November 11, 2019

Guide To Omaha Food Halls

Omaha has a brag-worthy culinary scene. And now, in recent years, Omaha diners have embraced the food hall scene. Here’s what you can expect at each of the city’s food halls, including which local Omaha restaurants have a location at a food hall. Plus, I share tips on what to order and which restaurants have kid-friendly grub.

Looking for a new restaurant in Omaha to try? Head to one of Omaha's popular dining halls to try foods from both locally-owned restaurants and new concept quick-service restaurants. Use this guide to find out where to go, what to order, and which restaurants have kid's meals or specials. #Omaha #Restaurant #Nebraska #Breakfast #Lunch #Brunch #Dinner

What’s a food hall

Think of a food hall as an upscale food court, typically with a focus on locally-owned restaurants with a few new-to-the-city concepts. I call them hipster food courts. And I mean that affectionately.

Where are Omaha’s food halls?

Omaha’s first food hall, Flagship Commons, opened at Westroads Mall in late 2015. Westroads is a pretty conveniently located mall near busy Dodge Street, as well as near Interstate 680.

It’s definitely not like any mall food court you may have encountered. Flagship was the first of its kind in the entire state.

Interior of Flagship Commons, Nebraska's first food hall located at Westeroads Mall

Most of Flagship’s seating is in a common area, with a mix of typical table seating, bar seating, and my favorite spot, couch seating by a fireplace. Most seating is indoors, though if you dine at The Blatt, you can snag a table outside.

In 2019, Inner Rail Food Hall opened at Aksarben Village. Unlike Westroads, this isn’t a mall setting in the traditional sense. Aksarben Village is an entertainment district with a mix of shops, restaurants, apartments and businesses, as well as a large green space and playground. Inner Rail is within that development in its own space with indoor and outdoor seating.

Things to know about the Inner Rail

Inner Rail Food Hall is all quick-service restaurants with a definite world flavor appeal to it. Located at the ever-growing Aksarben Village, it’s in Midtown Omaha and not nearly as easily accessible to get to as Westroads.

(If you’ve ever driven 72nd Street during rush hour in hopes of reaching Aksarben Village, you’ll understand my rage.)

Exterior of Inner Rail Food Hall, a collection of restaurants at Aksarben Village in Omaha

Being the new kid on the scene, you can expect a wait to order at most counters at Inner Rail. You’ll find some counter seats, and a lot of traditional table seating. 

Inner Rail has a great outdoor space with two firepits and a lot of seating. When the weather’s nice, you might see a giant Jenga and bean bag games set up.

Fun side note for all of you youngsters or out-of-towners: Inner Rail is a racing term that references the former life of the area where Aksarben Village is located. It was once Aksarben Race Track and Colosseum, a horse race track.

Restaurants at Inner Rail include:

The Bánh Mì Shop – This restaurant has a devout following at its Bellevue location, so no doubt, Midtown people love to have a close location now. The quick service restaurant here serves up the most popular sandwich in Vietnam, the Bánh Mì. It’s a baguette served with mayo, sweet carrot and daikon pickles, cucumber and cilantro. (LOCAL)

Noli’s Pizzeria – Noli’s original location is in the hip Blackstone neighborhood. These guys take their New York-style pizza seriously, even getting the water filtered to mimic the granite filtered qualities of New York’s water. (LOCAL)

Maharani Indian Kitchen – Indian cuisine with a few good options for vegetarians out there.

Sofra Creperie – This place serves savory and sweet crepes. I have one word for you all: Nutella. They have Nutella. I had the savory So Cal and it was pretty good, though maybe it’s more of a testament to my appetite, I was still hungry afterward.

ACTQ – This is the third taqueria to be opened by Brooklyn chef and restaurant Akhtar Nawab. It stands for Alta Calidad Taqueria and the food is defined as Mexican-inspired (and it’s yummy).

B Squared Burger – What could be better than burgers and tater tots?

Briggs Bean – Here’s where you go to get your caffeine fix, including nitro cold brew. They also happen to serve pastries from the local pastry shop, Sweet Magnolias.

Kathmandu Momo Station – These guys were the popular as a pop up and now they have this great little space in Inner Rail. Kathmandu serves up Nepalese street food including momos (stuffed dumplings) and Burmese ramen. (LOCAL)

Ela’s Creamery – Serves up soft-serve ice cream in two flavors that rotate each week. I had the luck of sampling Cinnamon Toast Crunch when I was there. If that’s ever an option for you, get it!

Backstretch Bar – The bar! What more need I say? OK, I can say more. The perk of Inner Rail is that you can order a drink at Backstretch and take it outside with you to sit by a firepit.

Best food to order at Inner Rail Food Hall

I’ve eaten at Inner Rail an impressive amount of times since it’s only been open like a month and I don’t even work near there. 

Busy night inside Inner Rail Food Hall in Omaha

The surprise winner was the roti at ACTQ. It’s a flat bread that’s great for sharing. I had the vegetarian roti, which had queso and avocado.

I also highly recommend getting the naan with whatever entree you order at Maharani. It’s top notch.

SO MANY people told me to try the momos at Kathmandu. I tried both the fried and the traditional steamed ones. I preferred the steamed dumplings, though truth be told, good luck trying to get your kids to try one.

What’s kid-friendly at Inner Rail

Since Inner Rail is so new, we haven’t had many chances to test places out on our kids just yet. However, they are fans of the Noli pizza slice.

I didn’t notice many kid’s menu options at the restaurants, so unless your kid has a big appetite, just plan on sharing with him or her.

I’ll tell you what, my kids want nothing to do with momos. There. I said it.

Related food: Best Omaha Restaurants For Families

Things to know about Flagship Commons

Flagship has mostly quick dining restaurants, as well as a bar, coffeehouse and one full-service eatery. A few Omaha favorites have opened a location there, including my favorite, Blatt Beer & Table. 

Entrance to Flagship Commons, a food hall in Omaha

Restaurants at Flagship Commons include:

Blatt Beer & Table – Blatt makes every “best of” restaurant list I ever write. I love the Blatt, and so does my family. It’s the only full-service restaurant at Flagship. The drink specials here are pretty good. (LOCAL)

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob – Small menu, big tastes. I can’t get my kids to like the falafel here, but if I’m dining without them, it’s a solid choice. (LOCAL)

Aromas Coffeehouse – This is the place to go for your caffeine fix, or if you’re so inclined, dessert. I personally like the baked goods there more than the coffee.  (LOCAL)

Yum Roll – Run by Blue Sushi Sake Grill, this is your sushi joint, if that’s what you’re craving.

Yoshi-Ya Ramen – Classic ramen quick service. Some people swear this place is the best. I’ve never embraced the whole ramen scene, though, so I’ve got nothin’.

Weirdough Pizza Co. – Weirdough serves Roman-style pizza al taglio. Surprisingly, my kids won’t eat this pizza.

Juan Taco – Love fancy tacos? Juan Taco serves food-truck style tacos.

Clever Greens – This is an upscale salad quick-service restaurant.

The Bar – It’s exactly what it sounds like.

Best food to order at Flagship

There are a few places I frequent regularly at Flagship Commons. If you go to Blatt, you have to try the Dirty Bird at least once. It’s a chicken sandwich that’s absolutely horrible for you, which means it tastes delicious.

For something a little quicker, head to Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob. I absolutely love the falafel here, as well as curry fries.

What’s kid-friendly at Flagship Commons

Like I said before, we’re a Blatt family. The kid’s menu has great food, and the staff is typically pretty great with the kids.

Kids was pastries from Aromas, a coffee shop at Flagship Commons Food Hall.

There is also a great discount on Wednesdays at select restaurants. Family Wednesday means ½ price kids meals for ages 12 and younger at Juan Taco, Blatt Beer & Table,

Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob, Clever Greens, Weirdough Pizza Co., Yum Roll and Yoshi-Ya.

Flagship has started Family Bundles at a few restaurants, where you can get a meal for four for $30 (upgrade to feed more mouths). These bundles are offered at Juan Taco, Weirdough, Amsterdam and Yum Roll. Pre-order your bundle and they’ll be available any time from 4 to 7 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

Happy Hour at Flagship

Like your food and drinks discounted? Of course you do. Two places at Flagship Commons has happy Hour specials: 

The Bar

Fridays, 3 to 6:30 p.m.

Saturdays, 3 to 6:30 p.m.

Sundays, noon – close.

Blatt Beer & Table (dine-in only) 

Mondays through Saturdays, 3 to 6:30 p.m.

Fridays & Saturdays, 8 to 9 p.m.

Sundays, noon to 6 p.m.

If you love food, head to an Omaha food hall! Here's a guide to Flagship Commons and Inner Rail Food Hall, including which restaurants are there, what to order, and where to take the kids. #Omaha #Nebraska #restaurants #foodhall #foodie #guide

Go beyond the Omaha Food Hall

Food halls are great because of the variety of food options paired with high-quality ingredients. However, if you’re looking for something with more service, check out other restaurants in Omaha. Here are a few lists to get you started:

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October 7, 2019

14 Best West Omaha Restaurants You Must Try

West Omaha is starting to be the spot for great, locally-owned restaurants. There was a time when I struggled to name one perfect West Omaha restaurant. But now, I’ve got a list of favorite West Omaha restaurants .

Read on for my list of the best restaurants in West Omaha, including those that are great for brunch, a few family-friendly options, and the best restaurants for date night. I included my recommendations on what to order, too.

I’m not done exploring West Omaha, so I have a to-visit list. Share your to-visit list in a comment!

On the hunt for good food in West Omaha? Here's a list of my favorites, including the best places for brunch, date night and a family dinner out! These are the best restaurants in West Omaha. #Omaha #Nebraska #localrestaurants

What is considered West Omaha?

Even if you are from Omaha, where exactly is West Omaha is up for debate. Depending on who you ask, West Omaha could have very different boundaries. Is West Omaha anything east of 72nd Street?? Should West Omaha include Elkhorn or La Vista??

Fun fact: Omaha has expanded over the years and annexed cities like Elkhorn and Millard. I’ve grown up always thinking of Millard as part of West Omaha, but not Elkhorn.

Anyway, I had some tough decisions to make, as West Omaha IS different for each person you ask.

For now, here’s the Oh My! Omaha definition of West Omaha: I’m considering restaurants in the area located between 120th and 192nd streets and between Giles Road and State Street. 

Casual dining in West Omaha

Casual here means you won’t need a reservation (though, there may be a wait), and you don’t need to dress up.

Blatt Beer + Burger

It wouldn’t be an Omaha restaurant list if I didn’t include Blatt, now would it? This is one of my top go-to restaurants when we’re out with the kids, because the food is fantastic and there’s a decent kid’s menu.

What to order: If you’re feeling indulgent, get the Dirty Bird. Do not attempt to eat it on a first date.

The best casual dining in West Omaha include The Corner Kick, known for its street tacos.

The Corner Kick Street Tacos & Sports Cantina

For creative Mexican dishes, head to The Corner Kick in Millard. This would be a good go-to spot to watch sports, if you’re looking to dine on something a little more inventive than the traditional sports bar fare.

What to order: They’re known for their street tacos, which aren’t too big, so you’ll want to order a few. I recommend barbacoa, carnitas and brisket.

Frank’s Pizzeria

Frank’s has some fans who will fight you if you say there is a better place to find New York-style pizza in Omaha. It’s been a while since I’ve had a slice, but I still trust it holds up given how die-hard some people are.

What to order: The last time I was there, I was vegetarian, so I can vouch for the margherita pizza. You can order by the slice, though, so get what you want.

Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill

Emperyean Brewery out of Lincoln opened a second location for its restaurant, Lazlo’s. This is a burger and beer joint, but it’s also family-friendly.

What to order: I’m a sucker for a good burger paired with one of their beers, like Third Stone Brown Ale.

Shucks Fish House & Oyster Bar

If you want seafood in Omaha, you’ll find the freshest seafood at Shucks, the restaurant arm of Absolutely Fresh Seafood. You’ll usually find paper covering the tables, which makes coloring (with or without kids) a fun way to pass the time.

What to order: The New England lobster roll is pretty tasty, but if you like a little spicy kick to your meal, try the jambalaya.

Best West Omaha for fine dining

I use fine dining loosely here. You’d be just as comfortable in a cute pair of jeans and top as you would in a cute black dress at one of these restaurants.

Dante in West Omaha is a fine dining Italian restaurant that focuses in seasonal ingredients.

Dante

Italian food has never had it so good. Dante serves seasonal food in creative Italian dishes. The wine list is extensive.

What to order: The pizza’s delish, but if we’re talking date nights, try one of the fresh pastas so you’re not splattering sauce all over yourself.

Related post: Try one of these Omaha restaurants for your next date night!

Dolce

Dolce is one of those under-the-radar date night places that I never knew about until I was given a gift card there. What a treat! It’s nice enough to impress but not overly fancy. The food is expertly prepared.

What to order: Splurge and get the five-course chef’s tasting menu.

Pitch

The West Omaha location of Pitch not the original, but it maintains the stylish look of the Dundee location…and one ups it with an excellent rooftop patio. I’m always tempted to order a stone-fire pizza there, because they are so good.

What to order: Get the garlic cauliflower appetizer. You’re welcome.

Best sushi in West Omaha, Nebraska? One of my favorites is Hiro 88 Millard.

Hiro 88 Millard

I love sushi, but my kids, they don’t like the stuff. So, I save Hiro 88 for date nights. I’ve never had a bad roll. If you want to save money, go on a Sunday for their all-day reverse Happy Hour.

What to order: If you like rolls, get the Hiro Special.

Best breakfast in West Omaha

Breakfast is where West Omaha really excels. Here are some of my favorite places to get breakfast in West Omaha:

Bailey’s

You kind of have to expect a bit of a wait for this wonderful restaurant (just over the border of 120th Street, so I count it). Fresh and indulgent, I have yet to find a dud on the Bailey’s menu.

What to order: Bailey’s is known for their egg benedicts, all served with a homemade hollandaise dressing. Go for the classic or get a little wild and order one of their specialties like the the Blackstone benedict, which has grilled tomatoes and maple smoked bacon with the poached eggs and sauce.

Green Beans

Passionate about coffee? Then get your caffeine fill at Green Beans, quite possibly the best coffee in all of Omaha. I make special trips just to stop there.

Green Beans does serve food, however, I just order my delicious cup of coffee every single time I’ve been.

What to order: Coffee, of course. But if that’s too boring, go with the spiced chai latte.

The homemade seasonal pop tarts at Over Easy make it a popular breakfast and brunch spot in West Omaha.

Over Easy

Over Easy is a hip breakfast place that puts a creative spin on traditional breakfast foods (which is why my kids don’t like it). Ingredients are seasonal, so the menu is ever-changing.

What to order: Get the homemade pop tart in whatever seasonal stuffing they’ve concocted.

Shirley’s Diner

I grew up going to Shirley’s Diner back when it was a small place decorated with retro kitch. I loved it.

The diner outgrew its old digs, and it’s now in a shiny new space. It still has retro decor, and the same home-style food, though.

What to order: Get a fluffy pancake.

Vidlak’s Brookside Café

Vidlak’s has been around for ages and is a no-frills diner offering the best kind of breakfast comfort food you can imagine.

What to order: If you’re extra hungry, add one of their ginormous cinnamon rolls to your order.

West Omaha is one of Omaha's largest growing suburbs. Check out this list of the best West Omaha restaurants, featuring locally-owned restaurants that focus on seasonal ingredients or rely on tried-and-true classic dishes. List includes breakfast and brunch options, family-friendly restaurants, and several restaurants that are great for date night. #Omaha #Nebraska #OmahaWeekend #restaurants #eatlocal #localrestaurants #guide

West Omaha restaurants on my to-try list

This list features restaurants that probably should be on the “best of” list of West Omaha restaurants, but I haven’t been to them yet, so I don’t want to include them. However, they have pretty solid reputations, so I feel pretty confident including them.

La Casa Pizzaria West – I’m a huge fan of the original La Casa in Midtown Omaha, so I’m eager to see how the second location compares. La Casa has a thin crust pizza to die for. My personal favorite is the margarita.

Le Voltaire – Mr. Wonderful swears we’ve had a meal at the French restaurant Le  Voltaire. If we have, it happened early on in our dating years, so like, more than a decade ago. It’s time to revisit, sil vous plais.

Wave Bistro – I’ve heard raves about Wave Bistro, an Asian fusion restaurant in West Omaha. I wanted to go there during Omaha Restaurant Week, but alas, they were not open for my Sunday date night.

Whisk and Measure – This bakery keeps getting by my friends, especially those who’ve attended their brownie sundae pairings with Coneflower Creamery. Word is, Whisk and Measure has delicious vegan and gluten-free options, too.

Your turn: What is your favorite West Omaha restaurant?  

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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’s in September.

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 Pumpkin Patch hours

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.

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch prices

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.

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch food prices

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 Pie Barn

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. 

The Freak Shakes are each $11.99 and are definitely shareable.

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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Subscribe to the FREE twice a month(ish) e-newsletter sharing what’s new in Omaha, giveaways, family travel ideas, and more! Subscribe here.

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! If you're wondering what to budget for food, the post includes what to expect on food prices. #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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