7540 Dodge St.
Hours: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sunday.
Hit: Walt's Champagne Chicken Salad is one of the most creative and well-executed salads in town, and is worth ordering just for the croissant that comes on the side.
Miss: The cheeseburger, while decent, is a notch or two below the rest of the menu.
Reservations: Accepted, and probably needed on weekends.
Drinks: Full bar, wine list, domestic and import beers on tap.
Price: Appetizers from $7 to $11, entrťes from $9 sandwiches to $26 steaks, and desserts from $5 to 10.
Service: Professional, courteous and attentive.
Noise: Loud during busy times.
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Opening a second location of an already popular restaurant can be a dicey proposition.
I wondered what I'd find as I settled into the recently opened second location of Charleston's, the first of which opened in Omaha 14 years ago. Would it live up to the original, near 137th Street and West Dodge Road, which remains a packed West O staple, or be a wan impersonation?
It turns out the new Charleston's, just off 76th and Dodge, is serving the same American classics as the first with the kind of detail that Omahans won't find at many other standard chain restaurants. Those details are what made the first location popular, and this new location doesn't skimp.
Consider the catchily named $11 “shrimpcargot” appetizer, made with creamy, melted Havarti cheese instead of the more standard Parmesan or Swiss. Combined with strong garlic, butter and large shrimp, a lesser cheese would have just added calories instead of texture.
And the Walt's Champagne Chicken Salad, a $15 standard at the first location, is just as good here. Fresh and large, it's made with lots of chicken, strawberries and pineapple and topped with a tart vinaigrette.
And the salads come with fluffy, flaky croissants that are so sweet and buttery, they are good enough to stand on their own as an appetizer or dessert. Thankfully you can order them by the basket — an off-menu secret worth knowing.
Owner Vince Fletcher said customers routinely order them to go by the dozen.
I was admittedly dubious that the inside of the new restaurant would be as comfortable as the original, with its dark wood and masculine interior. Let's face it, the space used to be a buffet restaurant.
But the vibe is cooler in this Charleston's, more appropriate for both the area and the customer base it's trying to attract. It's got lots of natural light, an impressive bar and an open kitchen. Both times I was there, it was packed with midtowners. It's clearly already gelling with the east side of the city.
I've had better Reuben sandwiches than the one I had at Charleston's. The $10 sandwich — tasty despite lighter bread and a house-made Thousand Island dressing more creamy than tangy — got the ratio of corned beef to sauerkraut right. The tamer dressing, Fletcher said, is intentional.
A bowl of from-scratch baked potato soup is a warming choice on a cold day, though its flavor was stronger of chicken than potato. Nonetheless, I liked the $5 soup, with its hearty cheese, onion and potato mix.
A $10 cheeseburger made with Omaha Steaks ground beef and served on a Rotella's bun was cooked perfectly medium rare; flaws were minor. All I wanted was a bit more seasoning. I found it on a side of hot, crispy fries.
Fresh salmon is the heart of the $20 short smoked salmon entrťe. The restaurant soaks the fish in an Asian-inspired marinade, smokes it in-house and grills it to order. It came out a moist medium with a side of sweet and tangy mustard sauce made with honey and brown sugar.
Charleston's is the kind of reliable standard that people count on. What I found at the 2013 version is a bit cooler and a bit larger, but it's the same otherwise. Fourteen years later, Charleston's still knows what people like to eat, and does it right.