I had an early morning meeting with a potential new account in Omaha recently and I got into Omaha rather late the evening before. I was hungry when I checked in and I asked the desk clerk if any place in the area would still be serving food. She gave me a couple recommendations, but then she said, "There's Anthony's Steakhouse just down the street a bit. Just past Interstate 80." (see map)
Anthony's is one of those places where I've driven by on a number of occasions on my numerous trips to Omaha over the years, but never stopped in. One couldn't miss the place on the west side of 72nd Street with the big steer over the entry way. I decided to give it a try that evening.
Anthony's Steakhouse has been around for over 40 years serving some of the best steaks in Omaha. Compared to other steakhouses in the city, it's sort of flown under the radar except for the locals who have kept coming back since Tony Fucinaro first opened the doors in October of 1967. Less than two years later Anthony's suffered a devastating fire. But business had been so good up to that point that when Tony rebuilt the place he added seating and a large lounge area to the building. He also added a party/banquet room to the building.
The decor of the restaurant also changed from a Western-themed restaurant to an elegant setting that would make Anthony's comparable to most high-end steakhouses across the nation. Tony's son, Tony, Jr., now runs the day-to-day operations of the restaurant.
Anthony's Steakhouse features the Ozone Lounge, one of central Omaha's premier night spots. The lounge features live entertainment six days a week and its own menu that features bar favorites as well as some of Anthony's signature dishes. I contemplated getting dinner in the Ozone Lounge when I walked into the place just after 9 p.m. that evening, but the music had just started and I wanted to have more of a quiet meal.
I was met by an elderly hostess who seemed a little put out that I decided to show up so late. I asked her if it was too late to get a meal and she said in sort of a dismissive voice, "No, we continue to serve up to 10 p.m. or when the last person leaves." It would be a good bet that if no one else came in for dinner, I would be the last one to leave that evening.
She took me to an upper tier of booths and tables overlooking the main dining area at Anthony's. She sat me in a booth, gave me my menu and told me that a server would be with me shortly. There was a couple in the booth next to me, and a couple guys at a table next to me. I thought, "Why didn't she seat me in a booth away from people?" I figured she was trying to help the waiter out by having all of his tables in one area.
Now, sensing my surroundings when I'm dining alone has never been a high priority, but it was difficult to not hear the conversations going on at the other two tables. The two businessmen were discussing high-end audio - my chosen path of work. One guy was trying to give advice to the other guy on what to look for in buying an audio system. But the one "expert" was woefully wrong with some of his information. I try not to interject into other people's conversations, but I came oh so close to saying, "Excuse me, but I'm in the industry and what you're telling this poor guy is just dead wrong."
But I decided to butt out and read my paper. They left soon after.
The couple in the booth facing me appeared to be on a date, quite possibly their first date. A little more about these two in a bit.
My waiter came over and I ordered up a beer as I looked through the menu. Actually, Anthony's Steakhouse is not unlike any other old time Omaha steakhouse that I've had over the years. They have the usual cuts of meat from filets, rib eyes, t-bones and strip steaks. They also feature pork chops, chicken entrees and seafood on the menu. And since the Fucinaro family is Italian, they also feature a number of pasta items on the menu.
But I was in the mood for steak that evening and I eventually ordered the New York strip, rare. None of the sides they had were overly appealing to me, so I ended up getting the twice-baked potato. A side of pasta - mostaccioli with a red sauce - also came with the meal. I also got the wedge salad upgrade for $2.00 over the house salad that came with the meal.
As I was waiting for my wedge salad, the guy in the booth on the date with the lady excused himself to go to the restroom. He was still gone by the time I received - and finished - my wedge salad. By the way, the wedge salad was excellent. A fresh lettuce wedge with topped with slices of red onions, Anthony's homemade Italian dressing and tons of very good bleu cheese crumbles around the wedge. It was actually one of the better wedge salads I'd had in quite some time.
By the time the waiter had come back to take my salad plate, the young lady stopped him and asked him to check the restroom for her - her date hadn't come back to the table and he'd been gone for nearly 20 minutes. By this time, my senses picked up that this may not be a happy ending. Another waiter brought out my steak and it wasn't long after it was set in front of me, the original waiter came back and informed her that no one was in the restroom. The lady burst into tears. Her "date" had left her at the restaurant holding the bill and with no ride home. I felt so bad for her that I almost paid for her dinner so she wouldn't have to. A manager came over and told the woman that he'd take care of the bill and that he'd call her a cab.
(I got to thinking as I was driving to Kansas City the next day - what a great way to scam a restaurant! The guy skips out on picking up the tab for a good meal and leaves the woman there to pick up the pieces. Although the way this woman reacted, I doubt these two were in cahoots. Unless she was a great actress.)
After that drama ended I was able to enjoy my meal. The New York strip was cooked a perfect rare for me, nice and juicy with a load of flavor. And unlike many strip steaks that I got earlier this summer, this one was void of gristle throughout the steak. It was a wonderful steak for my first visit to Anthony's.
I tried a couple bites of the twice-baked potato which was also pretty good. The mostaccioli with the homemade marinara sauce was rather pedestrian - nothing to write home about. But that was OK. I was concentrating on trying to finish my steak that appeared to be larger than the advertised 14 ounces.
Anthony's Steakhouse had a very good steak - not the best I've had, but certainly not bad either. It's tough to be a steakhouse in Omaha with all the stellar competition in town. But you don't stay in business for 43 years without having good food and good service - anywhere you are. It's a testament to Anthony's staying power with all the great choices of steak restaurants in Omaha that they are definitely one of the best local steakhouses. While I may like Johnny's Cafe or The Drover a little better, I'd put Anthony's ahead of many of the other places in Omaha.