Sometimes a restaurant opening creates such an intense amount of buzz, it becomes unavoidable. In those rare cases, I simply have to check out whatever it is people are finding so irresistible.
That’s what happened after I started hearing murmurs about a cookie place called Crumbl, which opened nine weeks ago in West Omaha.
As the days went on, I could not escape the news of Crumbl (full disclosure: I had never heard of it) on Facebook, on my phone’s news alerts, or on Instagram, where all of a sudden I started receiving an onslaught of cookie marketing.
That’s how I found myself leaving the house one recent weekday morning at 7:30 a.m. in pursuit of a box of Crumbl cookies. Driving to West Omaha for eggs at that hour? Sure. But for cookies? That is, most definitely, a first for me.
“All we do is put a sign up at one of our new locations,” said Beth Young, the owner of the Omaha Crumbl franchise, who I talked to after my visit. “We don’t do any other marketing. The sign does the work.”
I’ll say. Young, who opened several Crumbl stores in Phoenix before moving to Omaha to run the franchise here, said the Omaha store had one of the busiest openings the Utah-based cookie company has ever had. Those cookie lovers are still coming in droves, and the shop, near 168th and West Center Road, is currently one of the highest performing Crumbl locations in the country.
Several times, it sold out of every cookie in the joint and had to close early.
After sampling seven of Crumbl’s cookies — the five on the menu this week, and two holdovers from last week’s lineup — I can say with certainty that they’re quite good.
Some are creative. Some are satisfyingly familiar. Some are almost impossible to get: The shop’s version of a Rice Krispie treat was already sold out when I arrived at 8:02 a.m.
Crumbl is tucked in between a cell phone repair shop and a nail salon, but the white rope outside — think the kind of thing you generally see outside of a busy nightclub — makes it easy to spot.
When I pulled up, a half dozen people were already waiting in line. Unlike me, a Crumbl newbie, almost all of them had used the Crumbl app to place their orders ahead of time. (It turns out that’s why the Rice Krispie treats were already sold out, plus, Young said they can’t make enough to keep up with the demand.)
Customers are greeted enthusiastically by an army of teenagers behind the counter, each working feverishly to scoop, weigh and place cookie dough on oversized sheet pans. Young told me the Omaha store has almost 100 employees, and it’s still not enough. A second store, planned for the 156th and Maple Street area, will employ another hundred people when it opens later this summer.
The shop is relatively tiny: just a small waiting area and a walk up counter without seating, inside or out. It smells fantastic: a mix of warm cinnamon, brown sugar and baking spices. A candle company would make a mint if it could recreate that aroma. (There’s an upsell idea for you, Crumbl franchise owners.)
It’s hard to critique the service in a place with no tables or wait staff, but the employees at Crumbl are friendly, and showing each customer the contents of their cookie box before they hand it over is a nice touch.
The cookies of the week are displayed on a board on the counter, and the menu selections, aside from classic milk chocolate chip, rotate weekly. Customers don’t know what they’re in for the following week, which Young said keeps them coming back for more.
I managed to get every cookie on this week’s menu: milk chocolate chip, original with M&M’s, peanut butter cup with Reese’s, peach sugar featuring Peach O’s and caramel shortbread featuring Twix. (You still have a few days to get these particular selections.)
Of the lineup, the chocolate chip stands out in its simple perfection. Served warm, its exterior is lightly crisp, and its interior the right level of underbaked (gooey, not dried out) and studded with half-melted chips. It is an exceptionally good, not too sweet version of a classic.
I am a sucker for a Twix bar, and the Twix cookie takes what you already know (crisp wafer, caramel and chocolate) and amps that combination up to eleven, with additional layers of buttery cookie, sticky caramel and shiny chocolate. It’s rich and intense.
I also liked the pure peanutty flavor of the Reese’s cookie, which has some triple layer peanut action happening: a thick peanut butter cookie, a peanut butter glaze on the top and crumbled candy on the top of that. Its texture is denser than the rest of the cookies I tried, and it’s probably the sweetest of the bunch. I liked its intensity.
I was less a fan of the peach sugar with a peach ring; though it perfectly mimics the flavor of the candy, to me, it tasted more artificial than I’d prefer. The M&M is good — a cousin of the milk chocolate chip — but I’d pick the former if I were choosing just one.
The shop also had two other cookies available when I visited — iced oatmeal and orange creamsicle — which were part of the previous week’s lineup. Young said sometimes the shop doesn’t run out of ingredients at week’s end, so they’ll bake the previous week’s cookies until those ingredients are gone.
Of the two, the oatmeal was superior, with its satisfyingly chunky texture, hint of brown sugar and razor-thin coating of transparent glaze. Much like the other fruity cookie, the orange creamsicle, in my book, was just okay. Though beautifully frosted with a thick layer of buttercream and a finish more cake-like than the other cookies, I wished it were vanilla or chocolate instead.
Crumbl has more than 300 cookies on its rotating menu, Young said, and the reason for such a large lineup is simple: Not everybody likes every type of cookie. Like me, Young said the fruit-forward cookies aren’t her favorites. But some customers, she said, line up for those in particular.
Crumbl puts a premium on its oversized desserts and singular recipes, and one cookie runs $3.94. A half dozen is $18.76 and a “party box” is $32.87. The shop also sells milk (which I think is adorable), ice cream and water. For a buck, you can get your cookies gift wrapped.
So yes, Omaha has been buzzing about Crumbl. But it turns out that hype is worth its weight in chocolate chip cookie dough. If you can get your hands on a box, I think you’ll agree.
2883 S. 168th St., In Lakeside
Hours: Monday Through Thursday, 8 A.M. To 10 P.M., Friday and Saturday 8 A.M. to Midnight. Closed Sunday.