I’ve been a fan of Billy McGuigan ever since I was reviewing theater for The Daily Nonpareil and I heard him sing the first few notes in “Rave On: The Buddy Holly Experience.” He’s gone on to perform in other great shows too, including “Rock Twist,” opening Aug. 2 at Omaha Community Playhouse. So I have this chance to ask him anything about Omaha…and my mind goes to food. Typical. I’m so glad I asked him what his favorite restaurants in Omaha were, because, you guys, McGuigan’s list is stellar.
UPDATED: This post was first published in 2018. It’s been updated in January 2021 after the closure of one of the restaurants included on his list.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Rave On Productions. All thoughts and opinions below are Billy’s.
Here’s Billy’s take on the Omaha food scene, in his own words:
I would never classify myself as a foodie. Let’s start there. But, after touring the country and world for the past 15 years, I started noticing that I judged a city by its local restaurants and the food in a city in general.
San Francisco’s Dungeness crab, New Orleans’ crawfish and any restaurant in Albuquerque are some of my favorite spots in the U.S. Omaha is no exception and I’ve come to love the local flavor of this town. With that, I’ve put together my 10 favorite food spots in Omaha in no particular order.
If you haven’t tried these places, please do!
Billy’s favorite restaurants in Omaha
10. Stokes (Old Market and West Omaha)
I first had Stokes when it was located in the 114th and Dodge streets area. After having Sharon’s chicken enchiladas with a side of inner beauty (their off-the-menu hot sauce), I was immediately hooked. Spicy and fresh and delicious. I’ve eaten at Stokes more than any other restaurant in my life.
Favorite Menu Items: Sharon’s (World Famous) Chicken Enchiladas, Koko’s Harvest Salad, Stokes Tenderloin Pueblo
9. Wilson & Washburn (Downtown Omaha)
This place is an experience. It feels very Chicago, very New York.
The drinks are finely crafted and the food is so great. The bartenders tend to remember you after a few visits and they learn the way you like your drinks made and typically how you ordered your food the last time you where there. Bonus party room upstairs for private parties as well!
Favorite Menu Items: Scotch Egg, Beet Chips (seriously!), Beet Burger (again, seriously), Braised Short Rib
8. Early Bird (Blackstone)
My kids would kill me if this all-day brunch place wasn’t included on this list. It opened last year and I think we’ve been here six times already. Be prepared for a wait because this place is super popular. It is totally worth it.
A unique brunch menu filled with both traditional and non-traditional breakfast items (check out the Ka-Bob’s) as well as sweet and savory. The service is also fantastic!
Favorite Menu Items: Ka-Bobs, Corned Beef Hash, Cereal Killer Pancakes (my son Ciaran’s favorite), Morning Pot Pie (my daughter Cartney’s favorite)
7. Mula (Blackstone)
I’m a complete and total sucker for Mexican food. My grandmother was a Garcia and she made borracho beans so good they could make you cry.
Mula makes these and after the wave of nostalgia I got from eating them here, I choked up a bit. A massive tequila selection and a varied selection of unique tacos and tortas.
Favorite Menu Items: Any of their Guacamoles, Camaron Tacos, Carne Asada Torta, Jalapeño Margarita
6. Block 16 (Downtown Omaha)
The first time I came here, I nearly didn’t go in because there was such a long line. The guy in the back of the line looked at me and told me it was well worth the wait. I couldn’t agree more.
If you’re under the impression that vegan food has no flavor, you should go vegan here. I love this place so much!
Favorite Menu Items: Vegan Sloppy Nick, Vegan Dragon Fries, Vegan Poutine Burrito
5. Yoshitomo (Benson)
I’ve been a huge sushi fan since the late ‘90s when I had it for the first time at Sushi Ichiban when it was on the corner on Dodge street. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to try it all over the country and Yoshitomo is as good as any I’ve ever had.
Super classy environment and a menu that rocks!
Favorite Menu Items: Sake Nigiri, Hamachi Nigiri, 3 Kings Maki, Aburi Wagyu
4. Pitch (Dundee)
Full disclosure: I have a dairy allergy. I know, pizza with no cheese? Yeah, it’s hard to find. Pitch’s pizza is so good, it works without the cheese. Try it! Also, those Brussel sprouts. Have you not had these? They are ridiculously good.
Favorite Menu Items: Shrooms Pizza (no cheese), Roasted Brussel Sprouts, House Made Fennel Sausage Pizza (No cheese)
3. Coneflower Creamery (Blackstone)
Speaking of no dairy, do you have any idea how hard it is to find really good, dairy-free ice cream? Look no further. This place is an absolute gem. There’s nearly always a line, but again, totally worth it. The vinyl records and great taste in music also add to the ambiance of this wickedly good ice cream shop!
Favorite Menu Items: Vegan Golden Milk Ice Cream, Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter, always add Spanish Peanuts
2. Red Lion Lounge (Blackstone)
“Friends” had Central Perk. “How I Met Your Mother” had McLarens. You know, the iconic place to hang out with friends and have a drink or two. I always wanted one of these and I’m pretty sure I’ve found it in the RL.
Limited snack items and amazing craft cocktails. Amazing “Mad Men”-esque decor with iconic black and white photos throughout. If you find Roald Dahl, you’ll find me.
Favorite Menu Items: Candied Cashews, Local Heirloom Popcorn, Rusty Nail, Infusion Vanilla Bean Blonde
1. Unfortutnately, the final recommended restaurants, Farine + Four, closed in 2020.
Billy McGuigan’s “Rock Twist”
If you didn’t know Billy McGuigan before this post, you’ve got to hear the music of this foodie-that’s-not-a-foodie. You can see him in the show, “Rock Twist,” which will be at Omaha Community Playhouse Aug. 2-18, 2019.
The show features McGuigan and a 13-piece band performing the music of artists who have impacted McGuigan’s life. There’s everything from Frank Sinatra to The Doors and Chuck Berry.
Performances of “Rock Twist” are Aug. 2-18, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $42 each and are available at by calling the box office at 402-552-0800 or go online to www.omahaplayhouse.com.
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