Thursday, May 3, 2012

Wild Dining in Omaha

My first night in the Omaha area I sought out a restaurant I read about online that promised a unique experience.   While you dine on fried chicken – their specialty – raccoons and wild cats come up to the window and watch, waiting on your leftovers.

The place is out of town a bit and when I pulled up out front, I almost chickened out…no pun intended.

The Alpine Inn.  I cannot imagine staying here and I am still having a hard time believing I went in and ate here.  There was a dumpster to the left of this building that was teeming with flies.

But in the interest of your entertainment, I downed an Imodium and, after wandering around outside for a while trying to figure out where the front door is, I went in.  The next problem I encounter is the sign informing me this place doesn’t take anything but cash, something I am currently out of. 

Apparently they haven't caught up to this establishment downtown that flies all of the flags of American plastic commerce. 

But of course - they have an ATM - with a fee.  So I pass the bar area where one or two scraggly people are hanging around.  It is unclear if they are patrons or employees.  I find the ATM in the area between the dining room and the bar.  As I finish my transaction, a family walks up behind me.  The waitress appears and, addressing them, says sit where you want.  I said, “I’m not with them, can I sit where I want?”  I recognize her.  She was sitting at the end of the bar when I walked by.

Since only one table in the whole place is currently occupied, me and the family I am not with have the pick of the place.

I decide on a table that looks out to the wooded area behind the building.  Next to the window there is a platform built in a semi-circle around a tree.

Those would be chicken bones crawling with flies.  

There are several cats hanging around below the platform and on what I can only assume is the back entrance.

The hotel pool.

I check out the menu but know that I am not going to be able to eat chicken.  So I order the shrimp basket (fried, the only option).  It comes with potato wedges and either macaroni salad or slaw.  The waitress brings me my tea and the macaroni salad which is in a plastic container complete with a lid.  

See the menu?  I did too, this will be important later.

The macaroni salad is surprisingly good but I can’t say the same for the rest of the meal.  I am pretty sure the shrimp was caught and promptly breaded and frozen by the Gorton’s fisherman until I ordered it and it was slapped in a fry-daddy in the back that has never been cleaned (the fry-daddy or the back, take your pick) with the 4 limp potato wedges.  Fortunately, a distraction was provided at this point.

Raccoons are normally nocturnal.  The waitress told the family that this one "must be really hungry to come up in the daytime".  YOU HAVE A PLATFORM OF CHICKEN BONES!  It is like the Waffle House for Raccoons...always open!

When the waitress brought my check, I looked down at it and said, “That’s not my check.”  “Yes, it is,” she says.  First, I am in shock at the price even though it was published in the menu for me to see.  The after-effects of eating are giving me buyer’s remorse.  Plus, there seem to be a lot of lines.  I assume she has given me the family’s ticket since there are 5 of them.

The cats are getting thicker by the minute.  Do they know something I don't?

I change the subject and ask about the “homemade pie” they apparently offer.  What can I say?  I took the Imodium, might was well use it up.  Plus, the waitress hasn’t offered me a refill and didn’t ask if I wanted dessert or anything else.  She wants to be rid of me.  I am not ready to let her have her way yet.

She sighs loudly and says they don’t actually make the pies here (a good sign I think), they are catered in by a local bakery.  I order cherry.  It is also delivered in a plastic to-go type container with the word “cherry” written in red sharpie on the front.  I realize now that the macaroni salad came from the same place.  The pie has been in the refrigerator and is okay but not great.  My updated bill arrives.

$15.62 before tip for food I could have made in the comfort of my own home for less than half and with a lot less flies and cats for company.

I get my cash out.  The raccoon is gone so all there is to do is count flies, eavesdrop on the couple at the next table and wait for the waitress to come back.  And wait.  And wait.  And wait.  Finally, I can’t take it.  The man at the next table is actually telling the woman how great this place is and how wonderful the food is.  The waitress doesn’t deserve the extra money but I can’t stay here another minute.  She is at the bar again, reading her book.  

All traffic does not stop?  I wonder why?

I don’t stop; she doesn’t look up or acknowledge me.  She probably needs the extra money more than I do and I know I have to get out of here right now.  The Imodium might wear off and I am NOT exploring the bathroom here, not even for you.

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