Lincoln, NE – March 13, 2012
I feel like I could have just as easily titled this post Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I’ll explain in time, but that’s what my two separate experiences at Marz in Lincoln, NE have been like.
My first visit was last August, and the notes and pictures are still in my Blackberry, just waiting to get published. So, with a return trip to Lincoln this week I was really looking forward to visiting Marz again and having a some great cocktails and food. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Marz is located in downtown Lincoln and has an incredible hip and cool vibe. With 20 something foot ceilings, a very long bar lines one side and cozy velour covered half circle booths run down the other side. With a space age decor and a comfy lounge area at the rear, and a very nifty acid jazz, chill electronic soundtrack going, I liked it as soon as I walked in the door.
During my first visit I had an ongoing conversation with the bartender who was very knowledgeable and into her craft. She started me with a Smokey Vesper since a James Bond flick was running on the TV over the bar. For my second drink I had the Martian Sunrise (pictured above), which features Cuervo, pineapple and pomegranate juices in a riff on the Tequila Sunrise. A strong drink with plenty of punch from the tequila it settled in nicely once some of the ice started to melt. Interestingly enough I also got a taste of banana from this one, and wasn’t sure if it was from the drink or the banana split I had for desert!
Along with my drinks I had a dinner of the homemade mac and cheese, which was good, very good. All in all, my visit there last August was quite impressive. So when I arrived in Lincoln last night I was very much looking forward to eating and drinking there again.
Boy, what a difference 7 months makes! The atmosphere was just as hip, and given that it was in the 70’s, the outside patio was full when I arrived around 9pm. Unfortunately, that’s about where the goodness ended and mediocrity took over. I asked the bartender what he makes that’s unique and his. His answer was pretty much a blank look and then mumbling something about their Manhattan’s being good. OK, so he’s not really a bartender into cocktails. I ordered a Sidecar Named Desire from the menu. Consisting of Raynar VSOP cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice I was surprised when it was served with a sugared rim that had been wetted with a lime wedge. The first two sips were overwhelmingly lime and that was spoiling the drink – not to mention that anything resembling a sidecar has no business being served in a sugared rim.
At about this time the second bartender (whose best feature, I learned, was her breasts spilling out of the top of her sundress) came over to ask how it was. I started to ask her about the sugared rim and her answer was that the bourbon – which prompted me to correct her to brandy, she didn’t even know what was in the thing – made it strong and so they thought it should be sweetened. I told her the lime on the rim was too much so she offered to pour into a fresh glass, which I gladly accepted. As we continued talking I tried to point out that a cocktail like this is supposed to be strong. Her final answer was “I just do what they tell me to do.” So, two lifeless bartenders on duty.
So, without the lime and sugar on the rim it was drinkable, but unremarkable. It was a bit disjointed and needed, most likely, some work on the proportions of Cointreau and lemon juice, and also, most likely, a dash of bitters.
As for my dinner, I ordered the cleverly named Moons of Pluto which were described as provolone risotto balls served with marinara sauce. It failed to mention that they were breaded and deep fried, which was disappointing. The risotto and cheese was good, and I would have enjoyed the balls if they hadn’t been deep fried and just drizzled with a bit of olive oil instead. As for the marinara, it had the consistency and flavor of slightly thinned out tomato paste. Again, disappointing.
Finally, as way of adding insult to injury, there was only one dessert item available, a honey lavender creme brulee. I normally may have gone for it, but was dismayed by only having that one choice and passed instead.
All in all I was very disappointed by the second visit. When back in Lincoln down the road I may try it again in the hoped of finding the good Marz is back.