I’m doing the annual year-end wrap up a bit differently this year. Instead of focusing on just what I wrote about in 2019 I’m instead focusing on the entire city. (Side note: Click here to see a couple hundred stories I wrote before I left the Omaha World-Herald in 2019.)
I came up with fun categories and brainstormed my favorites in each one; they’re also all based on dining experiences I had in 2019. Some are new favorites. Some are as comfortable as my favorite pair of Dr. Martens. Either way, they’re what I got excited about last year.
They’re going to live in the TBH with SBH section of the site; and if you don’t know, that means “To Be Honest” with, well, me. I can’t wait to keep writing about Omaha food. Thanks for coming along.
Here’s to 2020.
Best hole-in-the-wall restaurant: El Basha, 7503 Pacific St. El Basha is one of those little joints I don’t get to as much as I wish I did. An excellent falafel wrap, copious amounts of fresh herbs, great hummus and a newly introduced wine list mean you should check it out, too.
Best meal for around $10: Kathmandu Momo Station, 3924 ½ Farnam St. and inside the Inner Rail food hall. An order of momos (the chicken are my favorite) comes in at under a tenner, and so does the shop’s fresh Burmese ramen. Get one of each and share with a friend.
Best use of an egg: Chovie’s egg, Au Courant, 6064 Maple St. We’ve never dined at Au Courant without ordering this rotating, creative take on an egg. It’s always different, always interesting, always delicious.
Best use of plants: The Grove Juicery, 2401 Farnam St. This little juice and smoothie joint has some of the freshest drinks in the city (they were a constant stop at this year’s farmers markets for the Hansens) and their green and white, plant-filled space feels as fresh as the menu.
Best place to spend a spring evening: La Buvette, 511 S. 11th St. You’re not surprised, are you?
Best hangover breakfast: Saddle Creek Breakfast Club, 1540 N Saddle Creek Rd. Once you get inside the restaurant (expect a wait no matter what) you’ll find one of the city’s best pancakes, a super tasty breakfast sandwich and delicious coffee from local roaster Amateur.
Best West Omaha spot: Dante, 16901 Wright Plaza, hands-down. Now in its tenth year of business, chef Nick Strawhecker and co. seem to just keep getting better. Bonus: they serve my favorite dessert in the city, butterscotch budino.
Best produce department discovery: Sumo oranges. I’ve already been scoping out every orange stand at local supermarkets for the return of the delicious oversized citrus.
New spot I’m excited to check out: Lola’s, 4952 Dodge St. I’ve heard people compare this new midtown spot, inside the Dundee Theater, to La Buvette. High praise. I’ll look forward to checking it out for myself, and reporting back.
Best restaurant in an alley: Ika San, 1114 Jones St. I just really dig the second location of Ika, in the Old Market. It never fails to knock my socks off. Don’t skip the Brussels sprouts, even if you think you’re tired of Brussels sprouts.
Most creative drink names: Tiny House Bar, 1411 S. 13th St. “It’s Britney, Bitch.” “Jon Cries Alone.” “Obama Sex Dream.” What else can I say? Read what Matthew has to say instead.
Best cinnamon roll: Modern Love Omaha, 3157 Farnam St. I had this cinnamon roll earlier next year and when I passed it by in my iPhone camera roll I was all “oohh yeah, remember that cinnamon roll from Modern Love?” It was delicious. We ate all of it.
Best new Asian: High Peak Asian (RIP) I’d chosen High Peak Asian as my favorite of the year before they announced a week or so ago that they were closing their Omaha location, with plans to reopen elsewhere. I really, really hope that happens. Until then, check out my other favorite Chinese joint: Blue & Fly, 721 S. 72nd St.
Best steak for people younger than Warren B.: Monarch Prime, 316 S. 15th St., never fails to impress me with not just its house-aged meat program, but its sheer creativity and its excellent service. If you don’t want to break the bank, Monarch also has a damn good burger.
Best burger joint: Block 16, 1611 Farnam St., I know, I know. I say it all the time. But this is the best burger in the city, period. Perfect bun, perfectly cooked patty, perfect toppings.
Best trendy vegetable: Forno, 3852 Farnam St. Cauliflower reigned supreme in 2019 and nobody does it better than Forno, where a whole head of heirloom cauliflower gets drenched tableside in a whole lotta molten cheese. Hello, lover.
Trend that needs to chill out: poke bowls. I tried a ton of them in 2019 and – I’m sorry to say – most were pretty bad. (The best one in town is at Pokeworks, 10351 Pacific St.) I think we can take a break from new mediocre poke spots in 2020.
Trend that needs to come to Omaha: spirit-free cocktails. Maybe I’m just being influenced by my current state of dry January, but it would be really cool if some of this town’s super talented bartender set made some spirit-free drinks as good as the spirited ones they make on the regular. “Zero proof” cocktails are becoming more common elsewhere, I hope we get some here in 2020.
Best toast: Farine + Four, 3020 Leavenworth St., Toast has been trendy for a while now, and nobody does it better than Farine + Four. Their toast is built on the best bread, comes with the best toppings and offers the most beautiful presentation I’ve seen anywhere in town.
Best late night food: Nite Owl, 3902 Farnam St., Omaha still isn’t a late night food town, but Nite Owl has done a lot to change that, with its late-night menu of tots, excellent burgers, super tasty sliders and some of the most solid cocktails in town.
Best single thing I ate in Omaha this year: the menu at Yoshitomo’s Hakkoku Omakase. When a world-famous sushi chef comes to Omaha, you go. I was lucky enough to attend David Utterback’s collaboration with chef Hiroyuki Sato, a Michelin-starred sushi chef from Tokyo. Utterback continues to use his influence to push our city’s food scene forward. I can’t wait for the next great experience I have at his restaurant. (p.s. Check out my Instagram for a story highlight that shows every piece of sushi from the Hakkoku dinner.)
Best single thing I ate outside of Omaha this year: The tasting menu at Copenhagen’s Geranium. The food scene in Denmark is incredible, and our memorable meal at Geranium – the country’s only three Michelin star restaurant – was, not surprisingly, outstanding from amuse bouche to third dessert. One of the many dishes we had is the one pictured at the top of this story. While you’re over at my Instagram, you can check out my other story highlight detailing the entire meal.