There are certain ties that bind my former roommate Anna and me, chief among them, all-you-can-eat buffets. Like a gluttonous Bat-signal, all it takes is a quick phone call to rendezvous at any of the city’s fine eateries—from Furr’s to Souper! Salad!
Like the faithful to Mecca, it is our dream to one day make the pilgrimage to Buffalo Thunder’s Painted Parrot Buffet for their Wednesday “Chile Fest,” but I digress.
On my way to our most recent Carbohydrates, take me away! encounter, I noticed “Donut Guy” Micah Ortega, promoting a new restaurant. The former cover boy was dressed as a chef and wielding a sign that said “Brazilian style buffet” on one side and “all-you-can-eat filet mignon” on the other. Needless to say, I damned near caused a four-car pile-up near the corner of Cerrillos and St. Francis and got on the horn with my partner in crime.
As evidenced by my frantic tone, this was a foodie emergency. Anna was there in less than 10 minutes.
Even before entering Omira Bar & Grill (1005 S St. Francis Drive, 780-5481) we were greeted by owner Ziggy Rzig. “I have not had time to sit down,” Rzig—also the head of Pyramid Café—says, leading the way to the new locale’s bar, which is stocked with premium Belgian beer.
“They’re higher in alcohol—some of them are 11 percent,” the restaurateur boasts, preparing a flight, which goes for $8. “This is basically what Blue Moon wants to be,” Rzig says of the pale Wittekerke. The grand dame, Kasteel Rouge, follows. “It makes all those other beers look bad,” Rzig says. He’s the first in the state to have Rouge on tap.
For Rzig, the man behind the defunct Ziggy’s International Market, it was do or die. “Talin [Market] was coming to town. I started freaking out and thought, ‘What am I going to do?’ so I opened up this place.”
The salad bar is laden with fresh, fully prepared offerings like Greek cucumber; the Schrute-tastic kale-and-beet; savory Asian coleslaw; and mixed fruit with rosewater salads that are made in small batches with locally sourced ingredients.
“[At] most of the buffets in town, the stuff has been sitting there forever,” Rzig says.
The “Brazilian” part of the meal comes in with the straight-to-your-table churrascaria-style meat. Endless amounts of it. Think skewers stocked with hulking supplies of lamb, top sirloin and German pork sausage “made by Germans.”
Omira is open seven days a week, 11 am-2:30 pm for lunch ($15.95 with meat; $11.95 without); 5-9:30 pm for dinner ($24.95/$17.95).
The protocol is simple: the server approaches and presents the beastly heaps, as if it were his virgin daughter on the day of her wedding. You nod (rather effusively in my case), take some tongs and go to town. In most churrascarias, the process repeats itself in perpetuity until you turn over a small, wooden totem from green end to red. In Omira’s case, the stop sign is a stainless steel touch-lamp that complements the restaurant’s minimalistic yet welcoming décor.
“It’s classier,” Rzig points out.
Side dishes then start popping out of nowhere like gremlins: freshly baked French bread, spring rolls, and “a different approach” on stuffed grape leaves (they’re packed tight with Asian-style marinated beef). Yet the star of this sideshow is the boiled and twice-fried patatas bravas—a Mediterranean take on tater tots, if you will—accompanied by a serving of smoked paprika-infused, house-made ketchup.
“We kept it simple and delicious,” Rzig says.
“You can’t go wrong with salt, starch and fat—the three basic food groups,” Anna adds.
Omira’s slow-cooked process brings out the meat’s smoky, mouth-watering best. Their secret? Using only local, grass-fed stock. “You can see it in the marbling—which is what makes the beef tender,” says Rzig.
Taking a breather, the Tunisia native explains the restaurant’s moniker. “It’s named after my two children, Omar and Samira,” he says. “It’s funny, because in Spanish, it sounds like ‘¡O, mira!’”
We were looking all right, rather wide-eyed, as the chicken portion of the meal—barbeque, a to-die-for Caribbean jerk, Szechuan and pepper-crusted—came parading about.
Our trip around the world in 80 plates coming to a close, and having developed a case of the meat sweats, Anna’s and my eyes met. We nodded, reluctantly tapped our magic lamp and called it a day.
You haven’t seen the last of us, Omira. We saved a couple of pages in the passport for next time.