Nebraska is known for many things, but a flourishing restaurant scene isn’t one of them. Yet. I’m here to make sure that changes. Here are some of my favorite Nebraska restaurants, as well as the top recommendations from fellow travel bloggers who know and love the state.
Bean Broker Coffee House & Pub
Why: While this is technically more coffee shop than a restaurant, Bean Broker impressed me the moment I walked in. It’s got a wonderful atmosphere that makes you just want to linger.
The food options were what you could expect for a cafe in a bigger city. For Chadron, it was a pleasant surprise.
And the good coffee helped too.
Bean Broker was a true hidden gem in western Nebraska.
Tip: While you’re in Chadron, plan an afternoon to explore the oldest state park in Nebraska, Chadron State Park.
Why: Don’t let the line out the door scare you away. Block 16 is worth the wait. I’m a creature of habit and always get the Croque garcon burger (mainly because I do anything Alton Brown tells me to do).
I know I’m missing out by not trying one of their creative sandwiches of the day. I can’t help it though. It’s an amazing burger.
Anyway, Block 16 also has fantastic fries (try the rangoon fries) and my kids are partial to their fried chicken.
Why: Dante, in West Omaha, brings wood-fired Neapolitan pizza and rustic Italian cuisine to a top-notch level. Chrysa from Thrifty Jinxy visited the restaurant recently and highly recommended it. (Kim’s note: I agree with her!)
Owner and Chef Nick Strawhecker says his menu is inspired by the seasons and food that works well with wood. That means the ever-changing menu incorporates only ingredients that are at their prime, including fresh produce from local farmers whenever possible.
“Whatever is on the menu when you visit, you’ll find delicious pasta, inventive pizzas, amazing main courses and more. If it’s on the menu when you visit, I can’t tell you how delicious the wood-roasted beets and fried kale is – and this is coming from someone who doesn’t even like kale.”
The beverage menu contains only wines only from Italy and creative cocktails – also inspired by the seasons.
The Green Gateau
Why: This is the must-visit brunch spot in Lincoln. I suppose you could go for dinner, but I’ve never known anyone who has.
The Green Gateau is this charming restaurant in downtown Lincoln, with a varied menu that includes French cuisine and creative American standards. Being so close to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, my tip to you is to make a reservation.
Why: Honest Abe’s is a burger institution in the state. I almost always have to visit whenever I’m in Lincoln (I like the downtown location best – it’s within walking distance of Lincoln Children’s Museum).
When you go, be sure to go hungry, because the burgers are large, the fries are great, and you’d be missing out if you don’t at one of their handcrafted shakes. They even have boozy versions.
Why: For more than 75 years, Mac’s Drive-In has been serving old-fashioned fast food to the McCook area. Odyssey Through Nebraska recommends this restaurant.
Mac’s is known for Nebraska beef burgers as well as onion rings that are homemade daily. Besides their sandwiches and chickens, they have several salads on the menu. Plus ice cream – this location could almost qualify as a soda fountain too!
While their food is fresh, their decor is retro. Being able to place orders via a table phone is a fun kind of nostalgia.
They are closed on Sundays and Mondays and major holidays. Every other day of the week, Mac’s continues with serving 1940s-style food to a modern generation.
Why: Modern Love brings New York City swankiness to the middle of the country. With a focus on elevated comfort food, you won’t walk away hungry at this 100% vegan restaurant. The portions are generous, and the plating is refined.
Modern Love is owned by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, a well-known cookbook author. There’s a second location in Brooklyn, New York as well. It comes highly recommended by Cadry of Cadry’s Kitchen, a vegan travel blog.
The menu changes depending on the season. Keep an eye out for mac and shews (made with cashews), mushroom stroganoff with chickpea cutlets, and nachos. Whatever you do, don’t leave without getting dessert. The Snickers pie and raspberry cheesecake are exceptional.
Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse & Lounge
Why: Ole’s Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge is an iconic Nebraska small-town tavern that opened up right after the Prohibition ended in the 1930s.
During the hunting season, this location was especially popular. The owner, Ole, was a hunter himself. More than 200 of his finest specimens are hung around the restaurant. This is why patrons can dine with both a polar bear and a giraffe looking on.
Since this restaurant has only had two owners, the menu has remained consistent.
Options are extensive, according to Gretchen at Odyssey Through Nebraska, who recommends this restaurant. For the casual diner, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and soups are available. Dinners include steaks, prime rib, fried chicken and their catch of the day. Prices are quite affordable, and the portions are good size.
Located a few miles off of Interstate-80, Ole’s hours reflect its Rocky Mountain time zone status.
Why: I had to visit this restaurant a few years ago after reading a rave review about it in a Lincoln newspaper: “Sisters Café is, at its base, a small-town cafe. That’s part of its charm and why it’s unusual menu — and the success of that menu — is even more notable.”
Sisters Café opened in 2014 by two sisters, Jit and Noopin, featuring a menu of Thai and German cuisine. Strange as that sounds, it worked. I stuck to trying just the Thai side of the menu during my visit. It was extraordinary!
Alas, things change (as they always do). The German menu is no longer available. Which I’m OK with since I loved the Thai food I had tried.
Why: When people think of Nebraska food, they typically go straight for the beef (and for good reason). However, one restaurant is serving up an unlikely delicacy in the landlocked state: Umami in Bellevue. LeAnna at the Well-Traveled Nebraskan recommends it.
Sure, you might be skeptical of delicious sushi in Nebraska, considering the proximity to the seas, but you are in good hands with Master Chef Keen Zheng, who learned from the best of the best sushi chefs in NYC before heading to Nebraska.
As a meat-eater, LeAnna always thought she wouldn’t like sushi. If you are new to the scene, start out easy, like with a California or Philadelphia roll or even something battered and fried (tempura) and you might surprise yourself like she did.
But, as someone who has now had sushi literally all over the world, LeAnna says you’d be doing yourself a disservice to at least not TRY some of the other specialties! It really is some of the best sushi in such an unsuspecting location!
Some other delightful surprises are the affordability and selections. The quality of food you’ll get at Umami would earn you a huge bill at other establishments (even IN nearby Omaha), but your bill won’t be insanely outrageous here.
Also, not sure if your Cornhusker heart can handle the sushi? No problem! There’s also hibachi, teriyaki dinners, plenty of cooked noodle entrees and even Thai or Chinese options!
Pair these adventures with your Nebraska restaurants
While you’re off exploring Nebraska’s food scene, you may want to plan a few activities in between. The state offers a wide variety of outdoor activities and festivals you’ll want to experience (especially in the summer).
I’m totally biased being a born-and-raised Nebraska girl, but I recommend you plan more than just driving through the state! Nebraska is a great state to explore with a lot to do. Here are my recommended 101 things to do in Nebraska.