Rob Gilmer knew it was time.
After running Dixie Quicks with his late husband, René Orduña, in the Omaha metro area for 22 years, he decided to close the Council Bluffs restaurant’s doors later this month. Its last day is Jan. 21.
“I want people to remember René’s creation with wonderment, and warmth and longing,” he said. “We made a really good team.”
Orduña died in November 2016, two months after being diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer. Orduña, the restaurant’s chef, and Gilmer opened Dixie Quicks with just 10 tables and a small storefront in Omaha at 15th and Dodge Streets in 1996. It was one of the first city restaurants to serve brunch.
“This restaurant was René’s restaurant,” Gilmer said. “He was the catalyst, he was the force.”
The restaurant became known for Orduña’s Mexican breakfast dishes like chilaquiles and an egg scramble made with prickly pear cactus. Oatmeal and ice cream, a dish he created, has always been a crowd favorite.
In its final two weeks, the restaurant won’t take reservations, Gilmer said.
“This is what we did at the beginning, this is what we will do at the end,” he said.
Gilmer said he has no plans to sell the concept, and he has already closed the vintage store he used to run in the space. His RNG Gallery, which began when the restaurant was in its second location, near 20th and Leavenworth Streets in Omaha, also will close. Gilmer said he doesn’t plan to auction the restaurant’s eclectic decor.
Gilmer wouldn’t say whether another restaurant is taking over the current space, but he did say there’s been interest in the downtown Council Bluffs spot, at 157 West Broadway.
Dixie Quicks wasn’t just known for food, but also for its welcoming atmosphere. It’s always been a hot spot for artists, drag queens, musicians and creative types. The couple also gave sanctuary to younger gay Omahans, offering guidance at times when it could be hard to find.
“We have met incredible people over the years, and have had incredible staff,” Gilmer said.
The restaurant was at its 20th and Leavenworth location when it earned a spot on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network. Gilmer said the show’s host, Guy Fieri, called Orduña to speak with him before he died.
“They had a great bond,” Gilmer said.
He said he knows he’ll see many familiar faces during the final two weeks.
“I can’t wait to see everyone,” he said. “I want people to come and enjoy their last Dixie Quicks meal.”
After Dixie Quicks closes, Gilmer plans to travel, write and focus on his photography; his images decorated Dixie Quicks’ walls throughout its run.
“René and I had an incredible 34 years together, and we lived,” he said. “I know René thinks this is OK, and that he wants me to live my life now. I’m doing it.”
The restaurant will be closed the evening of Jan. 13 for a private party starting at 5 p.m. For more information, call 712-256-4140.