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

* * *

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.

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