Nightlife review: Bar and grill boasts laid-back vibe and inexpensive menu

By Ashley Strehle Hartman / World-Herald Correspondent
Published in the Omaha World-Herald, May 18, 2017

HopHouse.OWH

The HopHouse Bar and Grill

Where: 11425 S. 72nd St., Papillion

When: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day

Information: 402-933-0511 or hophousebar.com

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There are two kinds of bars in this world: bars with “regulars” and bars without.

The HopHouse Bar and Grill in Papillion is of the first variety. It’s the kind of place where as soon as you walk through the door you can tell that the people sitting around the bar have been here before — many, many times.

That’s a good sign. It means people have found something they like enough to visit again — and again.

Bars like this are usually pretty comfortable places to grab a beer. They will inevitably have pickup trucks in the parking lot, burgers on the menu and small-town vibes.

The HopHouse Bar and Grill is like that. Located in an unassuming strip mall not far from Highway 370, HopHouse has everything you’d expect from a laid-back, small-town pub, plus a few extras that make it stand out in a good way.

Their drink menu includes all of the standard domestics — Budweiser, Coors and Miller — as well as the usual imports like Guinness, and craft brew options from Kansas City’s Boulevard Brewing Company and Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery, to name just a few.

But, to its credit, HopHouse also has some impressive local craft brews on its menu, like favorites from Benson’s Infusion Brewing Company.

My personal favorite beer, Infusion’s Vanilla Bean Blonde, is on HopHouse’s menu. Its noticeable-but-not-overwhelming vanilla flavor keeps it interesting and its low alcohol by volume content (4.8 percent), makes it a refreshing spring-time drink. It’s delicious. You should have some.

HopHouse also has a few craft beer options I’d never seen before like the Union Jack IPA from California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company. IPAs aren’t usually my go-to beer, but I might choose this one again. It’s hoppy but well-balanced with subtle hints of citrus.

Like all good neighborhood pubs, in addition to its beer menu, HopHouse offers all of the standard liquors and mixed drinks, as well as drink specials throughout the week.

They offer particularly generous happy hour specials from 3 to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday where you can get well drinks for $2.50, domestic draft beers for $2 and domestic bottled beer for $2.25. Yeah, drinks for less than $3. Not bad, huh?

HopHouse’s food menu is also on the cheap side. With the exception of a sizable appetizer platter and some steak options, everything on the menu costs less than $10. They offer all the burgers, sandwiches, salads, appetizers, wings and personal pizzas you’d expect at your neighborhood bar and grill, all of it served in generous portions.

If you’re looking for entertainment, HopHouse has plenty of televisions, as well as darts, electronic games and Keno. Plus, on the Saturday night we visited, they also had karaoke.

HopHouse offers plenty of seating inside with lots of tables and chairs, as well as stools along the bar. Outside they have a sizable patio area where you can enjoy the weather while sipping your beer. (Just to reiterate: Get the Infusion Vanilla Bean Blonde.)

If you’re looking for a bar with a small-town vibe in the city, check out HopHouse. You may even become one of its regulars.

Nightlife review: It’s a bar & grill, but better; Mantra in Benson serves up craft cocktails, upscale eats

By Ashley Strehle Hartman / World-Herald Correspondent
Published in the Omaha World-Herald, May 4, 2017

Mantra Bar and Grille

Where: 6913 Maple St.

When: 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Information: mantraomaha.com or 402-933-1666

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Mantra Bar and Grille in Benson isn’t your typical neighborhood pub.

It’s better.

It doesn’t have mozzarella sticks on the menu. Instead it has crab cakes and escargot. The dessert menu doesn’t feature giant chocolate chip cookies; instead, Mantra serves up crème brulee.

You get the idea. This is a bar and grill made sophisticated, with food and (more importantly) drink menus to match.

Mantra Bar and Grille offers plenty of beer. They have standard domestics like Budweiser, foreign standbys like Guinness and craft beer from Deschutes Brewery, Lucky Bucket Brewing Company and Boulevard Brewing Company, among others. Of these, I’d recommend Boulevard’s Tank 7, a complex Saison/Farmhouse Ale that packs a wallop at 8.5 percent alcohol by volume.

From there, though, the drink menu gets decidedly more upscale. In addition to its decent beer selection, Mantra offers about two dozen wines, available by the glass or by the bottle, champagne and a selection of about a dozen specialty cocktails.

Drink prices vary. The cheapest bottles of domestic beers cost $4 and some of the more high-end wines cost more than $45 to buy by the bottle. Most of the drinks are less than $10, though, and all of the specialty cocktails cost $8.

The cocktail selection includes classics like Manhattans, Moscow Mules (they call them Mantra Mules) and Mint Juleps, along with more creative offerings that feature ingredients like hibiscus flowers.

My drinking buddies and I kept it simple by ordering the Cable Car, Peach Julep and the Paloma.

The Cable Car, with spiced rum, Grand Mariner, lemon juice and simple syrup, is a heartier cocktail full of flavor.

The Peach Julep with Bulleit Bourbon, Peachtree liqueur, mint and simple syrup was one of our favorites. The subtle flavor of peaches balanced out the sharpness of the bourbon to make it refreshing and easy to drink.

The Paloma was my favorite. It features 1800 Coconut Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and blood orange puree. You can taste all of the ingredients, but coconut is the standout. Like almost all drinks with coconut and tequila, it seems like something you should sip on a beach. Slowly. You should sip it slowly. Word to the wise, Mantra’s drinks are on the stiff side, in a good way. They do not skimp on the alcohol here, so take your time.

I’d recommend kicking back on Mantra’s patio, which offers plenty of seating at round tables, as well as a fire feature that keeps things nice and cozy.

Inside, Mantra has seating at chairs along the bar, as well as plenty of tables for large and small groups.

And, because this is still a bar and grill, there are several televisions so you never miss a game, even as you’re sipping your fancy cocktail.

Mantra’s like that — it keeps things classy while still respecting the bar and grill classics. They’ve got upscale food and drinks, but they’ve also got burgers, beer and sports, too. It’s the best of both worlds.