Talus Brings Comfort Fusion to Papillion

Reviewed by Chris Corey
June 6, 2024

The sign went up above Talus’ space in Papillion in February of 2020 and immediately started creating a buzz. A month later, the pandemic stalled plans, and it wouldn’t be until August 2022 until the doors finally opened.

Owner and senior executive chef Aron Mackevicious started his Omaha culinary career 26 years ago, working his way through independent restaurants such as M’s Pub, Twisted Fork, Upstream, Vincenzo’s and the former Vivace.

Mackevicious got a call from one of the Talus partners in March of 2022 while he was working at Railcar. After several conversations, he came on board. The opportunity presented a chance to launch his vision for food – “comfort fusion.”

“It’s the blending of international flavors set across comfort style food,” Mackevicious said. “Talus, to the geological definition, is the eroding side of the mountain where the large boulders and the rocks are. That really led into the whole idea of what the menu’s going to be based around – all the mountain ranges throughout the world.”

Sourcing local ingredients, beers and spirits is important to Mackevicious. “We have eight beer tap handles,” Mackevicious said. “All eight of them are always Nebraska and Iowa beers.”

When you step inside Talus, you’re welcomed by a warm décor with a mountain-lodge feel accented with brick, copper and dark wood.

Talus interior

Talus has an affordable, intriguing happy hour menu completely different from the main menu. At this writing, both the happy hour bites and the cocktails are $8. Cocktails from the regular menu are $2 off. It makes for an enjoyable and affordable mid-to-late afternoon get together.

Jennifer and I visited Talus twice. The first visit was midway through the weekday happy hour on a Wednesday. The second was for lunch the following Saturday.

On our first visit, we ordered drinks and appetizers from the happy hour menu. We started with the Bourbon Butte and the Berry Boulder. From the “bites” side of the menu, we tried the shrimp and corn tacos and the ponzu steak stack.

Let’s get one thing out of the way – Talus makes a great cocktail.

Talus Berry Boulder

The Berry Boulder, made with pineapple Bacardi, triple sec, lime juice, strawberry puree and pineapple juice, was a refreshing tropical blend with just the right amount of boozy sweetness.

The Bourbon Butte with American bourbon, peach schnapps, peach puree, fresh lemon juice, ginger beer and mint leaf was a pleasant surprise – just the right amount of bourbon balanced nicely with peach and ginger. None of these elements overpowered the other, and even if you’re not a bourbon fan, I’d highly recommend giving it a try.

Talus Bourbon Butte

The shrimp and corn tacos are best enjoyed deconstructed. The avocado crème is tangy and bold, igniting the flavors of the perfectly cooked Old Bay spiced shrimp, roasted corn, lettuce and queso. Folded up as a taco, the shrimp, avocado crème, as well as the other elements, get lost in the strong corn flavor from both the tortillas and the roasted corn. Eating this with a fork, instead of as a handheld taco, makes the ingredients sing much more cohesively.

Talus Shrimp & Corn Tacos

The ponzu steak stack is delicious. Steak bites top of a bed of cabbage, carrot and onion finished with a sweet chili sauce placed on a crispy wonton square. The steak bites are perfectly tender and the saltiness of the ponzu is nicely matched with the crisp freshness of the cabbage, carrot and onion along with the sweetness of the chili sauce. The stack is a tad awkward to eat. Handheld, the wonton snaps when biting into it, sacrificing the base structure. Using a fork requires a bit of work to break a piece of the wonton off. It’s certainly worth the effort.

Ponzu Steak Stack

For spirits, we sipped the sinkhole smash and the orange Julius. For sustenance, the crab stuffed salmon and the Himalayan steak.

The sinkhole smash is a game changer. It’s made with jalapeno infused rum, lime juice, raw jalapenos and ginger beer. The mix of jalapeno and ginger is a brilliant combination with just the right amount of sweet and a hint of heat from the jalapeno and ginger. Don’t let the jalapeno stop you; the spiciness is not overwhelming.

Talus Orange Julius

The orange Julius is a creamy, citrus delight. If you were a fan of the non-alcoholic drink that inspired it, you won’t be disappointed. It’s made with Pinnacle Whipped Vodka, herbal liqueur, cinnamon syrup, half & half and orange juice. It’s so smooth and velvety you might not notice the vodka.

The crab stuffed salmon, placed over a creamy dill risotto and finished with a red pepper gastrique, is an intriguing dish. The salmon was cooked perfectly. The risotto was also cooked well, and the savory dill punched through without overwhelming the plate – but it was bland. Perhaps this dish is intended to be enjoyed in cohesive bites with all the elements. Taken this way, the dish works well because the natural saltiness of the salmon and crab make up for the missing salt in the risotto. The red pepper gastrique, like many of the sauces on this menu, adds a sweetness that blends well with the savory.

Talus Crab Stuffed Salmon

The Himalayan steak is a sirloin over grilled curry fingerling potatoes with a sweet chili glaze, topped with a carrot cilantro slaw. I ordered medium rare. When it arrived, the steak veered a little more to the rare side. Personally, I prefer steak between rare and medium rare, so this was fine for my taste, but others might find it underdone. Nonetheless, the steak was seasoned nicely, and the curry sauce on the potatoes was poignant and creamy. The crunch of the slaw was a great finishing touch to a very well-rounded plate.

Talus Himalayan Steak

We topped off the meal with two cups of rich coffee, the Lithuanian Bakery’s Napoleon Torte and a slice of CaroLynn’s Cheesecake. The torte is an Omaha legend for good reason, and the cheesecake was a delectable a mint chocolate.

Lithuanian Napoleonas Torte

At lunch, we started with the Mt. Margarita and the espresso martini for cocktails and the eureka crab flatbread starter. For entrees, we ordered the harissa mahi and the Talus meatloaf. We closed with the almond apple bake.

The Mt. Margarita did the Altos Reposado tequila justice, mixed with dry curaco, agave, citrus and lime. The blend allowed the complexity of the tequila to remain the drink’s hero while the other ingredients kept it refreshing.

Talus Mt. Margarita

The espresso martini, made with Costa Café Tequila, hazelnut liqueur, cinnamon syrup, cold brew coffee and foaming bitters was a stimulating cocktail. Hints of cinnamon and hazelnut round out the richness of the coffee; the influence of tequila is subtle and not overbearing. The foaming bitters give it a velvety finish.

The eureka crab flatbread was bursting with rich flavors, but the crab and green chili cream cheese blend, along with the sweet chili sauce, overwhelmed the base, making it soggy. Though the edges of the flatbread remained crispy, this starter required a fork to enjoy. The flatbread was topped with crispy wontons. While they offered a crunch missing in the base, some were more on the chewy side than crispy.

Talus Eureka Crab Flatbread

The harissa mahi is a fillet over harissa cous cous covered with cucumber olive tapenade and lemon crème. The harissa cous cous was more smoke-forward than pepper flavored, salt-heavy and became overwhelming with each bite. The mahi fillet was overcooked and dry. The tapenade, combined with the lemon crème made for a strange combination of elements that didn’t work well with the rest of the elements. I liked the concept, but the execution was a miss for us.

Talus Harissa Mahi

The Talus Meatloaf was tender, juicy and beefy. It was topped with a chipotle demi sauce that offered a rich savory sweetness that complemented the meatloaf. The accompanying mashed potatoes had a creamy, rustic texture but were bland, a disappointment in an otherwise capable dish.

We shared one of the two house-made desserts, the almond apple bake which had a spiced oat topping. The dessert was let-down because of apples that were refrigerator-cold on the inside. Our spoons had a hard time cutting through the apples, and due to the unexpected combination of hot and cold, we each stopped two bites in.

Talus Apple Almond Bake

Talus knows how to plate an eye-catching dish, and they know how to make a great cocktail. The menu has some great concepts that show innovation and promise. With refinement of a few inconsistencies, this can truly be a memorable menu.

Five years ago, Mackevicious lost his daughter in an accident. Taylor Tylkowski was on her own culinary journey at Metropolitan Community College. She had received her culinary degree but passed away before the ceremony. Tylkowski’s passion, resilience and strength is what encourages Mackevicious to keep pushing himself in his career. There is also a scholarship set up in her name at Metro.

A couple of the Tylkowski-inspired dishes will always be on the menu. The Peruvian corn chowder, a soup that was inspired by her study abroad, was created for her final at Metro. The Buffalo chicken gouda mac is also partly her creation.

“A lot of people in Papillion have waited years for this place to open, and now that we’re here, it’s amazing to be able to see the community support us as much as they are,” Mackevicius said. “I’ve never worked in a place where there are so many regulars that are in here twice a week if not four or five times a month and they’re always bringing new people in.”

Talus is opening a second location in west Omaha soon. I will certainly be there to try the Peruvian corn chowder and the Buffalo chicken gouda mac.

Talus Spirits and Sustenance

10914 Cumberland Drive
Papillion, NE 68046

(531) 721-2121

https://www.talus-papillion.com/

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