September 17, 2019

5 Must-Try Food At Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

A trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard is a family tradition of ours each fall. In addition to picking out pumpkins, feeding the animals and racing each other on carts, we know we’re going to eat while there. The food is a big part of the Vala’s experience!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

I visited Vala’s on opening weekend so my family could enjoy some of the special entertainment available during the new Honeycrisp Festival (and so I could try food only available during the festival…more on that below). If you want to catch the Honeycrisp Festival, it runs through Sept. 22 this year.

Things you should know about Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

If you’re not from Nebraska, you should know a few things about Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard before you go. This pumpkin patch, located just west of Omaha at 12102 S. 180th St. in Gretna, Neb., is not your typical pumpkin patch.

I liken Vala’s to a Disney-fied pumpkin patch full of attractions, photo opportunities and characters (but no rides, though). You need a map or you will get lost. And like Disney, a trip to Vala’s is a full-day affair.

Vala's Pumpkin Patch & Apple Orchard in Gretna, Nebraska is a large attraction near Omaha.

Vala’s is open seasonally from mid-September through Oct. 31. The daily hours are Sunday through Thursday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Friday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Admission varies, and it’s cheaper to visit on the weekdays than on the weekends. 2019 prices are:

  • – Mondays through Thursdays, $12.95 per person
  • -September Fridays through Sundays, $16.95 per person
  • -October Fridays through Sundays, $23.95 per person

There’s also the option of buying a season pass.

Parking is free. The parking is on grass and dirt and is a well-orchestrated operation. There are attendants in the lots on busy weekends directing you where to park.

Related post: Try the Vala’s Scavenger Hunt on your next trip to the pumpkin patch!

Things to know about Vala’s food & drinks

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch & Orchard is open daily starting at 9 a.m. and going on into the night, so you have the option of breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between for food.

There are 26 different places to purchase food a Vala’s, ranging from sweet shops with ice cream or donuts to more substantial offerings of burgers, pizza and chili. See the current map with all the food options here.

The sign for the Harvest Barn Donuts at Vala's Pumpkin Patch in Nebraska.

For entrees, expect to pay about $6 for kids and about $11 for adults. Ordering à la carte or just snack items will be cheaper.

Tip: You won’t find many water fountains at Vala’s (there’s one by the main restroom). Every food vendor with a soda fountain, though, will kindly fill up your water bottle with ice water, though.

What should you eat at Vala’s if you only want to splurge on one thing? Well, that depends.

Read on for my suggestions:

Best new food to try at Vala’s

Each year, Vala’s introduces new foods to rival your annual must-haves.

In 2019, my favorite new food is the apple funnel cake sundae. The warm, crisp funnel cake is tipped with caramel sauce, baked apples and vanilla ice cream. This is a very shareable treat.

New must-try food at Vala's Pumpkin Patch - apple funnel cake sundae.

Other new treats at Vala’s includes an apple cider donut sundae and a new popcorn and cotton candy stand by the Howl at the Moon Stage.

For more substantial food, new options include meatball subs, available in the Country Bakery and vegetable chili (vegan) available at the Country Bakery.

There are a few new foods available only during the Honeycrisp Festival, including ribs, which I highly recommend trying. You can only find them at Time-Out Turkey Legs. There is also a Honeycrisp apple pie available only early in the season.

Vala’s best snack food to try

This topic – the best snack at Vala’s – is highly debatable. I’m going to suggest no trip is complete without kettle corn. 

I have some close friends who will argue vehemently that there are far superior, must-have-every-time snacks, including the cookie cone and the apple cider donut. 

And while not a sweet treat, I’d add roasted corn on the cob makes for a great snack option, too.

Must-try dinner food at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

I would recommend visiting Vala’s on the weekend during the Honeycrisp Festival to try the ribs. Those would be my top choice if they were available all season. As it is, you have until Sunday, Sept. 22, to try the and even then, they’re only available on a limited basis Saturday and Sunday. Hurry!

Vala's Pumpkin Patch serves ribs on a limited basis during the Honeycrisp Festival in September.

So, besides the ribs, I’d recommend trying the gigantic pork tenderloin sandwich at Pork Chop Annie’s. It’s good if you’ve got a big appetite.

Pork Chop Annie’s is our go-to place for food at Vala’s. Entrees there come with two sides. Having tried all of the sides, I’d say go with the baked beans and then your choice of a second one (psst, get the fries).

Many people will tell you to just buy a turkey leg and call it a day. You could go that route and it would cost you about the same.

Going earlier in the day? I found out that Vala’s serves breakfast! You can get quiche in The Pie Barn, fresh waffles served with apple butter at Cousin’s Chicken, biscuits and gravy at the Country Bakery.

Don’t miss these pies at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

Kirsten Fong grew up at Vala’s (her parents, Tim and Jan Vala, started the pumpkin patch in 1984) and her one of her sisters, Kelsey, bakes the pies. I asked Kirsten what the best pie to try was and she told the s’mores pie has a devoted following among the staff members and guests in the know.

Head directly to The Pie Barn if you want to try a slice or any of the other flavors like pumpkin or apple.

The Pie Barn at Vala's Pumpkin Patch serves pies and other pastries.

Vala’s has weekly pie specials. In 2019, the schedule is:

Sept. 20 – Lemon Walnut 
Sept. 27 – Kitchen Sink
Oct. 4 – Chocolate Caramel Turtle Pie 
Oct. 11 – Monster Cookie 
Oct. 18 – S’mores 
Oct. 25 – Apple Cranberry

True story: The pies aren’t the best thing available in The Pie Barn! “Kelsey’s apple dumplings are the very best thing to eat on the whole entire farm. Seriously,” said Fong. “They’re not even a pie, but they’re available in The Pie Barn, and on a limited basis, meaning she sometimes runs out.”

While I don’t have pie recipes, or even tasty dumpling recipes, Vala’s was kind enough to share its pumpkin bar recipe found in their cookbook. You can download it here.

Bucket list food item at Vala’s

If you want to ultimate splurge, even more of a splurge than the apple funnel cake sundae, head to Kyla’s Ice Cream Shop & Caramel Apple Barn and get yourself a Freak Shake. The giant shake comes in two flavors: caramel apple and s’mores. 

A sign at Vala's Pumpkin Patch for two of their Freak Shake flavors.

Trying a shake is on my bucket list because those things are huge! I can’t vouch for it being tasty or not, but I can tell you it’s highly Instagrammable food.

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A trip to Vala's Pumpkin Patch is a fall tradition for families in eastern Nebraska. Find out the best foods to try - including new items like an apple funnel cake sundae! #Nebraska #pumpkinpatch #USA #fallfun #familytravel
September 3, 2019

Try One Of These Romantic Omaha Restaurants For Your Next Night Out

Omaha has a variety of fine dining restaurants that make date night a cinch. If you’re looking for a new romantic Omaha restaurant to try, this list is a good start!

12 romantic Omaha restaurants to try - Looking for your next date night idea or a restaurant to celebrate a special occasion? Check out this list of restaurants in Omaha that offer fine dining experiences. #Omaha #Nebraska #restaurant #eatlocal

I’ve divided the list into distinct regions of Omaha: Downtown/Old Market; Midtown Omaha; West Omaha; and North Omaha. Am I missing a good one? Leave a comment and let me know!

Downtown Omaha & Old Market restaurants that should be on your radar

Date night in the Old Market restaurant - V. Mertz located in the Old Market Passageway

La Buvette Wine & Grocery – This is quite possibly the most charming Old Market restaurant ever. The look and feel is French bistro, with wine bottles lining the wall and small wooden tables crowding the room and patio.

Definitely make an effort to snag a patio table, then just order a bottle of wine, a meat and cheese tray and watch the world pass by. Address: 511 S. 11th St. website

Lo Sole Mio – Away from the bustle of the Old Market, you’ll find this Italian restaurant hidden away in a neighborhood near Hanscom Park. They don’t accept reservations so expect a wait, but I promise it’s worth it. This was one of my first dates with my now-husband.

By the way…go hungry! You get your money’s worth here, and then some leftovers. Address: 3001 S. 32nd Ave. website

Nicola’s Italian Wine & Faire – This small Italian restaurant has a beautiful outdoor seating area that I highly recommend. Imagine fresh food served while seated under strung lights that twinkle. A fence helps make the busy street feel a world away. Address: 521 S. 13th St. website

The Boiler Room – For me, The Boiler Room is the ultimate splurge for a night out. It’s the perfect blend of craft cocktails, expertly prepared American cuisine, and a chic setting. Address: 1110 Jones St. website

V. Mertz – My introduction to V. Mertz, tucked in the uber romantic Passageway, was during a tasting event for bloggers. I returned a few months later with my husband for an anniversary meal. This is the archetype of romantic Omaha restaurants.

Both times, the intimate setting was unparalleled – and the food was delicious. If it’s in your budget, get the tasting menu. Address: 1022 Howard St. website

Midtown Omaha restaurants you shouldn’t skip

Midtown Omaha has many special occasion restaurants, including the Dundee favorite, Dario's Brasserie.

Au Courant Regional Kitchen – Benson is one of my favorite neighborhoods and its Maple Street corridor is one of my favorite roads to stroll. Au Courant is arguably one of the best restaurants in the city, so if you want a date night option to impress, make a reservation.

I went with friends and we all opted for the chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. It was a superb menu. Address: 6064 Maple St. website

Avoli Ostera – This is the lone restaurant on the list that I haven’t been to, but it’s included because its reputation is so solid. This Dundee neighborhood restaurant is designed to impress. The seasonal menu is focused on northern Italian dishes. Address: 5013 Underwood Ave. website

Dario’s Brasserie – This Dundee staple is a favorite go-to restaurant that doesn’t feel overly fancy, but still makes a romantic night out. It feels like a European bistro, with the best Belgian beer menu you can imagine.

It’s not a pretentious place, and if you go, be sure to get the frites with your meal. They are quite possibly the best french fries in the city. Address: 4920 Underwood Ave. website

The Grey Plume – The darling of the Omaha restaurant scene, this Midtown Crossing restaurant marries eco-friendly practices with gourmet cuisine. Address: 220 S. 31st Ave. suite #3101. website

West Omaha restaurants to add to your list

Menu items are seasonal at Dante Pizzeria Napoletana, a romantic restaurant in Omaha

Brother Sebastian’s – Dim lighting and fireplaces at Brother Sebastian’s sets the mood for a special night out. For a steakhouse aiming for a California monastery feel, it is surprisingly cozy and romantic. Address: 1350 S. 119th St. website

Dante Pizzeria Napoletana – Italian food made with fresh local ingredients? Sign me up. This was a memorable anniversary dinner for me and my husband. I got to return a few years later to have a fall tasting menu with fellow bloggers and it was even better than I had remembered. Address: 16901 Wright Plaza, suite 173. website

Dolce – Dolce serves contemporary American cuisine in an unassuming location in West Omaha. On our date night there, we opted for the tasting menu. This is one of the few places I’ve seen that frequently offers a Groupon. Address: 12317 W. Maple Road. website

North Omaha restaurant to try

Sage Student Bistro is located inside the Institute for the Culintary Arts

Sage Student Bistro – This restaurant tucked in the Metropolitan Community College Fort Omaha campus inside the Institute for the Culinary Arts is going to surprise you. It’s gourmet cuisine at a fraction of the cost.

If you can snag reservations for one of their pairing dinners held each quarter, you are in for a treat. I’ve attended dinners ranging from Irish spirit pairing to tapas and sangria pairings. Address: 5730 N. 30th St. website

More great restaurants in Omaha

Date night doesn’t have to be so fancy. Here’s a list of 30+ must-try restaurants in Omaha. You’ll find recommendations for pizza, donuts, ice cream and even brunch ideas.

Don’t want to take your date to a romantic Omaha restaurant? Let’s say you want to take your date out to somewhere a little bit different, something a little bit nontraditional. Check out this list of 15+ quirky Omaha restaurants.

Find your next date night restaurant in on this list of romantic Omaha restaurants. List includes fine dining, chef-driven restaurants that focus on seasonal ingredients. #Omaha #Nebraska #restaurant #guide

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July 14, 2019

15+ Quirky Restaurants in Omaha

I’ve written a lot about great Omaha restaurants and the best kid-friendly restaurants. Now it’s time to dive to look around Omaha and beyond and see what’s unique, what’s unusual in the Omaha dining scene. So here’s my list of the quirky restaurants in Omaha and nearby.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. At no additional cost to you, if you make a purchase after clicking on an affiliate link, I will receive a small compensation for referring you.

Unique and quirky restaurants in Omaha and in nearby towns - This list includes restaurants with unique atmosphere and decor, peculiar menu items, or one-of-a-kind entertainment. #dining #guide #nebraska

This list is divided into sections. The first section covers restaurants that either have quirky atmosphere and decor or offer some unique form of keeping diners entertained. The second section features restaurants with weird or off-the-wall menu items.

Discover even more unique and quirky restaurants in the book “Unique Eats and Eateries of Omaha.” It’s written by two of my friends, Tim and Lisa Trudell (AKA, The Walking Tourists), and they’ve included and quite a few restaurants on this list, and several more. They provided several photos for this post, too.

Restaurants near Omaha with quirky entertainment or decor

Want a restaurant in Omaha that stands out from the crowd? Here are a few of Omaha’s most unique restaurants, from a chance to dine with monsters, raccoons and flashing boaters.

Quirky Omaha restaurants include Alpine Inn, where diners can watch raccoons through large windows as they pick at discarded chicken bones.
Photo courtesy Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

Alpine Inn

Where: Northeast Omaha

Alpine Inn has been a family-run establishment for three generations. Appearing to look more like a bar than a restaurant, Alpine Inn proudly has one thing no one else in the area offers: Raccoons.

Your dining entertainment is watching raccoons and stray cats pick at discarded chicken bones. Don’t worry, they’re not indoors. You watch them through a window.

People are divided if the fried chicken served at Alpine Inn is good or not, though. The raccoons seems to like it.

One of the most unique places to dine in Omaha is Brother Sebastian's Steakhouse & Winery, where the theme is old California monastery.
Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Brother Sebastian’s Steakhouse & Winery

Where: Central Omaha

Ever just felt like dining in an old, California monastery? Haven’t we all? Brother Sebastian’s is one of Omaha’s oldest steakhouses and its atmosphere hasn’t changed much since the beginning.

It’s dimly lit and servers are dressed as monks. There’s stained glass windows and wine barrels in keeping with the monastery theme.

Put it all together and the effect is actually quite romantic.

Guaca Maya

Where: South Omaha

South Omaha is where you go for good Mexican food. Guaca Maya sets itself apart from other restaurants in South Omaha, though. I liken its dining room to a Mexican plaza…but an indoor plaza. It’s colorful, for sure.

I’m told there’s also someone making fresh, homemade tortillas right out in the open. I didn’t notice that when we visited, but I can see it fitting in there.

One of the oldest Omaha restaurants is Johnny's Cafe, with unique retro decor to check out.

Johnny’s Cafe

Where: South Omaha

Johnny’s Cafe has been around since 1922, making it one of Omaha’s oldest restaurants. The decor is the draw here – it’s so old school and retro. The massive front doors are just the start.

The lobby is fun to wander around, but really, it’s the dining room and bar area that steal the show (though, ladies, peek in the bathroom to see the funky tiles). The look of the place is so iconic, it served as a scene in Alexander Payne’s film, “About Schmidt.”

One caveat: The dining experience itself was pretty bad for my family. So, while the look is quirky, I must caution you that I’ve not returned since our last visit.

Monster Club is Omaha's only monster-themed restaurant.
Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Monster Club

Where: Old Market

One of the newest restaurants in the Old Market, The Monster Club is a horror movie-themed eatery. From the decor to what’s playing on the screen, there’s no mistaking the monster love.

It’s surprisingly kid-friendly (assuming your kids aren’t spooked by Hollywood monsters) – there’s a kid’s menu.

Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Surfside Club

Where: Northeast Omaha

I love Surfside Club but not for its food (it’s all fried…but the fritters are great). I love dining outdoors and this is one of the few places where you can sit with a view of the Missouri River. And it’s a festive kind of place.

However, the quirk of this place is what’s going on the river itself. People who go to the Surfside know that it’s pretty common to have boaters attempt to one-up each other entertaining the restaurant crowd. Usually that involves mooning the diners.

Wicked Rabbit

Where: Downtown Omaha

Part of the fun of the Wicked Rabbit is that you don’t know what to expect, other than, you know, there will be drinks there. Wicked Rabbit is a speakeasy and to get to it, you’ll need to use a secret passage hidden behind a wall in a small shop next to Hotel Deco.

The dimly lit, small bar is cozy and feels removed from the rest of the world.

Quirky honorable mentions

Quite a few Oh My! Omaha Facebook fans mentioned restaurants that had quirky decor, particularly those with with memorabilia or nostalgic decorations. Some of those mentioned include Lisa’s Radial Cafe, 11-Worth Cafe, Shirley’s Diner, Louie M’s Burger Lust, and Goldbergs In Dundee.

I’m particularly indebted to Louie M’s, since Lou helped me collect photos and stories for my book, “Lost Restaurants of Omaha.” The restaurant is a trove of particularly for interested in seeing photos of what Omaha’s Little Italy once looked like.

Restaurants with quirky menu items

eCreamery

Where: Midtown Omaha

This ice cream shop typically has an odd flavor or two on rotation (avocado ice cream, anyone?), but that’s pretty standard for ice cream shops. eCreamery is unique for having the Dundee Dozen ice cream challenge.

The Dundee Dozen is eating 12 scoops of ice cream, gelato or sorbet of your choice, then topped with 12 toppings of your choice and a bunch of whipped cream. If that sounds manageable, don’t forget that you have just 20 minutes to finish it on your own.

Unique restaurants and bars in Omaha - The Homy Inn is known for its unique offering on tap (four kinds of champagne).
Photo courtesy Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Homy Inn

Where: Midtown Omaha

Confession: The Homy Inn is pretty much just a bar (unless you want to count the peanuts served in a dog bowl). But The Homy, as we call it, is on this list because of what’s on tap.

Champagne. They have four kinds of champagne on tap. So, yeah, you can get a pitcher of champagne at The Homy Inn if you so choose.

A unique spot in Omaha, Laka Lono Rum Club is a tiki bar that has both the quirky atmosphere and the quirky menu items.

Laka Lono Rum Club

Where: Old Market

Confession No. 2: Laka Lono Rum Club is also a bar and not a quirky restaurant. I love a good tiki bar, and Laka Lono embodies tiki life to the fullest. It has the quirky atmosphere, complete with pufferfish lights (I mean, real pufferfish that have been tinkered into becoming lightbulbs).

But, the draw here is definitely the rum drinks and their unique presentation. Some will arrive at the table on fire.

Group drinks are available too. Four types of group cocktails are available, serving anywhere from 2-3 people to 10-11 people.

M’s Pub

Where: Old Market

Almost everything on the menu of this Old Market favorite is great, and not exactly what anyone would consider quirky. Everything, that is, except for the carrot dog.

The carrot dog is the M’s Pub veg alternative to the hot dog, and it’s what it sounds like. The “dog” is marinated and grilled, served on a whole wheat hoagie and topped with lettuce, tomato, relish, stone ground mustard and sauerkraut.

Quirky restaurant near Omaha - Round the Bend in Ashland, Nebraska, is home to the annual Testicle Festival
Photo courtesy RedThread

Round The Bend Steakhouse

Where: Ashland, Neb.

It looks like your typical Nebraska steakhouse, but Round The Bend Steakhouse serves more than a prime cut of beef. This restaurant is home to the Testicle Festival. Every Father’s Day weekend, the festival has live music, fireworks, ball eating contests, and well, just regular portions of fried testicles to eat.

If you can’t make the June event, the menu always has “Beef Fries” to order at any time. For the faint of heart, you can just order one… it’s called a Buck A Nut.

Stella's Bar & Grill is home to one of the craziest food challenges, The Stellanator. You have 45 minutes to eat a burger that six patties, six fried eggs, six pieces of cheese, 12 pieces of bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, pickles, jalapeños, peanut butter, and a bun...plus fries.
Photo courtesy The Walking Tourists

Stella’s Bar & Grill

Where: Bellevue, Neb.

A regular contender for the best burger in Omaha on various lists (and some national ones), Stella’s has something no one else has: The Stellenator.

The Stellenator is a food challenge few can conquer. You have 45 minutes to eat a burger that six patties, six fried eggs, six pieces of cheese, 12 pieces of bacon, lettuce, tomato, fried onions, pickles, jalapeños, peanut butter, and a bun. Oh, and an order of french fries.

Learn about Omaha's most unique restaurants & bars - Plan a night out at one Omaha's most unique restaurants, including a monster-themed restaurant, a steakhouse that resembles a monastery, and a place where you can watch raccoons through the window while you dine.

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April 18, 2019

Nostalgic Restaurant In Papillion

On a recent spring afternoon, my kids and I headed to Freddy’s Custard & Steakburgers in Papillion, Neb., for a treat. We had just finished two soccer games and were planning a walk around the trails at Walnut Creek Recreation Area. For a quick but satisfying lunch, this was a great restaurant in Papillion to head to!

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Freddy’s Custard & Steakburgers. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

What's at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers? Read up on the best thing to order, what kids love on the menu, and more! #Papillion #Nebraska #Restaurant

What should you order at Freddy’s?

Having only been to Freddy’s one other time to write about it as a cub reporter at The Daily Nonpareil, I wasn’t quite sure what to order. So, I chatted with Mary Seretta, to get the scoop on what’s popular at the restaurant.

Freddy’s was started by a guy name Freddy (surprise!), who opened up his first restaurant in Kansas with the idea of serving up down home food.

The burger that started it all the double steakburger. Unique to Freddy’s is the flat patty that makes up the steakburger. If you haven’t had one, they’ve got a crispy edge that makes them pretty unique.

Things to eat at Freddy's - The double steak burger is an original favorite
The double steak burger with cheese is an original favorite of customers at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. At the Papillion location, the local favorite is that steakburger with bacon.

At the Papillion location of Freddy’s, the bacon and cheese double steakburger and patty melt are more popular in than the original. Being a newbie to Freddy’s, I went with the original. Everything is cooked to order. See the full menu here.

Related post: Find more places to get the best hamburgers in the city (and steak…this is Omaha, after all) in this post.

I had fries with my burger (of course), and Freddy’s just might have the best ones in the business. These thin, almost shoestring thin, fries are perfectly seasoned. Freddy’s has two fry sauces in addition to ketchup, and you should try them. The jalapeno version wasn’t spicy, surprisingly.

Other menu items include hot dogs, chili (and therefore, chili dogs), and limited-time food like fish sandwiches. The Papillion Freddy’s just started serving crispy chicken sandwiches, with a spicy option available.

Things to eat at Freddy's - Try any of the Specialty Custards as a sundae. Options include the Hawaiian Delight, Signature Turtle and Chocolate Brownie Delight
Freddy’s Specialty Custards are available as sundaes or concretes, which have the toppings blended into them.

And then there’s the custard. There are a variety of specialties to choose from, as well as sundaes, shakes and concretes (which has the toppings blended in). Or you can order your own creation – there are about 30 toppings to choose from.

I ordered the mint Oreo concrete, which was a delicious treat. The custard is a lot creamier and richer than ice cream I’m used to.

What kids can eat at Freddy’s?

There is a kid’s menu available at Freddy’s, which includes the entrée, fries and drink. One of my kids ordered chicken fingers and the other had a steakburger, which was a pretty generous serving for a kiddo. Glad he was hungry!

Things to eat at Freddy's - The specialty custard treats like the Brownie Sundae
My kids first choice in sundaes at Freddy’s is the Dirt ‘N Worms Sundae, and then this brownie sundae came along and they fell in love with that, too.

They both opted for Dirt ‘N Worms sundae, a tasty treat with vanilla ice cream, cookie crumbles and gummie worms, topped with whipped cream and a cherry.

And, I’ll confess, we also tried the brownie sundae. The chocolate ice cream is a rich chocolate that I loved.

The other frozen treats you might be interested include custard cookie sandwiches. One is made with Oreos, the other made with Nutter Butters.

Tip: If you have dogs with you, Freddy’s has a “pup cup” available to order! These small servings of custard make nice treats for the pups. 

Related post: For more kid-friendly restaurants in the Omaha metro, read Best Omaha Restaurants For Families.

What it look like inside Freddy’s?

Freddy’s has a cool retro look to it, with red throughout. It’s got a pretty nostalgic feel to it.

You’ll find black and white pictures of the real Freddy throughout the Papillion location. Freddy was a Vietnam vet, and it’s interesting reading the captions of the photos to learn more about his history and travels.

Interior of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers in Papillion, Nebraska
Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has a distinct retro look with a lot of red accents.

Freddy’s is a restaurant chain that involves itself in the local community of each location. This particular Freddy’s, which is right be Shadow Lake Towne Center, participates in a variety of fundraisers, especially for schools. They offer up to a generous 30% donation on profits for fundraising nights. On the day we visited, Mary told me about the effort the restaurant had made to raise money for the Red Cross to support Nebraska flood victims.

What’s near this restaurant in Papillion?

The big draw to the area is Shadow Lake Towne Center, where the Freddy’s Papillion location is located. This is a great outdoor shopping center with a mix of national brands and local stores like Michaels, Bath & Body Works, Chocolatier Stam and Nebraska Brewing Co.

If you head east on Highway 370, you’ll hit two favorite places of mine. The first, is Walnut Creek Recreation Area, which consists of a large lake, a playground, and paved and dirt bike trails.

Walnut Creek Recreation Area trail in Papillion, Nebraska
Walnut Creek Recreation Area has bike trails through wooded areas. The park is located in Papillion, Neb., not too far from Freddy’s.

The other place worth mentioning is Sumtur Amphitheater, which hosts outdoor concerts and has a great lineup of free, family-friendly movies each summer.

If you go

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

Where: Shadow Lake Towne Center, 11674 S. 73rd St., Papillion, Neb.

Looking for a family-friendly restaurant in Papillion, Nebraska? Here's a review of Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburger. Enjoy a concrete or order a famous burger. They even have a pup cup dessert for your dog! #Nebraska #restaurant

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April 10, 2019

Best Omaha Restaurants For Families

Omaha is enjoying an explosion of great, locally-owned restaurants opening up. The food is creative and delicious. But just because I have kids–and I often take them out with me to restaurants—there are just some that I wouldn’t dare take my kids to. But others? I’ve learned how to spot the restaurants that welcome families AND have good food. Here’s my list of the best Omaha restaurants for families, where you’ll find good food and a kid-friendly environment. I’ve asked a couple of friends who dine at far better places than I typically go to with kids, and they’ve added their recommendations to the list. Bon appetite!

Local's tips on the best restaurants in Omaha for families - Where to go for a special family night out or the restaurants that offer something good for adventurous diners. #Omaha #Nebraska #USA #restaurant

Big Green Q & Ted & Wally’s

Where: 6023 Maple St.

Why: It’s no secret that I have an undying allegiance to Ted & Wally’s – they have the world’s best Dutch chocolate ice cream. If you venture to the ice cream shop’s Benson location, you’ll find Big Green Q sharing the building. This barbecue place has a following from its food truck days. The food is pretty good, the kid’s meals are reasonable, and then you have to get ice cream for dessert, right? One thing that makes Big Green stand out is that its effort at sourcing ingredients locally AND everything is compostable. And the tots are good too.

Blatt Table + Beer

Where: 610 N. 12th St.; 2835 S. 170th Plaza; inside Westroads Mall at Flagship Commons, 10000 California St.

Why: Blatt is on just about every restaurant list I make. The food is just that good, plus they have a great craft beer selection. But, for the purpose of this post, I’ve been a fan of the restaurant since my early parenting days when I discovered the original NoDo location had a changing table in the bathroom. The kid’s menu offers substantial servings, similar to what adults can order.

Related post: Looking for more downtown Omaha restaurants that are kid-friendly? Check out this list of 8 Great Downtown Omaha Restaurants For Families.

Bob’s Donuts

Where: 3824 Farnam St.

Why: What kid is going to resist the chance to order an Oreo donut or one topped with cereal? Not even a big kid. But, creative flavors aside, Bob’s Donuts is on this list because they also serve chicken sandwiches. For breakfast. I love them. I may have my favorite donut shop elsewhere in Omaha, but Bob’s is great for my family because the kids can have their donuts, and I can force a little protein into them by having them split a chicken sammie, too.

FarmHouse Cafe & Bakery

Where: 3461 S. 84th St.

Why: This is my extended family’s go-to place for breakfast out with a large group. They also offer lunch and dinner, but breakfast is my jam there. The variety of food is great (portions are ginormous) and there are usually coloring pages offered to occupy kids. Even with the large portions, you may want to order a pecan roll to split with the rest of the table. The only downside to the restaurant is that on the weekends, there will likely be a wait. But, the good news is that FarmHouse is connected to Mangelsen’s, a craft shop that’s fun to explore while you wait. You’ve got to check out the Halloween and Christmas sections.

Korean Garden

Where:  5352 S. 72nd St., Ralston, Neb.

Why: So one of my friends is Korean and I trust her taste in food, so if she says a Korean restaurant is good, I’m going to believe it. And, knowing she’ll take her three kids there means it has a spot on this list. And as a bonus, Korean Garden has tabletop grilling there. My kids will eat anything if they’re allowed to cook it themselves.

Lalibela Restaurant

Where: 4422 Cass St.

Why: If you have adventurous eaters, head to Lalibela. It’s an Ethiopian restaurant where traditionally, you eat from shared plates (and you eat with your hands). If you’ve never experienced it, basically, you’ve got injera, the bread, and you tear off a piece and scoop up the food. Some kids are going to love it (mine did not). The food is fantastic and the service is prompt.

Louie M’s Burger Lust

Where: 1718 Vinton St.

Why: This is a meat eaters’s kind of place, where you’ll find more creative burger options than you thought possible. The real reason we go here, though, is that it’s one of the closest restaurants to Omaha’s zoo. There are closer restaurants, but the food at Louie M’s is better. It’s not a big place, so you might have a wait. The kid’s menu has some activities on it to help pass the time.

Mar Cafe

Where: 4646 Dodge St.

Why: This is one of my friends’ picks for restaurants, especially for breakfast. This Mexican restaurant is pretty unassuming on the exterior, but the food, I hear, is fantastic. The chef at Mar Cafe hails from the province of Michoucan, Mexico.

Pitch

Where: 5021 Underwood Ave.; 17808 Burke St.

Why: Handmade dough and a great Happy Hour? Pitch doesn’t quite sound like a family-friendly place. But it is. I always see kids there, because…pizza. Now this is the type of pizza my kids balk at – it’s what my kids call “Fancy Pizza.” I like it very much, but it’s not your chain restaurant type of pizza.

Related post: Pitch made it onto this list, Where To Find The Best Pizza In Omaha.

Plank Seafood Provisions

Where: 1205 Howard St.

Why: This is one of the few Old Market restaurants where you can get good fish entree, and as a bonus to parents, there’s a kid’s menu. Kid’s meals at Plank come with a little bag of goodies, including tattoos.

Shuck’s

Where: 1911 Leavenworth St.; 16901 Wright Plaza; 1218 S. 119th St.

Why: Like Plank Seafood Provisions, Shuck’s is a fish lover’s destination. It’s preferred by my family to Plank (for the price, it can’t be beat). Tables typically have brown paper on them, making it ideal for kids and adults to color and play tic-tac-toe while you wait. If you go during Lent, expect a wait on Fridays.

Upstream Brewing Co.

Where: 514 S. 11th St.

Why: Rare is a brewpub that welcomes families, but Upstream Brewing Co. is a good one. Kids get little bendy sticks to play with while you wait. If you visit on Tuesday nights, you may encounter Joe Cole, a roving magician who’s highly entertaining. Kid’s portions are large and they come with a choice of vanilla ice cream or a root beer float for dessert. And, for adults, the standard beer Upstream brews is superb and they have a few seasonal ones that can be pretty creative flavors.

Zio’s Pizzeria

Where: 1109 Howard St., 7834 Dodge St., 12997 West Center Road, and 18110 Wright St.

Why: Zio’s is a favorite of my family’s (but not of mine). However, it’s one of the few places that I know of that you can ask for a ball of dough and they’ll bring it to you. When my kids were younger, this was better than Play-Do to them. There is a kid’s menu, but we usually order pizza by the slice. The Old Market location on Howard Street is convenient to most tourists visiting Omaha, but if you ask me, the Dodge Street location has better pizza.

11-Worth Cafe

Where: 2419 Leavenworth St.

Why: 11-Worth Cafe is the quintessential greasy spoon on an unappealing street, yet, people love it. They’re doing something right. This is a good place for breakfast near the Old Market, where the service is quick, the food is good, and sometimes, your kid leaves with a balloon. It’s also the last of the Caniglia-owned restaurants, which probably means something only to those who’ve lived in Omaha for decades. If you’re looking for healthy breakfast options, this isn’t going to be your place.

Restaurants to go to on off-hours

So the following are restaurants that aren’t going to snub you if you bring well-behaved kids, but they’re in this category because they may either be typical “date night” places or they’re just a little fancier than the run-of-the-mill family restaurants. Don’t overlook them, just know that the dining experience is a little more formal.

Avoli Osteria

Where: 5013 Underwood Ave.

Why: I’m going to take my foodie friends at the word for Avoli being family-friendly (at off-hours) because I’ve been saving it up for a special date night occasion and haven’t been. I’ve heard it’s “impress-your-date” good. But my friends have brought their kiddos to this Dundee staple to enjoy the northern Italian cuisine, so at least one family has pulled it off.

Dario’s Brasserie

Where: 4920 Underwood Ave.

Why: While I have’t brought my kids here–yet–the thought has crossed my mind to do so. (I have gone for date nights and it’s fantastically casual and yet romantic). Featuring fine Belgian cuisine and the best fries in Omaha, Dario’s a remarkable restaurant that reminds me of charming European cafes I visited in my 20s. My friends and their kids have gone during quiet hours and can vouch that it’s suitable for families. And, by the way, this place has one of the best beer selection in Omaha, if you love Belgian stuff.

M’s Pub

Where: 422 S 11th St.

Why: Introduce your kiddos to an Omaha institution. M’s has had quite a history, being one of the first restaurants to open in the Old Market after it was revitalized decades ago, only to suffer a terrible fire that nearly ended its run. It’s a beloved restaurant by many, and I’ve been there for date nights (pre-fire). It’s a rather small place, so go during off-hours if you don’t have a reservation.

Via Farina

Where: 1108 S. 10th St.

Why: Via Farina serves wood-fired pizza in an impeccably designed space. If you’re the Instagramming kind of person, you’ll feel at home. I love it for hanging out with friends before a show at the Bluebarn Theatre. I wouldn’t have thought of it as a place to bring my kids since they usually snub yummy wood-fire pizza, but my friends have brought their kiddos. The pizza here has more adventurous ingredients (by my kids’ standards).

From fine dining to casual, local Omaha restaurants welcome families. Here are our top picks for family-friendly restaurants in Omaha. #Nebraska #dining #eatlocal

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January 8, 2019

How To Get Free Drinks In Omaha

I’m past the days of bar hopping. I’m more into finding great places for a meal or a drink. There’s a new, local app that totally gets me. The app, called Libate, is designed to get people out exploring neighborhood bars and hip restaurants around Omaha and Council Bluffs. The best thing about Libate? You get free drinks with it.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Libate. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own.

Want to get a free drink the next time you visit a new restaurant in Omaha? There's an app that gets people out exploring new bars and hip restaurants all the while enjoying a free drink. #Libate #partner #Omaha #Nebraska

How To Get Libate

Libate is an app you download to your phone. The app is available to download on iOS and Play stores. You get a free drink just for downloading the app. Then you have two options: Use the free version or become a member.

The Libate app logo and "Drive Adventurously" tagline

The free version gets you one free drink a month. You choose which place to get that free drink from a list of participating establishments.

The member version is $10 a month. As a member, you get one free drink at each of the establishments every month. It’s a steal.

And good news: Oh My! Omaha readers get their first month free! Use promo code OHMYOMAHA after you download the app to claim your free month. Download the app from iOS and Play stores.

How Libate Works

Using the Libate app to get a free drink at Herbe Sainte in Omaha
I used Libate to get a free frozen cocktail at Herbe Sainte. The flavor? Frosé, which is a frozen rosé. Beware: Some on the waitstaff at this restaurant do not think the app is accepted at Herbe Sainte. The app’s designer confirmed in January 2019 that the restaurant is, indeed, participating, but in February 2019, it was again refused.

I talked with Mike Roth, the app’s designer, about Libate and what inspired him to launch it. You see, Roth is a firefighter in Council Bluffs, so it’s not like he’s a restaurant owner hoping to bring in customers. Roth saw a similar app in New York, where people could get a free drink, and he thought it could work in this market.

“Libate to encourage people to get out and visit new places and try new drinks,” said Roth. “Drink adventurously.”

That’s my kind of app. I like finding new places, but trying new drinks…I’m always a little reluctant to buy a new drink in case I don’t like it. But, it’s good to get out of your comfort zone, and this has zero risk since that drink is free. It reminds me of the time a bartender at Spirit World proved that I could actually like a drink with gin as an ingredient.

A draft beer on the bar at Stirnella. It's a participating restaurant in the Libate app.
Stirnella, a restaurant in the Blackstone District, allows Libate app users to get a draft beer or tap wine for free, up to a maximum of $8. Photo courtesy Libate

Libate has about 30 restaurants and bars participating so far, plus one brewery. Once you download the app onto your phone, you can check out the list. There are quite a few I’ve been to–and love–around Omaha and Council Bluffs. Here are a few restaurants I can’t wait to return to for that free drink:

  • Stirnella
  • Herbe Sainte – It should be noted, both times I tried using the app at the restaurant, the waitress said it wasn’t accepted there. In January 2019, I was told by the app’s founder that the owner of Herbe Sainte confirmed they were participating, but a month later, I had a waitress refuse to accept it. Just beware you may not get your free drink here.
  • 712 Eat+Drink (Council Bluffs – featured on 8 Great Places Breakfast Spots In Council Bluffs)
  • Cellar 19 Wine & Deli (Council Bluffs)

Roth sought out a great variety of places right from the start. The places I listed above are a bit more upscale than some of the others on the list, but they all have their charm. Whatever you’re in the mood for, there’s are place for it.

Interior of 712 Eat + Drink in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It's a participating restaurant in the Libate app.
712 Eat + Drink is a participating restaurant in the Libate app and allows users to get a free drink, excluding shots, worth up to $8. It’s my brunch pick for Council Bluffs, in case you were wondering.

In the Old Market? You can get a drink at Brickway Brewery. Seeing a concert at CHI Health Center? You can choose between Nosh Wine Lounge or Moe & Curly’s Pub. Headed to the historic 100 Block in Council Bluffs? You’ve got a free drink waiting at Barley’s Bar.

“We want people to try new things, that’s our mission,” said Roth. “Use this app as an excuse to go to different places.”

Each restaurant and bar experience is going to be different. Some establishments may impose limitations, like limiting the your complimentary drink to costing between $5 or $10.

Other places may limit app users to getting a specific cocktail or a class of cocktails, or maybe just a glass of wine or pint of beer. The app will communicate the limitations. For instance, for Cellar 19 Wine & Deli, their limit is that the drink must be $9 or under, and excludes shots and double pours.

Interior photo of Cellar 19 Wine & Deli in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It's a participating restaurant in the Libate app.
Cellar 19 Wine & Deli is a wine bar and deli in Council Bluffs, Iowa. It’s one of the participating establishments that gives a free drink to Libate app users. Photo courtesy Libate

For obvious reasons, so you can’t go from bar to bar in 20 minutes to claim all your free drinks and then pass out. You need to wait two hours before going to a new place to claim a drink. So chill out and enjoy that cocktail.

Try the Libate app for free

I’m pretty excited that Libate is letting Oh My! Omaha readers try the app’s member level for one month at no cost! All you need to do is download the app (available at iOS and Play stores) and enter in the promo code OHMYOMAHA.

Go out and try something new for me, OK?

Learn how to use the app Libate which allows users to get free drinks at restaurants and bars in Omaha & Council Bluffs. #Libate #partner #Omaha #Nebraska

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