Stokes Grill and Bar

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We had a night out with friends, and they suggested we eat at Stokes. Stokes is a local Omaha restaurant with 2 locations, one in the Old Market, and one out near Boys Town, featuring Southwestern style wood grilled cuisine. Started in 1997 by two friends, Stokes is now part of the Restaurants, Inc group, which also owns The Twisted Fork, Old Country Buffet, Pepperjax Grill (just not in Omaha), Smashburger and HuHot.  We ate at their newest location, Stokes West. Inside, the atmosphere is “western” with dark wood, leather and bright splashes of southwestern colors, overall feeling warm and inviting. Most of the seating areas are large tall booths that create a nice intimate space.  We were able to make reservations on Open Table, which was good idea, as they were on a wait the whole time we were there.

We arrived earlier than our friends, so decided to grab a drink from the bar. The large bar had a cool chalkboard that featured the drink specials, featured spirits and a list of the cocktails.  The drink menu featured a number of house crafted special cocktails which peaked our interest.  Mr Nom selected the Bourbon Nectar and I got the Pyrate Punch which was Pyrate rum, Malibu rum, and pineapple and grapefruit juices.  The Pyrate Punch had a nice refreshing flavor, picking up a richness from the dark Pyrate rum and a bit of sweetness from the fruit juice and Malibu.

Mr Nom’s drink, the Bourbon Nectar, definitely was a drink for a bourbon lover, was similar in idea to an Old Fashioned, but completely missed any of the sweet component.  Mr. Nom likes bourbon neat, so he didn’t mind the drink, but if a diner were looking for a well balanced cocktail, this would be disappointing to them.

Our friends arrived and we ordered the guacamole and salsa platter to share at the table. The appetizer comes with a large bowl of guacamole, two salsas and chips.  The guacamole was fresh, slightly chunky with a hint of lime. The green salsa was spicy and tangy, the burn a nice contrast to the cool guacamole. The red salsa was fresh and tomato-y, with a hint of smoky chipotle.

We ordered our meals, which considering the crowded restaurant came extremely quickly. I ordered the fish tacos, which comes with your choice of seafood, grilled tilapia, blackened salmon, rock shrimp, ahi tuna or beer battered fish.  The dish comes with black beans and rice and a nice vinegary slaw. I choose the ahi tuna for my seafood,  and the tacos came with the tuna cooked nicely, seared on the edges with a cool pink in the middle. The tuna combined with the brightness and crunch of the slaw made the dish very pleasing. The black beans were really good as well, nicely seasoned with beans that were still slightly firm.   The tortillas were a bit stiff, as if they hadn’t been warmed before serving.  The rice was just the standard bland red Mexican rice.  The tortillas and rice were disappointing, especially since the fish and beans were so well done.

Mr. Nom ordered the Cedar Planked Salmon, which featured wood grilled salmon atop smoked fingerling potatoes and Brussels sprouts. The salmon was nicely cooked and seasoned, light and flaky with a nice smoky grilled char. The balsamic fig reduction that topped the salmon was sweet and tangy that really popped the flavors of the salmon.  The potatoes and Brussels sprouts were fork tender and were nicely seasoned as well with a hint of smoke. This dish alone is one we would return to Stokes for.  Mr. Nom also ordered a side salad with the house basil vinaigrette, which made the salad a bit hit.  The vinaigrette was tangy and herbaceous, like a great fresh pesto.

While waiting for our food, we ordered another round of drinks, ordering this time from the regular drink menu rather than the specials. I chose the Mojito and Mr. Nom tried the Matthew 10:16. Like the previous round we found the drinks to be completely missing the sweet components.  The Mojito had a nice mint burst, but was not sweet enough to overcome the bitterness of the soda and mint. The Matthew 10:16 was a take on a Manhattan, using rye, vermouth and a citrus bitters.  This drink was better than the Bourbon Nectar, the citrus notes playing well with the spicy rye, but could have used some kind of simple syrup added to the drink.

Wanting to satisfy our sweet tooth, we ordered the Bananas Fargo, a spin on Bananas Foster, sautéed bananas served over vanilla bean ice cream with caramel and chocolate sauces atop a tortilla shell in the bottom of the bowl.  The bananas were sweet and caramely with nice hints of rum, and picked up the vanilla bean ice cream really well.  The tortilla shell was lost beneath all the bananas and ice cream, and by the time you could access it seemed a bit superfluous. The serving size was quite generous and easily could be shared with friends.

Stokes West

Atmosphere: 3/5 – Warm and inviting, with private booths good for group dining, but wasn’t really remarkable.

Service: 4/5 –  Our server was friendly and efficient, got the food out quickly.   

Food Quality: 3/5

Taste: 3/5  – Some real hits with the fish tacos and salmon, but some of the misses make the taste just average.

Value: 3/5  – Average priced, the real value came in the generous size of the desserts for the price.   Drinks are over priced for the mediocre quality of the cocktails.

Overall: 3/5 – A decent place for a night out with friends.

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