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Crossbones Bar, Omaha — REVIEW

5611 South 36th Street
Omaha NE 68107

402-905-3651

The bar on the corner of 36th and V in South Omaha holds a special distinction in the HitThatDive folklore.  Formerly the Brass Monkey Sports Bar (and then just the Brass Monkey) this place, more than any other bar in Omaha, was instrumental in helping HTD start to have just a hint of street “cred” several years ago.

In fairness to Michael Ivers, the proud new owner of what is now Crossbones Bar, this is not the time, nor the place to sit and reminisce about days gone by at a bar that no longer exists.

This is about my first trip to South O’s newest bar…which was made possible by the 100s of Crossbones fans that were relentless in their support during last weekend’s Facebook vote about what bar should be reviewed next. A job well done!

PROS: Amazing selection of domestic and craft beer. $5 Sunday Bloody Mary can’t be beat! CLEAN. Affordable mixed drinks.
CONS: Where’s my Coors Original on tap? (That’s being nit-picky)

Spotless

First Impressions: This was a bit awkward, if only for a second, as I walked up to a bar I’ve been in 100’s of times but this time with a new name over the door. It was almost like going back to your childhood home for the first time after your parents had sold it.  Who hangs out in here now? “Anyone?” I wondered. What if it sucks?

After, oh I don’t know, about half a foot inside the pretty crowded (for a Sunday at 1:00 PM) bar, two things struck me…and neither was a fist. One: well shit, I still DO know a lot of people in here, and, even though there hasn’t been a total makeover or anything, this place just seems to have a new positive vibe back in it.   Of note…everything seems to be more orderly than just about any bar in town. The attention to detail is evident immediately. More on that in a bit.

Not bad for early on a Sunday

The Bar: Craft beer drinker or not, the first thing that you’ll notice is wide (and varied) selection of beer from the nearly 35 working tap handles.  Because a lot of that wouldn’t necessarily jump out at me, I enlisted the help of Omaha hockey coach James H. to help me out with his impressions too…and this was immediately the first thing he mentioned.

But, take a minute or two to check out the coolers, look at the well behind the bar, get a look at the perfectly lined up glasses behind the on the back bar…the attention to detail is evident in every direction that you look.   For crying out loud, even the little cheese sandwiches on my Bloody Mary had mustard on them! Even though I just met Ivers for just the second time ever when I sat down at his bar, it’s clear that his vision is to give you the ultimate bar experience no matter when you take a seat in his place.

That’s how you keep a bar neat

The Crowd:  I actually followed up with Ivers today to get his impressions of being a “Benson” guy running a South Omaha bar…and was amazed that his response was  basically the same as mine was about the crowd here the first time I walked in here…and that’s just how diverse it is on any given day. This location has always been a great melting pot in the community, and it was nice to hear firsthand that’s still the case.

Side note: More than anything I really hate labels when it comes to a bar, for the sake of putting my question into context as I asked it, I wrote the original words “Benson guy” and “South Omaha” bar. Regardless of where a bar exists, or who’s running the place, a good bar is a good bar. It’s that simple. Also notable…The Mayor of 36th Street “John John” was in sitting in his usual spot at the bar.  All seemed right with the world.

Funky

Service: Show up on a Sunday, and have Alex make you one of Mike Kratky’s diabolically good Bloody Marys.  But, don’t just come here on a Sunday for a Bloody Mary.   The combination of Ivers And Kratky are two of Omaha’s best when it comes to creating classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned or or a Mai Tai…or something newer like South O Tea (vodka, rum, gin triple sec, and blackberry brandy). Or, go the more traditional route and get an old school Crossbones boilermaker with Busch Light and a shot of Kessler for $4.

Yeah, I know that was more about drinks than service. But Alex even knew which beer I would ask for after my Bloody Mary, so I don’t have to yack too much about his service…it’s always great!

Five Buck Lunch

Prices: Drinks and classic cocktails will run you between $4-6.  A South “O” Special (a tallboy of Polish beer and a shot of blackberry brandy) will set you back $5. They have “buy a shot, get a second for a dollar” specials. And happy hour which is 3-7 everyday gets you $1.50 Busch Light draws, $3 craft beer, $3 well…and a discount on just about everything else.  For those that worried that prices may have changed from before…no need to worry about that anymore.

Food:  Did you see that Bloody Mary??  This isn’t a bar with a kitchen, so don’t come here hungry too often.  Of course you call always run up the street to Ray’s Wings in the Lemon Drop for something when the kitchen’s open.  But do make it a point to check out the bar’s Facebook page for free food specials that they do occasionally on weekends and during some sporting events.

AC/DC pinball!

Entertainment: With TV’s basically surrounding the entire room, this is still one of the best bars to watch sports at in the area. Add to that two pinballs machines, dart board, one of Omaha’s largest outdoor weather-protected smoking areas and there’s plenty to do here.  Not only that, after only a few months in business, Crossbones already has made a name for itself by brining in some of the best lineups of local musicians anywhere in the area…and never a cover charge.

Or, stop by on a Friday night with HitThatDive’s master of entertainment THE G-MAN for his own brand of DJ and Karaoke mayhem.

Bartender Chat: Before I was even able to finish my Bloody Mary, bartender Alex let me know that they currently didn’t have Coors Original on tap. Being the ever resilient barkeep, he immediately went to the cooler and grabbed me a Coors bottle.  Hey Crossbones…let’s work on that OK! (Kidding)

Restrooms: Clean, not too cramped and a bit chilly in the dead of winter.  Only a two seater of a room, if you prefer privacy…make sure to lock the door.

Chilly in the winter

How Far Did My $20 Go?: A brunch of Bloody Mary, four domestic bottles and a Stella on tap…and I still came in under budget.  Of course that was between two of us since I was picking up the tab for Coach H for taking the ride down here with me.

Final Impressions: Crossbones is an immaculate bar, run by real bar people, trying to make everyday bar customers feel at ease with just a slightly upscale feel….for a “dive”.  And keep in mind, they’re pulling it all off while still keeping prices affordable for anyone in the area…whether they live in South O or elsewhere.

Over the years, I’ve become fond of pointing out how a lot of bars “aren’t for everyone” because, for one reason or another…that’s usually true. Which is why saying “this bar IS for everyone” is odd for me…but very true.

Want cheap Busch Light? Check. HUGE selection of rotating craft beer on tap? Check. Hand crafted cocktails? Just ask for the menu. Shot and a beer? Of course. Add to that a live music ranging from local cover bands, to the Prairie Gators, or some kick ass rockabilly…and you literally have a bar that will appeal to just about anyone you know regardless of ZIP Code.

DIVE-O-METER
8.5

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