I have written about (and eaten at) a lot of sports bars in the decade I’ve been writing about restaurants, and I can tell you this with some confidence: Most don’t have very good food. Food often feels like an afterthought, a requirement, a third most important thing after Miller Lite and big televisions.
Let it Fly, which opened with a flourish in June in the Capitol District, is an exception. I was not sure what to expect going in, though I saw some posts on social media from people I trust and it looked, frankly, pretty fancy for a sports bar.
In reality, it is pretty fancy for a sports bar. There is an actual cocktail menu, for starters. A wine list, a brunch menu, several entrees — steak frites at a sports bar? — and, as I tried for myself, several solid versions of bar food staples like pizza, wings and burgers. It might be the most food-focused sports bar in town. Others in the neighborhood are going to need to up their game to compete.
And don’t worry: Let it Fly has the biggest television set I have ever seen.
Let it Fly is owned by Mike Miller, a former Memphis Grizzlies player and current Memphis Tigers coaching staff member, whose son, Mason, plays basketball for Creighton. The restaurant is run by CEO Al Lopez.
Miller also runs a location of the bar in Sioux Falls, S.D. and a second in Germantown, Tenn. There are already rumors flying around a second Omaha Let it Fly location to open sometime soon in west Omaha. (I tried to set up an interview with one of the owners but did not hear back from them before my deadline.)
I think I was most curious to try two dishes at Let it Fly: A burger, of which there are several, and the chicken wings.
The classic cheeseburger, which I ordered medium, arrived a bit past that point, but with a nice, charred exterior topped with melted cheddar, a pile of tasty pickles, lettuce, tomato and a brioche bun. I added the sauteed mushrooms for an extra buck and was glad I did: they added a meaty richness I liked a lot. Fries are shoestring style — they did not seem house made to me — and arrived crisp and hot.
The wings come in orders of six or a dozen, and diners can choose one sauce per six wings; we went with the interesting sounding “barbecue dry rub,” but probably wouldn’t do that again because I think, like we did, that most diners would find that particular order of wings a bit too dry. Nonetheless, they were nicely cooked, with a crispy outside and tender meat. The dill-spiked Ranch is good for dipping, but I most enjoyed them with a side of Mike’s Hot Honey I requested for pizza crust, but it is simply good on everything. Comparatively, I’d say I still like the char buff wings at Addy’s, which has a location just a couple blocks away, more — they’re larger, and meatier — but the wings at Let it Fly are a close second.
We managed to check out one item from the brunch menu on a Sunday, the LIF “hangover burrito,” which appeared rather restrained, I thought, considering its name. Chorizo is the main attraction here, and there’s plenty of it, nicely cooked and paired with potatoes and scrambled egg; we wished for a bit more egg in the end. It comes with both red and green salsas, plus pico de gallo and sour cream.
We sat both at the bar and in the dining room on our two visits (and have done the same at several “unofficial” visits in the past.) Sometimes service at the bar is great, but sometimes, like it was the day we first visited for this review, it is spotty. We had to ask for ketchup and refills of iced tea; the bar was not busy, and several employees were standing around.
Another day, when we went in for dinner, the restaurant was busy (the WWE was having an event at the nearby CHI Health Center that night) but our food came promptly and our server was attentive, at one point, even reciting the entire draft and bottle beer list from memory.
That evening we tried two of the cocktails on the list: a tangy margarita with a salted rim and an herbal whiskey smash. Both were balanced, nicely garnished and flavorful. I think Matthew might have said it best: “A passable sports bar cocktail list? That has never happened in Omaha.”
Nor has a passable wine list, which they also have, and which I in particular appreciate. Matthew tried the “Let it Fly” Lager, produced in partnership with Infusion Brewing, and said it’s the kind of unobjectionable but tasty beer that’s both local and appealing to pretty much everyone.
I felt like we were taking a risk ordering the meat lovers pizza, but every time I’ve been to Let it Fly, I’ve seen a lot of diners ordering pizza, and now I get it. In spite of my low expectations, it has a house-made, flavorful crust with a chewy edge, and the meat lovers comes topped with good quality pepperoni, soppressata, fennel salami and sweet sausage. It had plenty of flavor and a balanced but acidic tomato sauce.
We threw in a Philly just to try something from the sandwich menu; it was good, not great. Thick sliced beef intermingled with sliced peppers and sauteed onions on a hoagie bun, no surprises there.
Sitting in the main floor dining room at Let it Fly, I counted a minimum of 30 television sets surrounding our table. There’s also a second floor of seats, with a balcony of sorts featuring a low bar where the seats face the absolutely enormous television set on the west wall, which their website tells me is a 50-foot LED screen. You absolutely cannot miss it. I have a hard time imagining missing a single play at this sports bar.
Like I said, I’ve watched many a Chicago Cubs game or a Nebraska game at a sports bar with Matthew, and rarely have I found much to write home about.
Many times, I’ve wondered why Omaha can’t come up with a sports bar that features both a nice cocktail and a good burger.
Let it Fly is answering the call. And while it’s not perfect, it’s damn close.
Let it Fly
M – F: 11a – 2a
Sat & Sun: 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.