Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Omar's Carriage House-Norfolk, VA
Omar’s Carriage House has been around for over ten years. Omar also owns Voila, Omar’s Fountain Cafe at Town Point Park and the Pagoda Restaurant. I have been the Carriage House once during restaurant week, once during his tenth anniversary, when he offered 10 for $10 (ten entrees all priced at $10 and $10 bottles of wine that you could cork and take home) and a few other times.
Omar’s is tucked down Bute Street, close to the downtown YMCA. It is a very cute, historic building that was once exactly what the name suggests, a carriage house that was home to horses, carriages, tack and hay. Sitting on the first floor allows you a look at the drop doors in the ceiling above where the hay was stored and dropped into the carriages. There is history section on Omar’s website that chronicles the building’s use. The decor is casual chic and comfortable. I enjoy sitting downstairs for day meals as it is brighter, while the upstairs is suited more to dinner with a darker hue. I enjoyed the non-deal experiences more than the anniversary and restaurant week visits. It is always nice to feel like you are saving a few bucks, but restaurant week has been disappointing in general to me over the last few years and I feel you get a better meal, all around, on regular days and nights. If you have only been to Omar’s during one of these times, I suggest going for a regular meal. I thoroughly enjoyed brunch when I had the vegetable omelet, but the next time I visit Omar’s during brunch, I have my sights set on the California Benedict or the quiche of the day.
Laine and I had been talking about Omar’s and when a day that was not over 90 degrees arrived, we took the stroll. The panini portabella grabbed my attention this fine day, though the vegetarian lasagna looked appealing as well. I chose the panini, grilled ciabatta bread with marinated portabella mushrooms, roasted red peppers and mozzarella cheese. The sandwich was grilled perfectly and it was a manageable size for lunch. The Carriage House potato salad that accompanies the sandwiches is killer. It contains egg and was made with red potatoes (my favorite). Laine and I both wanted more of this creamy side.. I have had the warm spinach salad in the past and the hot cider dressing is very unique and fantastic, but this salad is not a meal salad if you are in any way hungry; it is more like an appetizer or something to share when ordering another dish.
Our server was fine until it was time to get our check and this exercise took forever. He was a quiet lad which is a plus, as I do not want a waiter that is too bubbly or talkative, but his attention seemed to wander after the food arrived.. A good ten minutes after we both had finished, we finally approached the bar and asked him for the checks. Omar’s is a little bit of a walk for us and we still had to journey back and.were watching the clock. Laine and I always say we are going to ask for the checks as the food arrives to quicken payment, which seems to always be the time hiccup, but we often forget this tactic once we get seated in a restaurant. We start having a good time and forget we are on a schedule. We finally paid and were on our way, but it took entirely too long to get our checks (and we had to fetch them). I enjoyed my meal and will go back, but will be cognisant to ask for the check after the food arrives to not incur the delay we experienced at the tail end of this meal. My sandwich was $7.95 which is reasonable for lunch.
The Carriage House also caters and is the house caterer on the American Rover. I organized an event on the Rover a few years ago and the food was phenomenal. I remember Omar’s having a good selection and both the Rover crew and the catering contact being very accommodating. Laine and I will visit Omar’s Fountain Cafe and report back when the temperature drops again. Its a little too steamy to sit in the blazing sun at Town Point Park during lunch.
I had been wanting to try Omar’s Carriage House for a while. Upon entering the building I discovered my instincts were right on. I loved the funky, artistic feel of the interior. Everywhere you turn there is something interesting on the wall, or ceiling. I had already perused the online lunch menu and knew what I wanted to order. Labeled “New!”, I was intrigued by the California Grilled Chicken Sandwich, consisting of chicken breast, guacamole and Havarti cheese on Sour Dough bread with pesto mayo and fresh tomato, served with a side of Carriage House potato salad. I love guacamole, Havarti is my favorite cheese, and pesto is another favorite of mine. Unfortunately, the in house menu did not match the online menu. This “new” sandwich, was no longer available. Grumble.... I have come across this blunder now with several restaurants. It’s 2010 people. Keep your online information current. After some discussion in the kitchen, our waiter determined that the sandwich could be served as they had all the ingredients available.
The sandwich arrived looking as delicious as I thought it would. After a couple of bites, I knew something was missing. The pesto mayonnaise was MIA. As Alex mentions, our server also went MIA after delivering our meals, so I never had the opportunity to ask him to bring out the mayonnaise, or refill my drink. The potato salad is very good, and the sandwich was good too, it just would have been better with pesto mayonnaise.
The restaurant filled up while we were there. During our lunch I noted that the clientele leaned more towards the senior citizen demographic. I’m not sure if that is the norm, or an anomaly of that particular day. Lunch prices are very reasonable, with most sandwiches ranging from $7-8. There is also a $3.95 half sandwich and a $14.95 crab cake sandwich. On cooler days, it would be the perfect spot for some soup and a sandwich. We will be back.
Omar’s is located at 313 West Bute Street and is open daily for lunch and dinner and brunch on the weekends.