Nightlife review: Red Lion Lounge offers retro vibes and classic cocktails

By Ashley Strehle Hartman / World-Herald correspondent
Published in the Omaha World-Herald, Oct. 14, 2019

Red Lion Lounge

Where: 3802 Farnam St., Omaha 68131

Hours: 3 p.m. to 12 a.m., Monday to Thursday; 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday; 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday

Information: 402-933-8686 or


In general, I’m not one who wants to go back to the “good ol’ days” of the ’50s and ’60s.

For one, I wasn’t alive then. For another, I appreciate the conveniences of modern medicine and, well, Netflix. And third, but most important, “the good ol’ days” definitely weren’t good for everyone.

I am, however, fully supportive of the décor and cocktails of yesteryear, which are celebrated in all their glory at Red Lion Lounge in the Blackstone District.

Red Lion Lounge — in its present state — opened a few years ago in the lower level of The Colonial Hotel Apartments. But the lounge has a longer and more storied history than that.

Back in the ’50s and ’60s, The Red Lion — in this same location — was a happening music venue that hosted jazz legends such as Duke Ellington, the bar says. Yeah, that Duke Ellington. So, as you can see, it was kind of a big deal. Duke must not have been enough to save the joint, though, because the original Red Lion closed in 1962.

Since its recent revival, Red Lion Lounge has been serving up classic cocktails in its spacious, basement-level digs. There are huge red velvet booths, black and white photos from the past, a large wooden bar and even a phone booth. And if you’re too young to know what a phone booth is, please don’t mention it. That would just depress me.

In a small, but necessary, break from the nostalgia, there are a few (modern) televisions in case you absolutely must see a football game or something. But in general, Red Lion Lounge is not about staring at televisions. It’s not a sports bar. It’s a cocktail bar, so it’s best enjoyed while sharing cocktails and conversations with friends.

Red Lion Lounge offers about a dozen classic cocktails for $9. They include the usual options like a Manhattan, a Dark and Stormy and a Moscow Mule, just to name a few. My drinking buddies had the signature Red Lion cocktail and the vesper. Their favorite, the Red Lion, came with gin, Grand Marnier, orange, lemon and grenadine. It was a refreshing hit. The vesper featured vodka, gin, Cocchi Americano and lemon.

If you’re not in the mood for cocktails, Red Lion Lounge offers more than two dozen beers priced between $4 to $7.50. The $4 option includes bottled and canned domestic beers such as Pabst Blue Ribbon tallboys, and the more expensive options include seasonal craft beers.

The beer menu also includes the usual domestics such as Bud Light, Busch Light and Miller Lite. However Red Lion Lounge also serves up craft beers from local breweries, including Infusion, Brickway, Scriptown and Nebraska Brewing Company. Of these, one of my favorites is Infusion’s Vanilla Bean Blonde.

There’s also a selection of wines and some low-key snacks such as nuts, pickles, beef sticks, chips, snack mix and pretzels. You can get all the snacks for less than $5.

If you’re looking for deals, Red Lion Lounge also has generous daily and happy hour specials.

Good deals and good cocktails. These are the sort of “good ol’ days” values I can appreciate at Red Lion Lounge.