801 Grill: New Kid on the O.P.P. Block

Martha’s Pick:

801 Grill
10387 Pacific St
Fare: Steakhouse & burgers
Cost: $30 for drinks, shared appetizer and dinner
Reservations: Not needed on a Tuesday, but recommended on Fridays and Saturdays

Greetings Eaters and Readers!

With time running out in May and my turn to pick, I had a new Asian restaurant in my crosshairs the day we were to do our monthly research. But when the World-Herald beat us to the punch and stated it was so new that it wasn’t quite yet worth the visit (read: menu and service glitches abound!), a quick search lead me to another new Omaha yummery: 801 Grill at One Pacific Place. Yes, 801, as in the well-established Chophouse, now offers a differently paced, casual yet refined menu in the space that used to house Pig & Finch.

Infusion Vanilla Bean Blonde – $4 HH | Michelob Ultra – $3 HH

We’re sorry (not sorry) we can’t be fancy with our drinks every time. But what’s not to like about happy hour beers? At $2 off any draft, I went with my go-to Michelob Ultra and Jaclyn had .01 seconds to decide on her Vanilla Bean.

We almost opted not to get an appetizer. Debating the merits of a few of the options, we decided to be adults and try the fried Brussel Sprouts. The thin, browned and crispy pieces were flavorful and enjoyable. They ate like airy chips – almost to the point of forgetting one is eating Brussels sprouts. But biting into the whole thing? We’re both still children. We hoped 801 could make us love these things, but our childhood tastebuds continue to win that fight. Brussel enthusiasts should check them out though and let us know where they rank!

Fried Brussels Sprouts | $9

Some days, I try to behave and watch my carb and sugar intake. But I always waver back and forth from “being good” and ignoring the rules and disappearing into the offerings of our monthly foodventures. (Yeeeaaah I see you Yukon Golds and Hashbrown casserole and St. Louis ribs.) But this evening, on the heals of our earthy appetizer, I ordered 801 Grill’s Bacon Cheeseburger – hold the bun – with a side of the house mac n’ cheese. What? It’s about balance, people.

The thing that drew me in? The burger was supposed to feature a house made 801 sauce. But perhaps the lack of bun threw the staff off because there wasn’t a drop of sauce to be found on my plate. Redemption was found, though, as the flavor of the burger was delicious. Every. Last. Morsel. Their choice of USDA Certified Black Angus is flavorful enough to stand alone, but I’m a saucy gal who is haunted by what she didn’t get to taste. And while the bacon was thick like mama likes, the mac n’ cheese – which was hearty and creamy – was lukewarm at best.

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Mac n’ Cheese & Bacon Cheeseburger | $16

A lovah of chowdahs, Jaclyn didn’t think twice about ordering the Lobster Corn Chowder. You could note everything in each bite: the creamy bisque, the soft and steady heat, the sweetness of the corn and – best of all – the light, distinctive lobster. For the Midwest, this was some damn good seafood chowder. I stole one bite … and then another … and Jaclyn had to bribe the spoon out of my hand. But the one thing that would’ve made it better? Getting a spoon … sooner than 10 minutes after it hit the table.

A companion to her main dish, Jaclyn also ordered a Caesar Salad. She was extremely put off by the presentation of her salad when it hit the table as it came topped off with an actual anchovy. “Artsy” dead fish aside, the salad was good. It had a surprising kick to it and the croutons tasted freshly homemade.

Lobster Corn Chowder – $12 | Caesar Salad – $6

While 801 did offer dessert, frozen yogurt on a hot day just sounded better. So we walked a few doors down to Red Mango — a self-service FroYo chain neither of has had been to.

Jaclyn went all in on cookie butter, sprinkles and graham cracker. She likes Biscoff Speculoos in just about any form, so lapping up each spoonful of the cookie butter concoction was just delightful.

Still playing the lame card with my game of “is there a healthier choice?” – I was pleasantly surprised to find sugar-free dark chocolate FroYo available – and even lived on the edge with a drop of cookie butter because, well, cookie butter. For exactly the reasons Jaclyn already mentioned – Red Mango hit the spot on the 90 plus-degree day.

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Red Mango FroYo

Deciding how to rate 801 Grill proved to be challenging for both of us. There were some definite hits (Jaclyn’s Chowder. My burger’s flavor and perfectly cooked existence.) But there were some misses, too. The hardly apologetic late spoon arrival. My lukewarm mac n’ cheese. The seemingly disinterested waitress. (The lone anchovy!) The things we did like — we really liked. But overall, we expected more from the well-established 801 Restaurant Group, so we both give it a fork sideways. We’re hoping for a better experience when we return for that chowder and to check out the rest of the menu.

Martha & Jaclyn

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