Omaha, Nebraska is a destination offering a wide array of food and drink options, as well as places to enjoy them. Ron Stern, the Hospitality Editor of Real Food Traveler, shows us where to go to sample Omaha’s diverse culinary offerings.
There is a new food scene in Omaha, Nebraska, with a thriving culinary culture nestled inside the city’s traditional urban markets and neighborhoods. In this delightful Midwestern metropolis, you’ll find more than you bargained for, whether your taste buds are craving sweet, sour, or savory delights.
I am always on the lookout for distinctive local flavors when I travel, whether it’s a legendary neighborhood bistro, ethnic bakery, or homemade ice cream business. I rapidly concluded that it would take me weeks to visit all of them after gathering ideas from food-related websites, the VisitOmaha.com website, and locals. Listed here are some of my favorite culinary discoveries.
Where to taste Omaha’s Eats, Sweets, and Treats
Crescent Moon Ale House, Blackstone District
Crescent Moon Ale House, which calls itself “Omaha’s Original Alehouse,” has won Draft Magazine’s “Top 100 Craft Beer Bar” award for seven consecutive years. But their Reuben Sandwich is their main draw.
Apparently, The Reuben is a local celebrity in Omaha. Originating at The Blackstone Hotel (now Kimpton Cottonwood) directly across the street, the Crescent Moon’s rendition of “The Blackstone Reuben” has a devoted fan base.
This dish begins with slices of Omaha Steaks Corned Beef that has been slow-cooked. Using a secret homemade sauerkraut recipe, they combine it with 1000 Island Dressing and cook it to perfection between rye bread in a high-temperature pizza oven.
The interior of my sandwich was a fascinating blend of sweet, sour, and savory flavors. With each taste, I wished I lived in Omaha.
Looking for more? Discover the hotel where the Reuben Sandwich was created.
Coneflower Creamery, Blackstone District
Coneflower Creamery is just a few blocks along Farnam Street (previously known as the Lincoln Highway) in the area. They produce what they call “Farm to Cone” ice cream from their modest location.
Two former pastry chefs collaborated to produce flavorful seasonal combinations that change with the seasons. During my visit, they offered a variety of desserts, including Tart Cherry Crumble and Grandma Minnie’s Lemon Bar.
Their hallmark dessert is the Blackstone Butter Brickle, which is composed of sweet cream ice cream and handcrafted toffee and chocolate chunks. Another Omaha original, this flavor was introduced to the public in the 1920s at the Blackstone Hotel. In their Orleans Room, they offer Coneflower’s Butter Brickle as the ice cream De Choix, describing it as the “best and closest” recipe to the original. My recommendation is to arrive right before they open, or you will have to wait in a lengthy line.
Looking for more? Learn about the Nebraska ice cream scene.
Hollywood Candy, Old Market
With blocks of retail stores, stylish galleries, and restaurants, the Old Market is a focus of tourist activity. Hollywood Confectionery, located on Jackson Street, is a candy supermarket roughly the size of three football fields. Inside is a dazzling display of vintage candies, Pez collections, movie memorabilia, historic automobiles, and the state’s largest collection of Jelly Bellys. In addition, they feature a beautiful, LED-lit collection of 50 classic pinball machines that you are unlikely to find elsewhere.
I discovered many of my childhood favorite candy bars, such as Zagnut, Clark Bars, and Astro Pops, here. Additionally, they produce their own fudge and chocolate, including their signature “PB Surprise.” Made with peanut butter, butterscotch, and chocolate, this peanut-butter confection is smooth, creamy, and peanut-buttery.
Gorat’s Steakhouse, Midtown
Since 1944, Gorat’s Steakhouse has been an Omaha landmark. Gorat’s, which serves steaks, Italian delicacies, and other local favorites, has welcomed international celebrities and dignitaries. I was also told that this steakhouse was Warren Buffett’s favorite. On their website, Buffett was quoted as saying, “Show your sophistication by ordering the T-bone with hash browns.”
I chose the $15 sirloin steak special with green beans and baked potato due to my lack of sophistication. I was pleasantly delighted by the size of the amount and the tenderness of the well seasoned beef. To eat like a billionaire at Gorat’s, you need not be a millionaire.
Lithuanian Bakery and Deli, Little Italy Neighborhood
The Lithuanian Napoleon Torte was not among the things I anticipated discovering in Omaha. Due to the rarity of these types of ethnic bakeries in the United States, I was eager to learn how they ended up in Omaha.
According to Dan MacKevicius, the proprietor’s grandson, his grandfather began selling sourdough rye bread. He obtained some ancient sourdough starter during a July road trip across Iowa in a vehicle without air conditioning. The entire batch ended up exploding everywhere, and his wife’s straightforward answer upon hearing the story was, “I can make this myself.” She did so with the help of friends and neighbors, and the bakery opened in 1963.
In addition to offering rye bread, they devised their own rendition of a Napoleon Torte. This typical Lithuanian delicacy consists of eight layers of wafers sandwiching vanilla buttercream and an apricot-filled orange center. The tart flavor is intended to complement the sweetness of the torte. Preparing the labor-intensive process requires three days. The good news is that you can order them online in a variety of sizes for your upcoming dessert party.
Block 16, Downtown
Paul and Jessica Urban, who met in culinary school, serve Farm to Table Street Food at their restaurant on the 1600 block of Farnam Street.
Using fresh ingredients and local suppliers, they like experimenting with new cuisine concepts, such as the time they created a dish based on one of Paul’s nephew’s school lunches. On white bread, the “Ethan Special” contained bologna, mayonnaise, cheese, and crushed Doritos. But do not be fooled by their lighthearted nature. Here you will get delicious buttermilk fried chicken, pulled pork buns, and Duck Duck Goose Fries.
Then there was the time when Alton Brown of The Food Network visited. He was guided to their Croque Garcon Burger after asking, “What’s good?”
On a ciabatta roll, they begin with a 1/3-ounce Jon’s Natural Burger and add cheese, ham, an unexpected sunny-side-up farm egg, mustard, and truffle mayonnaise.
It would be a gross understatement to say he was impressed. Brown declared it his “best burger in the nation!” This one sentence catapulted them to the rank of culinary rock stars. When visiting, you are aware of what to do.
Harold’s Koffee House, Florence Neighborhood
I adore traditional coffeehouses, and Harold’s Koffee House (yep, that’s how they spell it) has been a mainstay in the neighborhood since 1968. Just prior to World War II, an army clerk named Harold Halstead met a woman named Pauline whom he later married.
Harold worked with many partners to create a string of cafés after his return from the war, but ultimately chose to break out on his own. After putting up a simple “FOOD” sign in bright orange on the exterior, he was in business.
The interior features turquoise upholstered booths, a Formica counter with a rounded front, and cheerful service. They serve fresh meals and desserts in a cozy environment.
Locals are aware of this establishment’s handcrafted cake donuts, hash browns, and pastries. I sampled all of the above, as well as bacon and eggs, while speaking with generations of Harold’s family who uphold traditional Koffee House customs.
Jackson Street Tavern, Old Market
The Old Market in Omaha is a prominent tourist attraction with its blocks of restaurants, boutiques, and specialized shops. Jackson Street Tavern stands out as an unanticipated “mom and pop” restaurant that is quite distinctive for the region.
I unexpectedly visited this restaurant with an open floor design and indoor/outdoor seating since I was becoming hungry from all the eating I had been doing.
The American cuisine offered by co-owner Ross Diprima is not only excellent but also creatively presented. “You eat first with your eyes,” Diprima stated as he presented his Ahi Tuna Nachos. This vibrant and vivid meal consists of seared ahi, red cabbage, lime, cilantro, lime, fried wonton, and wasabi aioli, which has been artfully arranged.
Everything on the menu appeared appetizing. I would also recommend their equally delectable beef taquitos. Pair it with one of their trademark cocktails, such as the Spice-a-Rita, or a local craft beer.
Alpine Inn – Ponca Hills Neighborhood
Are you prepared for something completely unique? The Alpine Inn has been an Omaha landmark for nearly fifty years, but it is easily overlooked as a dining option. First, however, here is a quiz. What complements golden fried chicken best? Fries? Waffles? How about raccoons instead?
You heard correctly. At the Alpine Inn, you can have delicious, crispy fried chicken while watching raccoons devour leftovers and play on the outdoor terrace.
I arrived at dusk and waited for the spectacle while sampling some excellent chicken. After the sun had set, the local raccoon population came out for what must be their nightly feast. This time, I did not see any infants, although I was assured that they do appear.
There appears to be more bustle the later you arrive. Plan to have a wonderful evening at this eccentric eatery. Where else can you enjoy wonderful meals, pleasant conversation, and adorable fluffy animals gnawing on chicken bones?
Omaha has its own food philosophy. Its food scene is a melting pot of cultures that sprinkles the terrain with a bewildering array of delectable culinary secrets. You won’t leave the city that is remaking itself without having eaten well.
Where to stay when you’re in town to Taste Omaha
Hyatt Place Omaha/Downtown-Old Market
This is the ideal starting point for exploring Omaha. This property is located in the middle of the Old Market, few steps away from retail shops, galleries, and restaurants.
The beds are fairly comfortable and the rooms are neat and clean. The personnel are well-trained and willing to deliver excellent service.
I found the complimentary breakfast to consist of more than the standard continental fare. The breakfast area was well-organized and stocked with a variety of breakfast dishes.
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