By Kristin Zagurski and Paul Freelend
The Surfside Club boasts “Omaha’s best catfish, chicken and fritters.”
Gateway staffers agree — to an extent.
Located four miles north of the Mormon Bridge at 14445 N. River Road, the Surfside offers a unique atmosphere and a very limited menu of fried chicken or fried catfish. Every meal comes with french fries, coleslaw and corn fritters (with real corn!). The restaurant’s charm lies in its simplicity and its down-home approach to its basic goal: Supplying the customer with tasty food. To illustrate this, the catfish meal serves the fish with its tail and fins still intact. Deep-fried corn fritters with honey? Definitely a guilty pleasure.
Amenities are few and far between at the Surfside Club, which is open Mar. 1 to Nov. 1. Tableware at the restaurant is limited to Styrofoam plates and cups, plastic forks and paper place mats. The dining room combines wood paneling and picturesque seascapes to create an overall nautical atmosphere. How else to explain the naval steering wheels doubling as light fixtures?
In light of this somewhat uninspired atmosphere, the restaurant appeals to those seeking some fun on carefree, hot summer days. Red picnic tables overlooking the Missouri River line the outside deck, and large windows give a protected view during the early (colder) part of the season.
A seemly atmosphere is encouraged by banning tank tops, muscle or body shirts and cut-off shorts, yet rumor has it that those who dare to sit riverside during the dog days of summer might catch an eyeful of something other than the river. Risqu women riding by on the Missouri have been known to expose themselves to onlookers enjoying their meals.
What the Gateway staff glimpsed of the waiting staff (there was not much of one) was friendly, in that next-door neighbor kind of way which is found only on sitcoms like *Northern Exposure. These are not the kind of people who wear “flair.” The building itself reinforces this rustic, low-key image — a large red “shack,” as one staffer called it, reached only via a hilly, winding dirt road.
Overall, it is the food, not the view of the Missouri, that will bring customers back. While the menu is as basic as they come, its quality is not to be questioned. The pre-meal corn fritters are served warm and, with a light slathering of honey, make an excellent prelude to the meal. Both the chicken and catfish were tender and served in generous portions, costing $7.95 and $9.95, respectively. Fountain drinks were only 25 cents each, although cup sizes are smaller than most are used to.
In our book, the Surfside Club deserves a B — visit when the craving comes, but you probably won’t make a habit of it.
For hours or directions, visit the Surfside Club Web site at www.surfside-club.com or call 451-9642.