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Clio Celebrates Family History with Delectable Mediterranean Cuisine

Reviewed by Chris Corey
July 4, 2024
the falafel at clio

“Clio” is the muse of history and is one of the eight muses in Greek mythology. Clio is also the name of the new Mediterranean restaurant in Old Market. The name was chosen to go along with the restaurant’s concept of Mediterranean cuisine that celebrates family histories.

Clio is a brand-new concept from Flagship Restaurant Group that went through an extensive evolutionary process. Initially, it was going to be wine bar focused on a few antipasti and charcuterie options. The more the primary owners (Nick Hogan, CEO; Tom Allisma, president and architect; Anthony Hitchcock, COO; and Tony Gentile, chief culinary officer) worked on the concept, the more it became apparent that Clio should represent their family backgrounds.

third shot of clio from the outside

Clio from the outside

“There is a really cool connection to the Italian, southern France, the Turkish and the Lebanon kind of area of the Mediterranean that we draw a lot of influence from,” said Lexi Christiansen, Clio’s general manager. “We are authentically inspired by the Mediterranean, so some of the dishes we have very much are our own dishes.”

Clio opened at the beginning of June and already operates like a well-oiled machine. For a restaurant barely three weeks old at the time of our visit, I was immediately impressed by the staff’s professionalism. Every server was welcoming, knowledgeable, willing to guide guests through the menu and genuinely invested in providing a top-notch dining experience.

inside clio's dining area

Clio inside

Clio’s décor is a brilliant mix of Mediterranean designs and colors, pulled together in a refreshing, fun and inviting collage that feels both unique and familiar at the same time. Each wall boasts vibrant color and artwork that pulls the overall design together.

There is a strategic originality to the seating with a center area of semi-circle booths for larger gatherings with smaller two- and four-person tables surrounding. There’s not a bad seat in the house.

Jennifer and I visited on a Friday, amidst the College World Series, and then the following Monday. During both visits, we were able to strategically plan a dinner and a late lunch around their happy hour menu. We were glad to have our reservations, because each time, Clio was packed.

clio's decked out sangria

Clio sangria

Friday night Jennifer started with the sangria and I went with the Aperol spritz. Later, with the main courses, we went with the espresso martini and the casa Clio. For appetizers, we sampled all four spreads with an extra order of pita and the saffron rice fritter. For entrees, I ordered the beef kefta kabob, and Jennifer tried the wood roasted beets from the salad menu.

Here’s a cool thing: for a little extra, you can order a single kabob to go with a salad. As such, Jennifer added the salmon kabob.

The sangria was easily one of the best we’ve ever had. It’s also one of the most lavishly decorated with cuts of fruit along the sides of the glass – very eye catching. It’s a blend of grenache (a dry, yet fruit-forward wine that leans towards notes of cherry and berry), pama (a pomegranate liquor), vanilla pineapple and orange. It’s a refreshing sangria that has a complex profile with the sweetness of the liqueur and the acidity from the citrus plus a hint of boozy sour from the grenache.

The Aperol spritz, with Aperol, prosecco, soda and orange, was light and refreshing with the sweet bitterness of the liqueur working in harmony with the natural subtle saccharine of the prosecco and the acidity of the orange.

The espresso martini is quite possibly the most unique I’ve had in a very long while and certainly one of the most memorable. The prominence of cardamom makes it reminiscent of a Turkish coffee. This cocktail is made with cardamom-infused vodka, galliano espresso (an Italian liqueur), cold brew and garnished with a cardamom pod. I’ve had quite a few versions of espresso martinis lately and this one easily tops the list.

casa clio cocktail

The casa Clio

The casa Clio is made with altos reposado tequila, pomegranate and Aleppo shrub liqueur, lime, agave and za’atar salt lining the rim. Think of this like a pomegranate margarita infused with a sweet, fruity and peppery Mediterranean inspired profile. It’s unique, engaging and not a cocktail to ignore.

all four spreads on the appetizer

Clio spreads

Let’s talk about the spreads. There are five options: hummus, muhammara, labneh, baba ganoush or all four. When experiencing Clio for the first time, go for all four. I can’t tell you which of these I liked best. I tried hard to rank them but gave up, deciding that I thoroughly enjoyed them all in their own way.

Our server Sebastian gave us his “road map” for trying the spreads. His recommendations were spot on. I’ll keep his recommended order a secret so you can discover it for yourself.

The hummus is smooth, rich and has just the right level of garlic. It’s a simple hummus with the standard ingredients but makes a confident statement.

The muhammara is a puree of piquillo pepper, Aleppo chilli, mint and parsley with pomegranate seeds and walnuts on top. There is a delicate balance of sweet, savory and a tinge of smokey heat that hits the tastebuds in all the right ways.

The labneh is a Middle Eastern strained yogurt, za’atar, chive and olive oil. The zingy hint of sour from the yogurt and za’atar tops a torn piece of pita nicely.

The baba ganoush, which is much smoother and creamier than you typically find, is blended with tahini, pomegranate roasted tomato, garlic yogurt, pickled chili and dill. It’s an incredibly savory and inviting spread.

The saffron rice fritters off the mezze portion of the menu, is stuffed with saffron rice, potato, kasseri cheese, chili-yogurt and dill. These fritters are crisped perfectly on the outside with a tender blend of potato and rice inside. They’re not at all greasy, a nice trait in a crispy fritter. Dipping them in the chili-yogurt sauce elevates them further with the combination of heat from the chili and the cool creaminess of the yogurt.

beef kefta kabob with sauce and saffron rice

Clio beef kefta kabob

The beef kefta kabob, which is minced beef topped with a piquillo pepper purée and charred jalapeño sour cream to the side. The large plates on the menu come with saffron rice, cucumber and tomato salad, pickles and hummus. The beef kabob is tender, juicy and seasoned well with Mediterranean spices that never overwhelm the dish. The piquillo pepper purée compliments the beef in all the right ways. The jalapeño sour cream stands on its own but is a delicious compliment to anything on the plate. Saffron rice was perfectly cooked, and the cucumber and tomato salad brought a bit of delicate, light acidity to the dish.

a plate of wood roated beets with whipped feta

Clio wood roasted beets

Let me confess: I’m not someone who typically seeks out beets on a menu. But since Jennifer ordered them and shared a couple of bites with me, this is something I would order again in a heartbeat. A blend of beets is topped with a rich, savory whipped feta, lemon zest, dukkah (a blend of herbs, nuts and spices) and dill. The combination is magic. I may have snuck an extra bite or two when she wasn’t looking.

Jennifer added the salmon kabob to her salad. It was seared to perfection with a tender, flaky middle. The za’atar seasoned the salmon beautifully and ignited the fish’s natural buttery, rich flavor.

clio's delicious phyllo pie with orange blossom custard

Clio phyllo pie

For dessert, we shared the phyllo pie, an innovative, elevated and uniquely inspired dessert. The outside is what you’d expect in a dessert phyllo – crispy, flakey and basted with a bit of honey. Below the top crust is a warm, soft center with a texture like bread pudding. It’s accompanied by a vibrant orange blossom custard, poached apples and cream. It isn’t heavy but will completely satisfy any sweet craving. If you lick the plate clean, like I was tempted to do, I don’t think the staff would judge you.

Our next visit combined a late lunch with happy hour. For drinks, we had the black Sazerac and the limoncello spritz. For appetizers, we tried the falafel and the fried eggplant. For the entrees, I went with the lamb burger while Jennifer combined the Clio salad with a chicken kabob.

a black Sazerac cocktail

Clio’s black Sazerac

Sazerac purists will likely tell you that if you deviate from its traditional construct, it’s no longer a Sazerac – especially if you serve it with ice. While this might technically be true, when a cocktail is made this well, you can call it whatever you want. Fernet branca (known for its bitter root-beer profile) stands wonderfully in place of demamara simple syrup and cardamom bitters are used in place of the traditional Peychaud’s. The black Sazerac uses Angel’s Envy rye whiskey, and to ensure just the right amount of absinthe, they atomize it inside the frozen glass. It’s an incredibly balanced whiskey cocktail with an intriguing Mediterranean spin.

The limoncello is a vibrant spritzer made with Luxardo limoncello, Frangelico liqueur, notterosa rosé brut and lime. It’s refreshing with the complexities of the limoncello and Frangelico enhancing the profiles of the brut.

inside the clio falafel boasting vibrant green

The falafel, like the fritter, is perfectly crisp on the outside, soft and savory on the inside. Cut it in half and you’ll see a beautiful, vibrant green. Spackle on some tzatziki and you have a delectable bite.

The fried eggplant has a nice batter that crisped nicely. The natural bitterness of the eggplant was properly cooked out and was fork-tender without being overdone. The labneh had a creamy, savory profile that complimented the eggplant in all the right ways.

the clio lamb burger

Clio lamb burger

The lamb burger was cooked to perfection with arugula, sumac onion, cucumber, harissa aioli and kasseri cheese. The lamb was seasoned beautifully, and the bun stood up to the aioli and the burger’s juiciness. It was served with crispy za’atar potatoes, which have a heavy crunch on the outside and pillowy soft potato inside.

The Clio salad is served with a combination of romaine and arugula, dates, celery, piquillo pepper, dill, parsley, shallots, pecorino cheese and a lemon-caper vinaigrette. The dates add a welcome sweetness, which properly counterbalance the citrus acidity of the vinaigrette and savory elements.

Jennifer added a chicken kebob, which like the salmon, had an exquisite Mediterranean spiced sear on the outside and a juicy tenderness inside. It complemented the Clio salad exquisitely.

We couldn’t leave Clio without trying at least one more dessert. In this case, we tried two!

The chocolate crème brûlée featured a rich, velvety smooth chocolate custard. Three orange supremes and drops of cinnamon whipped cream topped the brûlée. The oranges and cinnamon cream complimented the chocolate expertly. If there was something to nit-pick, I would have liked a slightly thicker brûlée topping because I’m a sucker for that spoon crack. In any event, this crème brûlée brilliantly caps any meal.

clio sticky toffee pudding with date ice cream

Clio’s sticky toffee pudding

The sticky toffee pudding, topped with date ice cream, whipped butterscotch and candied pecans, was a rich delight with just the right amount of density. While it was delicious on its own, the date ice cream and whipped butterscotch took this dessert to inspiring new levels. My only wish was for more of the ice cream.

Clio’s desserts were the amazing closing acts of a memorable Mediterranean culinary adventure.

Clio also boasts an impressive wine menu procured by Shannon Saulsbury, Flagship’s sommelier. Her wine list features indigenous Mediterranean grapes. At this point, they don’t carry any domestic wines, only imports from Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Lebanon, Macedonia, Armenia.

Diners might also be interested in Clio’s wine club. Saulsbury handpicks three bottles monthly, each with a different regional focus. These wines are not on the restaurant wine list, so you have to join the club to try them. The first club pickup are wines from Croatia. On the horizon are wines from Lebanon and Jordon. The club costs $69 a month.

Flagship just celebrated its 22nd anniversary. The company is doing a lot of things right, and it goes beyond conceptualizing unique culinary experiences. One of their guiding principles is a focus on family and self-care.

“While we are a growing company, and while we operate at a pretty expansive level, we’re operating at 12 or 13 states right now, we still have a very big emphasis on families,” Christiansen said. “That goes from the very top to the very bottom. The primary owners always emphasize taking care of yourself and your family before anything else. That kind of trickles down to our store level and so my expectation for my team is you need to take care of yourself and your team before we can have you show up here. So that’s what I like about Flagship is that it’s still a very family focused environment.”

Jennifer and I were impressed by our servers, Sebastian and Andrew. Both worked hard to provide a memorable experience. Flagship’s family-focused concept appears to be working well. Clio’s menu, atmosphere and customer service together add a welcome vibe to The Old Market.

a fifth outside shot of clio

Clio from the outside

“I can’t be happier with how much Omaha has been giving us love,” Christiansen said. “We couldn’t be as successful as we are without the love from our community. I have no doubt that Clio will have quite a bit of time in The Old Market.”

That sense of community is important to Christiansen.

“People share a part of their lives with me every day, and it’s so lovely,” she said. “I hear about folks’ backgrounds and lives at home. I never realized how many ways falafel could be made until after a very fun conversation with a guest at our bar. Our food tastes great, don’t get me wrong, but what’s really the most important thing about our menu is that we’re helping family share stories and histories with one another and our team here at Clio.”

I have no doubt that this mindset is what made Clio one of the more flawless dining adventures I’ve had in a very long time, and as such, it’s kind of a game changer.

Clio
1202 Howard Street
Omaha, NE 68102

(402) 671-0098

https://www.xoxoclio.com/

Sponsored by:

Grow Omaha Eats is sponsored by All Makes and Allsteel. For more than a century, All Makes has remained family-owned and committed to supplying businesses with workplace solutions, specifically furniture and technology. To learn more, visit one of our showrooms in Omaha, Lincoln, Des Moines, Columbus, Kearney, or North Platte.

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