Omaha is a foodie’s dream, but like a dream, the panorama is always changing. Omaha Magazine presents this special package as a guide to sampling the newest local offerings from the culinary scene. Many of the restaurants are brand-spanking new. Others are longtime favorites with new locations, new food concepts, and/or different management. A few of the dining concepts are still works in progress.
To read how we determined the restaurants to be featured in this in-depth list, read the full intro to this piece, New & Now.
Neighborhoods featured include:
- Central Omaha
- Council Bluffs
- Midtown X-ing
- North Omaha
- Old Market
- Ponca Hills
- South Omaha
- West Omaha
6750 Mercy Road
Beacon Hills may not be brand new, but it is fresh to Omaha. Anne and Craig McVeigh originally opened the restaurant in a Lincoln hotel around 16 years ago. That location closed last summer, but there’s no need to fret. They brought their tried-and-true American comfort food to Omaha’s Aksarben Village in October. With an extensive menu featuring everything from panko-breaded chicken strips to filet mignon, visitors can expect to find more than enough to choose from. The happy hour is from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and they offer a special brunch menu from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Blue & Fly Asian Kitchen
721 S. 72nd St.
One of Omaha’s top Chinese restaurants goes by the name Blue & Fly. Yue Cong (who moved to Omaha at age 21) opened Blue & Fly in 2015 with the goal of introducing more authentic Chinese cuisine to his adopted home. He succeeded spectacularly with tongue-numbing Sichuanese dishes, northern-style dumplings, Shandong-style caramelized sweet potato desserts, and more. Editors suggest the deep-fried intestines, with a side of sliced potatoes served cold in vinegar.
1934 S. 67th St.
The owners of Herbe Sainte, collectively known as SamFam LLC, are certainly no strangers to the Omaha restaurant scene. Ron Samuelson is a former owner of M’s Pub, and his nephews, Justin and Aaron Halbert, have each worked for several successful restaurants over the years. They recently combined their extensive knowledge to bring New Orleans-inspired cocktails and food to Omaha, opening in the thriving Aksarben area in October. Traditional NOLA libations, such as Sazeracs, daiquiris, and hurricanes are offered alongside original creations and twisted takes on classics, like the “Corpse Reviver No. 2.” Though initially intended to be more a bar than a restaurant, demand for their food motivated them to open for lunch. Their “Choose 2” option during lunch is the perfect way to check out what they have and try a little sample of everything at an affordable price. But if you really want to dig in and go for it, try the peel-and-eat shrimp or dive right into the broiled oysters with herbed butter sauce, cheese, and Peppadew relish. The melt-in-your-mouth-good shrimp come in either quarter-, half-, or one-pound portions and are served simply—with horseradish, lemon, and a house cocktail sauce. Even the roast beef po’boy has a little “lagniappe” that makes it better than most other po’boys out there. And though it may not sound quite right, the crawfish cheesecake is highly recommended. If all these options aren’t enough for you, Sunday brunch features mimosas for one cent after you buy the first two.
New Gold Mountain
6750 Mercy Road
Local fans of dim sum—a type of Cantonese cuisine that could be described as Chinese-style tapas—are familiar with New Gold Mountain Restaurant. For those living in the eastern reaches of Omaha, a long drive is no longer necessary to satiate their cravings for dim sum. New Gold Mountain has a new, more centrally located branch in the Aksarben Village. It’s a big win for the city’s food scene, especially with the original location near 156th and Maple streets still up and running. If Confucius could have been to Omaha today, he might drop another axiom for ages: “Sometimes you lose some, sometimes you dim sum.”
5914 Center St.
If you haven’t been to Petrow’s lately, you may be surprised when you visit it next. The longtime Omaha staple recently remodeled, and they went all out. Gone is the old diner look. Their new look is stylish and modern, right down to what the servers wear. They also now have a patio, with a fire pit for chillier times. Don’t worry, though. They still offer their classic dishes, with a few new items to mix things up. The upgrade is the latest for a restaurant that first opened as a “drive-in” back in 1957.
Sandwich Proper at Aksarben Village Farmers Market
67th and Center streets
The initial idea for Sandwich Proper came about when four friends—Patrick Shannon, Evan Brockman, Ryan Filbrandt, and Ben Holling—noticed that the Aksarben Farmers Market didn’t have any vendors providing fresh, made-to-order food options. They decided to rectify this, and of course, to use local ingredients, often from the other vendors at the market. They served their first sandwich last year, and everyone’s loving it. Check them out for yourselves while supporting local farmers and vendors at this year’s Aksarben market.
Suji’s Korean Grill
1303 S. 72nd St.
Initially a fast-casual restaurant (a bit like Chipotle for Korean food), Suji’s Korean Grill completely overhauled its menu and business model in November. Suji’s is now full-service with expanded meal options for lunch and dinner. The biggest change was the addition of endless Korean barbecue, which starts with a heaping platter of assorted meats that you cook right at your table. It’s a fun option for families or a group of friends looking for a unique dining experience.
Quick Bites Soul Food
105 W. Mission Ave.
Just the faintest whiff of fried chicken is generally enough to get that fried-food craving going. If it hits you while you’re hanging out in B-town (aka Bellevue), you’ll want to head to Quick Bites Soul Food on Mission Avenue (which opened in 2016). Go for the homemade fried chicken, mac ’n’ cheese, and fried okra, but don’t leave without a little something sweet from the candy shop.
Roma Italian Restaurant
605 Fort Crook Road North
Delicious Italian food came to this Bellevue location via—Texas? You read that right. Gresa and Albert Govori met in Brownwood, Texas, where Albert already owned an Italian restaurant. They eventually decided to move back to Gresa’s hometown of Lincoln, but couldn’t find the right space there. Turns out, the right space was on Fort Crook Road in Bellevue. Roma opened in spring of 2016.
The Special Restaurant
303 Fort Crook Road North
Amarillo BBQ was a big-time favorite. When it closed in 2010, many wondered what would happen to the beloved space left behind. Whatever went in there would have to be something special. Enter Bellevue native and Navy veteran Laura Scott and her husband, Ed. They serve authentic, home-cooked diner-style food at a great price.
Umami Asian Cuisine
1504 Galvin Road South
Sushi in Nebraska is something visitors may find questionable. Is the fish fresh? Do the chefs really know what they’re doing when it comes to sushi? These are fair questions in an area known for serving mostly steak. But the food landscape has changed a lot over the past few years, and Bellevue is a good example of this. At Umami, there is no question that sushi chef Keen Zheng is making great strides in helping with that change. For the last 13 years, Zheng studied with New York City’s greatest sushi chefs. This meant working at not just one, but two Michelin-starred restaurants in the process—Kanoyama and 15 East. He later worked at Sushi Nakazawa, a New York Times four-star restaurant, under Daisuke Nakazawa, who has trained with chef Jiro Ono. Ono is featured in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi, and is considered by many to be the best sushi chef in the world. All this experience is evidenced in Zheng’s preparation, cut, presentation, and taste. While the sushi is clearly exceptional, there are plenty of other delectable dishes on the menu. Curry, bento boxes, and kung pao are all options here, and all are equally tasty.
The chicken curry udon with its mild, red Thai curry flavor is one of those comforting dishes that you will look forward to, especially if you’re not feeling well. For anyone looking to fill that fried-food craving, the rock shrimp tempura appetizer is where it’s at. But the main draw, the sushi, is exceptional. The “mango tango” seems to get a lot of action, and the “1504 Bellevue” is not to be missed, especially for those looking for a spicy little kick.
6064 Maple St.
This beautiful, bright space with its lush plants, large wood bar, and handmade tables and chairs (crafted by the chef) is reminiscent of a small European bistro, yet still decidedly American. The décor is perfectly suited for the space, considering they serve “new European” cuisine using ingredients grown here. The menu is frequently updated by chef and co-owner Benjamin Maides and his talented staff. “We sit down every Saturday night and go through the menu,” he says. “For us, we love just creating new and original dishes.” The menu generally features a selection of amuse bouche, aperitifs, pastas, and savory proteins. The wagyu tartare was a particularly delectable offering, and the pastas are paired perfectly with their fresh, sometimes unconventional accompaniments. Maides recommends the chef’s tasting menu. “We pick dishes we’re most excited about, $55 for six courses,” he says. “It’s kind of a cool way to just try the whole menu.” Maides adds that he doesn’t want to be a restaurant that’s known for one or three dishes, and that’s what everyone orders. “We strive for our menu being our signature dish.” The drink menu is crafted with care and whimsy, as evidenced in the frequently updated drink names. “Mule No. 1” and “The Big Elephantowski” were especially tasty concoctions based on classic cocktails. The Mule No. 1 is a bastard-child of a Moscow Mule and a Pimm’s Cup. The Big Elephantowski is, of course, a take on the White Russian, known for being the drink of choice for “The Dude” in The Big Lebowski. The wine list is short, but bottles are thoughtfully selected, with many offerings from Europe, as well as bottles from Willamette Valley in Oregon to Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Au Courant took over the space formerly occupied by the tapas restaurant Espana. Co-owner Carlos Mendez closed that restaurant and started his collaboration with Maides in the same space, creating something new and exciting in the Benson area. For anyone missing their Espana favorites, head over to Rockbrook Village to Little Espana, an extension of the former Benson eatery.
Ika Ramen and Izakaya
6109 Maple St.
Folks unfamiliar with Japanese culinary traditions only know “ramen” as cheap blocks of noodles that come with foil-wrapped seasoning packets. But packaged ramen is not the real deal. More and more Omahans have discovered authentic ramen, thanks in part to Jose Dionicio. He started serving ramen as a novelty at his Peruvian/Japanese seafood restaurant, Taita. Eventually, Ika Ramen and Izakaya opened a few blocks west on Maple Street. After less than two years of operation, Ika took over the Benson space previously occupied by Taita (which closed in February after five years).
Ted & Wally’s
6023 Maple St.
Ted & Wally’s ice cream has been a downtown staple since the ’80s, and now you can find their homemade, slow-churned originals in Benson as well. This location opened in March 2016, starting out as a kind of joint venture with Localmotive (until the popular food truck folded in October). Fortunately, the ice cream business is still going strong. Keep an eye out for their Guinness-flavored ice cream and other specialty flavors.
6056 Maple St.
If you were depressed to learn that the Pizza Shoppe Collective was closing, you should be happy to know that Benson has a new pizza joint in the same location. Virtuoso Pizza opened in May and is being run by David Losole of the famed Losole family. He is a certified “pizzaioli,” so get down to Benson and see what all the fuss is about. The Pizza Shoppe was a hotspot for Benson cultural happenings; former owner Amy Ryan is turning her attention to running the Benson Theatre.
3910 Harney St.
Can you build an entire restaurant around one food item? The Blackstone Meatball has done just that—and it works. “Ballers” can choose from four different styles: classic beef, Romesco pork, provincial chicken, and mushroom with white bean for vegetarians. Chef Matt Baum says he likes to offer a special meatball every two weeks, along with a special sauce, side, and risotto. “That’s one way we stay seasonal.” While the special meatballs are usually a hit, Baum says the classic is probably their best-seller. It’s 50 percent beef and 50 percent pork, but with a little twist, more like a sweet Italian sausage than what you’d normally find. “My grandfather and my father had been making sausage for years. I sort of boosted one of their recipes and made it a little more mine,” Baum says. “So, it’s sort of a German, Irish, Italian sausage,” he adds with a laugh. Even if you don’t like meatballs, you can always stop in for a drink and maybe a show. Every Friday night there’s something going on—whether it’s a DJ, karaoke, or neighborhood bingo, where you can win prizes put up by businesses in the area. On Saturdays there’s live music, oftentimes performed by someone who frequents the guitar shop downstairs. What draws the biggest crowds, according to Baum? “Bingo has definitely been huge. I suggested doing bingo as sort of a joke, just something kind of weird and fun, and people freak out about it,” he says. “They take it very seriously. It’s intense.” The Blackstone area has been a big draw for Omaha lately, and Baum says he’s excited about the trolley/streetcar idea discussed during the 2017 mayoral campaign. “It could help a lot of people avoid drinking and driving,” he says. “There’s a lot of great neighborhoods in this town—but it’s really hard to get there.”
3921 Farnam St.
With summer in full swing, you may need the patience of a saint if you want to check out this little ice cream shop. But, if you have the patience, you will be so happy you did! From classic flavors like cookies and cream to original creations like sweet corn, they do it all using ingredients sourced from farms here in Nebraska and Iowa. The Blackstone Butter Brickle is not to be missed, especially since the flavor was first introduced to the public at the former Blackstone Hotel, just down the street (the same hotel gave rise to the Reuben sandwich).
4001 Farnam St.
The debate between New York- and Chicago-style pizza has been ongoing for decades. Noli’s Pizzeria is doing its part to convince Omahans that it’s the New York way or the highway, right down to the water they use. Owner Joel Marsh went so far as to install a filtration system to emulate that NYC-flavored tap water. It seems to be working, as people are flocking to the quaint little corner shop. Noli’s moved into the former Black Squirrel Tattoo location in March (after two years at its original location on the same block). With choose-your-own toppings, you can order pizzas whole or by the slice. A slice with anchovies, goat cheese, and Kalamata olives is one of our favorites!
3814 Farnam St.
“Sturnella neglecta” is the scientific name for Nebraska’s state bird, the meadowlark. It’s also the inspiration for the name of this gastro pub in Omaha’s thriving Blackstone district. The Nebraska theme extends to the menu, which uses locally sourced, seasonal products. Plus, their closed-in patio area is perpetually prepared for Nebraska’s ever-changing weather.
Cottonwood Cove Marina
10270 Riverside Lane
Cottonwood Marina has long been a hotspot for Omaha’s river rats. When the flood hit the Missouri in 2011, area boaters lost not just a favorite stop along the river, they also lost out on the fun and good times to be had there. Brothers Steve and Mike Lupardus wanted to bring that fun back, so they bought the site and started building. While the building may look different, the support the brothers have received is a good indication that the community will continue to enjoy this riverside destination.
Lisa’s Radial Cafe
817 N. 40th St.
The 2016 passing of beloved Omaha restaurant icon Lisa Schembri saddened the multitude of regulars at Lisa’s Radial Café. Thankfully, Schembri’s resilient daughters stepped up to the difficult task of running the famed cafe, sticking to the tried-and-true formula their mother used—delicious food and service with a smile. If you haven’t been, get there. It’s like finding a small-town diner in the middle of the city, where the staff remembers you and welcomes you with a smile. And if you’re lucky enough to become a regular, maybe even a hug. But expect a wait. To accommodate the usual weekend brunch backlog, Lisa’s has an adjacent waiting room with free coffee.
8718 Pacific St.
One may not expect to find an authentic, kosher, Jewish deli in the middle of Omaha, but that’s exactly what you’ll find at Swartz’s Deli in Countryside Village. From classic matzo ball soup to smoked lox, they have everything you could want in a deli, right down to the latkes with applesauce and sour cream.
Timber Woodfire Bistro
8702 Pacific St.
If you like wood-fired foods, you need to head to Timber in Countryside Village. Whether on the grill or in the oven, the food here is infused with the warmth that comes from cooking with wood. Several of the dishes display a bit of French inspiration, which goes perfectly with the Le Quartier bread they offer. The décor is homey yet elegant. It’s the perfect addition to this reinvigorated area.
Adana’s Kebab House
7641 Cass St.
While there are several Mediterranean restaurants around Omaha, Adana’s Kebab House is unique for its focus on Turkish cuisine. Ayten and Wesley Hooper opened the Bellevue location in 2015, and it was a hit among the locals and the military crowd alike. The second location opened in November on Cass Street. Although the décor in the new location seems a bit sterile, the food is bursting with flavor. The gyro meat is some of the best in town.
712 Eat + Drink
1851 Madison Ave.
If you find yourself in Council Bluffs looking for a fine-dining experience but want to avoid overhearing that inescapable “ka-ching, ka-ching,” then head to 712 Eat + Drink, located in a nondescript strip near the Mall of the Bluffs. Don’t let the location fool you. The inside is clean and inviting, with a large, colorful mural on the wall by local artist Gerard Pefung, depicting the former Bayliss Park fountain. Owners Janie and Ryan Rogers, who also own the sports bar Glory Days, say they noticed something was missing from their city’s food scene and decided to fix that. “In bringing this concept over here, it was truly just us seeing something that was lacking over here…a chef-driven place,” Janie says, adding that while Dixie Quicks is “obviously amazing,” most people think of them as more of a lunch and brunch place. They wanted to fulfill that need for the nighttime crowd. Their menu features mostly homemade items made with native ingredients, from rib-eyes to grilled cheese. The food may sound simple, but the flavors aren’t. Chef Oscar Hernandez has had a successful career, working in several well-known restaurants around Omaha, so it’s no accident that the food is more complex than it appears. The meat is especially flavorful, and their house-made tater tots are not your mama’s Ore-Idas. The Cubano sandwich has already become popular among regulars, and their brunch menu is a mix of traditional and not-so-traditional items, offering chicken-fried steak, chilaquiles, and a hangover burger topped with bacon, pickled jalapeños, and beer-cheese sauce. There’s also a full bar, with a heavy emphasis on Iowa-brewed craft beers, including more than 23 on tap, a simple craft cocktail menu, wine list, and several craft sodas for the non-boozers. One thing’s for sure, 712 is repping Iowa hard.
157 West Broadway
While Dixie Quicks certainly isn’t new, they did have a major shake-up last year. Rene Orduna passed away in November, devastating those who knew the engaging owner. But the show must go on. Orduna’s husband, co-owner Rob Gilmer, has kept it going. He recently added a bar where you can sit and watch the organized chaos of the well-run restaurant. Of course, the food is still delicious.
Salty Dog Bar & Grill
2411 S. 24th St.
Early in January, the Salty Dog Bar & Grill was forced to close for a remodel due to a fire that started in the kitchen. But the C.B. favorite is back and better than ever, and chef Hugo Cardona has those char-wings flying out of the new kitchen. Don’t forget to ask about their specials. They’re usually a steal.
1611 Farnam St.
Block 16 has been around for about six years, but owners Paul and Jessica Urban have consistently offered new and intriguing specials without repetition—close to 2,000, in fact. They also have special food event nights, including collaborating with TREAM (Tacos Rule Everything Around Me), which they can now expand on thanks to the 2016 addition of their “Supper Club.” This farm-to-table restaurant helped popularize that movement here in Omaha and they have been expanding diner’s palettes ever since.
13th and William streets
phone number TBD
Boho Rice is yet another project being taken on by entrepreneur Nick Bartholomew. Inspired by the experimental Dandelion Pop-up, the project will be “an elevated and contemporary fried-rice shack.” Located near 13th and William streets by the old Bohemian Café, the restaurant will feature noodles, soups, and of course, a variety of fried rice, including kimchi and vegan. The kitchen will be an open one where people can sit and eat, and there will also be a late-night walk-up window for those looking to feed those midnight cravings. Bartholomew plans to have the restaurant up and running by early fall.
Hook & Lime Tacos + Tequila
735 N. 14th St.
Finding authentic Mexican food in Omaha is pretty easy as long as you’re willing to look, but it does tend to be concentrated in South Omaha. The guys at Hook & Lime are helping change that. Their menu has lots of fresh fish and seafood offerings, along with an expansive drink menu of tequila-based concoctions. They also try to work with businesses that are environmentally conscious, which gives you a good reason to get a little tequila-tipsy and still feel good about yourself.
329 S. 16th St.
While the tasty, capriciously named craft cocktails might be what draws you in to Mercury, the food they offer is not to be overlooked. Whether you’re in the mood for a quick bite or looking to try a few different tasty morsels, Mercury has you covered. They put their own stamp on classics like “crabs casino” and a “mushrooms thermidor.” But don’t pass up their slightly unconventional offerings, such as their jalapeño popper or bacon cheeseburger empanadas. These pair well with their “White Trash Wedding” cocktail, if you’re looking for recommendations.
1217 Leavenworth St.
You may have driven or walked right by Oma’s Deli without really registering it. The location has gone through a few changes over the years, but this incarnation hits the mark. It’s worth walking the extra block or two to this small sandwich and coffee shop, that is just off the beaten path from the Old Market. The sandwiches are delicious, made with fresh ingredients, and topped with some unique combinations. Perfect for a quick bite in the morning, or an intimate lunch date with a friend.
Taste’s of Soul Cafe
709 S. 24th St.
If you want to have a comfortable dining experience in an inviting, laid-back atmosphere while chowing down on some homemade, Southern comfort food, you need to get to Taste’s of Soul Café down on 24th Street. The fried chicken is delicious, and if you’re a little more adventurous, you should try the frog legs. But don’t go here if you only have 45 minutes to get to a show. It is homemade and can take a minute. But once you get your food, you’ll taste the love.
1108 S. 10th St.
This quaint yet stylish restaurant just south of the Old Market has become a favorite among foodies, families, and friends. A collaboration between local industry entrepreneurs Ethan Bondelid and Paul Kulik, it should be no surprise the eatery quickly became a success. Pizzas, pastas, and sauces all made in-house and adorned with locally sourced ingredients—combined with an incredibly knowledgeable staff—certainly didn’t hurt. “The team has done a good job,” Bondelid says. “They impress me all the time.” By design, their European-style dishes aren’t the kind of Italian you typically find in Nebraska. Portions are appropriately sized rather than heaping, and sharing several is highly recommended, because you will want to try a little of everything. The shaved Brussels sprouts salad, the cauliflower appetizer, tajarin pasta, and the fritti pizza are just a few must-try items. (Side note: “fritti” essentially translates to “fried.” Tempted yet?) Really, with executive chef and co-owner Kulik giving direction, and chef de cuisine Kye Adkisson taking the wheel, you would be hard-pressed to find any misses here. They have a full bar with a small, thoughtful cocktail menu and a hand-picked wine list that’s affordable, with all bottles running at $30. The décor is nothing to scoff at either. Bondelid worked with Lester Katz of LK Design to create the clean lines and color palette that only helps bring focus to the heart of any pizza place—the oven. The wood-fired beast was constructed in the Northern Italian style and covered with bright orange tile (to hold the heat in). The restaurant celebrated its one-year anniversary in May. Keep an eye out for possible new food-related projects from Bondelid. “I hope to open a few more,” he says.
4919 Underwood Ave.
Baela Rose’s offerings are as unique as the name (a tribute to owners Kyle and Rose Anderson’s daughter of the same name). They serve elegant, seasonal food you would expect to find in a high-end restaurant. But here, the price tag is closer to what you would find at a more casual place. That’s part of what makes Baela Rose a must-try Omaha restaurant. Add in the friendly service and diverse wine list, and one has to wonder, “What’s stopping you?”
5007 Underwood Ave.
Did you know the Dundee Dell—one of Omaha’s longest-running drinking establishments—was sold? No need to panic, though. You can still catch their famous fish and chips, or sample from one of the country’s largest single-malt Scotch whisky collections at the pub. On your next visit, try some of their new additions, including Faroe Islands salmon and shepherd’s pie. In 2016, the pub’s previous owner, Pat Goebel, sold to Greg Lindberg (the owner of Absolutely Fresh Seafood, Shucks Fish House & Oyster Bar, and Bailey’s Lunch & Breakfast).
Kitchen Table Central
4952 Dodge St.
Good, made-from-scratch food available at a movie theater might sound strange, but that’s what Omahans will get with this new venture. Film Streams’ takeover of the old Dundee Theater has resulted in this ingenious pairing between the nonprofit and Kitchen Table owners Jessica and Colin Duggan. This second location will be a pared-down version of the downtown location’s menu, with an expanded dessert and beverage menu. They also hope to eventually have themed movie nights, matching the food with what’s showing that night.
Lonchera El Milagro
665 N. 46th St.
This favorite Midtown Mexican food truck (normally parked in the Aksarben area at 55th and Center streets) now has a brick-and-mortar home on Saddle Creek. So, you can get their authentic tacos and tortas no matter the weather. The best part is, the food comes out quick and the prices are still very reasonable, especially if you get the daily special. Editors suggest the “torta de cachete.”
4646 Dodge St.
Mar Café introduced a unique mix of authentic Mexican dishes and American classics (such as burgers) when it opened last August. Two chefs came up with the concept. Chef Jose Orozco came to Omaha from California, bringing more than 30 years of culinary experience with him. Chef Arturo Vargas has been cooking since he was 7; he was heavily influenced by his parents, who owned and operated a bakery in Mexico.
5018 Underwood Ave.
Paragon is an elegant, cozy restaurant in Dundee. It’s situated right across the street from owner Willy Theisen’s former place, Pitch Pizzeria. Theisen opened Paragon in the summer of 2016, and the venue briefly closed in January 2017 to relaunch the menu. His involvement with Pitch lasted from the 2009 launch until selling his controlling stake in 2012. Theisen made his reputation as a genius food entrepreneur after creating (and selling) the national pizza franchise Godfather’s. For a change of pace, the food at Paragon is influenced by the American South rather than Italian (pizza).
5423 Leavenworth St.
New name, same owner, still delicious. Tasty Pizza, formerly Tasty Pastry, has remained nestled on Leavenworth Street in the same, cute little house for almost five years. Owner Mary Joseph decided to change things up when she discovered the joys of running a pizza line. Customers seem to enjoy the change, too. Hours are somewhat limited, though, so make sure you check them out before heading down.
2613 N. Main St.
Elkhorn isn’t exactly known for Mexican food, but this restaurant is definitely worth checking out. The food is good and fresh, the servers are friendly, and if you’re lucky enough to snag a table on their endearing patio, it’s one of the most pleasant experiences you could ask for. As a bonus, they also offer breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
8510 N. 30th St.
If you’ve been feeling the hole left by the closing of the iconic Mr. C’s in North Omaha, Enzo’s Italian restaurant may be just the thing to fill it. Their well-rounded menu is filled with classics that hit all the right notes. It may not be as flashy as Mr. C’s was, but it is cozy, comfortable, and welcoming. Basically, everything you could hope for in a classic, Italian restaurant. Chef Enzo Zurlo opened the restaurant in summer 2015.
220 S. 31st Ave., Suite 3101
Della Costa is the latest project from the Halbert brothers and their uncle, Ron Samuelson. The restaurant, which opened in May, features a Mediterranean-inspired menu where fish are the star. The Midtown Crossing space previously housed Brix, a local wine bistro that closed its two Omaha stores in January amid financial troubles.
3201 Farnam St., Suite 6101
A “contemporary American” restaurant with branches in Lincoln and Omaha, LeadBelly offers a wide variety of, well, everything. Appetizers, salads, burgers, or steaks—whatever you’re looking for—chances are they have it. This includes many gluten-free options and a rather diverse kid’s menu. Whiskey lovers be sure to save room for the Jameson chocolate cake. In 2009, LeadBelly first opened in Lincoln’s Haymarket neighborhood. It came to Midtown Crossing in 2016.
Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings
220 S. 31st Ave., Suite 5103
The first Ray’s Original Buffalo Wings opened back in the ’90s but had to close in the early aughts, despite its incredible success. Now they’re back and everything is right in the wing-world again. Ray’s moved from The Lemon Drop Bar in South Omaha during the summer. You will not find better wings anywhere, and the Cocaine Blue Cheese dressing is aptly named. (Disclaimer: No real cocaine was used in the making of this dressing. It’s just that addictive.)
3201 Farnam St., Suite 6107
What started as a pop-up at Nite Owl (in Blackstone) has become a go-to place for ramen. Located in the old Pana 88 space, Ugly Duck Ramen is the brainchild of chef A.J. Swanda. His partner, Charlie Yin, is the former owner of Pana 88. Yin decided to go in a different direction when he saw the interest in ramen skyrocket after Omaha’s Ramen Fest. It’s not just about the ramen, though. This “Japanese-Americana street food” eatery serves ramen for both lunch and dinner. But that’s not all that’s on Ugly’s menu. For lunch, they usually have several sandwich options and a few tasty salads. Appetizers can range from yellowtail sashimi to pork-belly fritters. Chef Swanda says they’ve become known for their spicier dishes, like the super-spicy pork ramen bowl. “Any time we do seafood, that really goes over well,” he adds. In true Omaha fashion, he says anything fried (for example: a recent hot wing offering) also does well. Swanda says the menu changes seasonally, or as inspiration strikes. “Whimsically” might be a better word, he says. “There’s no real set time.” Swanda says he’s excited that the farm-to-table movement in Omaha is here to stay. Ugly Duck’s ever-changing menu featuring fresh, delicious dishes made with food that comes from “totally rad” local farmers is part of that movement. “If you’re opening any good restaurant here, you need to work with local farmers.” He says he excited about people stepping out of their comfort zones and can’t wait to see what new ventures come out of it. Bonus: Thanks to Skip the Dishes and Grub Hub, you can have it delivered.
13838 R Plaza
Shirley’s Diner is everything a diner should be. Kitschy, affordable, and satisfying. The rock ’n’ roll theme abounds, though the décor has been modernized a bit since moving (in 2017) to their new location, just across the way from the old location. This also gave them a little more room to work with, which is definitely a plus. The portion to price ratio is spot on, and the food is what you expect from your favorite, hometown diner–decadently comforting. Also, their chicken-fried steak is Omaha-famous.
Tired Texan BBQ
4702 S. 108th St.
The old Perkins building on 108th Street near the Best Western may not be the first place you would think to find great barbecue, but it will be. Owners Chip and Christine Holland opened Tired Texan BBQ in May. Holland says he swore off the industry some 24 years ago but, as is often the case, it pulled him back in. He named the restaurant after the owner of his favorite barbecue joint back home in Birmingham, Alabama. “It was in the worst part of town you can imagine,” he says. “There were all sorts of people hanging out there—from the criminal element to doctors just getting off from [University of Alabama]. We all sat outside at picnic tables in a rough part of town and ate barbecue.” Holland says the owner, Ira (aka “Tex”) ran the place on the pure love of cooking, opening at 11 p.m. and closing at 4 in the morning, despite having a day job. He passed that passion and knowledge on to Holland. This Tired Texan will have somewhat more conventional hours, though. They’re open Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The family-owned restaurant has what Holland describes as a basic menu, with three types of meat—Texas sliced brisket, Texas pulled pork, and hickory-smoked St. Louis spare ribs. Made fresh every day, you’ll want to make sure you get there early if you want the brisket or the pork. They offer plenty of sides, from dressed-to-order coleslaw to their “outlaw creamed corn.” There are two appetizer offerings—Texas loaded fries and Texas tumbleweeds, which are anything but basic, made from potatoes, bacon, and cheddar cheese. And what would a barbecue be without a little dessert? “I’m a redneck, and I’ve made caramel pie my whole life,” Holland says. So naturally, you’d better leave some room for that.
Big Mama’s Kitchen & Catering
2112 N. 30th St.
You’ll no longer head to 45th Street to eat at Big Mama’s. That’s because the Omaha favorite has moved to North 30th Street, in the Highlander Neighborhood, an area that’s being rejuvenated by the 75 North revitalization project. Big Mama’s is now located in the Community Accelerator building. Big Mama’s was born 30 years ago in the home kitchen of Patricia Barron (aka Big Mama). Barron’s buttermilk-batter-fried chicken was so popular that her part-time, home-based catering business evolved into a full-service restaurant in 2007. Besides her famous fried chicken, Mama’s also offers all the comfort foods you could ask for—meatloaf with brown gravy, smothered pork chops, fried catfish, and a traditional cheeseburger. For those who are not faint of heart, there’s the pig ear, referred to as “natural bologna” on Mama’s website. The “Afro Burger” is another tasty surprise—a burger that’s rolled to look like a bratwurst. This burger-dog is loaded with fiery-hot seasonings and cooked in Big Mama’s spicy barbecue sauce. On the breakfast menu, which is served daily, you’re gonna wanna hit up the made-from-scratch biscuits and gravy. It also needs to be noted that about four years ago, Barron opened a sandwich shop inside the Carver Bank building at 24th and Lake streets, which is not moving (and features a truly epic cold chicken sandwich). While there’s not much crossover between items at the two separate locations, you can get Big Mama’s famous homemade sweet potato pie and red velvet ice creams at both restaurants. So, now you have no excuse for not trying Big Mama’s crunchy, homemade, oven-fried chicken. Wash it down with her signature cranberry sun tea, and you are destined to enjoy a meal that will keep you coming back.
2118 N. 24th St.
If the name sounds familiar, it should. The earlier version of this soul food eatery was an iconic meeting place for the North Omaha community for decades, until it closed in 2003. Though the original building was demolished in 2008, this reincarnation opened in winter 2016. The cafe is part of the Fair Deal Village MarketPlace, a structure built out of shipping containers. Its décor incorporates items salvaged from the former structure. The look may be more modern, but the atmosphere still inviting, and the food is still flavorful and satisfying.
Omaha Rockets Kanteen
2401 Lake St.
Named for Omaha’s own independent, semipro baseball team of the 1940s, the Omaha Rockets Kanteen is serving more than meals. You can also soak in a little history while you wait for their healthier versions of classic soul food dishes. Photos, paintings, and articles documenting the history of Negro League baseball adorn the walls. The healthy curveball comes in the form of their baked wings and their use of turkey or chicken as a substitute in dishes that would normally call for a fattier meat. And eating these healthier versions means you don’t have to skip the desserts—which is a good thing, because their sweet-potato pie and peach cobbler are definite home runs.
Dandelion Pop-up at the Greater Omaha Chamber Courtyard
1300 Howard St.
Dandelion Pop-up is a pop-up restaurant that features all your favorite local chefs. Located in the Greater Omaha Chamber Courtyard, the venture was started after the Old Market fire took out local favorites M’s Pub and The Market House. Nick Bartholomew, owner of The Market House and Over Easy (in West Omaha), partnered with Secret Penguin after the explosion damaged his downtown brick-and-mortar restaurant. The pop-up happens every Friday (11 a.m.-2 p.m.), with the start of warm weather.
Jackson Street Tavern
1125 Jackson St.
The Old Market has long been a go-to destination for intriguing food in Omaha. Until recent years, though, most of the restaurants were pretty centrally located between 10th and 12th streets along Howard Street. That’s changed. You can now find tasty local bars and restaurants dotting the streets around the periphery. Jackson Street Tavern is one such place. Brothers Ross and Jimi DiPrima took over as new owners in 2016. While it may sound like it’s just a bar, the food is anything but typical pub fare. From salads to osso bucco, visitors are bound to find something to satisfy.
409 S. 12th St.
Java Daddies may technically be a food truck, but once you’re there you wouldn’t know it. Located on the north side of downtown staple The Diner, this food truck has a lovely deck patio set up in the parking lot. (Yes, the parking lot.) They have barbecue, Brussels sprouts, and beer (three good reasons to head downtown and check it out).
422 S. 11th St.
When fire devastated M’s Pub in January 2016, it wasn’t just the Old Market that was hit hard. Since the fire, Omaha foodies have been holding their proverbial breath, waiting to hear when this local favorite would return. Their prayers and positive vibes have been answered. M’s Pub will return to the same location, says general manager Marta Kellers (an 18-year veteran at M’s). Kellers says that while some things must change—the restrooms and prep kitchen will now be upstairs—the overall look and feel will be kept much the same. “We’re trying to recreate what Omaha knows and loves,” she says. Chef Bobby McKinley will also return, and regulars can expect many of their favorites to remain on the menu. The restaurant plans to be up and running again by the end of August or the beginning of September. Kellers recommends following M’s Pub on Facebook and Instagram as they document their journey. Those who were lucky enough to be regulars at the pub can expect to see some familiar faces. “Some [former employees] have reached out to us; I’ve reached out to others,” she says. “Obviously, some have moved on, which is more than understandable.” Patrons may have moved on as well, for now, but there’s little doubt that most will return, and the hole that was left when fire pierced the Old Market’s heart will finally heal.
The Grey Plume at the Old Market Farmers Market
519 S. 11th St.
If you’ve been to The Grey Plume, then you know the quality of food is outstanding. It was a special treat, then, when they opened Provisions by The Grey Plume right across the street. Now, they’ve made it even easier to enjoy their house-made offerings when they became one of the vendors in the Omaha Farmers Market in the Old Market.
The Market House
1108 Howard St.
With a little luck and a lot of hard work, The Market House will return to the Old Market by the end of this summer. The restaurant was just starting to get its legs when the horrific explosion and ensuing fire at M’s Pub made it a casualty. Speculation was immediate about whether the building that housed two of downtown’s favorite restaurants—one old, one brand-new—would be salvageable. Thankfully, despite the extensive damage caused by the blaze, both restaurants will return to their former homes, and managers expect to be up and running by August. The Market House’s owner, Nick Bartholomew, says it’s been a struggle, but he is happy to report that they will return, perhaps better than ever. He says the overall look of the restaurant will change quite a bit. Inside, diners will have a better view of the kitchen and there will be more separation between the dining room and the bar. Perhaps the most exciting change is that there will now be double the patios. “The two will accent the space beautifully,” Bartholomew says. Initially, they had just the one outdoor area on the sidewalk, as it did back when the space was occupied by Vivace. Now there will also be a back deck, overlooking 11th Street, which will feature its own bar. “The Market House 2.0 will bring the pop back to the new Old Market,” Bartholomew says. The neighborhood will welcome that “pop” back with open arms and ready palates.
O Asian Bistro
1015 Farnam St.
O Asian Bistro is back with a fresh take on modern Asian fare. The restaurant closed a little over two years ago due to family matters. Happily, the family is doing better, and owner Lance Wang reopened in the Old Market in December. They are no longer open for lunches, focusing instead on dinners with a monthly menu rotation. Each month will highlight a different regional cuisine of Asia: Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. Wang’s ancestry is Chinese-Korean. A Korean menu launched the new rotation of dinner specials.
Le Petit Paris French Bakery
120 Olson Drive, Suite 101
Le Petit Paris French Bakery opened a second location in Papillion just about two years ago. In March, the Papillion location added a bistro featuring some favorites from their flagship restaurant, Le Voltaire. Their terrine du jour and coq au vin are featured on both menus. There is also a wine list featuring French wines and the classic Kir Royale. The bistro is only open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings, so be sure to plan ahead.
Ollie & Hobbes Craft Kitchen
310 East Gold Coast Road
In an area in which chain restaurants abound, Ollie & Hobbes Craft Kitchen is a refreshing option (since opening in fall 2016). The décor is modern yet warm, and the food is crafty, American comfort food with a little flair. This extends to the cocktail list, which has its own special section devoted to tasty variations on the Moscow Mule.
14445 N. River Drive
If it’s been awhile since you trekked out to the Surfside Club, or if you just thought it floated away after the catastrophic 2011 flood, you need to put this Omaha favorite back on your places-to-go list. The food hasn’t changed much—fried chicken, fried catfish, and fried pork tenderloin—and everything is still served with steak fries and corn fritters. However, they now have their own boat docks, an outdoor stage, and an updated outdoor bar area. Plus, they are adding a campground with 99 RV slots, scheduled to open in spring 2018.
Apollon Art Space
1801 Vinton St.
Apollon’s goal is to provide creative space and resources for local artists, whether they be painters, writers, or chefs. To that end, their performance events feature meals that incorporate the theme of that evening. The themes are constantly changing. New menus will be created for their July board game concept, A Tabletop Gaming Throwdown, and the fairytale-themed Into the Wicked Woods in September. As this issue of Omaha Magazine went to press, the upcoming menus were still in development. If you like a little dinner with your show, this is the place you need to check out.
4833 S. 24th St.
If you are looking for authentic Guatemalan food in Omaha, well, chances are you haven’t had much luck. Fortunately, it’s changing. Chiltepes is located in the heart of South Omaha and if you ask around, you’ll quickly learn that it’s very popular with the local residents. Fried plantains, pupusas, and chuchitos can all be found here. This is the real deal.
Howard’s Charro Cafe
4443 S. 13th St.
Howard’s Charro Cafe has been a South Omaha landmark for more than 60 years, a destination for families celebrating birthdays, graduations, or anniversaries, or those just wanting a break from cooking at home. Rumors that the restaurant might close began circulating last year. Luckily, new owners decided to take on the task of keeping Howard’s alive and thriving. The new owners, Araseli and David Murillo, also own Sam’s Leon Mexican Foods (at 5014 S. 20th St.).
Smoking Jay’s BBQ
2524 S. 13th St.
While this spot has been a barbecue joint for many years, (formerly Big Horn Mountain BBQ), the current incarnation, Smoking Jay’s, is heads above the rest. Their meats are tender and juicy without the sauce. But the sauce is delicious, so don’t miss out. If you’re looking for something a little different, the pork nachos are tasty and unique, made with waffle fries and covered in barbecue pork, cheese, onions, and even jalapeños. Come for the meat, stay for the fried Oreos.
Charred Burger + Bar
1150 Sterling Ridge Drive, Suite 107
Wagyu burgers made from local meat are the focus at this new West Omaha spot (which opened in April). But that’s not all they have to offer. They have appetizers like onion rings and a pound of wings, or salads with tasty dressings, like their charred scallion vinaigrette. If you’re a traditionalist, they have a classic burger for you with all the fixin’s. But if you like a unique twist on burgers, they also have a peaches and cream sandwich, which is a chorizo-spiced pork burger with peach jam and sour cream cheese. Sounds strange, but it works.
Pan Asian Terrace
1201 S. 157th St.
From pho to pad thai to sesame chicken, Pan Asian Terrace has something to satisfy whatever Asian craving you may have. Often with large, varied (Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese) menus such as theirs, there are bound to be some misses, but so far it’s gotten rave reviews since opening in fall 2016. The service is attentive and the décor is clean and modern. The pho seems to be a particular favorite, so if you’re a little overwhelmed by the choices, start there.
301 N. 175th St.
New to Omaha, Stroud’s Restaurant has been a Kansas and Missouri favorite for decades. Known for their simple, yet delectable pan-fried chicken, it was an instant hit here, as well. It opened in October 2016, and so far they’re living up to their reputation. Which is saying something, considering they’ve won a James Beard Award for Excellence in the “Home Style” category and a Zagat Award for excellence.
203 N. 180th St.
Don’t let the unassuming, strip-mall appearance deceive you. Once inside Tavern 180, it’s clear that this polished, upscale restaurant will offer a different experience than your typical suburban mall eatery. The menus arrive on digital tablets, which allow the kitchen more freedom to change and update their offerings. The Vegas-style bar is impressive, with several unusual drinks that have delighted guests since opening in fall 2016. The “Tavern Bubbles” cocktail (along with a few other drink options) feature dry ice pellets that produce smoke and bubbles.
This concludes our food tour.
Thanks for stopping by and Stay Classy Omaha!
Do you have questions, complaints, and/or suggestions? Let us know on social media (@omahamagazine) or by e-mail at email@example.com. Your feedback will help us to plan next year’s food issue.