One of my first posts on Road Tips was on one of my all-time favorite steak houses in the world, The Drover in Omaha. (You can read that post here.) I hadn't been to The Drover for a long time and it happened that I set up a dinner meeting with one of my dealers in Omaha one evening a few weeks back. I said, "You have any place in particular that you'd like to go to?"
He said, "Have you ever heard of The Drover?"
I said, "The Drover? Good God, yes! I love that place!"
He replied, "How does 7 p.m. at The Drover work for you?"
I said, "I'm there!"
The Drover is one of the many old time steak houses in Omaha. It dates back to the 70's when the old Ak-Sar-Ben race track was one of the premier horse tracks in the Midwest. (Ak-Sar-Ben is Nebraska spelled backwards.) The track was located just across 72nd street and you'd find a number of people who played the ponies earlier in the day congregate at The Drover.
The name "Drover" is a term that is used by cattlemen for a cowboy who worked the cattle drives, moving large numbers of cattle over a long distance. An average of 3000 head of cattle would be moved at any given time to outposts where they could be put on rail cars and sent to Kansas City, Omaha or Chicago for slaughter. The "drovers" oversaw the movement of the cattle and would work for up to 24 hours a day at times. The Drover in Omaha is named after these cowboys and the hard work they did to put good meat on the tables of America in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
The Drover is sort of tucked back in between some office buildings and parking ramps and is sort of hard to find (see map). I happened to get a great rate at the Doubletree Guest Suites just walking distance from The Drover, so I just walked over to meet my dealer around 7:00 p.m. He wasn't there yet, so I ended up sitting in the dimly lit bar having a beer while I waited for him. A man in his late 60's or early 70's came in and sat near me, and we struck up a small conversation. He said he'd been coming to The Drover since he moved to Omaha in the 70's. He said it was his late wife's favorite place to eat.
While we were sitting there, a lady - probably in her mid-50's - came into the bar area and sat right down next to the man. She started up a conversation with him that had all the elements of these two being a couple. After about three minutes, the man said, "Now, who the hell are you?"
I thought he was kidding, but after a quick introduction by the lady, I figured out he had no idea who this floozy was. But she was coming on strong to this guy, sort of like she was a hooker. She said, "I just felt like coming out and partying tonight and I thought I'd sit next to the most handsome man at the bar."
The guy said, "OK, which one of my friends put you up to this?"
She said, "Why, I don't know what you're talking about. I'm just here to have a good time!"
She was rubbing his back and patting his arm. The guy was clearly uncomfortable in this situation. Now, she wasn't bad looking for her age, but she came on like she was a seventeen-year-old in heat. It was actually kind of funny.
My dealer showed up about 20 minutes late and we took a table in the dining area. I don't think the decor of the restaurant has been changed since I first went in there over 20 years ago. We got a menu from the host and took a look to see what they had to offer. Actually, The Drover is famous for their whiskey marinated steaks - they take straight Jack Daniel's and marinate the meat in it for about 15 to 20 minutes before cooking. Marinating the meat in whiskey helps bring out more of the intense flavor in the meat when it's cooked.
I took a look at the wine menu and while it wasn't all that extensive, the reserve list had some interesting bottles to choose from. I initially ordered up a bottle of the Silver Oak Cabernet, but our waiter came back to say they were out of that bottle. They had a bottle of Duckhorn Cabernet at the same price and I ordered that. They did have a bottle of that.
While we were perusing the menu, my dealer said, "Have you ever had the bacon-wrapped shrimp here? Let's get one of those for an appetizer." And so we did. They were plump shrimp wrapped in bacon and grilled over The Drovers' open flame grill. They were excellent.
My dealer got the signature whiskey strip steak with a loaded baked potato. One of the specials they were running that evening was a bone-in rib eye (not marinated). I'm a sucker for good bone-in rib eyes so I ordered one of those, medium-rare. I also threw caution at the wind and ordered a fully-loaded baked potato.
One of the highlights of eating at The Drover is their salad bar. While it's not all that big, they have some of the most fresh lettuce and toppings of any salad bar I've been to. And they have a large bowl of cracked black pepper that you can spoon on top of any one of their homemade dressings. I got the Western French dressing for the topping on my salad this one evening. I could just graze at their salad bar.
We conducted some business before our steaks showed up, but once the meat came out all business conversation stopped. My rib eye weighed 24 ounces with the bone in. It was a perfect medium rare and very juicy and flavorful. My guest's whiskey strip was also cooked to perfection and he just loved the taste of it. He said, "There are so many great steak places in this town, but this is the best steak of them all."
Even without marinating my steak in whiskey, I felt it was just as good of flavor as many of the whiskey marinated steaks I've had there in the past. The rib eye did have a lot of marbling to it and it was just so damn tasty. I ate so much of the steak that I hardly touched the baked potato.
We ended up ending the meal with a couple of glasses of Scotch and hammering out a couple of more items in our meeting. It was a productive meeting along with a great dinner - the kind of business meetings I love to have.
With tip, our bill came to just over $230 bucks. The dealer offered to pay for half of it and I told him that if he promised to order more products from me, that would be well worth the price of the meal. He laughed and said, "I'll see what I can do."
Like I said earlier, there's a ton of great steak places to choose from in Omaha. The Drover has consistently been one of the top steak houses in the area. It's a little tough to find, but it's worth the effort once you get there.