The Blackstone District is a neighborhood that has experienced tremendous growth recently, with numerous restaurants, services, and businesses enjoying the influx of residents and workers in the area. It’s what drew Corporate Executive Chef/Owner Matt Moser and Director of Operations/Owner Matt Carper both with Meadowlark Management to launch their first joint venture there nearly two years ago—Stirnella, a restaurant that incorporates locally-sourced ingredients for both its food and cocktail menus with a focus on comfort food with a fine dining level of quality of service.
The business partners first worked together at Flagship Restaurant Group, running both Plank and Baby Blue Sushi. Moser wanted to eventually open his own place but wanted it to be in just the right neighborhood. When he first saw what had once been the Blackstone Garage in the early 1900s—it even had a hole in the floor that used to be the car elevator—he knew it was the location he’d been looking for. He immediately asked Carper to come on board as the manager. “I knew he’d be perfect for it; he’s always been the yin to my yang,” Moser said.
The name “Stirnella” is an homage to Nebraska’s state bird, the Meadowlark. “Sturnella” is the scientific name, but numerous businesses have used that. Instead, they changed it to “Stirnella” as a way to still recognize the local culture but also tie it into the restaurant industry, also using the Meadowlark as the restaurant’s logo. They also incorporated many local elements into the décor, such as tables made from old railcars, and reclaimed walls from houses in the neighborhood. Local artist Andrea Stein painted all the artwork throughout the restaurant as well.
The menu Moser has created is filled with comfort food that Midwesterners are both familiar with and gives them a sense of comfort. Some of these include the Blackstone Burger, Steak and Frites, and Spätzle. While these staples are always available, what does change with the seasons are the components of the dishes. “We support as many local purveyors as possible, working with a number of local farmers and tailoring the menu to what they have in season,” Moser said.
For example, Stirnella’s new fall menu includes a veal and foie gras meatloaf with a potato puree and smoked local mushrooms, as well as a celery root ravioli with fresh local truffles. “Some people dine out without ever thinking where their food is coming from,” Carper said. “Plum Creek Farms delivers free-range chicken to us every week, and then Matt (Moser) turns it into an amazing dish that you know where it came from.”
Carper added that Omaha has really evolved over the last five to seven years with many restaurants and unique events and happenings. “We want to keep what we do interesting for our guests, provide fresh offerings, while also standing the test of time,” he said. “We try to showcase what we have and reach people, whether it’s by participating in charitable events or inviting groups to enjoy our complimentary party room.”
Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner, as well as all day happy hour on Sundays, Stirnella likes to incorporate local ingredients into its cocktails such as rhubarb infused tequila for margaritas, and offers 10 local beers on tap. The restaurant even features an all-seasons patio, and there are three parking lots in the area open to the public free of charge.
In addition to opening Stirnella in Feb. 2017, Meadowlark Management also opened Red Lion Lounge next door last December, and most recently opened Butterfish this past September. “We’re lucky to have three businesses in this area,” Moser said. “With all of the unique, local businesses here, it rivals other larger cities.” Carper agreed, adding that the beauty of the Blackstone District is the friendly sense of community. “We’re thankful that the city has embraced this district, because we’re all trying to bring people from other parts of the city to this neighborhood,” he said. “We truly offer a unique experience right in your backyard.”