Out in Omaha calling on dealers during a recent trip, I decided to grab some lunch at a place that was recommended to me a year or so ago - Twisted Cork Bistro just off Pacific near I-680 on the city's west side. (see map) I learned that it was a restaurant that used locally grown preservative-free foods, offered no high-fructose corn syrup in any of their products, and procured fresh salmon from the highly regarded Trident Seafoods in the Seattle area. I was on board with this place long before I went there.
Darrell Auld and his wife Laura worked in a number of Seattle restaurants before they moved to Omaha in 2007 to be closer to her family. Darrell was a chef and Laura did pastries and desserts. Looking around Omaha, they decided that they needed to do something different than the regular steak-type fare that Omaha was famous for. They came up with a concept of bringing the Pacific Northwest - complete with wines, beers, and fresh seafood - to Omaha, combining that idea with locally grown, farm fresh foods from growers in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa.
The Auld's opened Twisted Cork in March of 2008. Darrell Auld sources his natural-raised grass-fed beef from Hollenbeck Farms in Elmwood, NE; their range-free chickens come from Plum Creek Farms in Burchard, NE; the natural cheese that Twisted Cork uses comes from Branched Oak Farm in Raymond, NE; and their fresh-baked buns and breads come from Le Quartier, an artisan bakery in Omaha. Many of the wines they feature on their wine list come from Pacific Northwest vineyards and wineries in Washington and Oregon. You'll also find a number of eclectic beers from not only local breweries from Nebraska and Iowa, but they also feature beers from breweries located in Colorado and Oregon.
It was around 1:30 when I made it into Twisted Cork. On the right as you come in is the bistro area of the restaurant. It featured a handful of small tables and a selection of wines on display. The bistro side was fairly full, but there were a couple tables open on the tavern side of the restaurant.
I was greeted by Laura Auld who directed me to a table to along the south wall of the tavern area. She left off a lunch menu and asked if I wanted anything to drink. They had a number of beers on tap and I saw the distinctive Kona Longboard Lager tap handle. "Ah! You have Kona Longboard on tap," I said to her.
She said, "Oh, yeah. We just got it in a couple months ago. We're big on anything to do with Hawaii." I explained to her that while I did like the Kona Big Wave better, I'd take the Longboard lager.
The tavern side of Twisted Cork featured a small bar with a number of tables and chairs in the area. A small cove featured a large picture of Seattle's Space Needle paying tribute to the Auld's former home city.
The menu was interesting, to say the least. They had a number of small plates that could be shared tapas-style including smoked salmon, seared shrimp, salmon poke and lahvosh - an Armenian-style flat bread that Twisted Cork topped with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, artichokes, basil and three different types of cheese.
The J.D.F. tacos were appealing to me - they were two blue corn tortillas filled with a miso-glazed salmon and topped with a bacon mayo, avocado aioli, pico de gallo and rice. The Oregon tuna melt sounded good, as well. It featured albacore tuna topped with a Whidbey Island sauce and white cheddar cheese and served on herbed ciabatta bread.
To make matters worse, when Laura came over to see if I'd made up my mind she told me that they had just pulled the brisket out of the oven if I wanted either the brisket hash mixed with chopped gold potatoes, a horseradish quark cheese and topped with a fried egg; or the Bistro Reuben. I had to take some more time to figure out what I wanted.
I ended up getting what was initially recommended for me to try - the TC Burger. Food Network called this the Number 1 burger in Nebraska and it featured beef from Hollenbeck Farm mixed with pork and special spices. The burger patty was topped with melted white cheddar cheese, pickled red onions and sat on a slaw mixture. The burger patty was served on a Le Quartier artisan bun. Kettle chips and a blue-cheese slaw came with the burger.
The first bite told me that this was an exquisite burger. There were a lot of taste sensations going on - the beef/pork mixture gave the burger an interesting texture, but it was very flavorful. The pickled red onions gave the burger a sort of a sweet taste. The bun was spongy, but firm. It was an excellent burger - one that it was worthy of the accolades that it has received.
Laura Auld came over to check on me and asked me how the burger was. I had a mouth full of a big bite when she asked and all I could do was give her a double "thumbs up". It was a wonderful burger - as was the overall experience at the Twisted Cork Bistro. The menu was impressively interesting with many items that I wouldn't mind coming back and trying in the future. The beer list was equally impressive featuring a number of great beers from small local and regional breweries. The decor and ambiance of the place was fresh and comfortable. I've been looking for a more upscale bistro-style restaurant toward the west side of Omaha for awhile. I think I may have found a new "go-to" place in the Twisted Cork.