There’s something about a cool breeze, a cold drink, the clink of silverware on a plate, the chatter of quiet conversations and laughter. Dining al fresco. Love it. As luck would have it, Omaha has a lot of outdoor dining options. Here are some of my favorites, with a few bars thrown in for good measure.
UPDATE: This post was first published in 2013 and was updated in January 2020 to reflect closures.
You’ll notice the list is downtown heavy. My younger 20-something days spent living in the Old Market are clearly reflected here. (My life now in song) Since having kids, leisurely dining experiences are a thing of the past. And it’s no longer worth having more than one drink when you think about dealing with a 3-year-old who is soooo not a morning person.
Some places on the list are kid-friendly, but let’s be selfish and imagine going to dinner without children in tow.
Nicola’s in the Market (521 S 13th St.) – Fine Italian dining on the outskirt of the Old Market. The charming patio has lights strung up to add to the relaxed atmosphere. Reservations are highly recommended since seating is limited. Website
La Bouvette (511 S. 11th St.) – I could sit here all night, but probably shouldn’t. It’s ideal for a date, but also a great spot to catch up with friends. They have a great selection of wine and delicious food to compliment said wine. You could have a beer there, but don’t be that guy. Website
Plank (1205 Howard St.) – I’ve been there for dinner once and I feel comfortable recommending it. It’s a seafood place with a hip edge. Happy Hour lasts until 6:30 p.m. with good deals, I thought. Website
Upstream Brewery (514 S. 11th St.) – There are two outdoor seating areas. I recommend the street level for early morning people watching on Saturdays during the Farmers Market, otherwise the car fumes are a bit much. Head upstairs to the rooftop patio to chill out with a good beer. Website
Mr. Toad’s (1002 Howard St.) – Strictly drinks here with primo people watching. Somehow, the exhaust isn’t as annoying here as at Upstream. Anyway. Drink prices are steep but I love the location and the strung-up lights, so every once in a while, I splurge. Website
Rose & Crown (515 S. 20th St.) – Here’s a dive to bring your friends to. Walk through the not-so-special bar and head straight for the patio. With its lights and huge trees with faces in the trunks springing up through the patio floor, you’ll start feeling carefree in no time (maybe the cheap drinks help). Website
Mark’s Bistro (4916 Underwood Ave.) – I am enchanted with this patio (just go to the website and check out the pic – nice, right? This is the place in my head I go to when I wish I had a glass of red wine and a secret hiding place. The food’s also very good – gourmet mac and cheese? Hell yeah. Website
Midtown Crossing (32nd and Farnam streets) – This is actually a collection of restaurants. (Website) This area’s on the list because they have primo views of Jazz on the Green. Imagine summer nights on a comfy chair, listening to live music on your perch while waiters bring you tasty food you didn’t have to carry with you to the park. It’s nice. Want a suggestion? It’s a chain, but I do like the margaritas and the vegetarian options at Cantina Laredo. Website
Dante Ristarante Pizzaria (168th & Center in the Shops of Legacy) – Delicious Italian food in a strip mall? It’s true. The patio doesn’t offer an exquisite view, but the atmosphere is nice, what with fire pit and all. But, go there for the food. I’m talking Neapolitan pizza. The spaghetti is rumored to be divine. Website
Surfside Club (445 N, River Drive) – Nothing fancy about eating fried food while boaters moon you. Oh, but it sure is fun. The whole dining experience is fun here. The place sits on the Missouri River and part of the draw is watching the crazy boaters pass by in the summer. The menu has expanded some since it reopened, but it is known for the fried fish and oh-so-good corn fritters with honey. Website
Council Bluffs, Iowa
Cellar 19 (928 Valley View Drive, Council Bluffs) – Think deli meets wine bistro, it’s casual but nice enough for a low-key date night. The patio doesn’t offer much of a view, but the deli options are fresh and the wine is really good and reasonably priced. Website
Historic 100 block of West Broadway – For outdoor drinks, I recommend checking out the perennial reader’s choice winner, Barley’s.
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Your turn! Where are your favorite outdoor eating/drinking spots in Omaha? What’s missing from this list?