Any proper crisp fall afternoon should include a leisurely stroll, crunching through the leaves on the streets of Dundee. That said, any dewy spring day or hot summer night should include a similar scenario.
Where else can you find a quiet coffee spot, hip sandwich shop, romantic date on a patio, or occasional celebrity sighting over a glass of wine?
And where in the world can you find all of this under one roof? Specifically, under the roof of a charismatic turn of the century house now known as Marks Bistro.
The charming bistro has fed regulars for 11 years, but also finds itself hosting the occasional big name. So big, in fact, that they use only one. Names like Bono, Buffett, and Springsteen, for instance.
A place to meet, greet, and eat
Walking through the doors feels like walking into the home it once was. It’s bustling without feeling industrial. It’s cozy without feeling cluttered. It is warm and full of activity as waiters laugh with guests and long lost friends wave from across the room.
The bartender doesn’t even ask the man in front of him what he’ll have. He’ll have what he always has, where he always has it. Right here at the bar in his favorite place to eat, drink, and meet with friends. I ask him who he has come to meet with today and he laughs. “Nobody,” he tells me “but someone will be here. At some point, you don’t remember if you meet with your friends at Marks, or if they became your friends when you met them at Marks. In any case, someone will be here. Meanwhile, pull up a seat. Since I’m not waiting for anyone, today you can be the friend I met at Marks.”
Constant as the changing weather
As I make my way to a quiet table in the back, a tall man steps from behind the bar and introduces himself. “Hey!” says the new friend I’m about to make, “I’m Mark.”
Though I’ve been here before, I immediately set to work on the menu. I notice that an item I had enjoyed months ago is absent, and 3 new items jump off the page demanding to be eaten.
Voters from The Reader declared the Macaroni at Marks their favorite, so I order a snack mac, which is an appetizer-sized Havarti, cheddar, asiago, and bleu cheese sauce over cavatappi pasta, topped with toasted panko.
I notice several vegetarian and gluten free options and ask Mark about the changing menu. Signature dishes are almost always available, but I feel like I’m frequently finding new items. He explains that this is because he does his best to buy locally, and being Nebraska, some foods just stop being available as the weather changes. “Luckily,” he smiles “this means that comfort foods become more available in the fall and winter when people really need them.”
I’m forced to agree as I gander the menu of irresistible items like the duck confit quesadilla and the utterly decadent looking s’mores brownie with sea salt. I find their 48-Hour Short Ribs with orange-tamarind demi-glace, and white truffle whipped cauliflower and determine that it’s time to have a dinner date with my paleo friends, as this place has many beautiful and compliant dishes.
The conversation quickly dissolves into chatter about children and social media and I realize that the atmosphere has gotten the best of us.
Table for 20
The romance of the patio and ambiance of the dining room keep Marks at the front of your mind when contemplating a night out, but after lunch Mark shows me upstairs to a newly remodeled Sunroom, which can comfortably seat 20, and the “Sage” room, which seats a more intimate party of 8. Like any humble homemaker, he tells me that renovations aren’t quite complete in this beautiful space. He has yet to hang the artwork on loan from a local talent (he grins when he mentions it’s “on loan” as this artist just happens to be his wife) and he always has plans to make his guests feel more at home.
I decide not to mention that I’m contemplating moving in. I suppose that’s what happens when you make a place this inviting. People never want to leave.
4916 Underwood Ave
Mon – Thu: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm
Fri – Sat: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm