The 21st Saloon
Where: 4727 S. 96th St.
When: 3 p.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Friday, 5p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday-Sunday.
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Don't let the strip mall address fool you. The 21st Saloon radiates a homegrown authenticity. The musical, bar game and beer-tippin' hot spot has a rustic charm, a local soul and the blues on Thursday evenings.
With a reputation for respectable sound, the Saloon is a well-equipped live music venue and has become known for its Thursday Blues Series. The string of “blues matinees,” as they've been coined thanks to a 6 p.m. start time (get there earlier if you want a table), has proven a hit. Local music lovers and the Blues Society of Omaha rally along this showcase of national touring acts, who are ready to wail a full six hours before the midnight hour.
Tickets to most shows range from $8 to $15, making the evening a great “school night” option. How slick to be able to enjoy talented artists playing for an appreciative crowd at a reasonable price and at a reasonable hour. Throw in an order of crispy chicken wings that fly through a window from the neighboring Buffalo Company, and you have a protein packed dinner, to boot.
Scheduled performances include harmonica wizard Harper Thursday night (he is also adept at the didgeridoo!) and trippy blusters The Todd Wolfe Band Wednesday. Fun fact: Wolfe played lead guitar in Sheryl Crow's mid-'90s touring band.
If blues isn't your bag, The Saloon is also featuring the Spandex rock of '80s hair metal tribute band 3D In Your Face. The motley crew is slated to take the stage Friday nights through November.
Between sets you'll find Saloon's atmosphere matches the musical offerings: masculine. Their log cabin-lite effect boasts real log paneling that goes well with beer drinking and is rumored to improve the acoustics in the room. Select one of their 19 draft beer varieties while you belly up to the worn-smooth wooden bar that zigzags along part of the Saloon's interior, allowing for a nice flow of space and comfortable stage views from any angle.
Worth noticing is the artfully arranged collection of celebratory artifacts atop the upright beer cooler. Party kitsch abounds up there: a disco ball, glammed up skulls, party lights, Mardi Gras beads, a sombrero. It beckons the barfly, “good times happen here.”
Beyond the live music, the Saloon has plenty to keep you entertained. Bar game offerings include pool (free on Sundays), darts, pinball and assorted video games. The place has Keno, a spacious smoking patio, a sweet jukebox, happy hour specials, even one of those electronic Breathalyzer machines.
Most importantly, the 21st Saloon offers the promise crucial to any beloved neighborhood bar. Proudly stated on their outgoing voice mail: “We are open 365 days a year, and we NEVER close early.”