Monster Club: Not That MonstrousJul 01, 2022 11:00AM ● By Jonathan Orozco
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
Located in the Old Market, Monster Club is right next to Tokyo Sushi on Howard Street. It’s a pretty standard restaurant, serving barbecue and bar food, but the twist is in its theme. Decked out with many posters, caricatures, and an atmosphere of a kitschy 1950s-1960s horror movie, Monster Club primarily entices passersby with its decor. It all starts outside, with large gilded lettering wedged between two hands of Frankenstein’s monster.
Being horror-themed, clientele would expect to be filled with fear as they dine in, but the interior design is pretty tame. “We wanted a much more museum feel,” said owner Neil Azevedo. It’s more entertainment, than say, a haunted house.
Monster Club started out as a fairly new idea to the entrepreneurial Azevedo. This punk aesthetic began with Drastic Plastic in 1982, the Old Market retail staple originally located nearby at 1209 Howard St. Over the years, Azevedo wanted to fill a niche where he could serve beer and wine in a record store. It took a slowdown in brick-and-mortar sales because of online shopping around 2016 to push Azevedo forward.
After realizing it would be too expensive to bring his leased building up to code, he decided to move all his operations to the former O’Connor’s Irish Pub, where Drastic Plastic and Monster Club now reside.
That’s where it all began. Now, Azevedo is hoping Monster Club can become a hotspot in Omaha’s gastronomic scene. It officially opened in June 2019 and has survived the strong wave of closures brought on because of COVID-19.
“When we got this place, we had to take it to the next level. We want to offer a real experience when people come here,” Azevedo said. And he’s not kidding. Walking into the restaurant, a diner is immersed in a compendium of characters from horror cult-classic films, such as Dracula or Frankenstein. There’s even a larger-than-life-sized statue of a skeleton greeting guests near the entrance.
Every inch of the restaurant is accounted for. There are monsters crawling out of faux windows, looking at diners menacingly; skull chandeliers are suspended from the ceiling, and lanterns made from old comic books line the bar.
Azevedo consulted with Heartland Scenic Studios to realize his vision of the dining area. Mark Blackman, a designer, “had the idea for booths resembling old coach hearses from the 18th century,” Azevedo said. “They were used as props from Dracula horror films in the 1960s.”
These hearse-inspired booths are a deep crimson, with black-stained wood, illuminated with a lantern on either end. While inspired by antique hearses, they’re quite modern, taking into consideration 20th-century design. They’re pretty slick.
Everything else is plastic or foam. Much of the decor tries to mimic stone or flesh, but it all looks very artificial and overdone. It’s like an extreme Madame Tussauds that serves food.
That doesn’t deter people. In fact, manager Tony Mongello brags about these diners. “The clientele has evolved over the years. We see people from all around the country and the world.”
Boosting this is that the restaurant is child-friendly. Mongello continued, saying, “[kids] know who everybody is when they come in.” And kids love it. Azevedo said much of the clientele comes after visiting Henry Doorly Zoo. There was even a child who celebrated his fifth birthday at Monster Club, and wants to celebrate it again for his sixth birthday.
The restaurant’s menu is standard American diner fare, even though dish names might not suggest it. Here and there, you’ll find “monster” as a preface for burgers or nachos, or for kids, “little monster.” The portions are generous, too. The signature Monster Burger is a stack of two ⅓ pound patties, with cheese, jalapeños, bacon, beef brisket, onions, and the house poltergeist sauce.
Vegetarians and vegans are surprisingly welcome with the vegan “meat” loaf sandwich and the black bean burger. These are both made with plant-based ingredients.
The drinks menu is just as harmless. Signature cocktails are fruity and sweet, like the Frankenstein’s Monster cocktail—made from coconut rum, velvet falernum, Midori, pineapple, tiki, and orange bitters.
Monster Club also serves milkshakes for kids and adults, the latter spiked with booze. One enticing example is the Creepy Cookies & Cream shake, a rich mix of vodka, cream liqueur, and creme-filled chocolate cookies.
The drinks menu also diverges from the theme of the restaurant, going from horror to space age in the line of Barbarella and Star Trek instead of It or Gremlins. These slightly pricier drinks are only available on Friday and Saturday in the evening—but an Alien Ray Gun or a Flaming Atomic Zombie might hit the spot after a long week.
Part of the allure of this place may be its paranormal aspect. Of course, whether one believes it or not may make a difference, but Azevedo and Mongello were genuine when discussing this.
According to Azevedo, the building Monster Club is housed in one of the most haunted buildings in Omaha. In an interview, he said the second floor where Drastic Plastic is located is the most haunted area.
It goes back to the building’s original owner, Katie O’Connor. Azevedo said the building used to be an administrative government building, like a post office. Legend has it that a man died close to the building and decided to stick around and frighten the building’s occupants. Azevedo said this ghost would frequently talk to O’Connor, and even take her keys.
It’s hard to discern if this was made up by a diner who had way too much to drink and whose mind was playing tricks on them, or if a ghost genuinely continues to occupy the building. I can sincerely tell you when I visited Monster Club and Drastic Plastic, I felt or saw nothing.
The more one hears about these kinds of incidents the more makes it seem as though intoxication is heightening someone’s superstitions.
Mongello recounted many stories of fearful clients acting a little less than normal at Monster Club. A while back, the restaurant had a statue of Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist on display and many adults would not go near it.
Another incident included a $5,000 life-sized clown statue. “This kid had been overserved, not by us, and I saw him come up to Pennywise and started throwing punches at his face,” Mongello said. Afterwards, the statue was moved to the restaurant’s warehouse.
Monster Club has some exciting new additions coming. At presstime, Azevedo revealed that a patio was set to have a lagoon/tiki theme for the summer.
Monster Club may be Omaha’s only horror-themed restaurant, but it’s filling a need for entertainment mixed with dining the city is asking for. Overall, Monster Club is a family-friendly restaurant where one can bring their kids without getting spooked and eat reasonable food at a reasonable price. It’s not fine dining, but that’s not what this restaurant is going for.
Azevedo leaves one bit of advice for prospective diners: “Come early, because we don’t take reservations.”
Visit monsterclubomaha.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.