the restaurant.

When picking your pork roast, try to find one without too much fat. If your roast has a thick cap of fat on it, trim off the excess. You want some fat in your braising liquid, but if the cap of fat is too thick, it may not fully render down and you’ll get chunks of fat in the shred.

It’s often assumed that the pork butt is from the rear end of the pig, even though cuts from the back region already have a name: ham. The pork butt, also known as a Boston butt, is cut from the other end, the upper shoulder of the pig. It’s called a “butt” because in pre-Revolutionary War New England the roasts were stored and transported in barrels called “butts”, and the confusing name stuck.

Menu Description: “Two lightly fried parmesan-breaded chicken breasts are smothered with Olive Garden’s homemade marinara sauce and melted Italian cheeses. We serve our Chicken Parmigiana with a side of spaghetti for dinner.”

Chicken parmigiana is a forever favorite, and it’s not a difficult dish to whip up at home. But for it to taste like the Olive Garden signature entree, we’ll need to take some very specific steps.

Olive Garden’s chicken is salty and moist all the way through, so we must first start by brining the chicken. Give yourself an extra hour for this important marinating step. The marinara sauce used on the chicken is an Olive Garden specialty and no bottled sauce compares, so we’ll make our own from scratch using canned crushed tomatoes and the formula below.

While the sauce cooks, filling your house with its intoxicating aroma, the chicken is breaded and browned. When the marinara is done, top the chicken with the sauce and mozzarella and stick it under your hot broiler until bubbling.

Hopefully, everyone at your house is hungry, because the Olive Garden dinner portion is two chicken fillets, and this recipe will yield a total of four 2-piece servings. Add a small serving of spaghetti on the side, topped with more of the delicious sauce, and you'll have a perfect match to the restaurant plate.

Can't get enough Olive Garden? Click here for more of my copycat recipes.

Samuel Bath Thomas immigrated from England to New York City and opened his first bakery there in 1880. That is where Thomas created skillet bread that would one day become the famous muffins known for their craggy texture when split in half. This hack for Thomas’ English Muffins uses a special kneading process to give the muffins the "nooks and crannies" they are famous for, making craters in the finished bread to better hold on to melted butter and jam.

I have seen several recipes that claim to re-create these muffins, but none produce the large air pockets that a proper clone requires, in addition to great flavor and a perfectly cooked interior. To ensure proper nooks and crannies and muffins that are cooked all the way through, I've included some important steps.

The dough you'll make here is like a ciabatta dough in that it is very wet. So rather than kneading the dough, you stretch and fold it over several times on a well-oiled surface. Then, when the portioned-out dough has proofed on baking sheets for another 1½ to 2 hours, you par-bake the muffins.

After baking, the muffins are cooked on a griddle or in a pan until dark brown on both sides, then they must cool. This is the hardest part. The muffins will be too soft to open for at least four hours, and now you have to fight off the temptation to eat one. It’s hard, I know. The muffins smell great and you’ve waited all this time, but resist for now and your patience will be rewarded.

When the muffins have had their rest, split them with a fork and toast them as you would any English muffin.

Check out all my top secret recipes for famous bread here.

A requirement of any visit to Chicago is eating at least one slice of deep dish pizza in the city that perfected it. Deep dish pizza quickly became a Chicago staple after Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo opened the first Pizzeria Uno in 1943 and served a hearty new style of pizza constructed in a high-rimmed cake pan. The yeast crust was tender and flakey, like a pastry, and the cheese was layered under the sauce so that it wouldn’t burn in a hot oven for the long cooking time.

While researching a home hack of this now-iconic recipe, I discovered an unexpected technique that I hadn’t seen in other deep dish recipes. Employees told me the pizza crusts are partially cooked each morning to cut down on the wait time for customers. Before the restaurant opens each day, cooks press the dough into a pan and then sprinkle it with a little shredded cheese. The shells are then partially baked and set aside. Later, when an order comes in, the pizza is built into one of the par-baked crusts and finished off. This way customers get their food faster, and the tables turn over quicker.

Copying that delicious, flakey crust was the task that took me the longest. After two weeks of baking, I finally settled on a formula that was a mash-up of yeast dough and pie crust and made a perfectly tender deep dish crust, with great flavor that exactly mimicked the original. If you like Uno, you will love this.

Regarding the cheese: be sure your cheese is at room temperature, not cold, or it may not melt all the way through. Also, it’s best if you buy cheese by the block and shred it yourself. Pre-shredded cheese is dusted with cornstarch so that the shreds don’t stick together in the bag, and it won’t melt as smoothly as cheese you shred by hand.

This recipe will make enough sauce for two pizzas. I just thought you should know that in case you get the urge to make another deep dish after this one disappears.

This recipe was our #4 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

Braised Beef Pasta Menu Description: “Slow-simmered meat sauce with tender braised beef and Italian sausage, tossed with ruffled pappardelle pasta and a touch of alfredo sauce—just like Nonna’s recipe.”

It’s a mistake to assume that a recipe posted to a restaurant chain’s website is the real recipe for the food served there. I’ve found this to be the case with many Olive Garden recipes, and this one is no exception. A widely circulated recipe that claims to duplicate the chain’s classic Bolognese actually originated on Olive Garden’s own website, and if you make that recipe you’ll be disappointed when the final product doesn’t even come close to the real deal. I won’t get into all the specifics of the things wrong with that recipe (too much wine, save some of that for drinking!), but at first glance it’s easy to see that a few important ingredients found in traditional Bolognese sauces are conspicuously missing, including milk, basil, lemon, and nutmeg.

I incorporated all those missing ingredients into this new hack recipe, tweaked a few other things, and then tested several methods of braising the beef so that it comes out perfectly tender: covered, uncovered, and a combo. The technique I settled on was cooking the sauce covered for 2 hours, then uncovered for 1 additional hour so that the sauce reduces and the beef transforms into a fork-flakeable flavor bomb. Yes, it comes from Olive Garden, but this Bolognese is better than any I’ve had at restaurants that charge twice as much, like Rao’s where the meat is ground, not braised, and they hit you up for $30.

As a side note, Olive Garden’s menu says the dish comes with ruffled pappardelle pasta, but it’s actually mafaldine, a narrower noodle with curly edges (shown in the top right corner of the photo). Pappardelle, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese, is a very wide noodle with straight edges, and it’s more familiar than mafaldine, so perhaps that’s why the menu fudges this fact. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which pasta you choose. Just know that a wide noodle works best. Even fettuccine is good here.

For the little bit of alfredo sauce spooned into the middle of the dish I went with a premade bottled sauce to save time. You can also make this from scratch if you like (I’ve got a great hack for Olive Garden’s Alfredo Sauce), but it’s such a small amount that premade sauce in either a chilled tub from the deli section or in a bottle off the shelf works great here.

This recipe was our #3 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4), Bush's Country Style Baked Beans (#5).

And browse my other Olive Garden clone recipes here.

After the success of Panera Bread’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagels, the popular sandwich chain went back into the development kitchen and came out with these incredible scones, filled with the same crunchy cinnamon drops found in the bagels and drizzled with cinnamon icing.

When first released, these scones were cut as triangles and frosted, but in 2018 the shape was changed to more “rustic”-shaped round blobs with drizzled or piped icing on top. I like to hack the latest recipe, so the newer version of this pastry is the version I’ve re-created here.

These are cream scones, so cream is the main wet ingredient that holds the dough together—but keep the dough crumbly as you mix it, and try not to compress it much, or you risk making the final product too dense. The best way to form the scones is to use both hands and shape the dough like you’re making a loose snowball. Then use one hand to place the dough onto the baking sheet and form it into a rough dome shape. The scones will flatten and spread out a little bit as they bake.

A popular staple of any Chinese chain is the fried rice so it better be good, and the version served at Panda Express most certainly is. Here's an easy hack when you need a stress-free, low-cost side for your entrées. But I do suggest that you cook the white rice several hours or even a day or two before you plan to make the finished dish. I found that the cooked rice called for in this recipe works best when it's cold.

As for a shortcut, bagged frozen peas and carrots will save you from the hassle of petite-dicing carrots since the carrots in those bags are the perfect size to produce an identical clone. And they're already cooked.

Now, how about some Honey Walnut Shrimp, or Beijing Beef to go with that rice? Find all my Panda Express copycat recipes here.

In the Bush’s Beans commercials, Duke, the family golden retriever, wants to sell the secret family recipe, but the Bush family always stops him. The dog is based on the Bush family’s real-life golden retriever, and the campaign, which began in 1995, made Bush’s the big dog of the canned baked beans market practically overnight. Their confidential baked beans formula is considered one of the top 10 biggest recipe secrets in the U.S.

Bush Brothers & Company had been canning a variety of fruits and vegetables for over 60 years when, in 1969, the company created canned baked beans using a cherished recipe from a family matriarch. Sales jumped from 10 thousand cases in the first year to over 100 thousand cases in 1970. And just one year later sales hit a million cases. Today Bush’s makes over 80 percent of the canned baked beans sold in the U.S., and the secret family recipe remains a top food secret, despite Duke’s attempts. A replica of the original recipe book—without the original recipe in it (drat!)—is on display at the company's visitor center in Chestnut Hill, Tennessee.

I chose to hack the “Country Style” version of Bush’s Beans because I don’t think the Original flavor has enough, uh, flavor. Country Style is similar to Original, but richer, with more brown sugar. The recipe starts by soaking dry small white beans in a brine overnight. The salt in the water helps to soften the skins, but don’t soak them for more than 14 hours or the skins may begin to fall off.

My first versions tasted great but lacked the deep brown color of the real Bush’s beans, which include caramel coloring—an ingredient that can be hard to find on its own. I eventually discovered that the “browning” sauce, Kitchen Bouquet, will add the dark caramel color needed to our home version of the beans so that they’ll look just like the real thing.

This recipe was our #5 most popular in 2019. Check out the other four most unlocked recipes of the year: Texas Roadhouse Rolls (#1) KFC Extra Crispy Fried Chicken (#2), Olive Garden Braised Beef Bolognese (#3), Pizzeria Uno Chicago Deep Dish Pizza (#4).

Menu Description: “Grilled chicken topped with a lemon garlic butter sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, and capers.”

For many years this traditional chicken dish has been a top choice at the nation’s largest Italian restaurant chain, and a Top Secret Recipes hack is long overdue. Brined chicken breast fillets are grilled and topped with a lemon butter sauce made with garlic, sundried tomatoes, and capers in this copycat clone that will fool even the biggest Olive Garden fans.

Two large chicken breasts get sliced into four fillets here, so you’ll have either four lunch-size portions or two double-sized dinner meals. And if you need even more servings, you can easily double up the recipe.

In the Tidbits, I’ve added a quick recipe for the optional side of Parmesan-crusted zucchini served with the actual dish if you want to make an even more authentic clone.

Craving more dishes from Olive Garden? Check out my copycat recipes here.

There are many acceptable ways to formulate good queso, but to make this specific queso the ingredients must be correct, and most copycat recipes seem to get it wrong. A few recipes get one of the peppers and two of the cheeses right, but pretty much every recipe out there is a bit of a mess that I will now save you from.

Quesos can be made with a variety of cheeses that include queso fresco, asadero, and Muenster, but this particular queso includes a cheese you probably didn’t expect: Swiss. That cheese is slow to melt, so we’ll shred it first, along with the Jack. And you won't need to gum up the queso with flour or cornstarch by making a roux because the white American cheese in the mix contains sodium citrate or sodium phosphate—additives that help the cheese melt smoothly and stay that way.

Authors of recipes that call for tomatoes in this dish haven’t looked closely. Those are red bell peppers and they are roasted, peeled, and seeded along with the poblano and jalapenos before they are diced and added to the cheese sauce. The sauce cooks on low heat, never bubbling, so that it stays smooth and creamy.

When done, the queso might seem thin in the pan, but it will thicken as it cools to a perfect consistency for dipping tortilla chips, or as a topping for tacos and burrito bowls.

“Don’t call them fries,” says KFC about its popular side made with sliced, skin-on russet potatoes. What sets these potatoes apart from all the others is the secret breading made with a similar seasoning blend to the one used for Colonel's Original Recipe Fried Chicken. To achieve the proper crispiness, the potatoes are par-fried, frozen, then fried again until golden brown.

One important ingredient that completes the flavor is MSG. Monosodium glutamate is a food additive derived from glutamic acid, which is an important amino acid found in abundance in nature, food, and in you right now. Over the last 60 years of study and use, MSG has not only been found harmless in normal amounts, but tests have shown glutamate to be a chemical messenger that benefits gut health, immunity, and brain functions such as memory and learning. In addition to all of that, it imparts a unique savoriness that enhances flavors in other ingredients and makes your food taste amazing. Using MSG in your food is, literally, smart cooking.

Another important ingredient is ground Tellicherry black pepper, a select black pepper from India. Winston Shelton, a friend of Harland Sanders who invented the first high-volume pressure fryers for KFC, confirmed this. Shelton recalled seeing the ingredient when Sanders showed him the secret formula for the fried chicken seasoning he had scribbled on a piece of paper.

While we were shooting the first episode of my TV Show, Top Secret Recipe, Winston pulled me aside and whispered to me that Tellicherry pepper is crucial to creating the unique KFC aftertaste. It was a great tip, and fortunately, we caught that moment on camera and you can see it in the show. Later, I conducted a side-by-side taste test with common black pepper and Tellicherry black pepper and discovered Winston was right. If you want the best taste for your clone you'll need Tellicherry pepper, which you can find online and in some food stores. Be sure to grind it fine before using it.

For this recipe, just two russet potatoes are all it takes to make the equivalent of a large serving of fried potato wedges, which will be enough for at least four people.

Along with your meal at this huge national steakhouse chain, comes a freshly baked loaf of dark, sweet bread, served on its own cutting board with soft whipped butter. One distinctive feature of the bread is its color. How does the bread get so dark? Even though this recipe includes molasses and cocoa, these ingredients alone will not give the bread its dark chocolate brown color. Commercially produced breads that are this dark—such as pumpernickel or dark bran muffins–often contain caramel color, an ingredient used to darken foods. Since your local supermarket will not likely have this mostly commercial ingredient, we'll create the brown coloring from a mixture of three easy-to-find food colorings—red, yellow and blue. If you decide to leave the color out, just add an additional 1 tablespoon of warm water to the recipe. If you have a bread machine, you can use it for kneading the bread (you'll find the order in which to add the ingredients to your machine in "Tidbits"). Then, to finish the bread, divide and roll the dough in cornmeal, and bake.

Check out more of my copycat Outback Steakhouse recipes here.

It’s been nearly 100 years since Walter and Cordelia Knott first started selling berries, preserves, and pies from their roadside produce stand in Buena Park, California. Walter Knott’s berry stand and farm was a popular stop throughout the 1920s for travelers heading to the Southern California beaches.

But Walter’s big claim to fame came in 1932 when he cultivated and sold the world’s first boysenberries—a hybrid of raspberry, blackberry, loganberry, and dewberry. This new berry brought so many people to the farm that they added a restaurant, featuring Cordelia’s secret fried chicken recipe, and the Knotts struck gold again.

The fried chicken was a huge hit, and the restaurant got so crowded the Knotts added rides and attractions to the farm to keep customers occupied while they waited for a table. Over the years the real berry farm transformed into an amusement park called Knott’s Berry Farm—one of my favorites as a kid—which is now ranked as the tenth most visited theme park in North America.

Knott’s Berry Farm is also a brand of delicious preserves, jams, and other foods, including these fantastic little jam-filled shortbread cookies that everyone seems to love. The shortbread dough is piped into closed “c” shapes with a pastry bag onto baking sheets, then a little bit of jam is spooned into the center. You’ll need a pastry bag and a 1M open star tip, plus your favorite seedless jam. Once you’ve got all that, the rest is pretty easy.

Follow this link for more copycat cookies, brownies and treats.

Menu Description: “Creamy potato soup topped with melted cheese, bacon, and green onions.”

It’s not called baked potato soup because the potatoes in it are baked. It’s called baked potato soup because it’s topped with shredded cheese, bacon, and green onion, and it tastes like a baked potato. Other hacky hacks for this recipe miss that point and add over an hour to the preparation process by preheating an oven and baking the potatoes, all while hungry stomachs are growling on the sidelines. My version skips that part by adding the raw potatoes directly into the pot with the other ingredients, where they cook in 20 minutes, and the soup is ready to eat in less time than other recipes take just to get the potatoes done.

Also, other clones add way too much flour to thicken the soup—¾ cup! Sure, flour is good at thickening, but it doesn’t add any flavor, so I found a better way. I ended up using just a little flour to make the roux, then later thickening the soup mostly with dehydrated potato flakes, which are usually used to make quick mashed potatoes. The flakes not only do a great job of thickening the soup, but they also add more delicious potato flavor to the pot.

Top your finished soup with shredded cheese, crumbled bacon, and green onion, and every spoonful will taste like a fully loaded baked potato.

Finish off your meal with a famous entrée from Outback like Alice Springs Chicken, or Toowoomba Steak.

Menu Description: “Northern Spy apples baked in a pastry crust topped with vanilla ice cream and a caramel drizzle.”

The most important component of a good crostata, or Italian baked tart, is a great crust. When cloning this top Olive Garden dessert, that's where I first focused my efforts, baking dozens of slightly different unfilled sugared crusts. Thankfully, flour is cheap. Once I had an easy, yet still delicious and flakey crust that was as good, if not better, than the real thing, I turned to the filling.

Olive Garden uses Northern Spy apples in the crostata, which are somewhat tart, firm apples often used in pies. But they are hard to find. If you can’t find Northern Spy apples, the much more common Granny Smith apples work just fine here. As for chopping the apples, I noted that the apple pieces in the real crostata have no uniformity—the apples appear to be sliced, then those slices are coarsely chopped, resulting in a mixture of small and large apple pieces. We'll do the same here.

After your crostatas have been baked to a golden brown, top each one with a scoop of ice cream and drizzle some caramel sauce over the top for a beautiful dessert no one will have the power to resist.

This recipe makes four crostatas, which is enough for eight people to share. If you have crostatas left over, they can be stored in a covered container for a couple of days, then reheated under a broiler until hot just before serving.

Want some more of my Olive Garden clone recipes? I've got a bunch right here.

Menu Description: "Quickly-cooked steak with scallions and garlic."

Beef lovers go crazy over this one at the restaurant. Flank steak is cut into bite-sized chunks against the grain, then it's lightly dusted with potato starch (in our case we'll use cornstarch), flash-fried in oil, and doused with an amazing sweet soy garlic sauce. The beef comes out tender as can be, and the simple sauce sings to your taste buds. I designed this recipe to use a wok, but if you don't have one a saute pan will suffice (you may need to add more oil to the pan to cover the beef in the flash-frying step). P. F. Chang's secret sauce is what makes this dish so good, and it's versatile. If you don't dig beef, you can substitute with chicken. Or you can brush it on grilled salmon.

I've cloned a lot of the best dishes from P.F. Chang's. Click here to see if I coped your favorite.

If you feel like diving into a pile of wings with big flavor and no heat, you'll love this hack of a top pick at Wingstop. At the restaurant, these wings are deliciously doused with a buttery garlic Parmesan baste and then sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese. A home clone is easy when you toss crispy wings in this hack of the top secret baste and top them with a snowfall of good Parmesan cheese.

To duplicate the baste, you clarify a stick of butter, then add a little oil so that the butter doesn’t solidify. Parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt are mixed in, then the sauce is set aside to cool and thicken.

Once the wings are fried to a golden brown, toss them with the baste in a bowl, then grab the grated Parm and make it snow.

Check out my other Wingstop clone recipes here.

The Southern-themed chain famous for its gift shops filled with made-in-America products and delicious homestyle food is also known to have a particularly good meatloaf. This dish ranks high in popularity, right up there with the Chicken ‘n Dumplins and the Hash Brown Casserole, so a good hack is long overdue.

Making meatloaf is easy. What’s hard is making it taste like the meatloaf at Cracker Barrel which is tender and juicy, and flavored with onion, green pepper, and tomato. I sought to turn out a moist and tender loaf of meat, and one that’s not dry and tough, but my first attempts were much too dense. I wasn’t happy about that, but my dog was thrilled.

After playing around with the eggs-to-breadcrumbs-to-milk ratios and being careful to use gentle hands when combining everything and pressing it into the loaf pan, the final batch was a winner and I get to pass it along to you.

It's best to use a meatloaf pan here which has an insert that lets the fat drip to the bottom, away from the meat. A regular loaf pan will still work, but you’ll want to pour off the fat in the pan before slicing.

Satisfy your Cracker Barrel cravings with more of my copycat recipes here.

One of the most-loved treats at the Maggiano's Little Italy restaurant chain are the crescent-shaped lemon cookies served at the end of your meal. The cookies are soft, chewy, and coated with a bright lemon icing, and it’s impossible to eat just one.

Well, now you can eat as many as you like because this knockoff recipe makes five dozen lemony taste-alike cookies. And you won’t have to worry about getting a crescent cookie cutter to get the shapes right. First, cut out a circle using a round 2-inch biscuit cutter, then use the cutter to slice a chunk out of the round, making a crescent.

You might also like my copycat recipe for Maggiano's Beef Tenderloin Medallions.

In early 1985, restaurateur Rich Komen felt there was a specialty niche in convenience-food service just waiting to be filled. His idea was to create an efficient outlet that could serve freshly made cinnamon rolls in shopping malls throughout the country. It took nine months for Komen and his staff to develop a cinnamon roll recipe he knew customers would consider the "freshest, gooiest, and most mouthwatering cinnamon roll ever tasted." The concept was tested for the first time in Seattle's Sea-Tac mall later that year, with workers mixing, proofing, rolling, and baking the rolls in full view of customers. Now, more than 626 outlets later, Cinnabon has become the fastest-growing cinnamon roll bakery in the world.

The real Dole Whip is a non-dairy dessert that includes artificial flavoring, a small amount of real pineapple juice, and more gums than a candy store. Everything in this Hawaiian ice cream is combined in a powdered form including the pineapple juice in 4.4-pound bags that are sold to soft-serve machine operators at fairs, sporting events, and amusement parks. On the back of the Dole Whip mix are instructions to dissolve the powder in 2 gallons of cold tap water, then immediately pour the syrup into a soft serve machine and hit the switch.

Up until now, almost all recipes that claim to reproduce Dole Whip—including one shared by Disneyland during the coronavirus outbreak—include ice cream, to make what is supposed to be a "non-dairy" dessert one that is quite full of dairy. The results you get from these recipes may be tasty, but they are nothing like Dole Whip because Dole Whip is sorbet and sorbet isn't made with ice cream.

One thing that makes Dole Whip special is its creamy consistency, which may lead some people to believe it has dairy in it. Dole Whip creates this thickness with the assistance of six different natural gums and gels: cellulose gum, xanthan gum, locust bean gum, guar gum, karaya gum, and pectin. In addition, there is a small amount of coconut fat solids in the mix to help simulate the fat found in dairy.

For this hack, I limited the gels to two that are easy to find: unflavored gelatin and pectin. When these two ingredients are heated, then cooled, they form a gel similar to what’s in the real Dole Whip, and the result is a thick-and-creamy consistency. Another trick often used to help thicken sorbets is the use of viscous corn syrup to replace much of the sugar. Corn syrup will give the sorbet body and it helps tone down the acidic pineapple juice.

But the best part of this Dole Whip copycat recipe, unlike the real thing, is that it contains all-natural ingredients and it's mostly made of real Dole pineapple juice, plus a little tangerine juice to round out the flavor and enrich the color. This homemade Dole Whip is ridiculously easy to make (you'll need an ice cream maker) and fans of the real thing will love it. Plus, now you can have this DIY Dole Whip whenever you want—no amusement park required.

Click here for more hacks of delicious desserts and sweet treats.

One of two pasta dishes currently on the pizza giant’s menu, the Meaty Marinara Pasta was first introduced in a 2008 April Fool’s publicity stunt when Pizza Hut claimed it was changing its name to “Pasta Hut.” No one fell for the prank but they did fall for the pasta, and that's why the Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta and Meaty Marinara Pasta have been on the menu ever since. The sauce is the big secret here it's simple and classic, but customized to produce a marinara with that distinct Pizza Hut taste. And the recipe will make more than enough pasta to go around.

The hack is an easy one. After browning the seasoned beef you add it to the sauce, simmer the sauce until thick, then spread it over one pound of rotini pasta in a baking dish in two layers so that every bite is filled with flavor. Sprinkle shredded mozzarella over the top and melt it until golden brown under your broiler. Boom! No one can resist. You rule.

This simple and inexpensive meal will feed eight, and leftovers keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Also check out my clone recipe for Pizza Hut Tuscani Creamy Chicken Alfredo Pasta.

Over a century ago, Detroit, Michigan became the Coney Island chili dog capital of the world, even though Coney Island is nowhere near there. Greek immigrants who entered the U.S. through Ellis Island adapted a recipe for the hot dogs they ate while visiting Coney Island, New York, on their way to the Midwest. When they settled in southern Michigan, many opened restaurants to sell their clones of the food they ate when they first got to America, turning New York-style Coney Dogs into a Midwest phenomenon.

Two of the most famous Coney Island restaurants in Detroit are Lafayette Coney Island and its next-door neighbor, American Coney Island. The two buildings were originally one building with a single restaurant inside, built by brothers Gus and Bill Keros in 1915. But somewhere along the way the brothers had a falling out and split the restaurant in half, right down the middle, and it stayed that way. Today, the two Coney Island restaurants are under different ownership, but they still remain next-door rivals.

I decided the best Coney dog to hack is from American Coney Island, not only because of the restaurant’s deep history, but also because I was able to order the chili dogs shipped to my house in a kit. That’s always good news, since shipped foods must list ingredients, and I get to see exactly what’s in the chili. Built the traditional way, a typical Detroit Coney Island chili dog features a natural-casing hot dog in a soft white bun, smothered in chili sauce, drizzled with mustard, and topped with a pile of diced sweet onion. The kit came with everything I needed, including the tub of chili with clearly-labeled ingredients that I was counting on.

With the help of that information, I was able to create a thick, flavorful chili sauce that you can use on your favorite hot dogs to make a delicious clone. Crushed soda crackers thicken the chili, and extra beef fat adds a smooth quality that mimics the famous 100-year-old recipe.

The chili must simmer for four hours to properly tenderize the meat, so plan your Coney dog cloning adventure accordingly.

And now if you're craving French fries, try my Mcdonald's Fries copycat recipe here.

For decades, Carl’s Jr. has effectively cornered the market on fried zucchini at major fast food chains by serving a great crispy breaded version that’s flavorful all the way through. Now you can make zucchini that tastes just as good, as long as you know the secret step that other fried zucchini recipes miss. It makes all the difference.

The secret is a brine. I found that this fried zucchini tastes best when it takes a salted water bath before breading. In 60 minutes, the salt in the brine is absorbed by the zucchini, spreading good flavor all the way through. After the brine, the zucchini is rinsed, coated twice with flour and once with seasoned breadcrumbs, and fried to a beautiful golden brown.

I’m giving you a couple choices here. You can make the recipe all the way through and serve it immediately, or if you want to serve it later, you can par-fry the zucchini and freeze it for several days. After that, when an occasion arises, a couple minutes is all it takes to finish off the dish and serve it. This recipe makes enough for a small gathering, but you can easily cut it in half for a more intimate hang.

Click here for more amazing Carl's Jr. copycat recipes.

Just 15 minutes after the very first Cheesecake Factory opened in Beverly Hills back in 1978, the lines began forming. Here's their cheesecake twist on the delicious Key lime pie. Since Key limes and Key lime juice can be hard to find, this recipe uses standard lime juice which can be purchased bottled or squeezed fresh. If you can find Key lime juice, bear in mind that Key limes are more tart, so you'll need only half as much juice. This recipe also requires a springform pan. If you don't have one, you can use two 9-inch pie pans and make two smaller cheesecakes.

Three components must be mastered to properly hack this top menu pick at the country’s largest fast Chinese chain: candied nuts, honey sauce, and perfectly battered shrimp. For the candied walnuts, I came up with a technique using the oven, which means there’s no candy thermometer required and it’s a no-brainer. For the sauce, you just whisk the ingredients together in a bowl.

To make your shrimp look like the shrimp at Panda Express, you don’t want them tightly curled up when they fry. You can keep them from curling by pinching the tail end of each shrimp after it has been floured and dipping it into the batter headfirst. When you pull it out, the weight of the batter will help unfurl the shrimp a bit, and if you then lower it slowly into the oil it will mostly stay that way.

When all the shrimp have been fried, bake them in the oven so that they are crispy and warm, then toss the shrimp and the nuts in the sweet honey sauce and serve.

Jerrico, Inc., the parent company for Long John Silver's Seafood Shoppes, got its start in 1929 as a six-stool hamburger stand called the White Tavern Shoppe. Jerrico was started by a man named Jerome Lederer, who watched Long John Silver's thirteen units dwindle in the shadow of World War II to just three units. Then, with determination, he began rebuilding. In 1946 Jerome launched a new restaurant called Jerry's and it was a booming success, with growth across the country. Then he took a chance on what would be his most successful venture in 1969, with the opening of the first Long John Silver's Fish 'n' Chips. The name was inspired by Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. In 1991 there were 1,450 Long John Silver Seafood Shoppes in thirty-seven states, Canada, and Singapore, with annual sales of more than $781 million. That means the company holds about 65 percent of the $1.2 billion quick-service seafood business.

Menu Description: "Made from scratch in our kitchens using fresh Grade A Fancy Russet potatoes, fresh chopped onion, natural Colby cheese and spices. Baked fresh all day long."

In the late sixties Dan Evins was a Shell Oil "jobber" looking for a new way to market gasoline. He wanted to create a special place that would arouse curiosity, and would pull travelers off the highways. In 1969 he opened the first Cracker Barrel just off Interstate 40 in Lebanon, Tennessee, offering gas, country-style food, and a selection of antiques for sale. Today there are over 529 stores in 41 states, with each restaurant still designed as a country rest stop and gift store. In fact, those stores which carry an average of 4,500 different items apiece have made Cracker Barrel the largest retailer of American-made finished crafts in the United States.

Those who know Cracker Barrel love the restaurant for its delicious home-style breakfasts. This casserole, made with hash brown-sliced potatoes, Colby cheese, milk, beef broth, and spices is served with many of the classic breakfast dishes at the restaurant. The recipe here is designed for a skillet that is also safe to put in the oven (so no plastic handles). If you don't have one of those, you can easily transfer the casserole to a baking dish after it is done cooking on the stove.

Love Cracker Barrel? Check out my other clone recipes here.

My previously published recipe hack of America's most popular rice pudding was not clear about which kind of rice to use. That's a problem because not all rice is created equal. The recipe calls for medium-grain rice but is not any more specific than that, which could lead to varying results in the consistency of the pudding since every rice has a different thickening ability.

I recently reworked this recipe using many different types of rice, including instant rice, converted rice, basmati rice, jasmine rice, calrose rice, arborio rice, and even sushi rice. Most didn't contain the starch needed to properly thicken the pudding, especially the par-cooked rice such as instant rice and converted rice. On the other end of the spectrum, sushi rice contained too much starch and was much too small.

The best of the bunch was jasmine rice, a long-grain rice, which thickened the pudding nicely after 45 minutes or so of simmering and appeared to be comparable in size to what is in the real thing. Jasmine rice plus five more ingredients are all it takes to make this new, improved clone.

And now there's no need for a cooking thermometer as required in my previous recipe, since you can just add the rice when you see the milk beginning to steam and keep the pudding at a low simmer until it's done. After about an hour, you'll have a Kozy Shack rice pudding copycat recipe that's ready to pop into the fridge until it’s cool, creamy, and ready to eat.

Also, check out my copycat recipe for Kozy Shack Tapioca Pudding.

Imagine a giant soft sugar cookie with sweetened cream cheese on top and served warm as if it just came out of the oven and you have California Pizza Kitchen's Butter Cake, a delectable dessert described on the menu with five simple words: “Trust us…just try it.”

This dessert is an easy one to prep in the restaurant since the cakes are made ahead of time and chilled until ordered. Once an order comes in the cake is zapped for a minute in the microwave, then topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and surrounded by dollops of whipped cream. You can prepare yours this way at home as well—make your cakes in advance, then chill them until dessert time. Or, you can serve the cakes right after they come out of the oven. Either way works.

The construction is an easy one—you’ll need four 4-inch cake pans, or ramekins, or anything you can bake in that is 4-inches across. To make the batter I used a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and it worked great, but a hand-held granny mixer also works.

I think you're gonna love this one. Trust me. just hack it.

Find more amazing CPK copycat recipes here.

The Cheesecake Factory’s latest decadent dessert goes extreme with America’s favorite cookie. You’ll find Oreos in the middle of the cheesecake, in the cookie mousse layer, pressed onto the edge, sprinkled on the whipped cream, and even up on top where an Oreo wafer crowns each slice. In fact, I’ve designed this copycat Cheesecake Factory Oreo cheesecake recipe to use every Oreo in a standard size-package—all 36 of them!

This beautiful cheesecake starts with a chocolate cake layer, topped with a layer of chocolate buttercream icing, followed by a no-bake cheesecake layer, Oreo cookie mousse, and more chocolate icing. It’s a chocolate lover’s—and Oreo lover’s—dream, and not surprisingly, one of Cheesecake Factory’s best sellers.

When creating your own version of this dessert masterpiece at home, be sure to use a 10-inch springform pan. This is a big cheesecake, so you'll get 12 large slices out of it. The restaurant charges around 56 bucks for a whole cheesecake this big, but thankfully, a homemade version will cost you much less than that.

I’m not sure why Einstein Bros. claims there are just four cheeses in the new Twice-Baked Hash Brown when the ingredients clearly list six kinds of cheese, plus cream cheese. Regardless, the shredded Asiago, Romano, Parmesan, provolone, and mozzarella listed there can be found combined in an “Italian Blend” at many supermarkets, making for an easy start to our home clone. And don’t just be thinking about breakfast for these cheesy potatoes. They work great as a side for any meal.

In the detailed description of the new item, Einstein Bros. claims the hash browns contain two kinds of schmears, which is true, but a little misleading because one of them is just plain cream cheese. The other is onion-and-chive cream cheese, which we can make from scratch. We’ll combine those two shmears into one blend by doubling the cream cheese added to our onion-and-chive schmear formula.

Mix everything together and load the ingredients into a standard 12-cup muffin pan with circles of parchment paper cut out to fit into the bottom of the 12 cups. Without these parchment circles, the hash browns may stick and break when they’re released. You can also use paper muffin cups, if you don’t mind the less crispy, ridged sides.

Bake them the first time for 30 minutes, then cool and store. Now you have a dozen servings of cheesy hash brown potatoes that are easy to finish off by baking them a second time until crispy. They are great served with breakfast, or for dinner as your starchy side alongside beef, chicken, lamb, and many other savory entrees.

You can also make homemade Einstein Bros bagels, sandwiches, and shmears. See if I hacked your favorites here.

Menu Description: “A baked blend of Italian cheeses, pasta, and our signature five-cheese marinara.”

Hacking Olive Garden’s famous baked ziti would not be possible without a perfect clone of the chain’s popular five-cheese marinara sauce. I started with my previous hack of the plain marinara for Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmigiana and enhanced it with the addition of five kinds of Italian cheese and heavy cream.

Determining which five types of cheese are in a prepared sauce is tough without some insider assistance, so before cooking I focused my efforts on convincing a server to ask the chef for the list…and I got it! The blend of cheese used here in the sauce comes straight from the kitchen of my local Olive Garden. When you taste it you’ll know the intel was legit.

After the sauce is added to the pasta it’s topped with a cheese-and-breadcrumb mix called “ziti topping,” then it’s browned under a salamander (for the restaurant version) or a broiler (for your version). The result is a beautiful dish with great sauce and a cheesy topping that should satisfy even the pickiest baked ziti fanatics.

I've cloned a ton of dishes from Olive Garden. See if I hacked your favorite here.

Here’s a hack that might help when you feel like doing something special with those steaks in the fridge. Or maybe you have salmon fillets in there? Doesn’t matter, this recipe works great on both. And it also makes a great pasta sauce.

The secret Toowoomba sauce is a variation on alfredo sauce that Outback served over pasta at one time. These days the sauce is only used to top steak and salmon at the restaurant, but you can also use it on just about any type of pasta.

In my early batches of the sauce, I noticed that if the shrimp are added at the beginning they get too tough. To solve that problem, I sautéed the seasoned shrimp separately, then added them closer to the end, and they came out perfect.

Spoon this clone of the Toowoomba sauce over grilled tenderloin filets (or salmon filets) for an easy way to elevate your entrée. This recipe will make enough for four servings.

If you love Outback Steakhouse, check out my other clone recipes here.

There’s one copycat recipe for these famous biscuits that’s posted and shared more than any other, and it’s downright awful. The dough is formulated with self-rising flour, baking powder, powdered sugar, shortening, and buttermilk, and many complain that the recipe creates dough that’s much too loose and the resulting biscuits are a complete disaster. Yet there the recipe remains on blogs and boards all over the interweb for unsuspecting home cloners such as yourself to waste time on. But that won’t happen anymore, because I have made a good copycat Bojangles' buttermilk biscuits recipe that works the way it should, guaranteeing you’ll get amazing golden buttermilk biscuits that look and taste just like a trained Bojangles’ pro made them.

In addition to the obvious overuse of buttermilk, the popular recipe I found online has many problems. The author gets it right when calling for self-rising flour, which is flour containing salt and a leavening agent (aka baking powder), but why would the copycat Bojangles biscuit recipe be designed to use self-rising flour and then add additional leaving? Well, it probably wouldn’t. Biscuits are job number 1 for self-rising flour, and the leavening in there is measured for that use, so there’s no need to add more. If you were planning to add your own leavening, you’d probably start with all-purpose flour, which has no leavening in it. And let's just be clear: baking powder tastes gross, so we want to add as little as possible, not more than necessary.

It’s also important to handle the dough the same way that workers at Bojangles’ do. They make biscuits there every 20 minutes and there are plenty of YouTube videos showing the preparation technique. In a nutshell, the dough is mixed by hand (in the restaurant they use their hands because the quantity is so large, but for this recipe use a mixing spoon), then it’s folded over a few times on a floured countertop before it’s rolled out. This gentle handling of the dough prevents the gluten in the flour from toughening and adds layers, so your biscuits come out of the oven tender and flakey.

For the best results, find White Lily flour. This self-rising flour is low in gluten and makes unbelievably fluffy biscuits. If you use another self-rising brand, you’ll still get great biscuits, but the gluten level will likely be higher, the biscuits will be tougher, and you’ll probably need more buttermilk. Head down to the Tidbits below for details on that.

And I noticed another thing most copycat Bojangles biscuit recipes get wrong. For biscuits that are beautifully golden brown on the top and bottom, you’ll want to bake them on a silicone baking mat (or parchment paper) at 500 degrees F. Yes, 500 degrees. That may seem hot, but this high temp works well with self-rising flour, and in 12 to 15 minutes the biscuits will be perfectly browned.

Counterintuitively, it’s the lower temperatures that end up burning the biscuits, while the higher temperature cooks them just right. At lower temps the biscuits must stay in the oven longer to cook through, which exposes the surfaces to more heat, and they end up too dark on the outside, especially the bottom. For even better results, if you have a convection setting on your oven, use that and set the temp to 475 degrees F. Your biscuits will look like they came straight from the drive-thru.


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