In a completely unscientific way, I polled my friends on Omaha’s lineup of high-end steakhouses before I wrote this review.
Friends with some of the best taste in food were unanimous in complimenting west Omaha’s Mahogany Prime. It’s pricey, they warned (they are right), but they said it’d be worth it.
The World-Herald hasn’t visited Mahogany since just after its opening in 2003. I figured it was high time I made it out to the neighborhood where I grew up to experience it for the first time.
Little seems to have changed at the restaurant since we first wrote about it. It’s still dark and wood-filled, with a masculine ambiance and the martinis and Manhattans to match. The wine list is still huge, with many selections worth trying. The menu focuses heavily on beef — this is the beef state, after all — and from what I tried, the kitchen does red meat very well and never well done.
I tried three steaks over two dinners: the 14-ounce ribeye, the 8-ounce filet and the bone-in filet. All were cooked to perfection, slathered in butter and served on a plate too hot to touch.
The flavor of all three pieces of beef shone through, thanks to plenty of salt and pepper. I probably liked the traditional filet best; it’s historically my favorite cut, and here, it didn’t disappoint, with a tender, juicy texture that I could nearly cut with a fork alone. My friend basically licked the plate after finishing his ribeye; he generally salts his food again after a dish comes out of the kitchen, but here, that wasn’t necessary. Seasoning was spot on.
The bone-in filet we had another night is an absolutely gargantuan piece of meat. Ours had nice flavor, though a few bites were threaded with veiny, tough bits that we pushed to the side.
We ordered all three pieces of beef cooked medium rare, and they arrived just perfect. They should, for the price.
One cannot visit Mahogany without experiencing at least a brief moment of sticker shock.
The bone-in filet is $58.99. The ribeye, $46.99. The 8-ounce filet, $41.99. We never left without spending more than $200, once all was said and done. Certainly these are premium prices, but so goes the new high-end steakhouse, complete with a la carte side dishes sized for sharing. If you’ve been to a Ruth’s Chris, or, locally, to 801 Chophouse, you know what to expect.
The kitchen at Mahogany prepared our beef with skill, and our meat was delivered with efficient, if scripted, service.
Both times, our waiters told us how the prime steaks are cooked, how they’re served on an uber hot plate and, upon their arrival, our servers shone a small pen light on our cuts while we sliced into meat to make sure it was cooked to our liking. If you’ve been to Mahogany, I’m sure that part of your experience was the same as mine — it’s sort of like a play where the star of the show is a piece of beef.
I’d hoped to try some seafood on my second visit, but nothing caught my eye. The menu has salmon and sea bass, and the night I visited, a special red snapper, but none of the presentations appealed to me, and none felt particularly new or modern. So I switched gears last-minute and instead ordered bison filet, which was delicious. Cooked medium rare, it had a clean, grassy taste — it’s the only grass-fed selection on the menu — and a tender bite. I’d order it again, if it were available.
Sides and appetizers pleased across the board.
An order of onion rings, which we got as a starter instead of a side, had plenty of flavor and seasoning, and my onion-ring-loving friend signed off on them: not too greasy, and super crispy, he said.
The “lobster cargot” is the most popular appetizer on the menu, a server told us, and so we tried it. If you ever had one of the M’s Pub baked dishes, this is a lobster version of that very thing. Hunks of seafood in little holes in an escargot dish topped with melted cheese and floating in seasoned oil. I liked it at M’s, and I like it at Mahogany.
Sautéed mushrooms off the sides menu had a meaty texture. Cooked spinach, also on that list, came with a vinegary kick and sliced red onions, all topped with toasted pine nuts.
Roasted Brussels sprouts were tossed with chunks of pork but had a maple-tinged, sweet finish, an unusual choice. And the corn with sweet cream butter is just downright good, a classic taken to the extreme.
On the first night, we ordered the “table side martini,” and though it was very good — balanced, ice cold, extra dirty — it arrived finished instead of shaken at the table, as promised on the menu. Jay Marquiss, the restaurant’s general manager, said it should have been finished table side.
“That’s part of the show,” he said.
I liked my Manhattan a lot; served up, it is, for me, the perfect companion to beef.
Another night we found some lovely wine selections, including a mid-priced bottle of red, around $30. It was one of the more reasonably priced wines; the list includes bottles in the $400 range.
The desserts at Mahogany are great, if huge and decadent. We tried a big slice of carrot cake with a thick cream cheese frosting and a tender crumb, and an off-menu special, a crème brûlée cheesecake. A sort of hybrid of the two classic desserts, it won points for creativity with its crisp exterior and just-cool, dense center.
Mahogany has four locations, and the one in Omaha is the only one outside its home state of Oklahoma.
Marquiss said that after another of his company’s concepts, a southwest-style restaurant called Red Rock Canyon, closed, the company remodeled and reopened as Mahogany. It didn’t take off right away, he said, and it became known for having a “stuffy” atmosphere, something the more recent management has worked hard to dispel.
I had hoped, as a burger lover, that Mahogany might serve a high-end sandwich in its bar, but it doesn’t. The bar and dining room have the same menu. Marquiss said that because the parent company, Hal Smith Restaurant Group, runs many other more casual concepts, including both Omaha locations of Charleston’s, they’ve kept Mahogany more high-end.
Mahogany makes a mean high-end steak. I like its versions of classic steakhouse sides, and I appreciate the creative moments, which appear when least expected.
If it’s payday, or a special occasion, put it on your list and go to town. I’ll give you the same advice my friends gave me: It’ll be worth it.
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O Dining & Lounge | 1015 Farnam St.
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Ika Ramen and Izakaya and Kaitei | 6109 Maple St.
Ramen, shared appetizers, donburi bowls and a new basement bar. Ika has struck a new balance of funky and delicious in Benson; Kaitei brings a boozy, Japanese-inspired drink menu to the basement. Across the board, Ika has improved: ramen is better, with more depth, appetizers are excellent. Read more
Bruno’s Pasta Co. | 3623 N. 129th St.
Pizza, pasta and salads, as well as limited entrees. Small problems with both food and service led to a larger, overall problem at Bruno’s. Competition is tight in Omaha’s Italian scene; they must improve. Read more
China Garden | 8441 West Center Road.
Sichuan menu, in-table hot pot and Americanized Chinese all under one roof. For the adventurous eater who wants to try something new, the Sichuan menu is worth exploring. The in-table hot pot is worth experiencing. Also good: the spicy beef hot pot that comes assembled and the cold Sichuan noodles on the appetizer list. Read more
Mahogany Prime Steakhouse | 13665 California St.
The bone-in filet is $58.99. The ribeye, $46.99. The 8-ounce filet, $41.99. Certainly these are premium prices, but so goes the new high-end steakhouse, complete with a la carte side dishes sized for sharing. If you’ve been to a Ruth’s Chris, or, locally, to 801 Chophouse, you know what to expect. Read more.
Vis Major Brewing Co. | 3501 Center St.
Vis Major is keeping it simple. The brewery serves a succinct list of food that happens to pair perfectly with its robust list of house beers. The menu is mostly sausage, sourced locally from Frank Stoysich Meats, along with pretzel bites and flavored popcorn that’s addictively good. Read more.
Ryan’s Food and Spirits | 12221 Mary Plaza
At Ryan’s Food and Spirits, diners have a choice to make because Ryan Gish is aiming to create a casual sports bar and a fine dining concept under one roof. Read more.
The Dire Lion Grille & Chippy food truck | various locations
There are very few Omaha outposts where a diner can get fish and chips, bangers and mash and a ploughman’s sandwich, along with other English specialties. Isaiah Renner and Dakota Kelsay realized the gap in Omaha’s food offerings and decided to fill it with Dire Lion last June. Read more.
Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings | 120 S. 31st Ave.
The thing that Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings does best is right there in the name. It makes sense. Ray Bullock has been making wings since the mid-’70s, when he was a kid working in a Buffalo, New York, pizza joint. He first made them for Omahans in the early ’90s. Read more.
The Corner Kick Street Tacos & Sports Cantina | 13806 P St.
Owner Juan Magana has played soccer his whole life, he said, but it’s been hard for him and his friends to find an Omaha spot outside of their homes to watch matches. He took over The Corner Kick space with plans to change that, and to offer something other than the burger you can “get anywhere else,” he said. Read more.
Tired Texan BBQ | 4702 S. 108th St.
If there’s some sort of rule that says good barbecue comes only from restaurants in really random locations, well, Tired Texan fits that bill. Read more.
Gold Mountain at Aksarben Village | 6750 Mercy Rd.
One of the first things that hits diners when they walk in the door is that this new location is a lot swankier than the one out west, and it’s also got a full bar. Read more.
Della Costa | 220 S. 31st Ave.
The vast coastal Mediterranean menu at Della Costa meant that only about half the dishes we tried worked as well as they should. The restaurant excels in three areas: small plates, cocktails and desserts, which are exceptional. Read more
Virtuoso Pizzeria by David Losole | 6056 N. Maple St.
I appreciate owner David Losole’s restraint and thoughtful approach — each slice we tried was good from tip to crusty edge. All pizza slices we tried were great, balanced in flavor and ingredients. A dipped Chicago-style beef sandwich is worth trying. Read more
Riva Steak & Seafood, Ameristar Casino | 2200 River Road, Council Bluffs
I hoped Riva might have been a hidden gem — a fine dining spot in the most unexpected of places. But aside from a few winning dishes, I didn’t find many winners. Read more.
Charred Burger + Bar | 1150 Sterling Ridge Drive
When Charred is able to cook its burgers as customers request, they’re great. But often, they come out different than requested, often overcooked. The classic burger, with its simple toppings, lets the meat shine. Read more
Culprit | 1603 Farnam St.
Culprit started out as a coffee shop, but has matured into a weekend brunch destination worth visiting. Try the egg white sandwich, savory scones and well-prepared coffee. Read more
Maresco’s Italian Market | 2821 S. 108th St.
Maresco’s offers several types of pastas, spices, wines and other Italian products you can’t find elsewhere in Omaha. The hot Italian beef sandwich, featuring a thinly sliced roast in a hot marinade, is hard to put down. Read more
Umami | 1504 Galvin Road South, Bellevue
Omaha’s best, most refined sushi. Chef Keen Zheng moved here from New York and is prepared to make waves; he’s importing fish almost daily from New York and Japan and will soon introduce chef’s choice omakase. Read more
Sertinos Cafe | 3669 N. 129th St.
Service was what stood out at Sertinos; the food didn’t blow us away. The shop makes a wide variety of good coffee drinks. The toasted sandwiches, including a ham and turkey club, were the best of the bunch. Read more
Oma's Deli | 1217 Leavenworth St.
A nice Old Market alternative during the lunch hour that’s serving quick but carefully made cuisine and coffee. Read more.
Stirnella | 3814 Farnam St.
The bar and cocktail-heavy Blackstone District has its first grown-up restaurant. I recommend a chicken dish made with locally raised meat from Plum Creek that let the flavor of the meat shine through and an oxtail and mushroom spaetzle appetizer with rich flavor and varied texture. Read more.
Smitty's | 7610 Dodge St.
Smitty’s is an easygoing, family-friendly, fast-casual spot with a retro service-station theme. While most of what we tried during two recent visits satisfied, some dishes could benefit from a tune-up. Read more
Lombardo’s | 13110 Birch Drive
Lombardo’s is the kind of reliable, Italian-American neighborhood restaurant that the people living nearby — around the 132nd Street and West Maple Road area — must really appreciate. It’s not a chain. It’s affordable. And it’s serving giant portions of things like saucy pastas, classic lasagna and a few surprisingly good appetizers, including a fried eggplant that I’d recommend without hesitation. Read more
Ollie & Hobbes | 310 E. Gold Coast Road, Papillion
I get why Ollie & Hobbes opened where it did, in the heart of suburban Omaha in Papillion, a spot particularly popular with chain restaurants. It’s an area almost devoid of local cuisine. But what I don’t get is why the restaurant isn’t better. I wished for higher quality ingredients across the board, and for more refined cocktail preparation. I wished for less predictable pastas, sandwiches and entrees. Read more
Mercury | 329 S. 16th St.
Mercury has the ethos of your favorite worn-in dive bar: comfortable couches; a laid-back atmosphere; friendly, unpretentious service. But from there, its character takes a turn toward the modern, with a menu of updated ’60s-era small bites; a well-priced, fun wine list; and a bartender who can make you — almost literally — every cocktail known to man, if you ask for it. Read more
Beacon Hills | 6750 Mercy Road
With all of the other offerings in Aksarben Village, many of which cater to the college crowd, Beacon Hills offers something different. It’s a good happy hour destination for the after-work crowd, it’s a good pregame dinner spot before an event at nearby Baxter Arena, and it’s a good place to get a much-needed midwinter comfort food fix that will make you feel cozy and happy. Read more
Au Courant Regional Kitchen | 6064 Maple St.
Chef Benjamin Maides and business partner Carlos Mendez are hitting all the right notes for Benson and for Omaha right now: good cocktails, a hip atmosphere, a menu that’s cutting edge but not scary. Read more
Though it might be more Omaha than New York’s Katz’s, Swartz’s is serving reliable versions of the classics that, until now, were tough to get your hands on regularly without a plane ticket. Read more
Herbe Sainte | 1934 S. 67th St.
What started out as a New Orleans-inspired cocktail lounge has quickly — mostly because of customer demand — morphed into a full-service restaurant and bar that is smack in the heart of Omaha. The spirit inside Herbe Sainte captures some of the best things about the city of New Orleans itself, including hearty but simple food and a focus on serving tasty spirits. Read more
The Boiler Room Restaurant | 1110 Jones St.
In 2016, this-ahead-of-its-time restaurant has settled comfortably into its spot in our city’s dining scene. It’s one of Omaha’s most adventurous and creative dining experiences. Its service is precise and thoughtful. Its menu, now under the talented hand of chef Tim Nicholson — Kulik plans to step away from the restaurant at the end of the year — is refined and rustic, confident and full of contrasts. Read more
The Omaha Bakery | 608 S. 72nd St.
On Oct. 1, Michelle Kaiser opened in Omaha as The Omaha Bakery. The new location, positioned in the middle of a strip mall at 608 S. 72nd St., offers the same assortment of baked treats she made at Alotta Brownies, as well as a cozy lunch menu, with several locally sourced, scratch-made choices that are as friendly and personal as Kaiser herself. Read more
Ugly Duck | 3201 Farnam St.
During two recent visits to the new Ugly Duck, which took over the former Pana 88 spot about two months ago, it became clear that A.J. Swanda’s vision has grown beyond just broth and noodles. Of course, there’s still a healthy selection of ramen, but the new Ugly Duck is perhaps at its most exciting when it’s got nothing to do with soup. Read more
Paragon Dundee | 5018 Underwood Ave.
If there’s one thing you can say about restaurateur Willy Theisen, it’s that he knows how to open a hot, hip spot. He’s done it again with his latest, Paragon Dundee. The atmosphere makes diners — this one included — feel like they’re part of something vibrant and fresh. The comfort food menu has moments when classic dishes take a turn toward the modern, though that didn’t always happen. Read more
Vietnamese Cuisine | 6909 S. 157th St.
The latest local spot offering piping-hot bowls of pho and other classic Vietnamese dishes is the small, casual, family-run Vietnamese Cuisine, which opened in March in a strip mall near 156th and Harrison Streets. At just one page, the menu is relatively short. But what the restaurant lacks in quantity it makes up for in friendly, attentive service and a kitchen that for the most part handles homestyle Vietnamese food with skill. Read more
Cask Republic | 5003 Underwood Ave.
Though the owners have indeed come up with some creative varietals on the classic dish, only half of the ones I tried worked. And, frankly, I’m unsure that poutine on its own, with its rich, greasy heaviness, makes for the kind of dining experience I’ll want to revisit regularly. (No offense, Canada.) Read more
Tacoville | 3044 S. 84th St.
After three visits, I will concede that Tacoville does have some commonalities with Taco Bell, one of which is the fact they are both located within throwing distance on 84th Street. But there are also several differences between the two, such as the quality of Tacoville’s homemade hot sauce and the fact you can order a beer. Read again
High Vibe Cafe | 6706 Frances St., inside the Lotus House of Yoga
I’ve written much about the new trend in restaurants focused on healthy foods and so far, High Vibe is easily my favorite of these kinds of eateries. It’s succinct, well-executed menu is full of juices, smoothies and bowls that are good for you, yes, but also that don’t overlook one essential thing: They have flavor, and lots of it. Read more
Papa Reno | 2861 Capehart Road, Bellevue
Though Papa Reno pies are decidedly in the after-the-softball-game pizza category — it’s middle-of-the-road, reliable pizza — what I really liked about this dinky spot were its surprisingly good signature sandwiches. Read more
Tavern 180 | 203 N. 180th St.
At first glance I was lukewarm on the strip mall location and the somewhat antiseptic look of the dining room. But after two dinners, I have to give the restaurant credit for serving an approachable blend of steakhouse-meets-casual food that was, for the most part, really nicely executed. And it’s also got a really flashy bar, if you’re into such things. Read more