Last week Loft 610 Executive Chef Ben Ackland and the staff invited us to stop in and sample items from the Midtown Crossing restaurant’s revamped bar and cocktail menu. We started with a flight of the bar’s signature cocktails (available for $2 per shot on Thursday nights, if you want to sample them). All were variations on the martini, and most were on the sweet end of the spectrum. Their signature martini, the Loft610 — a Bombay Sapphire-based martini with lemonade, green tea, cucumber and strawberry — was a dead ringer for a Jolly Rancher candy, for example, but their Manhattan Loft — a variation of the classic bourbon-based martini that added a touch of lemon — was a keeper we’d come back for. The first, and one of the best, items we sampled from the Bar Bites menu were the Maytag Blue Cheese Chips ($4) — simple and addictive house-made potato chips with just enough blue cheese crumbled over them to keep you coming back. Roasted Garlic Hummus ($5) dusted with cayenne pepper and house-made flatbread and calamari ($6) were next. Both were done well. The hummus had the perfect balance of heat and earthiness from the ground chickpeas, and the calamari, accompanied by a thick, ketchup-like Sriracha sauce and a garlic ailoli that clung to the well-fried squid when dunked, made for a rich starter with the sauces. The bruschetta ($7) was spot-on. Though simple enough to make, the ratio of garlic, salt and basil to olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper, mozzarella chunks and tomato was pitch-perfect. For one glorious minute, it felt like a bright summer day even though spring had yet to arrive. The most expensive item we sampled, the Smokey Mussels ($10) were terrific: briny bivalves cradled in a sauce of Boulevard ale, garlic, tomato, house-smoked bacon and jalapenos and served with slices of baguette to sop up the sauce. While any one of the ingredients could have dominated the dish, Ackland reined them in, allowing the mussles to take center stage. More smoke came in the form of the jaw-dropping, slap-your-mama-good Smoked Pumpkin Soup topped with roasted pumpkin seeds that is worth a visit in and of itself. The smoky undertones really took the pumpkin to another level of comfort-food goodness, and it really hit the spot on a chilly winter night. All the items arrived in generous portions — one could easily make a dinner from the bar menu and keep the food tab under $20. If you need another incentive, every night this month one lucky bar patron will get a free tab at 6:10 every evening, even if they’re dining on items on the restaurant’s dinner menu. * WineStyles, formerly located in the Shoppes at Aksarben, has moved a block or two west -— they’re now located at 74th and Pacific, next to Martini Nails in the strip mall on the north side of the street. * Burger lovers in midtown have yet another option — a second Brewburgers opened in late February at 7515 Pacific. The restaurant’s menu will be similar to that of the 108th and L location, though the larger space on Pacific includes pool and darts. Hours for the Pacific location are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., though evening hours will likely expand once the restaurant receives its liquor license, which is expected in the near future. For more information go to brewburgersomaha.com. * Lent, and the season of fish fries, is upon us. Those looking for an alternative to the traditional fish and chips might want to consider Dante Pizzeria (16901 Wright Plz), offering a different take on traditional fried fish. “Our lent special entrée is Peroni-battered cod and roasted fingerling potatoes with lemon aoli and served with a Peroni,” owner and chef Nick Strawhecker says in a press release. “The majority of our menu items are meatless, so people always have plenty of ‘sacrificial’ entrées to choose from, but we thought we should offer a tasty alternative to the Friday fish fry.” * Sprit World, at 75th and Pacific, will be helping those who want to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with a little Irish whiskey by hosting their annual Irish Whiskey Tasting event this Friday, March 11 from 5-8 p.m. This year the featured whiskey will be Bushmill’s. The $15 entry price per person gets you $5 back toward your purchase of any of the featured items.