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Omaha Magazine

Doggedly Delightful: Oscar's Pizza & Sports Grille

Mar 01, 2022 11:52AM ● By Julius Fredrick
veggie style pizza on wood table

Photo by Bill Sitzmann

Borrowing nomenclature from Totinos’ viral 2014 online ad “Totino Boy,” I find the title of "pizza freak" to be a flattering epithet—I’ll admit it. Raised eyebrows consistently met my confession of never having tried Oscar’s Pizza & Sports Grille, a West Omaha staple flickering far in the periphery of my typical east-of-90th Street purview. 

Two glowing paw prints marked the spot, each casting green, welcoming light over a Lakeside Plaza parking lot howling with bitter gusts of “oh, I guess it’s actually winter now.” My dining partner and I winced our way toward the door, above which the name of our would-be savior crystalized between said paws: Oscar’s. 

We arrived at Oscar’s Pizza & Sports Grille off 173rd Street and West Center Road at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 28. The temperature outside was 18°F before windchill. Hot comfort food was our quarry, one we’d pursue with dogged determination.

The parking lot’s gloomy monotone was shattered with a swing of the front door. The steady uproar of laughter and conversation, the determined strides and furtive glances of crisscrossing severs, and finally the hostess’ calm and kindly notice of a 10-to-15 minute wait confirmed our initial suspicions: the restaurant was packed. We waited at the bar, and while the six mules—ranging from an “Orchard Mule” to a “Tequila Mule”—intrigued us, that night’s special of $2 Bud Light draws won over our wallets.

Like any self-respecting joint where sports and fanfare are part and parcel, Oscar’s has plenty of television mileage to go around. A quick survey from the bar and back left me somewhat dazed, with projectors and LCD screens forming a strobing wallpaper all their own in some corners. Despite this, tall ceilings, warm walnut tones, and yellow top-down lighting effectively softened the setting for eyes not glued to a game.

As promised, our wait was short. Despite the encroaching bedlam around us, our server was prompt, patient, and friendly when taking down our appetizer, as she’d remain throughout our meal. 

Photo by Bill Sitzmann    

 The appetizer menu boasted traditional bar food such as chicken tenders, onion rings, and pretzel bites, but we started with what’s arguably Oscar’s most championed menu item: hot wings. We ordered a 10-piece dish that included five Kujo—after the hellhound of Stephen King’s “Cujo.” The name is a warning that these puppies are indeed all bite—and double-dipped; the wings were fried, sauced, grilled, and then sauced again for a baked-on yet smothered flavor combo. Getting the wings dipped in multiple sauces cost an extra $0.69 per 10 wings. My dining partner, a spice queen by all accounts, replied “decent” when pressed for Kujo's heat levels, though to be fair she’s nonplussed by anything below a half-million Scoville units. Conversely, I puckered at my straw with alarming frequency and throughly enjoyed the burn. The other five wings were coated in a garlic parmesan sauce and were beautifully crusted and awash in garlicky goodness. In both cases, the meat was juicy, the sauce was ample, and the skin triumphantly arrived at that mythical char-buffed place between crispy and tender. 

For the main course, we ordered a large half pepperoni, half Big “O” pie. The pepperoni portion was fairly standard; a blanket of mozzarella concealed a solid layer of pepperoni. The Big “O” is described as Oscar’s signature pizza—topped with hamburger, sausage, pepperoni, onions, and green pepper. The pizza arrived piping hot, with the mozzarella baked to dappled perfection. An Oscar’s pie closely follows the tradition initiated by Omaha pizza’s old guard, such as Orsi’s and La Casa’s, where a confluence of Sicilian and Neapolitan elements have combined with varying degrees of Midwestern excess to characterize a number of parlors across town. The pizza at Oscar’s features a flaky, biscuit-inspired crust, a thick spread of cheese, sauce, and toppings, and is served square-cut in a baking pan. It certainly fits the mold, leaning more Midwestern than traditional. There’s a reason this so-called “Omaha style” is popular, and Oscar’s signature pie proved an inspired addition to the metro’s ongoing love letter for all things pizza.

Despite noting early symptoms of a food coma, we opted for the server-recommended funnel cake fries ($5.99) for dessert. Paired with a ramekin of chocolate syrup, the dessert is a deconstructed funnel cake—oil-fried batter, a dusting of powdered sugar—repurposed into sticks for sharing. We appreciated the nod from our server towards this light and airy dessert, as the butter cake and brownie sundae were tempting, but probably too rich for this particular outing.

Although our server had a bit of trouble with the POS system, we departed Oscar’s with wagging tales and a score of leftovers that later passed the reheat test with aplomb (when baked for 10-12 minutes at 375°F.). The bill, before tip, was $45.69.

Any fellow pizza freaks out there hesitant to journey west can tread confidently knowing that Oscar’s has earned my coveted star-shaped pepperoni of approval. If not for the pizza, well, how about hot wings so dang good they’d make Pavlov’s whistle sound like Julia Child? The food was truly mouthwatering, giving me another metro pizza joint to which I’ll gladly return. 

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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.  

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