One of my favorite places to go when I'm in Omaha is the Upstream Brewing Company, a locally-owned brewpub/restaurant that has good food and good beer. It had been quite some time since I was last in the original Upstream Brewing Company location in the Old Market area (see map) and it had been awhile since I was last in their location within the Shops of Legacy shopping area in the far west side of Omaha (see map) I met a client for dinner at the far west Upstream Brewing Company on a recent trip to Omaha and I thought I'd share the experience with you.
The Upstream Brewing Company began in 1996 when Brian Magee opened the doors to his brewpub in downtown Omaha. Three years later, Gary Hoffman joined Magee as the executive chef adding a lot of flair and creative dishes to the menu. The Upstream Brewing Company is definitely an upscale brewpub, but doesn't have the pretentious air that you find in some fine dining restaurants.
The menu at Upstream is an eclectic mix of items such as steaks, pastas, gourmet pizza, and sandwiches, along with a good number of bar-type appetizers, soups and salads. Given that Hoffman's background before coming to Upstream Brewing Company was primarily as a chef in seafood restaurants, a number of seafood dishes are available on the menu, as well.
But beer is still a big draw for Upstream. Their beer menu is as wide and varied as their food menu. They have seven year-round beers including their O! Gold light lager, the delicious Capital Premium pale ale, and the Firehouse Red lager. All three are damn fine beers. Upstream also features a number of seasonal beers, as well as a handful of specialty bottled beers with higher alcohol content that they release from time to time.
Longtime head brewer Zac Triemert left Upstream about two years ago to open his own microbrewery, Lucky Bucket Brewing Company. But he stayed on long enough to show the ropes to his replacement, Mike Hall, formerly of the Oskar Blues craft brewery out in Colorado. Hall has continued the fine beer tradition at Upstream while adding some of his own touches to the beer menu.
It was around 6 p.m. when I met up with my client who was already seated at the bar enjoying a cold Capital Premium pale ale. The bar was nearly full with the after work crowd enjoying some beers and appetizers. We decided to get a table in the dining area. While the Upstream Brewing Company has a large outdoor seating area (and it features live music from time to time), it was extremely windy outside and it would have been a little cumbersome to eat in those conditions.
When we were seated, our very laid back and almost comatose waiter came over to check to see if we needed drinks. I signed up for a Capital Premium pale ale while my guest got another one. The Capital Premium is a hoppy, yet very smooth drinking beer. It's more of an American pale ale that has a nice finish to the taste, but is more flavorful than many other American pale ales that I've had over the years.
My guest and I sat and chatted about business and stuff for about the first 20 minutes. The waiter came back a couple times to give us the specials for the evening and to check to see if we were ready to order. After a bit, I said, "You know, we'd better order so we can let this guy get on with his work."
I was torn between a number of delectable items on the menu. My guest, who eats at Upstream quite a bit, told me that their pork schnitzel - breaded pork medallions served in a garlic aioli sauce - were very good. They almost had me with that, but I remembered the beer braised beef pot roast (served with smashed potatoes and gravy) was also very good. Even though it was rather warm outside, comfort food didn't quite sound all that bad.
The Upstream Brewing Company also has a great Beef Lover's salad - they take beef tips and sauté them with onions. They then join the beef and onions with lettuce greens, crumbled bleu cheese and chopped tomatoes. Oh, man, is that great! I had it for lunch at the Old Market location a few years ago.
But something kept calling my name on the menu - the Jackson Street jambalaya. It featured fresh andouille sausage with chicken, shrimp, peppers and rice in a spicy Creole sauce. That's what I wanted.
My guest decided on getting one of Upstream's gourmet flatbread pizzas, the Pizza Italiano that featured everything I like on a pizza and then some - Italian sausage, pepperoni, fresh cut mushrooms, sweet banana pepper slices and marinated red pepper slices, topped with fresh mozzarella. My guest said, "I know you like pizza so I'll give you a slice to try."
It wasn't long before our meals made it to the table. The jambalaya was a healthy portion served in a large bowl with a slice of Upstream Brewing Company's famous homemade beer bread. It was spicy to the taste, but I wanted to kick it up a notch so I got some Tabasco to give it a little more zip. The andouille sausage chunks were big and plentiful with a nice smoky taste to them, and they didn't scrimp on the chicken chunks and the shrimp. The creole sauce had a great taste and consistency. It was simply some of the best jambalaya I've ever had - anywhere!
The Pizza Italiano looked great, as well. It was exactly how I like my pizzas - thin crust, large chunks of sausage, ample amounts of toppings and a lot of fresh mozzarella mixed in. After my guest had three pieces on his own, he offered one to me. It was absolutely delicious. I knew they had pizza at Upstream, but was always sort of reluctant to give it a try. But one bit, then two bites, then three bites convinced me that their pizza could go up against any number of pizza places I've visited over the years.
There was no way I could finish all of my jambalaya, but it was just excellent. I was stuffed. I had completely forgotten how good the food was at Upstream. The last couple times I went there was to meet friends for a beer or two and didn't get any food. But the food is absolutely fabulous at Upstream Brewing Company.
Before we left, I noticed a set of steps going upstairs. I asked my guest, "What's upstairs?"
He said, "Oh! There's another bar, some pool tables, a little lounge. It's kinda nice up there. C'mon, let's go take a look."
We went up the stairs and while I had been to this Upstream location, maybe, three or four times in the past, I had no idea that there was literally a whole secondary bar on the upper level. The billard room featured tournament size tables with leather pockets and light colored felt tops. While the bar wasn't as large as the one downstairs, it was still big and fully functional.
My fingers are still crossed that I'll continue to grow business in Omaha. It's a great city with a lot of great places to go and see. And they have a number of very good to great restaurants in the city featuring all different types of food. But for a good meal - and good beer - in an upscale, but casual atmosphere, it's tough to beat Upstream Brewing Company - at either location.