Drinks at the Berry and Rye contain things like wasabi and snow peas.
They have names like Debonair Pear (a flavorful gin cocktail) and Dante's Inferno (which is infused with habanero peppers). Some are classic cocktails, others are the original concoctions of bartenders Luke Edson and Brock Miller.
But perhaps the most unusual thing about the Berry and Rye — at least for Omaha — is that the Old Market bar at 1105 Howard (in the spot formerly occupied by Myth) functions in some ways more like a restaurant than a cocktail lounge.
The bar has a no-standing-room policy; guests are encouraged to make reservations, particularly on busy weekend nights. If they do drop in and the bar is full, a hostess will take their phone number and text them when a spot opens up.
The idea is to keep the crowd managable so bartenders can take their time with each drink, while at the same time maintaining a quiet, pleasant atmosphere, said Ethan Bondelid, one of the Berry and Rye's owners.
“If you're sitting at the bars and have a nice drink, the last thing you want is 10 people reaching over your shoulder to get the bartender's attention,” Bondelid said.
Bondelid bought the bar in December and has been slowly switching over to the new format since then, first adding craft cocktails to Myth's martini-bar menu, then installing a reverse-osmosis water purification system, trading the black leather furniture for pale blue velvet and gold brocade booths and doing some other light remodeling, and finally completely switching over to the new menu.
During a grand opening last Friday and Saturday, patrons (many of whom were family and friends of the staff and owners) seemed to get the no-standing-room concept, Bondelid said. Time will tell if the general public will catch on as quickly, though Bondelid hopes that within a couple of months, people don't think twice about texting on their way downtown to make a reservation for after dinner, say, or before a show.
When a friend and I went on Friday, we tried two drinks — the Dill Collins, a take on a Tom Collins, only made with vodka instead of gin and infused with dill; and the Debonair Pear, which contains egg white foam flavored with Green Chartreuse among other ingredients and which Edson created for a national bartending competition in 2011; the drink placed him in the top 10 and was featured in GQ magazine.
Both were good; the Debonair Pear was a bit spicy, and my friend commented that her Dill Collins reminded her of a more summery Bloody Mary. The current menu is heavy on summery ingredients like dill and rhubarb, and Bondelid also hits the farmer's market most weekends to search for ingredients for weekly specials. A fall menu will include drinks with ingredients such as sweet potato.
As we sipped our drinks, I noticed a lot of people taking cellphone photos of theirs. And they were photogenic, with fresh garnishes and hand-cut ice. We did the same.
The Berry and Rye is open daily from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. Drinks run $10 apiece. Call or text 402-613-1331 for reservation.
Across town, a very different venue also celebrated its grand opening last week. The V — a bowling alley/arcade/laser tag place/restaurant/bar/meeting space opening at 3375 Oak View Drive in what used to be a Linens 'N Things — held a VIP event complete with a red carpet last Thursday. The V offers open bowling only — no leagues — so lanes are always available, said sales and marketing manager Amanda Duensing. Kids can bowl free weekdays before 5 p.m.
Family-friendliness aside, the V has a cocktail lounge feel to it, with dim lighting, lots of blue neon, oversized vintage bowling photographs and a modern bar. That's intentional, Duensing said. The V has two executive meeting rooms and a VIP area that management hopes are put to use for work retreats and off-site meetings. The V opened in late June, and most of its business so far has come from families — it's summer vacation, after all. But Duensing said they hope to eventually draw more young professionals for a night of dinner, drinks, games and bowling.
The V is open Sunday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Bowling ranges from $24 to $49 per lane per an hour, depending on the lane and the time of day. For more information, visit www.thevomaha.com.