This year it is more important than ever to keep our dollars in Omaha and shop local this holiday season. It’s also more important than ever to support our local, beloved bars and restaurants, especially if we want to keep them open beyond the pandemic.
To that end, here’s six ideas to consider for all those gifts you still have to buy — and if all else fails, buy yourself a gift and do the industry a favor. I promise they’ll appreciate it.
Buy a gift card
The most obvious thing you can do when you don’t want to dine out indoors and it’s too brisk to dine outside is buy a gift card for use post-pandemic. The good thing here: It’s a choose-your-own-adventure style game of gift giving, so you don’t really need my advice.
Choose your favorite restaurant, your parents’ favorite restaurant, a restaurant on your list to try or a place you just couldn’t bear to see close as a result of Covid-19.
Buy a bottle (or a case) of wine
I’ve seen some stunningly good wine deals this season. Three of my favorite spots to get your perfect Christmas dinner pairings: Corkscrew, with locations in Blackstone and Rockbrook; Eleven Eleven, a newer wine bar and bottle shop in Benson; and Howard Street Wine Merchant, in the Old Market.
We’ve also brought home an extra bottle or two from La Buvette along with our takeout dinner and cheese plates. Add one onto your gift card tab, your takeout order or buy a few to last you or a friend through the new year.
Support a black owned business
The list we built earlier this year now features more than 80 black owned businesses in Omaha and Lincoln. Supporting any of them with a takeout meal, a meal kit or by buying a gift card would make a great gift; I wrote about two: Dripped + Draped, a creative Benson coffee shop; and Best Burger, an affordable and tasty burger spot in Florence. We’ve ordered takeout or dined in the past at several others, including the now legendary Big Mama’s, Emery’s Cafe, Lalibela Ethiopian and O’Leaver’s Kitchen.
Buy a pound of coffee
Omaha has no shortage of good coffee, and especially this year, my morning coffee ritual has become even more important. To that end, I think a bag of beans and a special mug (Made In Omaha has some cute ones, and a similar mug from Goldenrod Pastries is in heavy rotation at our house) is a rock-solid holiday gift.
We have several coffee favorites in Omaha and one in Lincoln: Archetype’s “Home Model” blend, the “Benchmark” blend from Hardy Coffee, Rally’s seasonal blend and the good old fashioned Nebraska Blend from the Mill in Lincoln, which is lightly flavored but not overpowering. (If you don’t care for flavored coffee, their single origin Sulawesi and Timor beans are also on regular rotation in our Chemex or drip coffee pot.)
Get a cocktail kit to go
If I have missed dining out at restaurants this year, I have missed seeing my friendly bartender friends and drinking their delicious drinks at least equally as much. If you have a friend like me, get them a cocktail kit to tide them over until we all get vaccinated.
A few I like: Tiny House Bar has been going hard all year, with its drive-thru drinks and excellent cocktail kits, two of which I bought and reviewed this year. I’ve also been looking forward to trying take and makes from Krug Park, who just introduced a whole lineup, as well as The Trap Room, in North Downtown. Maven Social, who owns The Berry and Rye, Alice and Laka Lono, among others, introduced a holiday cocktail box that features a drink from each of their bars.
Try a take-and-make meal or pick up takeout
This is really a gift for yourself. Everyone deserves a little chef-cooked food when the sun goes down so early and there’s little to do most evenings other than watch Netflix or read or try and stay up past 9pm just to see if you can do it any more. Anyway!
This spring our house got well-versed in the take and make world (Block 16 and Au Courant are serving some of the best ones we tried.) Lots of local spots are beefing up their take-and-make offerings now that it’s both winter and the holiday season. The new meal kit service at Le Bouillon has me intrigued; at the very least, I’m definitely ordering a roast chicken. I also am constantly into the to-go offerings from Lola’s, inside the Dundee Theater. On their social media, they share boules of sourdough and packaged cheese and meat boards perfect for your holiday family Zoom or virtual happy hour.
Here’s the other thing: Matthew and I have very little on the agenda, so instead of relying on delivery services, we’ve been driving to pick up takeout meals directly from restaurants. It keeps our money local, we’re able to tip the staff and servers, and it gets us out of the house. Plus, it puts you in the holiday spirit, doing something nice for your favorite takeout joint or bar. I highly suggest it.