There’s an old statistic that bounces around in Nebraska: Omaha has the most restaurants per capita of any city of comparable size (around 1 million people in the metro area). The factoid is repeated over and over, and its accuracy has ceased to matter. It persists as a point of pride, a rallying call for the state’s largest city, where locals love eating out.
Above all else, Omaha is about steak, medium rare. Steakhouses range from the nearly century-old Johnny’s Cafe to the modern Committee Chophouse, where big cuts of meat come with big prices. Don’t forget burgers, topped with ham and fried eggs, packed with bulgogi, or slathered with bourbon bacon jam.
Meanwhile, many of the city’s most innovative chefs are looking abroad. You’ll find haute French cuisine in the historic Old Market with natural wines and craft cocktails, and creative sushi made with smoked, charred, or aged fish. There are also neighborhood gems to seek out, places serving excellent Indian, Mexican, Thai, Chinese, Lebanese, Nepalese, and kosher food. The city also boasts good vegan cooking from celebrity chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz, bars from dives to cocktail lounges, and plenty of locally brewed craft beer.
COVID-19 forced Omaha chefs to reinvent their business models over and over again. Sit-down restaurants pivoted to takeout, including chef David Utterback of Yoshitomo, who took his fish on the road with a “homakase” delivery program. Some restaurants developed in-house delivery systems for the first time, while many others turned unused outdoor space into patios. In spite of the pandemic, though, only a handful of restaurants closed in Omaha, thanks in part to the loyal patronage of those same locals who passionately spout about the city’s restaurants per capita.
From stalwart Salvadoran pupusas, to bulgogi burgers at a craft coffee house, to — yes — plenty of red meat, here’s where to eat in Nebraska’s biggest city.
This article originally appeared on Eater.com.
Note: The inclusion of restaurants offering dine-in service should not be taken as an endorsement for dining inside. Studies indicate a lower exposure risk to COVID-19 outdoors, but the level of risk is contingent on social distancing and other safety guidelines. Check with each restaurant for up-to-date information on dining offerings. For updated information on coronavirus cases in your area, please visit the City of Omaha website.
16901 Wright Plaza #173, Omaha, NE 68130, (402) 932-3078
Not only is Dante serving some of the best modern Italian in Omaha, it’s also become one of west Omaha’s most-hopping hotspots. Known mostly for excellent wood-fired Neapolitan pizza, Dante also serves a wide selection of wonderful homemade pastas and a killer lasagna in the winter months. In December 2020, owner Nick Strawhecker turned over the kitchen to chef Drew Statz, who has continued a focused menu of seasonal specials. The trimmed-down Italian wine list and cocktail menu are full of hits, too.
13816 P St, Omaha, NE 68137, (402) 895-3463
Co-owners Ashish Sathyan and Kimberly Harris opened Kinaara in early 2020, right before the pandemic kicked into full swing. The restaurant switched to curbside pickup and closed its dining room, and now offers a brisk takeout business along with full-service dining popular enough to incite a wait on weekend evenings. Sathyan is from the Southern Indian state of Kerala, and it’s reflected across the menu. There are several versions of moilee, a spicy South Indian curry, and fish pollichathu, a weekends-only special of citrusy salmon wrapped in a large banana leaf and cooked until flaky.
3. The Bagel Bin
1215 S 119th St, Omaha, NE 68144, (402) 334-2744
A west Omaha staple for more than 40 years and the city’s only kosher bakery, the Bagel Bin serves New York-style bagels using the Brezack family’s Polish recipes. The golden-hued egg bagel is a local favorite, but there are standards like everything, onion, and Asiago too. Lox is available as part of a cream cheese spread and on its own, paired with capers and onions. The menu also includes bagel sandwiches, a few side dishes, and a rotating soup option, making it a popular spot for both breakfast and lunch.
4. El Basha Mediterranean Grill
7503 Pacific St., Omaha, NE, 68114, (402) 934-6266
El Basha serves Mediterranean staples with careful touches and generous doses of fresh cilantro, parsley, and other bright herbs. Their falafel wrap, studded with briny pickles, is great; so are the house-made hummus and other Lebanese specialties like baba ghanoush, creamy lentil soup, and kebabs.
5. The Drover
2121 S 73rd St, Omaha, NE 68124, (402) 391-7440
After recovering from a kitchen fire in late 2018, the Drover reopened for business in 2019, only to temporarily close a second time in 2020. Now reopened for indoor dining with new guidelines in place, the restaurant has slightly updated its dining room, but all the vintagey cowboy charm remains. Get the famous bone-in rib-eyes, dipped in a secret whiskey-based marinade and cooked to the perfect char. Don’t skip the salad bar, with its cold metal plates and old-school bacon bits.
6. Blue & Fly Asian Kitchen
721 S 72nd St suite 111, Omaha, NE 68114, (402) 504-6545
Omaha has many great casual Chinese spots, but the best is Blue & Fly. They serve Americanized old-school classics like lo mein and chop suey, but also what they call a “traditional” menu of dishes like sauteed bok choy, mapo tofu, and scrambled egg and tomato. One highlight is the searingly hot fish and Sichuan peppercorn stew (available for dine-in only) made with tender whitefish submerged in a spicy broth. The restaurant also offers delivery and curbside pickup.
7. Krug Park
6205 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104, (402) 932-0038
Krug Park opened at the height of Benson’s second coming in popularity. The bar was initially packed to the gills, as people crowded in to sample the regularly rotating craft beers on tap and solid list of bloody marys and craft cocktails. Now it’s settled comfortably into middle age, but the worn wood floors, booths and bar seating, and cozy patio are as tempting as ever. Krug is far from a dive, but it offers a certain modern comfort that’s hard to beat.
8. Ika Ramen
6109 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104, (402) 558-2482
Ika is one of the few restaurants that planned an expansion during the pandemic, and the team successfully opened a third location, its first suburban ramen shop, in early 2021. All three locations are known for classics like tonkotsu, a verdant Mary Jane ramen served with chicken, a bowl of super spicy “hot noods,” and killer poke and donburi bowls served with rice, raw or cooked proteins, and house-made sauces.
9. Au Courant Regional Kitchen
6064 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104, (402) 505-9917
Au Courant pivoted to weekend “family meals” during 2020, serving homestyle classics like chicken pot pie, lasagna, and meatloaf. Now the Benson restaurant is open again for dine-in, though only serving its six-course tasting menu ($75 a diner). The selections rotate regularly, but are always local, seasonal, and creative. With an interesting wine list and fun craft cocktails, Au Courant remains one of the most popular options among the town’s newer restaurants.
6009 Maple St, Omaha, NE 68104, (402) 916-5872
Chef David Utterback’s Benson sushi spot got hit hard in 2020. But he answered the challenge, converting the majority of his restaurant into a takeout operation and offering “homakase,” an at-home version of his excellent omakase service complete with a video explaining each bite to home diners. Since Yoshitomo has reopened for indoor dining, Utterback is back at it in-person, presenting fish fresh, aged, pickled, smoked, and/or blowtorch-seared.
11. Lola’s Cafe
4952 Dodge St, Omaha, NE 68132, (402) 850-7585
Lola’s, a sweet little bistro inside Film Streams’ Dundee Theater, opened just before the pandemic, pivoted to takeout, and is now open again for dine-in. The simple menu is focused on wine, house-baked bread, meat, cheese, and a shortlist of French-inspired main dishes. The restaurant is Omaha’s new “dinner and a movie” destination, though the kale salad, spiked with candied nuts and jalapenos, and great cheese plate, are enough to warrant a visit when nothing good is playing.
12. Dario’s Brasserie
4920 Underwood Ave, Omaha, NE 68132, (402) 933-0799
Chef and owner Dario Schicke continues to serve mussels, crepes, excellent frites, brunch, and great beer selections at his namesake spot. The surrounding Dundee neighborhood was maybe hardest hit by the pandemic with several significant restaurant closures, but Dario’s weathered the storm. The team first pivoted to takeout and then opened a garage door to turn a private dining room into an open-air dining space. Neighborhood regulars helped the staff construct a four-season patio, too.
13. Saddle Creek Breakfast Club
1540 N Saddle Creek Rd, Omaha, NE 68104, (402) 932-5970
Saddle Creek Breakfast Club, a wildly popular Midtown breakfast spot, closed for a month in 2020 while its owner and chef, Chase Thomsen, entered a rehabilitation program. The restaurant community rallied around Thomsen, and now SCBC is back open, complete with a new patio that has proved popular during the pandemic. Among the restaurant’s greatest hits are banana pancakes, biscuits and gravy, and a kimchi omelet.
14. The Homy Inn
1510 N Saddle Creek Rd, Omaha, NE 68104,(402) 554-5815
Most Omahans would use just three words to describe one of the city’s most iconic dive bars: Champagne on tap. Sweet, dry, strawberry, or peach bubbly comes by the glass or the pitcher. Pair your choice with a hot bowl of peanuts or popcorn, grab a booth, and admire the kitschy decorations. The walls are covered in old newspapers, while the tables are decorated with various vintage collections like baseball cards, bottle caps, and swizzle sticks.
15. Salween Thai
1102 NW Radial Hwy, Omaha, NE 68132, (402) 884-5375
Salween began as a standalone Midtown restaurant and now boasts four locations all over the city. Already established as one of the most popular takeout and delivery spots in Omaha, its popularity (and sometimes the wait) surged during the pandemic. Among the most popular dishes are pad thai and Panang curry, though there are some hidden gems on the menu, including coconut chicken noodle soup and larb.
16. La Casa Pizzaria
4432 Leavenworth St, Omaha, NE 68105, (402) 556-6464
Omahans either love La Casa or they hate it. The restaurant’s pizzas come with two divisive elements: thin crusts with flaky, biscuity edges, and the option to add Romano cheese, which many diners equate with the scent of gym socks. If you count both of those as wins, then choose from a variety of topping combinations, most involving ground beef, mushrooms, and/or onions. They also serve other Italian American classics, including fried ravioli and seasonal stuffed cannoli, and do a brisk takeout business at all three locations.
17. Kathmandu Momo Station
3924 1/2 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68131, (402) 594-6004
Kathmandu Momo Station, from co-owners Sagar Gurung and Aagya Subedi, focuses on Nepalese dumplings and Burmese ramen, two dishes diners will be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the city — and two dishes locals have wholeheartedly embraced. The momos come in three varieties: pork, chicken, and vegetarian, paired with a selection of mild-to-spicy sauces. The original Blackstone location shares space with Scriptown Brewing, but the second location in Aksarben features an expanded menu, including Subedi’s tea leaf salad.
18. Coneflower Creamery
3921 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68131, (402) 913-2399
Expect a line at Coneflower Creamery. The tiny ice cream shop has become a destination with its “farm to cone” practices, local ingredients, and homemade everything down to the sprinkles. For an extra-special treat, get your scoops sandwiched between two warm chocolate chip cookies, or try one of their creative seasonal flavors, like burnt toast with rhubarb jam.
19. Nite Owl
3902 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68131, (402) 991-6767
Nite Owl became “Omaha famous” with its totchos, crispy tater tots topped with queso, salsa verde, queso fresco, crema, red onion, and cilantro. But the restaurant and bar, designed to look like your grandparents’ basement, has so much more to offer: a great burger and fries, meaty and vegan sliders, and an endlessly creative bar staff. Look out for drinks like the Time Lord, with Pimm’s, Branca Menta, cucumber oleo saccharum, pineapple, and lime; and the Strawberry Switchblade, featuring old tom gin, Cocchi Americano, yellow Chartreuse, strawberry, balsamic, lemon, and “buzzing basil foam.”
20. The Committee Chophouse
302 S 36th St, Omaha, NE 68131, (402) 810-9500
Inside the newly renovated Cottonwood Hotel — formerly the Blackstone — the Committee Chophouse is historic Omaha given new life. The restaurant serves vintage cuts of meat, like the Delmonico and steak Diane, alongside more modern dishes like tea-smoked duck and seasonal, vegetable-heavy risotto. Don’t skip the restaurant’s take on the classic Reuben, which was purportedly invented at the hotel. The chef’s update has a hint of vinagery mustard that cuts right through the heaviness. End your meal with an old-school baked Alaska, or seek out a nightcap at the Cottonwood Room, the hotel’s cocktail bar.
21. Crescent Moon
3578 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68131, (402) 345-1708
The Crescent Moon made its name on the Reuben — purportedly invented right across the street at the newly renovated Cottonwood Hotel, nee Blackstone — and it maintains one of the best versions you’ll find in Omaha, made with especially chunky corned beef. The Moon is part of Beer Corner USA, a quartet of connected beer-focused businesses that also includes Huber Haus (which serves Bavarian snacks and German beer in boots), the newly remodeled Max & Joe’s (which focuses on Belgian beer), and beer store Beertopia. Explore the whole compound, or just stick around Crescent Moon, where 45 taps provide more than enough entertainment.
22. Modern Love
3157 Farnam St Suite 7113, Omaha, NE 68131, (402) 614-6481
After Modern Love pivoted to takeout for the majority of 2020 and into 2021, Midtowners hailed the return of dining at the restaurant. Chef and cookbook author Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s vegan comfort food includes staples like mac and shews (made with cashew cheese) and decadent desserts, which have become citywide favorites.
23. Big Mama’s Kitchen and Catering
2112 North 30th Street, Accelerator Suite 201, Omaha, NE 68111, (402) 455-6262
Patricia “Big Mama” Barron originally opened her restaurant inside a former school building in North Omaha in 2007, but in early 2020 the business moved to the Highlander Accelerator project, a new food hall off North 30th street. Barron’s daughter, Gladys Harrison, runs the new space, where she maintains her mother’s recipes, including skillet cornbread that has been in the family for more than 100 years, sweet potato pie, and oven-fried chicken.
24. Time Out Foods
3518 N 30th St, Omaha, NE 68111, (402) 451-2622
One of the city’s oldest Black-owned restaurants, Time Out Foods serves some of the best fried chicken in Omaha, thanks to a cayenne-heavy blend of secret spices mixed right into the batter before the meat is fried to a golden crisp. The restaurant closed temporarily in 2019 after the passing of owner Steve Mercer, but his family revived the historic business during the pandemic. The well-known drive-thru also returned, drawing lines of hungry diners throughout 2020.
25. Dinker’s Bar and Grill
2368 S 29th St, Omaha, NE 68105, (402) 342-9742
Dinker’s is so serious about serving the city’s best burgers, the little dive boasts an entire flattop grill devoted to crisping buns. The local favorite is the haystack burger, topped with ham, cheese, and a fried egg, paired with a domestic beer in a frosty bottle. Bring cash.
26. Johnny’s Cafe
4702 S 27th St, Omaha, NE 68107, (402) 731-4774
Johnny’s Café is now officially the oldest restaurant in Omaha, serving beef for 99 years near the city’s historic stockyards. The lobby, filled with old menus from the restaurant’s past, is worth the visit alone. Go for a classic cocktail at the kitschy bar filled with cowboy memorabilia, and don’t skip an order of the delicious onion rings.
27. El Dorado
5134 S 24th St, Omaha, NE 68107, (402) 734-1555
Nestled on South 24th Street, El Dorado is known for its parrilladas, extensive grilled platters. Go for the seafood option, stacks of fresh fish, shellfish, assorted seafood, sauces, garnishes, and house-made tortillas. Be sure to bring a few friends; the feasts can feed several people for dinner.
709 S 24th St, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 506-4591
This tiny Salvadoran spot serves up thick homemade pupusas for just $2, arguably the best deal you’ll find anywhere in town. They come filled with a wide variety of beans, cheese, shrimp, spinach, and several other protein and vegetable combinations. There are also massive burritos, tacos, and several seafood and sandwich options, all available for takeout and delivery as well.
29. Block 16
1611 Farnam St, Omaha, NE 68106, (402) 342-1220
When Paul and Jessica Urban took over a little-known downtown gyro spot, few expected it would morph into the city’s most popular lunch spot. The couple, both trained in fine dining, created a solid list of classic dishes, including a burger that’s one of the best in the city, as they faded out the gyros. These days they work up creative daily lunch specials that range from standard (a killer Reuben) to wacky (crispy fried chicken hearts on fresh corn tortillas with Salvadoran crema, hot sauce, pickled peppers, cilantro slaw, and crushed pork rinds). The restaurant’s new patio is a pandemic silver lining.
329 S 16th St #3, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 999-7448
Mercury is a solid pre- or post-show meal for folks heading to the historic Orpheum across the street, but over the past few years the restaurant has also established itself as a reliable neighborhood standby for downtown residents. The team comes up with creative themes for the rotating cocktail menu — like a recent set of drinks based around cereal — while offering food that can satiate for dinner, a snack, or a late-night meal.
31. Tiny House Bar
1411 S 13th St, Omaha, NE 68105, (402) 715-5115
There was never any doubt Tiny House Bar would make the best of the toughest year in memory. Co-owner and manager Megan Malone continued to serve delicious craft cocktails through an inventive drive-thru window that took off like wildfire among drinkers stuck at home. Now fully reopened, Tiny House hosts guests in two large outdoor seating spaces, including one with regular comedy acts and movie screenings. Returning regulars will find the bartenders still serve drinks with inventive names, like the strawberry and sotol concoction called the Obama Sex Dream, or the It’s Britney Bitch with vodka and pineapple.
32. Archetype Coffee
1419 S 13th St #101, Omaha, NE 68108
Archetype is the shop that put Omaha on the coffee map. Owner and head barista Isaiah Sheese, who has competed in the U.S. Coffee Championships several times, brings his expertise and skill to shops in Blackstone and Little Bohemia. Recently chef Kristina Lee’s Nice Rollz has been popping up at the Little Boho shop, quickly gaining popularity during the pandemic for spicy bulgogi burger nights.
33. The Boiler Room
1110 Jones St, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 916-9274
Tim Nicholson consistently delivers at the Boiler Room. The industrial dining room is cut from the actual boiler room of a downtown warehouse, and pulling up to a table always feels like a treat (when the pandemic makes it feasible). The menu focuses on seasonal local ingredients; the options rotate weekly but usually include some of the best seafood in Omaha. Plus, the cocktail program and wine cellar are second-to-none in the city.
34. M’s Pub
422 S 11th St, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 342-2550
M’s Pub, which first opened in the Old Market in 1972, is still going strong after two major blows. After a fire in 2016, owner Ann Mellen restored the restaurant down to the last detail. She also revived all the classic neighborhood menu favorites, which proved essential during the restaurant’s second crisis, the pandemic. Lavash comes topped with chicken and sweet chile sauce, warm duck makes an oddly satisfying addition to salad, and the Number Nine cocktail warms the soul with house-infused strawberry vodka.
35. La Buvette Wine & Grocery
511 S 11th St, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 344-8627
La Buvette started as a deli counter in the mid-1990s before transitioning into a full-blown restaurant known for its Parisian vibe and sometimes-brusque service. The place weathered the pandemic by returning to its roots, selling takeaway sausage and cheeses from the deli, and fresh baked bread from its basement oven. The team also added plexiglass barriers and heaters to keep the outdoor patio open during the dead of Nebraska winter. The pivots allowed La Buvette to continue serving the kind of French standards its devoted customers love: hot grilled ham sandwiches, boeuf bourguignon, cheese and charcuterie, and linguini with clams.
36. Le Bouillon
1017 Howard St, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 502-6816
The space at 1017 Howard Street, in the heart of the historic Old Market, was originally a fruit and vegetable market before it transitioned in the 1970s into the French Cafe, which closed in 2012 after 42 years. The next year, Le Bouillon took up the mantle of French cuisine in the same spot, but with a more modern menu. Highlights include a wonderful version of chicken and crepes, a memorable French onion soup (particularly good during a Nebraska winter), and bold natural wine pairings from sister business Howard Street Wine Merchant.
37. V. Mertz
1022 Howard St, Omaha, NE 68102, (402) 345-8980
V. Mertz is one of the oldest restaurants downtown, and it has long been a staple for romantic nights out and special occasions. But the arrival of chef Amanda Sheeler in 2020 signaled a notable evolution. Under Sheeler, the restaurant continues to grow its modern tasting menus, adventurous wine pairings, and list of memorable craft cocktails, all inside perhaps the most beautiful dining room in the city.
38. Umami Asian Cuisine
1504 Galvin Rd S, Bellevue, NE 68005, (402) 991-8822
Almost four years ago, chef Keen Zheng left Manhattan and the Michelin-starred Sushi Nakazawa to move to Bellevue and open his own spot, Umami. Zheng instantly became a local star for his carefully crafted omakase, but also for a solid menu of cooked Thai and Chinese dishes. Umami has also inspired a legion of regular takeout customers, who got the restaurant through the pandemic.