Most Americans, especially Midwesterners, prize restaurants for consistency, fast and friendly service, value, and even how filling the meals are. By these standards La Buvette is something of a black sheep in Nebraska. It’s hard to imagine how an off-beat European transplant can survive in a region where big-box chain restaurants are king.
That La Buvette thrives speaks to the diversity of Omaha and probably to fact that it’s owned by a German family who manages the entire Old Market. Their service is not always fast, neither is it terribly friendly or obsequious (don’t expect the servers to write love letters on your receipts). “Brusque” is a good word that comes to mind. But this is an advantage, to my thinking. Most of the time the wait staff will leave you alone until you get their attention, much like a European cafe. When you’re three wine bottles deep in conversation with a table of friends you don’t really want a server interrupting by asking “how everything tastes.”
La Buvette is unabashedly my one of my favorite restaurants in Omaha. The restaurant opens up to the Old Market and during a warm day or evening it’s wonderful to sit on the patio and enjoy the bustle of the crowds. Browsing their extensive wine selection is a joy. They must have more than a thousand varieties in all price-points. There are so many that they don’t have a wine list. You just wander around and pick the one you want. Because La Buvette is also a grocery, you can always buy a few bottles and bring them home.
Value is definitely a Midwestern standard at which La Buvette excels. Looking for an after-dinner drink and a snack? Try a $15 Old-World Cabernet and a cheese plate for $9. Split among 3 or 4 people, it’s less than $10 per-person for several glasses of wine, as much bread and butter as you can stomach, and a wide array of delicious cheeses. And try to find gourmet French cafe food for $10-$15 a plate anywhere else in Omaha. Dario’s in Dundee might arguably have better French-style food, but it’s also more expensive and a much more formal dining experience. La Buvette’s relaxed and cozy atmosphere makes it one of the few places that I’m comfortable getting coffee or lunch by myself.
As a titillating bonus you will notice a hanging on the walls a rather scandalous biography of “Kiki,” a 1940’s French porn star, such as they were.