The dynamic restaurateurs known as Flagship Restaurant Group first opened Blue Sushi, who revolutionized the Sunday happy hour while also expanding as far as Denver, CO and Fort Worth, TX. Last year, they brought us Blatt Beer & Table in North Downtown, and before that, Roja Mexican Grill and Margarita Bar became another Old Market favorite. There hasn’t been a bum concept yet.
Diners who don’t fancy big restaurant chains will be pleased to know that Plank, their newest endeavor, is run by a group of down-to-earth, passionate individuals, who worked diligently over the last few months to ready their newly constructed space for business.
The Reader spoke with Anthony Hitchcock, Director of Operations, and Matt Moser, Executive Chef, for the details.
The Reader: How did Plank come to be?
Anthony Hitchcock: The space around 12th and Howard became available, and it was just a really difficult location for us to pass up. Once we decided we wanted to open a fish house, we traveled a bit, and went to the coasts, to see what was out there. It seemed like oysters were being served everywhere, whether it was a fish house or not. And I’m a big oyster fan. We really got inspired out there, especially in New York City.
TR: How did you go about developing the menu?
MM: It took Tony [Gentile, Corporate Executive Chef] and I about 2.5 months. Tony is from the Gulf side of Texas, so he had a lot of ideas. I was at the Blue Sushi in Denver when he called and asked me to help run the restaurant.
AH: I think it was 50/50 Matt and Tony. They worked out of Blue developing the menu, adjusting the recipes. It was a neat thing to watch. If you popped in on the right day, you’d get to try a lobster roll.
TR: What would you say to someone who might be wary of eating oysters, especially in the Midwest?
AH: I think some people might be scared of the fact that they’re served raw, but we also fry them, and also wood-fire barbecue them, so it’s a good way to start.
MM: We get a variety of species in. Different sizes, different solidities, different flavor profiles for each oyster, so you can start off with smaller oysters with hints of cucumber, and then kind of progress into the bigger oysters. We get them flown in several times week from both coasts.
TR: What are some of the more exclusive menu items, besides oysters?
MM: Alligator. It’s tail meat soaked in buttermilk and then fried, served with onion straws and pepperoncini, and a Creole dijonnaise sauce.
TR: What are your other favorites?
MM: The desserts. We made a play off of popular fish house desserts, like bananas foster bread pudding and key lime panna cotta. 98% of what we serve is from scratch. It’s a huge undertaking, but I have two great sous chefs [David Meegan and Chase Thomsen], and everyone just works their tails off to make it happen.
TR: Where do you think Plank will fit in to the Omaha restaurant scene?
MM: Plank is on the right path in Omaha for what people are yearning for. Benson and Dundee can only expand so far. Downtown has so much to offer with great restaurants, and they’re going to keep coming.
The 5,000 square-foot restaurant, with a wraparound 50-seat patio, opened on May 9th. So far, Omahans have loved the oysters: Plank ordered 2,000 just for one weekend. “You can add lemon, hot sauce, cocktail, horseradish, or mignonette sauce. I’ve seen people eat them with a fork, on a cracker, or just slurp them down. It’s however you want them,” says Hitchcock. Start with Miyagi or Chefs Creek oysters for mild flavors. Plank also offers steaks, salads, soups, and other seafood entrees.
The beverage program, developed by Hitchcock and Bartender Sean Bokelman, features freshly squeezed lemonade as a vehicle for booze and Napa Valley fruit purees. Ask about the eight chrome tap handles behind the bar. They dispense keg wines from Argentina, France, California, and New York.
You might recognize some familiar faces at Plank. Stop by and say hello. After a couple of spiked lemonades, you’ll be ready to discuss that burning question: are oysters really an aphrodisiac?
Plank Seafood & Provisions
1205 Howard Street
Mon – Sat: 11a.m. – close
Sun: noon – close
Daily happy hour; call for details.