Hot Bites

Welcome to Hot Bites, where we share a short synopsis of all the food reviews on the site. Click through to read the full review.

Primo’s Modern Mexican  »

May 26, 2023

In the mornings, the Primo’s menu has a sort of Mexican diner vibe to it, pairing eggs all sorts of ways with warm tortillas and flavorful salsas next to sausage, bacon and home fries.

Review: Primo’s version of a Mexican diner breakfast affordably hits the spot 

The Mill Leavenworth »

May 17, 2023

I remember in 1996, when I first discovered the downtown Lincoln Mill Coffee shop, it felt like it belonged to me.  I drank countless cold granitas — a frozen coffee slushy, basically — on its Haymarket patio on warm spring days while studying journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.  Then, I was still a coffee novice, so my drink of choice during the winter months was a steaming hot, chocolatey mocha, which I read seated…

Review: At the Mill on Leavenworth, 90s coffee nostalgia meets a modern, cozy hangout 

Omaha Bagel Company »

April 27, 2023

The secret, though, is about to be out: Omaha Bagel Co. is making some damn good bagels. Tinged with the flavor of sourdough, the inside has the right amount of chew, and the exterior has an impressively bubbly, crisp crust. 

Review: At Omaha Bagel Co., from-scratch takes on new meaning 

Isla del Mar »

April 13, 2023

There is no shortage of fun at Isla del Mar.  Whimsical, colorful under-the-sea themed murals decorate the walls. The music is loud and the place always seems packed. And the food is a medley of popping pinks, reds and greens, bright with citrus, herbs, sauces and spice.  During two recent visits to the South Omaha location — the owners just opened a second location in West Omaha —  I particularly liked their versions of Mexican…

Review: At Isla del Mar, fun seafood comes with pops of bright flavor

Heavy Brewing »

March 31, 2023

The pizza at Gretna’s Heavy Brewing, which opened last November, could be throwaway, or boring, or not that tasty. But here’s the good news, beer lovers: it’s none of those things.  The super casual brewery, located in an industrial area that’s certainly off the beaten path, has already found its fan base, if the crowds during my two recent visits were any indication.  I like Heavy’s quirkily-named beers and pizzas — some with a PG-13…

Review: At Heavy Brewing, the beer and pizza names are quirky, but the food and drink are both solid

Kros Strain »

March 16, 2023

When you’re already the maker of one of the most well-liked beers in the state of Nebraska, you start asking the big questions: What’s next? What else can we do? How do we stay relevant?  After a recent visit to Kros Strain’s west Omaha tap room, it sure seems like that’s what the team of creative brewers is doing.  That best selling beer is, of course, Fairy Nectar, their signature, agreeable hazy IPA that’s fruity…

Review: At Kros Strain, it’s all about figuring out what’s next

Ota »

March 2, 2023

Today is all about bold pronouncements. I am now prepared to make several, starting here: two-time James Beard semifinalist David Utterback, who has just opened a new, upgraded omakase experience in Benson called Ota, is making the best sushi in the Midwest. Period.  I’ve been writing about Utterback’s restaurant and his omakase since 2018, when I first reviewed Yoshitomo for the Omaha World-Herald.  From day one, Utterback created a dining experience that didn’t previously exist…

Review: At Omaha’s Ota, find the best sushi experience between Chicago and Los Angeles

Tous le Jours »

February 16, 2023

Omaha has no shortage of great local bakeries — trust me, I’ve tried many. But I’d been curious as of late about a national newcomer to Omaha: Tous Les Jours, described as a French-Asian inspired bakery, something that, as far as I know, our city hasn’t ever had.  Walking through the bakery’s self-serve line, as I did one recent late morning, is both an overwhelming and delightful experience. The selection feels endless and adventurous.  Thanks…

Review: At Tous les Jours, a wide array of interesting, unusual pastries await

Kinaara »

February 2, 2023

The food at the new location of Kinaara, which moved from a Millard hole-in-the-wall to a chic spot in Regency in August, is filling a hole in Omaha’s dining scene for creative, high-end Indian food served in an atmosphere to match.  I couldn’t be more thrilled for us diners, or for owners Ashish Sathyan and Kimberly Harris, who I first met when I reviewed Kinaara way back in 2021, and then again later that year…

Review: The atmosphere at Omaha’s Kinaara now matches its adventurous, unusual menu

Phyl’s Deli »

January 26, 2023

Phyl’s deli, which opened last April in the Old Market, is tiny. Its menu is small, too – fewer than a dozen sandwiches, one soup, bagels and lox and a couple of homestyle Jewish specialties.  But what’s not small at all are the enormous piles of meat that co-owner and chef Craig Hoffman piles carefully between slices of locally homemade bread, each one topped with a specific, no-substitutions combination of thoughtfully selected cheeses and condiments. …

Review: At the tiny Phyl’s Deli, the pastrami is the real deal (and so is everything else)

Texas de Brazil »

January 5, 2023

At Texas de Brazil, the city’s first Brazilian steakhouse in the Capitol District, I can say one thing for sure: the meat just never stops coming.  During my two recent experiences at the downtown spot, which opened in October and has been much talked about since, I found that meat, when cooked to the medium rare promised at arrival, can be quite delicious, well executed and wonderfully seasoned. The salad bar is fun. So are…

Review: At Texas de Brazil, it’s the smorgasbord of meat that’s drawing a crowd

Sofra Kitchen »

December 15, 2022

If you want to understand how restaurants have changed, and perhaps how our city’s dining scene has changed, consider Sofra Kitchen, the new breakfast, lunch and soon-to-be dinner space in Midtown Crossing.  It’s taken over the former Grey Plume bay — certainly, any food lover in Omaha would agree that the Grey Plume, at its height, was one of the most ambitious, forward thinking restaurants Omaha has ever seen. Its decline and eventual closing, during…

Review: At Sofra Kitchen, Omaha’s dining past and future collide with varied results 

Twisted Cork Bistro »

November 24, 2022

The Dungeness crab pot, one of the new dishes on the menu at the newly reopened Twisted Cork Bistro, is a contact sport, in the best possible way.  I barely took any notes while I was eating it, and for good reason: I was eating crab, mussels, tiny roast potatoes, crisp-tender green beans and bread dipped in savory, hot broth, almost all of it with my hands. I absolutely love crab, and hardly ever see…

Review: Seafood and steak still rule at the newly reopened Twisted Cork Bistro

Anna’s Place »

November 10, 2022

Tucked behind a softly lit door — that light green or red, depending on luck — in the lobby of downtown’s new Hotel Indigo sits the city’s latest speakeasy, serving a succinct lineup of original, artful cocktails. If the light is green, knock with the big brass door knocker shaped like a woman. (If it’s red, you’ll have to come back later.) When that door does open, you’ll be enveloped by hot scarlet light and…

Review: At Anna’s Place, Omaha’s underground history is served in original, beautiful cocktails

Virtuoso Pizzeria »

October 27, 2022

It’s been a while since I found myself in Benson with a slice of what is, in my book, one of the city’s top pizzas.  I can’t quite say why it’s been several years — since 2017, to be exact, when I was first reviewing the restaurant — since I’ve returned. But here’s what I can say for sure: That’s way too long.  Virtuoso Pizzeria, which closed its dining room  for 22 months during the…

Review: At Benson’s Virtuoso, much has changed, but the high-quality pizza remains the same

Hacienda Real »

October 13, 2022

Sometimes when I’m deciding whether or not to review a place, I turn to Google, simply to learn a little bit more. When I googled “Hacienda Real,” the Lincoln-based, locally owned chain of Mexican restaurants that opened its third location in Omaha in August, this line popped up inside the box devoted to recent Google reviews: “Their salsa and even their guacamole was a bit too spicy for this white girl.” Say no more.  It…

Review: At Hacienda Real, home cooked Mexican and Tex-Mex hits the spot

Winchester Bar & Grill »

September 29, 2022

I’d heard a lot about Winchester Bar & Grill — in particular, about the burgers at Winchester — long before I ever set foot in the dive bar dining room a few weeks back.  I kind of love it when rumors turn out to be true.  Winchester made me feel like I was in some gem of a small town, far-flung dive bar, but with really good food. And, as a person who has spent…

Review: At Winchester Bar & Grill, your small town dive bar burger dreams come true in Omaha

Dynamite Woodfire Grill »

September 1, 2022

Dynamite Woodfire Grill, the restaurant inside the new Farnam Hotel at 12th and Farnam streets, presents diners with an interesting proposition: Would you rather dine with us, or at The Boiler Room? With us, or at V. Mertz? For its price point — our dinners, after tip, stretched to $300 one night and topped $160 a second — it’s a question worth asking. From the crowds we saw during both visits, lots of diners are…

Review: At Dynamite, some dishes are on fire, while others lack spark

Khao Niao Thai-Lao Restaurant »

August 18, 2022

Whenever a friend says something along the lines of “have you tried the Thai place on 155th and Ruggles?” a little light flips on in my head.  After two recent visits to that west Omaha hole-in-the-wall — which turns out to be called Khao Niao Thai-Lao Restaurant — I’m glad I have such friends.  This little joint needs to be on your radar, too. We found it full of colorful plates of Thai and Vietnamese…

Review: At the tiny Khao Niao, Thai and Vietnamese classics are made with care

Saffron Urban Indian Kitchen »

August 4, 2022

Saffron Urban Indian Kitchen is trying to figure out a way to stand out in Omaha.  Our city already has a lot of good neighborhood Indian spots (Kinaara is one I like) and a couple of higher-end choices (Jaipur is one I like, too.)  When you first arrive at Saffron, and take in the upscale, jewel-toned decor, the craft cocktail list and the extensive wine list, you might sense what they’re going for. You’ll notice…

Review: At Saffron, well-executed Indian classics are great, and there’s more to come

Barchen Beer Garden »

July 21, 2022

One of the toughest things a restaurant owner can take on is the reinvention of a classic. The Dundee Dell, which is nearing a century of history in midtown Omaha, is certainly that kind of an icon. So I was excited to see a successful revamp of this neighborhood spot, at 5007 Underwood Ave., when I visited twice recently. The reinvention includes the look, the aesthetic and a total rethink of the menu, transforming the…

Review: The Dundee Dell is back for a new generation of locals

Gather in Omaha »

July 7, 2022

Gather is the type of new Old Market restaurant that long-time Omaha diners haven’t seen in several years.  The Old Market arguably hasn’t welcomed a good new restaurant since 2013, several years before the infamous M’s Pub fire. Gather, located in a rebuilt space also destroyed in that fire, is working to change that — and hopefully helping to improve the Old Market’s culinary future after the neighborhood suffered through the twin Old Testament disasters…

Review: At Gather in Omaha, “something for everyone” turns out to be a rare success

Crumbl Cookies »

June 16, 2022

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)…

Review: West Omaha’s popular Crumbl Cookies are worth the hype

Koji »

June 2, 2022

Omaha’s food scene, and Omahans, have had a tough two years. We’ve lost restaurants. We’ve done our damndest to keep our local chefs and favorite spots in business. We’ve ordered a hell of a lot of takeout.   Which is one reason it felt like such a gift when Koji, chef David Utterback’s adventurous new spot in Countryside Village, opened in May. Here, at long last, a talented chef is trying something different. He’s introducing a…

Review: At Koji, small skewers of meat are pushing Omaha’s dining scene forward

Committee Chophouse »

March 28, 2022

I’ve eaten a lot of fancy hamburgers in my day (I did a whole Food Prowl back in the day on the topic of gourmet burgers, which you can read at this link and this link.) Way back in 2013, our team named the Grey Plume’s gourmet burger as our favorite, and I remember at the time having a bit of sticker shock when I saw how much it was ($16 as it was on…

Burger Review: Is this Omaha’s fanciest hamburger? I think so.

The Drover »

March 19, 2022

I’ve tried a lot of burgers in Omaha (and a lot the past two weeks!) and I have to say that The Drover, one of the city’s iconic steak spots, has perfected the burger that every single one of us wishes were the result of our own home grill. It’s thick. It’s juicy. It’s cooked to the diner’s specified temperature. It’s perfectly seasoned, topped with two slices of, in my case, Cheddar cheese, melted just…

Burger Review: The Drover’s burger is the one you wish you could grill at home

Blatt Beer & Table »

I have always enjoyed the sort of simple but upscale menu at Blatt (I especially like their kale Caesar with Indian spiced chicken, if I’m sharing favorites here.) But their trio of burgers — the Backyard burger, inspired by summer barbecues; the Border burger, topped with queso and crispy poblanos; and the one I tried here, the Blatt burger, with its Guinness-braised onions and parmesan-peppercorn sauce — each have small touches that make them memorable.…

Burger Review: Small touches make the Blatt Burger stand out

Fizzy’s Fountain & Liquors »

I am of two minds when it comes to brunch. On the one hand, I love a traditional breakfast spread: two eggs, poached; toast; bacon and some type of crispy potato. On the other? A burger all the way. Fizzy’s, a newer upscale diner spot in Little Bohemia, has flown a bit under the radar since it opened in 2020, right before the pandemic kicked in. (Fun fact: it was the last restaurant I ate…

Burger Review: Fizzy’s diner burger should be on your brunch list

Crescent Moon »

Omaha Burger Bracket season is one of the only times of year — and one of the only reasons — I would forego one of my favorite Reubens in Omaha. But in the name of burger research, I ordered the house double smash burger topped with two slices of melted cheddar. As I said, I’d never really explored the burger side of the Moon, but I remain intrigued by one of the burger choices: the…

Burger Review: In Lieu of a Reuben, I tried the Crescent Moon’s house smash burger

Kinaara »

October 7, 2021

It is a rare experience these days to be truly surprised by a dish, at least for this writer. But Kinaara’s fish Pollichathu? I was, as the kids say, shook. I found several hits and only a few complaints during a recent visit to the tiny but extremely busy Kinaara, which opened just before the pandemic kicked in hard and survived by building a brisk takeout business that’s still going strong, if the line snaking…

Review: West Omaha’s Kinaara is serving some of the most singular Indian food in town

The Speakeasy »

June 13, 2021

I thought about a lot of restaurants during the past year. One, I can say, was especially inaccessible during 2020: the Speakeasy, a restaurant I first wrote about in 2017 that’s nestled in a town formerly known as Sacramento, about three hours from Omaha, right in the heart of south central Nebraska. I thought about Chef Ryan Puls’ family-owned restaurant that he’d moved back to Nebraska to run, and I wondered if I’d ever be…

Review: Revisiting the Speakeasy, a small town gem

The Cottonwood Hotel »

May 31, 2021

The Reuben at the new Cottonwood Hotel lives up to the legend.  I’ve paid several visits to the hotel, and you may have already read my review of their Committee Chophouse and Matthew’s review of their beautiful bar. (If not, read away!) But if I’m honest, the Reuben — the Omaha classic that has its roots at this very spot, on the corner of 36th and Farnam Streets — is what I’ve most been looking forward…

Review: Cottonwood’s update on the Omaha Reuben is a winner

Committee Chophouse »

May 13, 2021

When it is the first time sitting down for dinner in a dining room in more than a year, you make it special.  You put on a long-forgotten outfit and break out a vintage bag. You make a reservation, invite some family members — some of whom you haven’t seen in more than a year! — and look forward to catching up.  You also choose somewhere exciting. In our case, it was one of Omaha’s…

Review: At the Committee Chophouse, old-school steak meets modern whimsy

The Cottonwood Room »

May 9, 2021

On a beautiful late April evening, I tugged on my mask, descended some stairs and entered an Omaha bar for the first time in 13 months. I was fully vaxxed, not quite relaxed and a little in awe of the scene before me. I heard the familiar clinking sounds, the low, comforting hum of a dozen relaxed conversations punctuated by the all-too-unfamiliar sound of strange and lovely laughter. Before me lay a circular bar bathed…

Cocktail review: The Cottonwood Room is a great place to return to indoor drinks

Taco Co. »

April 24, 2021

If there’s one thing I have always felt was true about Taco Co., in the heart of Benson, it’s that Taco Co. can’t be taken too seriously. For whatever reason — perhaps its because we’re coming out of a year of cooking our own food at home — I haven’t yet feel like serious food. (I think I will, in a mere few days, when we will be fully vaccinated, can cautiously return to sitting…

Review: Revisiting Benson’s simple, straightforward Taco Co. just feels right right now

Top 5 Omaha Pizzas »

April 14, 2021

Many, many people have strong, bold opinions about the first ever Omaha Pizza Bracket, which racked up more than 110,000 votes over the course of March Madness and closed earlier this week with its first ever winner, Mangia Italiana. In the hopes to continue the conversation — to debrief after the bracket, as one friend put it on Twitter — I thought I’d share a neat little list of all the places I hoped would…

My top five pizza spots in Omaha (that got eliminated from the pizza bracket way too soon.)

Mangia Italiana »

March 31, 2021

There’s a certain kind of pizza this town loves. I’ve described it before, but here it is again: medium-thick, pillowy crust with a crisp-chewy edge. A heavy hand of red sauce. Plenty of meat, usually including beef (this is the Beef State, after all.) A thick spread of melted cheese. Vegetables? Nah. I’ve called it many things – Omaha style pizza, softball game pizza – but I think we’ve nailed the new name for the…

Review: Mangia Italiana perfects “flyover pizza”

Timber Wood Fire Bistro »

March 24, 2021

There is a certain kind of pizza crust that I just love. It’s chewy but crispy, stretchy in the best way, sometimes with a distinctly fermented flavor. The edges are flecked with burnt spots and air bubbles, and the thin center is often topped lightly, because it’s delicate. Airy. Timber Wood Fire Grill’s pizza crust fits snugly into this specific category. And though it’s not my favorite in Omaha, it’s worth experiencing if you haven’t…

Review: Timber Wood Fired pizza nails chewy, crispy, fermented crust

Copp’s Pizza Company »

March 16, 2021

If Facebook is any indication, I might be the last pizza-lovin’ Omahan to try Copp’s Pizza. After I did finally try it, last week, I can see why it has taken social media by storm. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. It’s the kind of pizza we have all devoured hundreds of times in our lives, but…a bit better. I may be the last to realize it, but now I do: Copp’s serves ‘za with surprisingly creative…

Review: At Copp’s Pizza, the Internet’s opinion, for once, proves correct

Salmex »

February 19, 2021

It’s been a while since I have been as excited about a little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant as I have been about Salmex, a new-to-me Salvadoran spot on the edge of downtown. Here’s why: Every item we tried on the restaurant’s rather massive menu tasted like it was made with care, from scratch. There’s dishes you don’t see every day — pupusas with what feels like an endless list of options for filling, chilaquiles, tortas —…

Review: At Salmex, Salvadoran and Mexican food is made with care

Plank Seafood Provisions »

January 23, 2021

Let me be the first to say it: Most Omaha restaurants have closed their hot patios for the season. It’s been an especially challenging few weeks for us being cooped up in our home (“Join the club,” you might be saying right about now.) That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise, such a heart lifting moment when, during our recent aimless stroll around the Old Market, we saw outdoor tables and red hot glowing…

Hot patio review: Plank Seafood + Provisions

Best of 2020 »

January 9, 2021

I had no plans to recap the best food I ate in 2020. Then I saw a Facebook post written by chef David Utterback, where he featured my best of 2018 list which I wrote when I was still at the World-Herald. I sent Dave a text, and we chatted. He made a good point: “You should document even a shitty year of food.” So, here we are. And it turns out, my friend Dave…

Best of 2020: Crap year, great food

Dante Ristorante »

November 11, 2020

Three words I saw on Instagram led Matthew and I to Dante’s patio in west Omaha: black truffle pizza. Yes, it was excellent, but that’s no surprise. The experience at Dante never seems to let me down, but it had been a while since we’d dined there because Matthew and I have stuck to our “outdoors only” dining plan. But now Dante’s petite patio has heaters, enough to keep all the diners at the six…

Hot patio review: At Dante, the petite patio and excellent Italian are worth visiting

The Boiler Room »

September 9, 2020

There’s been no shortage of moments in 2020 where I have looked around my life and wondered where “normal” went. Last Friday was a moment as close to “normal” as we’ve seen in many months. Last Friday we found ourselves among the lucky handful of diners who scored a seat on the patio — newly opened for dinner — at The Boiler Room restaurant. It’s not fair to call this a review, really, because when…

Hot Patio Review: The Boiler Room’s patio is simply sublime

Best Burger Omaha »

June 18, 2020

Universal Allah figured out the focus of his restaurant after a traveler asked him one simple question: “Where can I find the best burger in Omaha?”  He set out to make it.  At Best Burger, in Florence, Allah and his partner, Ashlei Spivey, serve grass-fed black angus beef patties on brioche buns topped with all the fixings, all homemade. Think a from-scratch sweet Thai slaw, garlic aioli and barbecue sauce, among other toppings. There’s also…

Review: At Best Burger, the goal is simple: tasty burgers at the right price

Lola’s Cafe »

January 23, 2020

Lots of friends told me before I even stepped in the door that Lola’s, the new restaurant inside the Dundee Theater that took over the old Kitchen Table space, is taking a page out of the La Buvette playbook. If you read this site, you know La Buvette is my favorite restaurant in the city (and maybe the world) so I arrived at Lola’s with a fair amount of trepidation. Here’s the thing, though: Those…

Review: The delightful little Lola’s, inside the Dundee Theater, is a must-try

Umami »

January 16, 2020

I really need to get to Bellevue more. I already knew Keen Zheng’s Umami was great (and his story remains one of my favorites I’ve ever written.) If you don’t click through, here’s the short form: Keen worked at New York’s four-star restaurant Sushi Nakazawa, among other spots. But he didn’t want to open his own restaurant in Manhattan, where he said a sushi restaurant sits on almost every corner. A friend living in Omaha…

Review: Revisiting Bellevue’s Umami, which is still just great

Favorite restaurants of 2019 »

January 8, 2020

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…

TBH, these are my favorites of 2019