Last year was my first in Omaha, and thus my first time experiencing, on a regular basis, the nightlife that Omaha has to offer. Very quickly, I discovered my favorite bars. Some are sort of trusty standbys — the sort of place where you always run into someone you know and where you know what to expect. Others are more the sort of place you hit if you want to have an epic night of random fun.
This is far from a comprehensive list, but if I had to pick a few favorite spots for 2012, these are the ones where I spent the most time and had the most fun. I also think they will continue to be places I go to in 2013 and beyond.
La Buvette, 511 S. 11th St. This one has been a favorite for years, actually, but I developed a new fondness for it in 2012. It's where I invariably met up for lunch or evening drinks with friends visiting town, where a coworker and I grabbed a quick dinner before Omaha Fashion Week and where another friend and I sought refuge after two days of braving the crowds of the College World Series. It's got good food, an awesome patio, and cheap glasses of Toso, a sparkling wine from Argentina.
Josephine's Cozy Corner Lounge, 2201 Pierce St. I had never actually been to this basement bar before I went for a Handlebar Crawl with some Omaha bicyclists this spring. Right away, I loved it — the trophy case at the base of the staircase, the '70s wallpaper, the jukebox (no TouchTunes!), the varied crowd, the pool table, the general darkness. Since that first visit, I've returned again and again. And it reminds me, just slightly, of my favorite Lincoln spot, the Old Pub.
Full House Bar, 6315 Military Ave. One of my friends lamented that this Benson karaoke bar gets a bad rap because so many people have been towed from its parking lot. That makes me sad. I love this bar, with its shuffleboard table and mix of young Bensonites and karaoke superfans that seem like they've been regulars since the 1980s. I enjoy that every single time I've stopped here, I've heard the same two women singing the same Judds duet. I love the showmanship that seems to be inspired by the stage. I love that when I walked into this bar holding a friend's birthday cake, every single person in the place (all strangers and many somewhat drunk) seemed invested in celebrating along with him, going so far as to serenade him with a surprise singing of “Happy Birthday.” This is, without a doubt, my favorite karaoke bar ever.
House of Loom, 1012 S. 10th St. The first time I visited was last winter, on a night when the bar was having some kind of circus/sideshow/goth-y themed event. A few friends and I stopped in, expecting to sit back on the plush Victorian furniture and drink some fancy cocktails. Instead, one of my friends pointed out the snake draped around the shoulders of a young woman wearing a corset standing less than a foot away. It was interesting, but not really my scene.
My second impression was better. Back in the spring, a friend and I got in the habit of coming here for FAC, drinking French 75s and listening to either the DJ or house band playing that night while sitting at the bar or in the comfy Victorian furniture, catching up. This was an awesome way to kick off the weekend, and I'd often return later to end the night with some dancing.
Dundee Cork and Bottle, 614 N. 50th St. Like La Buvette, this, too has been a go-to spot for years, but I became better acquainted with this tiny bar this year, in part because it is within walking distance to the homes of several friends. I think the size of this bar is one of its biggest attributes — it's the kind of place where you end up making friends with the people sitting next to you, just because it's way easier to adopt a more-the-merrier attitude than to pretend you're not eavesdropping on a conversation happening six inches away.