After severe disappointment from both Marcus Theatre and the Colby Ridge Gourmet Popcorn Store, this week my quest for the ultimate popcorn meal led me to O’Rourke’s Tavern on 1329 O Street.
The establishment had off street parking, which can be a chore in downtown Lincoln, but is also usually a sign that you are dealing with a mom & pop hole in the wall, where you can usually discover the capital city’s most obscure dining gems. Aside from a vagrant using an emaciated dog to try to guilt me into giving him change by my parking spot, I was able to get to the front door relatively easily.
The end of a narrow hallway led to the hostess, who very sternly asked for my ID. I feared the O’Rourke’s restaurant was some sort of membership based dining experience, but I was relieved when they reluctantly let me continue on.
After asking the hostess if she would help me find a seat, (she grew appalled I would ask her to do her job and walked to the beer garden to smoke,) I proceeded through the front doors. There was a lot of seating in the bar area, but I chose a cozy booth.
After staring at my iPhone for twenty minutes I realized a server hadn’t come to my table yet. No water with lemon or anything. That’s okay. They were probably really busy, so I approached a male employee at the bar. I told him I was interested in sampling the popcorn side dish and he pointed over by the pinball game at a giant bag and said, “Help yourself, buddy.” It totally made my week! Maybe he is a fan of my Smell Nebraska food reviews.
The dish itself is rustic and simple. You grab what looks like an ancient wooden bowl from Africa or something and scoop up the meal yourself, using the deep basin as a shovel in the large bag of premade popcorn. I was elated to have such an interactive dining experience!
I returned to the bartender to order a water with a side of lemon and he mumbled something under his breath, I think he felt bad for outing me as a food reviewer. I returned to my booth to eat my meal and noticed a few people had started playing a game at the pool table next to my seat. They smelled really bad, but that’s okay.
Finally, the reason I’m here. I grabbed a handful of the entree and tossed it into my mouth. The popcorn was cold, but soft. Rich and savory. I chewed slowly to allow the salt tones to dance on every part of my palette.
The flavor profile was spot on for popcorn, and it was so evenly popped! Every single bite carried the same intensity, and the leftover seasoning shook around the aesthetically pleasing ethnic bowl in a beautiful twister of satisfaction.
On the quest for perfection in regards to popcorn dishes, my absolute recommendation is O’Rourke’s Tavern at 1329 O Street. Making a successful night even better, I didn’t have to pay for it! I approached the male bartender to thank him for the experience and pay for my meal and water with lemon and he responded with, “You have got to be kidding me!” He IS a fan of my food reviews!