There are two pictures of M’s Pub. The one that’s in your head, and the one that now exists in the Old Market, right where it left off.
It’s the things that are exactly the same, after the fire that destroyed the restaurant almost two years ago, that strike deepest. The long, green marble bar topped with M’s-branded cocktail napkins. The busy, petite kitchen. The rich brass candelabras. Many of the faces working here you’ll recognize, and certainly the patrons you will, too.
Omaha’s M’s Pub is back.
“We have waited a long time for this,” said owner Ann Mellen. “It almost feels like it never was gone. It’s a dream come true — again.”
Since the fire in January 2016, Mellen has been working to bring her restaurant back. She worked on the new M’s with Gary Bowen, who worked on the original interior with architects John Morford and Cedric Hartman in 1972. The original plans still existed.
“We saw it come together day by day, in layers,” chef Bobby Mekiney said. “The brass and wood and marble.”
There are small differences: the stairwell is gone from the front wall, but the slanted mirror is the same. Instead of chic fashions usually seen through the south window at the still-closed Nouvelle Eve boutique, there is still a construction site. A new doorway on the north side leads to the expanded kitchen and the restrooms, complete with the funky wall sculptures of a man and woman that used to be in the basement. The restrooms and part of the kitchen were moved to the main floor with the construction of a small, unobtrusive addition.
The restaurant opens officially Wednesday, after soft openings Sunday and tonight.
Evan TreKell, who used to dine at M’s for lunch five days a week, said he’s happy to have his place back.
“The ambiance,” he said during the Sunday private gathering. “The ambiance is back.”
As tables started to fill Sunday night, diners ordered bottles of wine. Number nine cocktails made with the house infused strawberry vodka. Cups of soup — an M’s specialty — and hot dinner rolls.
Our table flew through some familiar favorites, too: M’s renowned baked dish, with shrimp and mushrooms under a layer of melted cheese. The Thai lahvosh. The lamb burger, the crab cakes, the Omaha Grill.
Mekiney, an M’s alum, has re-created the menu with a few new touches. And the specials menu, which will launch with the opening Wednesday, will be entirely new.
Omahan Rita Saunders was enjoying a bit of the old — an M’s lahvosh — mixed with a bit of the new, because there are new lahvosh flavors, including the Santa Fe, which she tried.
“I’m thrilled. Just thrilled,” she said. “My husband and I have been coming here since it opened in the early ’70s.”
Sunday night, the restaurant filled by 6:30. Tonight, the bar will be reserved for firefighters from Engine 1 who helped fight the blaze in frigid conditions in January 2016.