Still heading eastward, we easily remember our way back to the Bohemian Cafe on 13th Street in Omaha. It’s the last exit in Nebraska. “If you cross the Missouri, you’ve gone too far.”
As we exit from I-80 at 13th Street, we pass the ballpark where the World Series of College Baseball is taking place. The park is all lit up and full of fans. Bob, our resident sports fan, says “Wow, I was reading about it today in the paper but I forgot we’d be passing through Omaha. It’s right there.” It’s exciting to be so close.
And it’s only a few blocks north on 13th Street to the Bohemian. We had eaten here last August, thanks to the book Roadfood by Jane & Michael Stern, and we were happy to have an opportunity to come back. It’s an old-school Czech retaurant that opened in this location in the late 1950s, and I think it’s been so lovingly cared for that nothing has changed since then. It has classy wood paneling halfway up all the walls. It’s decorated with all sorts of touristy reminders of the old country and the old culture. And the prices are very reasonable.
Last year we stopped for lunch. This year it’s dinner, so we each get a big earthenware mug of cold draught beer.
Bob decides to try the breaded veal cutlets. “I don’t think I’ve had breaded veal cutlets since my mom died,” he says.
Glenn and I both get the roasted duck special, one of the specialties of the house. I can’t remember the last time I ordered duck.
We all start with the liver dumpling soup. It’s a cup of scrumptious beef broth with one relatively small but incredibly dense and delicious dumpling. And the liver is in the dumpling. Or the liver flavor is anyway. There are many flavors here dancing around in each cup, and we all like the soup a lot.
We each get the sauerkraut and the dumplings (thick doughy slices of dumplings?) with our meals, all covered with gravy. This is not light eating. It’s Eastern European peasant food, stick to your ribs cooking, and I don’t know of another restaurant anywhere that does it so proudly and so effectively. It’s unusual and great.
Have I mentioned that there’s polka music playing all the time? It’s a happy little place.
On our way out, Bob wants us to try the unusual herby Czech after-dinner liqueur called Becherovka. Bob had brought a bottle home on one of his Eastern European trips years ago, and he’s not sure that he really likes it, but he wants us to try it. The restaurant has bottles standing near the register. So we duck into the bar, decorated exactly like the rest of the restaurant with traditional Czech costumes and designs, and Bob buys just one shot to share. Sips all around. It ain’t bad. It’s got an odd, cinammon-y sort of punch. Herb-y. It gives us a little extra zing for the short drive to the town Missouri Valley across the river in Iowa.
We get back on I-80 by the ballpark, and the game is still going. Later we find out Fresno State beat my alma mater North Carolina by a score of 6 to 1.
As we head north on Interstate 29, we are treated to a spectacular sunset over Omaha. Ahh.