Whether starting as a freshman or getting ready for senior year, heading to college is all about routine—which classes are needed, where they’re located, and how to get there. Once the hectic pace of settling in settles down, there’s still one all-important question that needs answered: where to eat?
Omaha Magazine asked three of its seasoned, former interns where they and their classmates like to frequent and why. Each writer represents their respective institutions and takes both cost and location into account, though taste and variety still seem to hold sway over all else.
College of St. Mary
by Pumulo Kasaji
As (often broke) college students, it can be difficult to find affordable places to eat with friends that will please all. Fortunately, Omaha is a diverse area that caters to many palates. Between classes, jobs, extracurricular activities, and spatial concerns, it’s not often easy to cook a whole meal. But with the College of Saint Mary campus located near 72nd Street and West Center Road, it’s easy to find places to hang out, grab some food, and have a good time.
Place: Mai Thai
Distance: 0.4 miles
Favorite Item: Mango Beef Fried Rice
One of the benefits of being in this area is having Aksarben Village close to campus. Finding an eating establishment that’s within walking distance isn’t difficult, and Mai Thai is the place to go when students want to try something new (and relatively healthy) without breaking the bank. They have everything from fried rice, to pad thai, to pho, though they are known for their signature Chicken Mango dish.
Place: Wing Stop
Distance: 0.5 miles
Favorite Item: Traditional lemon pepper wings with a side of corn
Everyone knows wings aren’t just for game days, and Wing Stop makes it easy to get your favorites to go. With a variety of flavors and several decadent sides to choose from, Wing Stop is a go-to destination for a late-night food session. The wait time for an order is usually 20-30 minutes, so it’s a good idea to call ahead when ordering takeout.
Place: Ponzu Sushi
Price: $6-$10/roll, entrees up to $22
Distance: 0.3 miles
Favorite Item: Maui Wowie/Loco Coco
Ponzu Sushi is the perfect place for a night out with friends or a date with a significant other. Its location makes it a good spot to hit up before or after a movie at Aksarben Cinema. Though Ponzu is known for its sushi, their menu features much more. Items include traditional sushi rolls, sandwiches, salads, a variety of entrees, and desserts. Ponzu is a reasonably priced restaurant for college students on a budget looking for fine dining. Bonus: they have a regular happy hour Sunday through Saturday and a reverse happy hour on Friday and Saturday nights.
Place: The Churro Truck
Price: $9 for 4 tacos
Distance: call 402.213.1522 for location
Favorite Item: Carne Asada tacos
This place is a little unconventional, as it is a food truck rather than a brick-and-mortar store. While they don’t have a permanent location (yet—fingers crossed!), this truck can be found at most major events around town. One can find the daily location of the truck with a phone call. The Churro Truck sells not only churros, but tacos, horchata, elotes, and other authentic Mexican food. This might sound dramatic, but these are the best tacos I have ever eaten (and I’m from California). A hunt for these tacos is definitely worth it!
by Kate Smith
For Creighton students who often spend every day of their first two years eating from the campus cafeteria, excursions to local restaurants are a welcome change. Student favorites Salween Thai, California Tacos & More, and Amsterdam Falafel offer different options for always-hungry students without putting much strain on their pockets. And they have one other thing in common: a meal students can’t find in the dining hall.
Place: Salween Thai
Distance: 2.5 miles
Favorite dish: Pad Thai
At Creighton, a freshman’s first visit to the Salween Thai on Northwest Radial Highway is a rite of passage. With cozy booths, low lighting, and quick service, it’s the perfect place for a weeknight study break or a weekend excursion from campus. On any given night, there will likely be as many as five tables of Creighton students grabbing a bite. Their menu offers a wide range of dishes that are tailored to order, with a chili spice level ranging from one to 10. Start low until you have a good gauge of their spice levels. Crowd favorites include Pad Thai, Drunken Noodle, Fried Woon Sen, Broccoli Beef, and Red Curry.
Place: California Taco
Distance: 1.5 miles
Favorite dish: Cali Taco
Named for the street shared by this restaurant and Creighton University, California Tacos & More serves the most filling taco you will find for $7. Made with a deep-fried shell and packed full with beef, chicken, fish, or bean and cheese, and topped with lettuce, cheese, and add-ins from the condiment bar, the “Cali Taco” is what keeps students coming back. (And what got it noticed by the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.) Students who dine in can sit in a lively, open space filled with Southwestern sculptures, signs, and wall hangings. You can also get your Cali Taco to go—it will be just as good by the time you make it home.
Place: Amsterdam Falafel
Distance: 3 miles
Favorite dish: Falafel plate with curry fries ($8.25)
With a menu based on the concept of a popular European street food, Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob in Dundee is a small restaurant with big flavors. Take your pick of falafel or kebab (chicken or beef and lamb)—and try out their sauces—on a pita, salad, or plate with hummus. A side of curry fries completes the meal, and is served with ketchup, mayonnaise, and a mini fork to keep your hands clean. Students are attracted to Amsterdam’s homey charm, fresh ingredients, and vegetarian or vegan options for a low price (and eCreamery is right next door).
University of Nebraska at Omaha
by Samantha Weideman
University of Nebraska at Omaha’s students are diverse, so it’s no surprise that their taste in food is as well. One thing the Mavericks have in common, however, is that they prefer it classy and cheap. The spots on this list—Coneflower Creamery, M’s Pub, Ika Ramen and Izakaya, and Lighthouse Pizza—are affordable and in some of the best locations in the city. It doesn’t hurt that they’re relatively close to campus.
Place: Coneflower Creamery
Distance: 1.8 miles
Favorite dish: Blackstone Butterbrickle
There’s always a line out the door at Coneflower Creamery (yes, even in the snow), and the seating runs out quickly. This shop, located in the heart of the Blackstone District, has a rotating selection of seasonal and funky flavors, in addition to classic vanilla, chocolate, and Blackstone Butterbrickle (a Blacktone must). Coneflower also has vegan ice creams and freshly made gluten-free sugar cones. The record selection—which usually includes classic blues—that plays in the shop is a huge plus. Coneflower also believes in supporting other local businesses—they sell Scriptown Brewery’s sodas in-store—and, in true farm-to-cone fashion, using ingredients from local farms and bakeries in their creations.
Place: M’s Pub
Distance: 4.1 miles
Favorite dish: Thai Lahvosh
M’s Pub looks—and tastes—upscale, yet is still affordable for most. It’s perfect for a delicious meal after spending a day downtown. Many of their entrees are the price of a steakhouse appetizer and filling to boot; M’s Famous Lahvosh, an Armenian cracker with Havarti cheese, is the size of a large dinner plate. The menu includes several variations of the dish, but the Thai Lahvosh ($12.95) is the standout. M’s Pub doesn’t use a fryer, so your side options are a small salad (with their famous poppy seed vinaigrette) or their soup of the day, which never disappoints. If you’re visiting on the weekend, it’s best to call ahead and make a reservation.
Place: Ika Ramen and Izakaya
Distance: 2.2 miles
Favorite dish: Pork belly steam buns
Those who enter Ika Ramen and Izakaya are greeted with hip-hop music, graffiti on the walls, and anime playing behind the bar. Ika’s intimate seating is ideal for a daytime visit, or late at night after a concert (or a long night of studying) with convenient hours of 11-2 a.m. on the weekends. The best time to go is during their reverse happy hour (10 p.m. to 12 a.m. Fridays), for the two-for-$4 pork belly steam buns and $2 off ramen. Bonus: If you’re trying to impress your friends or a date after dinner, Kaitei, the speakeasy downstairs, is the perfect spot to do so.
Place: Lighthouse Pizza
Distance: 1.6 miles
Favorite dish: Ed & Sal
Lighthouse Pizza, located in the same strip center as PepperJax Grill off Pacific Street, hosts a menu of 9-inch pizza slices (or whole pizzas, if you’re into that sort of thing), all with the option of unique toppings and a side of Lighthouse Sauce. If the pizza doesn’t fill you up, Lighthouse offers side salads, garlic bread, and fries. The Ed & Sal slice ($6.35), topped with bacon and parmesan fries and drizzled with their signature sauce, is perfect for leftovers. The best part? If you’re short on time between classes, they also have a drive-thru.
This is by no means a complete list of all the places college students frequent. However, it does offer a glimpse into Omaha’s food scene and is proof that they know what’s good.
This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.