At the Stuffed Olive, martinis are served up with a shot of 90s nostalgia

reviewed by Sarah Baker Hansen
February 29, 2024

I’ll admit it: I can be a bit of a cocktail snob. (I know, you’re all gasping with surprise.)

So when I saw The Stuffed Olive, a new bar in the Capitol District serving a massive menu of martinis had opened, I felt excited, but also trepidation: Martinis? More than a hundred of them? Can they possibly be any good?

It turns out that the answer is yes, many of them are good, nicely executed if mostly on the sweeter side of the cocktail spectrum. There’s also a sizable list of non-martini cocktails, and we found those also to be well executed and often tasty. We also made our way through several of the small plates during two recent visits, some of which I’d recommend and some which I’d recommend skipping altogether.

The Stuffed Olive is the latest of a duo of bars — Roxxy is the second — that are newly opened on Capitol Avenue and owned by Harmonic Hospitality, based in Cedar Falls, Iowa. They run locations of the Stuffed Olive in Iowa City and Cedar Falls. The Omaha location is their third.

Inside, the bar is decorated in neutral tones of gray studded with lots of sparkling chandeliers, both booth and table seating as well as a long bar, which proved to be a popular spot during happy hour or before a show at Steelhouse or a Creighton basketball game.

My personal preference would be for those chandeliers to be turned down a notch, as it all felt rather bright. I like my bars to be moody, and moody the Stuffed Olive is not.

We stuck to a couple of classics on our first visit, opting for a Manhattan from the classic cocktail menu and a Boulevardier, a classic drink from the 1920s made with sweet vermouth, Campari and whiskey, which is on the martini menu though not generally served in a martini glass, like this one was. Both drinks were good: balanced, well mixed, what we expected.

Several dishes on the food menu prominently featured olives, and we tried both the stuffed olive sampler and the fried olives.

The stuffed olives come with a wide variety of “stuffings,” including cheese, jalapeno, pimento and others. I’ll be blunt: the plating on this dish is sloppy, and being the namesake dish on the menu, the kitchen could take a bit more care with it. Our olives came in no particular order, with cheese smeared on the outside of some and bits of feta covering almost the whole plate.

That said, the olives are fun to eat, briny and bright, and pair well with boozy drinks. I particularly liked one stuffed with fresh chopped jalapenos. (I reached out to the restaurant for an interview, but did not hear back before my deadline.)

The fried olives come served hot with a crispy exterior breading that leads to a bite that’s a bit juicy from the briny interior, salty from the crisp crust and creamy when you use the mayo-based bowl of dipping sauce.

We also liked a pair of small sliders topped with just-spicy ghost pepper cheese and onion jam, lending a spicy-sweet finish, and soft, warmed buns.

The Cajun salmon slider was my least favorite of the small plates we tried: cubes of salmon came served with a side of sticky rice topped with a drizzle of sauce. The fish tasted dry, with barely a hint of Cajun spice, and though our server said it was one of the most popular dishes at the restaurant, it’s one I wouldn’t recommend. In photos I saw of this dish online, the salmon is covered in sauce, but ours was not.

Better is the sweet and spicy Sicilian flatbread, which packs plenty of flavor and comes topped with balsamic onion jam, mushrooms, Italian sausage, scallions, queso fresco and both a ghost pepper cheese and a five-cheese blend. The edges are particularly good, but the center of the crust does get a bit soft because of the heavy toppings.

The cheese and charcuterie boards come in two sizes, one for two people and a second for a larger group. We ordered the smaller of the boards and got enough food for at least two. It comes with sliced salami, turkey, ham and prosciutto; cubes of cheddar and jack cheese; toasted baguette; sliced fruit and vegetables; and three dips: hummus, an onion jam and a bruschetta mix of cheese and tomato. It’s probably the plate I would most likely order on a return visit: easy to share, easy to like, nicely plated.

Another night, we took a dive right into the depths of the martini menu, trying four drinks: a flirtini (yes, I ordered this one solely because of the “Sex and the City” reference); “The Dude,” a white Russian in martini form, an espresso martini and a daiquiri martini.

The Dude, as you might expect, is a boozy milkshake in a martini glass, but who am I to fault Jeff Bridges? It’s delicious. A hint of sugarcane came through in the daiquiri martini — I’m a big fan of a classic Hemingway daiquiri, and this one hit the right notes of lime, sugar and rum.

All my SATC dreams came true with the Flirtini (season 3, episode 8, watch out for Samantha’s language if you have children around.) The Stuffed Olive version isn’t quite what Carrie describes (vodka, pineapple and champagne) but it’s close: raspberry vodka, peach schnapps, pineapple juice and Moscato, with a bit of raspberry schnapps sunk to the bottom. It’s sweet, fruity and very pretty.

I expected the espresso martini to be heavy cream filled, but I was wrong: it was dark and smooth, with a hint of mocha, and quite nice, if you like that sort of 90s throwback moment, which I do.

Not everything at Stuffed Olive is great – look for the hidden gems — but by and large, the drink menu is a fun throwback with some classics that are well executed, and worth trying if you’re looking for a night out somewhere new.

The Stuffed Olive

1140 Capitol Avenue

(402) 953-1985

Mon – Sat:
3p – 2a
Closed: Sunday

Recent Reviews