OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Slap on your food goggles, make sure you have plenty of room and let's enter the very real world of Augmented Culinary. Are you in? Good.
So what's this all about now that you're here? What if you were cooking a great main course at your house that you nail every time? Everyone loves it. It’s your best steak, your amazing chops, or maybe Grandma's noodles, but you want to augment your meal to bring it to that next level.
This is where Faturday Omaha's Augmented Culinary comes in. These are appetizers and side dishes from local spots that serve great food all the time, but they have some special offerings that you can bring home to level up.
Let's start with a BBQ spot in Omaha where you can get Wagyu burnt ends from award-winning pitmaster Blane Hunter, of course we're talking about Porky Butts at 15475 Ruggles St. So we want something to impress that augments our meal and it needs to travel well. This is where the Texas Poutine comes in. Hunter makes homemade potato chips that are excellent on their own. You can do this with fries too, but the chips are the way to go. Select delicious pulled pork or brisket and get ready for an appetizer to impress with smoked meat, homemade crunchy chips, and then covered in nacho cheese with green onion. Where Porky Butts has this figured out is the ingredients are packed separately so that the chips don't get soggy. You can easily stash this and reheat when ready. The hot ingredients will be hot, the cold will be cold, and the crisp are crisp — and all delicious.
Need something lighter that goes well with almost any meal? Lo Sole Mio at 3001 S 32nd Ave. has you covered. Sure, you can dine in and enjoy Italian favorites or a double-crust pizza, but that is not our mission. You need to head around back to the speakeasy-like carryout area. Park in the back, open the door, watch your step and then enter the area where the magic happens. You can see the dance in the kitchen and a helpful white-aproned staff member will come to help you. You then need to ask for the consistently delicious pint of Tomato Basil dip and a baguette of homemade bread.
The baguette will be firm enough to hold the olive oil, tomato, and basil you are about to add to it, but still soft and enjoyable to eat on its own. In Italian fashion, it's a combination of simple ingredients that satisfy time and time again. Make this available to your guests as a cocktail hour appetizer or to start the meal you are going to serve. Be careful as there is significant risk that the full amount of this excellent starter may not make it to your guests due to you sampling a bit of this prior to their arrival.
Now, let's get a side for your main plate. Two good options, one great location, Mouth of the South at 16909 Lakeside Hills Plaza. Southern specialties abound, but you want one or both of the Jambalaya or the Gouda Mac and Cheese. The Jambalaya is a main entree, but our plan is to repurpose it as a side dish for the table. It's not too spicy and is laden with flavor in its saucy rice and sliced sausage savory situation. Take a look at the picture. Look good? It is! This item is an easy dish to pick up and serve or keep and reheat and it's good either way.
Originally this was going to be a one dish recommend for each restaurant, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the Gouda Mac and Cheese. These epically cheese-coated penne noodles are a creamy enough reason to stop at Mouth of the South alone, but as a side…yeah cheesy achievement. Note this is the exact opposite of a lightweight splash of cream and shredded cheese affair. Rather this is a heavy sauce, high flavor, noodle bog that will crush portions of hunger in the most delicious way.
On the sweeter side, but no less decadent, is Boxer BBQ's butter-topped cornbread. This is some of the best cornbread you can find in the tri-county area and it's right there in Council Bluffs. Yeah, this is so good that it augmented our last Thanksgiving meal with its shiny golden goodness. Let it be known that this is a very buttery, very sweet bread, and it's not a lightweight. Serve it with the meal paired with a savory main dish or put it on a plate for dessert. You can't go wrong either way and you can find Boxer BBQ at 513 S Main St., Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Let's sneak in a couple quick ones before the battery runs out in our food machine. This one is risky, due to travel, but worth it. It’s Varsity Roman Coin at 9735 Q St. for the mozzarella cheese bread. Sure the pizza is good, sure the sauce is deep and flavorful, but this cheese bread is so dang good that it's the highlight. Get some to go, get it home quickly and proceed to start your meal with a garlic, cheesy, chewy plank of amazing.
Two spots that are not restaurants, but will help your meal are Jacobo’s at 4621 S 24th St. for their often recommended and written about chips and salsa. It's amazing. Bring cash and get some carnitas and frozen tamales for your meal the following day.
In the same area is Sam's Leon found at 5014 S 20th St. They have a thinner salsa and a thicker chip than Jacobo’s. If you're making bean dip, then these are the thick corn chip for the job. While you're there you can get hand smashed and freshly prepared guacamole. Make sure to specify if you want jalapenos.
Time to power down our Augmented Culinary journey. Use these things to make that meal you have planned reach the next level.
Please find Faturday Omaha on social media, our show on 91.5 FM Saturday at 2 p.m., our podcast, and FaturdayOmaha.com. Thanks for reading and stay hungry!