December 19, 2014

Well, the moment has finally arrived. Heritage Food and Wine is now (softly) open in the old Zin Room space at 15th & Harney Streets. Tonight and tomorrow - Friday and Saturday - 11am to Midnight all food is 40% off as well. You can make reservations by calling 402.991.0660.

Now Open (albeit, softly)
I had the pleasure of attending last night - the very first evening - as part of a blogger group. That in and of itself was an interesting experience as I'm not used to sharing food-picture taking with so many people. But while we're on the topic of pictures, I was sad that the lighting level wasn't really conducive to the nice bright food pictures I crave (and I'm really resistant to flashes in dark spaces). C'est la vie.

But since people seem eager to hear more about this new addition to the downtown dining scene, I'll oblige now - shadowy pictures and all.

First impressions of the bar (and bartenders) was very good. As I took it all in, I pictured myself spending time here, sipping house cocktails and snacking on small plates before shows at the Orpheum. Unfortunately, I'm still off the alcohol until mid-March, but I'm sure the Heritage Bar will still be there waiting for me then.

If I had been imbibing, I'd have probably started with the 'His and Herbs' seasonal house cocktail - Dewar's White Label, house strawberry cordial, Yellow Chartreuse, Fino Sherry, herb blend and lemon.

As it was, I started with an artfully crafted mocktail of white tea, grenadine, lemon, soda water, and peach bitters. And I'm happy to report that went down nicely... even without booze.

Hints of boozy greatness
They boasted a very impressive selection of beers also, that I'm looking forward to perusing (drinking). Full menus for Dinner, Drinks, Happy Hour, Lunch, and Bar are all available on the Heritage website: 

Once we were seated, the food started flying. And it didn't stop until we were all stuffed to the brim. Still, somehow, we only made it 40% of the way through the menu. And the take-home message is that I am looking forward to trying other 60%.

There were some miscues, which you might expect as part of a soft open, and some hits. So considering the context, and the fact that I plan to make subsequent visits, I'll try to hit the highlights in this post.

The space and service were both spot on, which was impressive for a first night. There was a flurry of activity and excitement in the restaurant, which maintained a relaxing ambiance even when the space got a bit loud... though most of the noise was likely sourced from my table, I suspect.

Mood lighting (make sure to look up)
Menu-wise, Heritage is focusing on family style food. This means the dinner menu is organized into 5 sections: Garden, Sea, Coop, Pasture and Cave. Which kind of makes you feel like you're foraging for these foods yourself at first glance. So things aren't really arranged in 'courses' and are intended to be shared and ordered in phases. But I'll focus on each menu area separately here.

Hopefully it'll help give a little taste of what Heritage is offering up. I for one will be revisiting to and look forward to the refinements that surely will come with time.


On the topic of this section, though, I will throw out a word of warning for any vegetarians (or vegans). The menu does list several items as V-compliant, but they appear to be mislabeled currently. I'm sure this will be corrected on subsequent printings.  

House Pickles made with seasonal vegetables (carrots, onion and cauliflower in this case). Not really one to complain about pickles in any variety, these served nicely as a palette cleaner between items.

house pickles
Potatoes: described as frites on the menu, these giant wedges reminded me more of steakhouse fries. Aoili was a nice compliment. Could've been a little crispier on the outside and a little more cooked on the inside, for me, last night. But since Heritage is actively seeking this same goal, I'm sure they'll get perfected soon. (The process includes blanching in water, freezing, parboiling in oil, cooling and then frying to deliberately get that soft inside and crispy outside).

Sweet Potato: a big hit at our table, due mostly to the caramelized white chocolate and marshmallow toppers. When they say sweet on this dish, they mean it.

sweet potato
Broccoli: With cheddar fondue and chili pepper. I didn't get around to sampling this until it had cooled, so the impact was somewhat lost.

Roasted Carrots and Parsnips: One of my favorites and a standout dish of the evening. Simply dressed with maple syrup, rosemary and walnuts. Very good.

carrots and parsnips
Kale Salad: Probably not for everyone, but I was also in love with this salad and the heavily dressed dill buttermilk vinaigrette and dried fruit. Bonus, there's pastrami at the bottom!

kale salad
Biscuits: House biscuits came with several items, but vegetarians take note at least some of these are made with lard. Just one of many potential vegetarian / vegan landmines to keep an eye out for.


Only one item was sourced from this section, the Smoked Salmon and Gravlox. With capers, pickled red onion, farm egg, dill and a black pepper meringue, it was a beautiful plate to behold and devour. Of course that also means I did not get a picture of it. 


Heritage Fried Chicken: What I feel is being touted as the premier item on the menu (it has brackets, after all) the chicken was probably my personal disappointment of the evening. I was hoping for a crispier, lighter breading. And all the spice appeared to be residing in the accompanying sauce. But I always like lots of spices... if you're not into that, maybe this would be your holy grail? I'll try this again, for sure, though since I suspect we didn't get a perfected version.
Foie Gras: I'm not morally conflicted enough about this item to not eat it, but I was flavor conflicted as I didn't know what to think of this dish. Maybe I only like foie gras warm? This was served terrine-style (cold) with milk jam, & maraschino cherries. (They do have a seared option with the cabbage dish, which I'll be trying next time).

foie gras
Duck Breast: Medium-rare cook style wasn't really tempting to many of our diners, but I sampled several slices. Definitely a healthy portion if you know of any duck-meat lovers you want to impress. The creamed kale that came along with this was another big win.

duck breast


Ham Hock and Beans: Keeping it simple here. Beans, greens, molasses (and the meaty ham hock noted in the heading). Beans were purposely presented al dente, but when I eat beans my preference is for the squishier variety.

ham hock and beans (oh, and greens)
Bone Marrow: The one item I specifically made a request for. Served 'out' of bone in beef stock, onions and parsley, with grilled bread. Mmmmmm.



Meat and cheese charcuterie tray. I think we had a little of everything - a well-balanced array of both cheese and meats (almost a bit heavy on the meat?) with mustard, honeycomb, etc. I also learned a new word - nduja - a 'spicy, spreadable pork sausage'. Also, synonymous for delicious, in my book.

I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to meat and cheese, but I would ask for grilled bread only in the future (when I come back to eat more nduja). 


November 29, 2014

Lalibela is best enjoyed with friends. And if you're having trouble finding friends to go here, let me know, as I'm always up for a visit. My recommendation is to order several items and do a round robin sort of roulette dinner, rotating periodically until everyone is able to sample everything on the table.

But first thing's first... no utensils. That job is readily tackled by Injera, a sourdough-risen flatbread with a spongy texture. Traditionally made out of teff flour, it is a national dish in Ethiopia. And if just that description sounds off-putting then maybe this isn't the restaurant for you? But I always advocate trying something at least once before discounting it. And if you have any friends trying to avoid gluten, let them know they're safe here, as I understand teff to be one of the gluten-free grains. (Which is a good thing, because there's plenty of injera to be had here)!

You can also bring your vegetarian friends, as their Vegetarian Platter is to die for.

For some reason I feel like serving me a heaping pile of bread is a personal challenge (one I'm happy to accept). The meals are plated on top of injera, and baskets of the stuff are also served on the side, typically one per dish.

I don't think I've tried everything on the menu yet, but the Vegetarian Plate is always a good choice, with several varieties of lentils, greens, and cabbage. Combination plate with doro wot and cheese is another good way to get a thorough sampling of the flavors and to ease yourself into.

The process goes down pretty much like this... You just grab some injera, tear off a piece, and use it to pick up some food, then stuff the food in your mouth. There's not a lot of grace to it, but I suppose it does take some practice.

Most of the meats are small enough to pick up easily in a single handful, and those that aren't can easily be dismantled with fingers.

As for the food, mixing is allowed. And there is no particular order to the meal. Eat whatever, whenever and have a good time. We don't tend to enforce the feeding each-other rule shown in the video, though that could make for some fun dining too.

For those of you unconvinced, check out this video primer:

Here's my rundown of some favorites - which it turns out is most of the menu.

Combination Plate: A variety of meat and vegetarian dishes including tibs, doro wot, salad, cabbage, cheese and lentils. Great place to start if this is your first foray into Ethiopian.

Combination Plate
Vegetarian Platter: A combination of salad, cabbage, lentils and cheese.

Vegetarian Platter
Kuanta Fir Fir: Beef sauteed in spices, butter and onion, mixed with pieces of injera.

Kuanta Fir Fir
Key Wot: A spicy beef stew prepared with a clarified butter sauce, cheese on the side.

Key Wot
Gored Gored: Lean beef mixed with spicy butter sauce and a paste of hot peppers with garlic, ginger and spices.
Gored Gored
Zil Zil: Stir fried beef strips, onions and peppers.

Zil Zil
Ethiopian Coffee: Pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Strong and delicious.

Ethiopian Coffee
Ethiopian Spiced Tea: I think this used to be complimentary, but now they charge for it. You can probably blame me for this since I like to drink 2-3 cups... or, in other words, as many as they'll bring me. It's spiced, it's sweet, it's so good I'll even order tea in the summer.
Injera: The star of the show in more ways than one. Injera serves as plate, utensil and meal all in one. They'll always bring a basket per entree, so don't feel compelled to sacrifice your platter bread at first. Then, after you've eaten your fill you can roll up all the leftovers for later.
And that, my friends, is how you over-eat. Sharing an entrée is probably your best bet to leave in a comfortable state of affairs.

Lalibelia does not have a liquor license, so if you're feeling like a brew you'll have to go elsewhere. What they do have is bottled water, Ethopian coffee, and some wonderfully sweet spiced tea (see above).

Service is very friendly, but don't expect a detailed menu primer or rundown on what all the items are. You need to tap your sense of adventure here a bit.  The restaurant is warm and inviting, decorations made it feel cozy, and the food is fantastic. Bring on the injera!

Lalibela Ethiopian on Urbanspoon

October 14, 2014

As of December 2013, Dolce has switched ownership. Not sure if this change is immediately apparent to some, but for me two of my favorite things about the restaurant were apparently closely tied to the previous ownership.

Gina Sterns (of pastry fame), originally opened the restaurant in summer of 2011, and during this time, I frequented Dolce for lunch due to convenience, yes. But also because they had my favorite sandwich in town...the Goat Cheese Chicken Panini. And, yes, the cupcakes were also to die for.

The restaurant was sold to Jason Kuhr and Tyler Mohr, owners of J.T.K. Cuisine and Cocktails in Lincoln. And it took me a really long time to return. Under Stern's ownership, I visited Dolce around a dozen times. Never did I visit for dinner. My previous review was based on all those successful lunch visits, plus a birthday cupcake special order.

I will agree that the location is kind of awkward compared to where I'd expect to find a cafe like this... but this area of town is severely under-served for this type of fare and I think it's a welcome addition.

Hopefully it's here to stay because Dolce is 5 minutes from my office and I've been the past two days for lunch (which I think is saying something as well).

Yesterday I had the Zucchini & Asparagus salad with added Salmon for a $3 up-charge. Today was the Goat Cheese Chicken Panini. Both were delicious, well presented, and light with underlying healthful sneakiness. They were also both accompanied by their house focaccia bread and what I'd describe as rosemary chips with balsamic vinegar and olive oil as a complementary appetizer. Both times the owner came by to greet our table, chat a bit, etc as well.

Today was also the first time I got to sample one of their cupcakes (also the almond sour cream cupcake that Dennis had). I thought the frosting quantity was perfect, but some might say I'm a frosting fiend so take that for what you will. The best part about the cupcake was that it was only $2! Much cheaper than I could say for some other cupcake places around town... and, yes, tastier.

I don't think I'll be driving over here during non-workdays, but this will be my go-to lunch spot from here on out. Strong statement, I know, but I really appreciate the concept and the mission statement, which ends with 'The Art of Eating."

Under the new ownership, I've only been twice. Part of this is because they stopped serving lunch on the ownership change. And only in 2014 (I think) did that start up again). 

But now it's time to update my review. 

The Yelp reviews really tell an interesting story. Of the 46 current reviews, 25 were under the previous ownership and 21 are under current ownership. Starting with just an average, pre-sale average rating was 4.4 stars, with a post-sale average of 3.7 stars.

Pre-sale ratings break down like this: 
  • 5-stars - 19  (73%)
  • 4-stars - 2  (8%)
  • 3-stars - 3  (12%)
  • 2-stars - 1  (4%)
  • 1-star - 1  (4%)
Post-sale numbers: 
  • 5-stars - 9  (43%)
  • 4-stars - 3  (14%)
  • 3-stars - 5  (24%)
  • 2-stars - 1  (5%)
  • 1-star - 3  (14%)
Anyway, enough with the data. 

I recently bought a Groupon for a Prix Fixe dinner at Dolce since I was apparently feeling nostalgic and on doing, noticed they're open for lunch again!

Squash Soup for lunch
Sadly, the menu has totally changed. Gone is my favorite goat cheese and chicken panini and other lunch staple salads (not to mention mac & cheese with the option for meatballs), replaced with a warm goat cheese salad (with option to add chicken) and/or sandwich options of Muffaletta or Annunziata ... And a $25 lunch, including tax and tip.

Warm Goat Cheese Salad w Chicken
The food was still good though, I really liked the soup, but the salad showed up... differently... than I'd imagined. Unlikely I'd order it again.

I'm used to feeling cheated when it comes to beets and salad, but not lettuce. The goat cheese croquettes were placed on sliced roasted beets, with a sprinkling of arugula. (In case you're wondering, the chicken is the piece in the middle).

... and yes, we also split a bread pudding for the table. That was delicious.

Bread pudding with caramel and ice cream
The new bar back is a classy touch, but I still think the hostess stand is somewhat awkwardly placed. Not sure if there's even a better place for it, actually. I wonder if not having one is an option. 

Anyway, on to our trip for dinner. I last-minute realized the Groupon was going to expire soon, and we headed out west on a Tuesday evening to sample the 'Date Night' menu. (Tuesday, Wednesday or Monday... I can't remember now). I hate the looks you sometimes get at nice places when using Groupons, so I like to announce that I have one right away and get that out of the way. Who knows if it effects the service or not, but I know we'd all like to think 'not'.

In this case, our server was attentive and friendly. Not too much, not too little. Good, I'd say.

We started our meal with the 'Taste of the Moment', a salmon tartar concoction I forget the name of now. Whatever it was, the moment was fleeting because we polished it off pretty handily.

Starter, Taste of the Moment
Next up, Soup du Jour, a smoked tomato. Really pretty special with a bold smoky flavor. All it needed was some bread... which we asked for (and received). I have no idea if the rolls are made in house, but they really didn't do it for me - this coming from an admitted carbaholic. (Don't get me wrong, I still slathered it with butter and ate it all).

Next up for entrees were the Tuscan Steak (a tender 6 oz. kobe flatiron) and the Pan Roasted Chicken. Both dishes were presented very well, and had solid, hearty flavors indicative of the fall to come. I preferred the meat in the steak dish and the sides in the chicken, personally. What I originally wanted to try, the Kobe Ragu, took a back seat to an either-or recommendation request in which the chicken won out when I asked the server.

Tuscan Steak
Pan Roasted Chicken
Dessert was, once again, the star of the show. Dark Chocolate Mousse with rosemary toffee, gluhwein syrup and fresh berries. (And to save you on the Googling, 'gluhwein' is a German mulled wine). It all went down very nicely to round out the experience.

The new Dolce is something unique and one of the better restaurants in West Omaha. Unfortunately my recent meals here haven't lived up to what I loved about the original, but they're forging their own path, and I think it's a welcome one.

Dolce on Urbanspoon

October 13, 2014

In case you haven't heard, Alton Brown is coming to Omaha.

And in each city, he's looking for "coffee shops, restaurants, late-night snacks and sandwiches available in the area (in short - good eats)". Zing!

So I decided to myself that yes, it is a total cop-out to refer someone to my website. And I get enough requests for recommendations that this is the perfect excuse to compile a post on 'my perfect day' in Omaha. Or at least try.

Not to brag, but four years ago, I won a contest for describing my 'Ideal Omaha Day', so hopefully I can recapture some of that magic. Or just copy and tweak the restaurant portion of it... either way.

When planning a whole day of eating, it's best to start early. And what better place to do that than a bakery? My favorite for a while now has been Sweet Magnolia’s Bake Shop. Getting there early will also be to your benefit because you'll also have first pick of their made-from-scratch pastries. The selection is limited, and will be even more so after you're finished filling bags with spinach and feta scones, cinnamon rolls w pecans, fresh apple strudel muffins and of course their homemade dog treats.

To go with all that pastry, it's probably not a bad idea to have coffee. It's hard to decide which place to visit since there are many local spots I'd recommend, but Echo Coffee is a new and welcome addition with indoor and outdoor seating options and latte art worth bragging about.

For lunch, right now - and most of the time in general - I'm craving whatever's on special at Block 16 (plus, Jams is closing soon for a renovation). Their emphasis is on gourmet street food will make for a lunch to remember. But The French Bulldog is another possibility if you're in the mood for charcuterie.

Dinner, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my favorite, The Grey Plume. In their words... "Seasonally-driven, contemporary cuisine from locally-grown produce and livestock in Omaha, Nebraska. The nation's most sustainable restaurant." How can you say no to that? And after, you can stock up on what will become your favorite butter across the street at Grey Plume Provisions.

Since it's unlikely there will be any additional room for snacks, you can always order eCreamery for home delivery and enjoy at a later date.

It's ultimately impossible to visit all the best places we have to offer in just one day, or one week, or maybe even a month. So in some ways I do like to list my favorites and let people make their own decisions from there, since we are all so different in terms of what we like and words like 'best' and 'favorite' are so subjective.

But there we have it. That's my recommendation for #ABRoadEatsOmaha as of today.

I do have something in the works that might speed up this process in the future recommendation-seekers... but how quickly that develops will definitely be another story. Stay tuned!

September 16, 2014

I started out just copying and pasting the restaurants listed on the Omaha Restaurant Week website to better be able to sort myself.

And since it's me, I obviously used Excel for this exercise.

But an interesting trend emerged... it appears that participating restaurants were allowed to enter their own descriptions, and since self-identification is always such an interesting exercise, I promptly sorted the list by cuisine type.

The real question now... which to visit next.

Restaurant Cuisine Type
Tussey's Casual Grill
Twisted Fork Grill & Saloon

American Comfort Food 
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery
American Pub Fare 
Wave Bistro
Asian Fusion 
Bourbon's BBQ & Steaks
BBQ & Steakhouse 
Bistro and Wine Bar 
Piccolo's Steaks & Cocktails
Classic Italian Steakhouse 
Plank Seafood Provisions
Coastally-inspired Seafood and Oyster Bar 
7M Grill
Comfort Fusion 
Boiler Room Restaurant
Contemporary American 
Lazlo's Brewery & Grill
Creative Comfort Food 
Blatt Beer & Table
Curated Pub Food 
Dante Ristorante Pizzeria
Farm-to-Table Italian & Wood-Fired Pizza 
Le Voltaire
Dario's Brasserie
French/Belgian Comfort Food 
Fresh - Vibrant - American 
Pig & Finch
Cantina Laredo
Gourmet Mexican Food 
Shucks Fish House and Oyster Bar
Gulf Coast Seafood 
Zurlo's Bistro Italiano
Italian Bistro 
Pasta Amore
Italian Ristorante Cafe & Bar 
Kona Grill
Kitchen, Sushi & Cocktails 
Twisted Cork Bistro
Local, Natural Food 
Modern American 
Nosh Restaurant & Wine Lounge
Modern American 
Railcar Modern American Kitchen
Modern American 
Salt 88
Modern American/Mediterranean 
Le Bouillon
Modern French & Raw Bar 
Jackson Street Tavern
New American  
Flatiron Cafe
New American Fine Dining 
Louie's Wine Dive
New American Restaurant and Wine Bar 
J. Coco
New American/French 
Lot 2 Restaurant & Wine Bar
New American/French 
Avoli Osteria
Northern Italian Cuisine 
Spencer's for Steaks and Chops
Prime Beef Pure and Simple 
Benson Brewery
Pub Style 
The Grey Plume
Seasonally-Driven, Farm-to-Table 
Stokes Grill & Bar
Southwestern Cuisine 
Spanish Tapas Bar, Paella & Sangria 
360 Steakhouse
801 Chophouse
Gorat's Steak House
Johnny's Italian Steakhouse
Sullivan's Steakhouse
Blue Sushi Sake Grill
Modern Love Restaurant
Swanky Vegan Comfort Food 
Thai Pepper
Thai Cuisine 
Black Oak Grill
Traditional American 
Jack Binion's Steak House Upscale Steakhouse 

September 12, 2014

It took some gentle encouragement on part of the owner, but I [finally] revisited Voodoo Taco a little over a year after my initial review. Since that time I've also recently had food from the newly christened Voodoo Taco truck, which visited my place of employment midweek. I will say I was a bit wary to eat from the truck after some stories I've heard, but happy to report I did not suffer any ill effects (unless you count eating too much). 

Our return to the restaurant was spurred on with a meal on the house (full disclosure). Though as I assured the owner, I wouldn't let something like that affect my review. 

This time, the menu board TV was fully functional. But I wish I'd had my glasses as I found myself squinting. And we still had to get out the paper menu to figure out side-sauces. (That would be a good thing to get printed out and have on a poster-board or something for ordering). 

We ended up with many of the same varietals we sampled last time... Smoked Brisket, Barbacoa Beef, Alligator. And a couple of new ones. "Taco of the Month" was the Arabes (cotija cheese, Mediterranean pork,  4 chili sauce, cilantro lime tzatziki, lettuce, cotija cheese and pico de gallo) so strange sounding I had to try it - and a Fried Chicken. 

Starter was a basket of chips... some of which were HEAVILY seasoned (to the point of avoidance) and some delicious queso dip. The kind that you really can't stop eating, but there's so much of it you know you shouldn't dare finish it all. 

chips and queso
just look out for the overly-seasoned chips
Dessert, eaten later at home, was the 'Voodoo Brownie' from somewhere the manager couldn't recall. "Chocolate... something". The description sold me easily: Double-Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Chipotle, Bacon Brownie. This seems to be the theme at Voodoo, many crazy combinations of flavors, which are obviously not intended as generic crowd-pleasers. This one was right in my wheelhouse, and the best thing I've eaten from Voodoo. 

The tacos came out in two baskets, but honestly I had trouble identifying which was the Alligator and which was the Arabes even after a couple bites. This is probably because I didn't read the description for the Alligator, but both had decent flavor. I [think] I preferred the Alligator though since the Arabes had too many crazy contrasting flavors going on. 

taco of the month flier
Alligator (left) and Arabes (right)
Ironically last time we also had trouble figuring out which taco was which. I would say perhaps this is a personal flaw, but Bill can back me up on this... we could tell what the meat types were (generally) and after biting into them it was more obvious still. The Alligator I finally identified when I realized the Arabes didn't have corn in it. 

Also looks like I didn't read the descriptions - again - just like last time. You know what else I obviously didn't read before ordering? 

My previous review. 

Carnitas (bottom) and Barbacoa Beef
Smoked Brisket (Fried Chicken behind)
I sampled bites of all the tacos (note, it was obvious that shells were at least thrown on the grill at some point before serving) and they were all a-okay. Nothing I would fight anyone for, but decent and filling... or was that the cheese dip? 

The biggest difference this time was that the meal was definitely edible, which I have to say is a big step forward. My favorite were probably the Alligator and the Barbacoa Beef. The Carnitas was probably the least appealing, on account of the dryness of the meat. 

Would I drive out of my way to get here? Unlikely. But many people would... and do. Enough so that Voodoo has expanded to Nebraska Crossing, the aforementioned truck, and soon Aksarben Village (where it is entirely likely I will try for a fourth time. Or fourth-meal). Not a restaurant I'll probably factor into my regular rotations, but it will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood, I'm sure.

August 23, 2014

Since I got some grief for my Calculated "Best of Omaha" list, I realized this week it's past time I did a dedicated post listing MY Favorite restaurants in town. And for those of you that don't really read all of the context and just skip to the list portion, I'll try to keep the wordiness down to a minimum.

This compilation is just from the past few days. (I like my variety)!
The real question now is where I’ll end up for dinner tonight… because after writing this post it's very hard to decide! As part of this list, I went back through my Yelp list of favorites and started to update many of my Yelp reviews, but after about 10 it was lunchtime and I realized if I updated them all it'd take weeks [or months]. All in all, again, this post ended up being much more time consuming than I planned. But it was a labor of love, so I hope you enjoy. It was harder than I thought to come up with 100, and the order gets a little less 'important' as it goes on.

But for right now, these are my favorites in Omaha, for one reason or another. Generally static, sometimes changing, always delicious. 

Sarah Eats Omaha – My Favorite Restaurants 

Last Updated 4/23/18. Kind-of in order... almost.

The Grey Plume
Sushi Japan
Block 16
Stella's Bar & Grill
Shuck's Fish House & Oyster Bar
The Jaipur
Au Courant
Twisted Cork Bistro
Dante Pizzeria Napoletana
J. Coco
The Boiler Room
Mark's Bistro
Tasty Pizza
Kitchen Table
California Tacos & More
Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant
New Gold Mountain
El Basha
Zio's Pizzeria
Flavors Indian
Benson Brewery
Barrett's Barley Corn
Railcar Modern American Kitchen
Le Quartier Baking Company
Vietnamese Asian Restaurant
Blatt Beer & Table
Jackson Street Tavern
Dudley’s Pizza & Tavern
Salween Thai
Wilson & Washburn
7M Grill
Marrakech Gourmet
Big Mama’s Kitchen
801 Chophouse
Avoli Osteria
For the Love of Food Truck
Jack Binion's Steak House
Maru Sushi & Korean Grill
Hiro 88
Abelardos Mexican Food
Crescent Moon Ale House
Pitch Coal-fire Pizzeria
Dundee Dell
Thai Spice
Gerda's Bakery
Three Happiness Express
Upstream Brewing Company
Mai Thai Aksarben Village
Taqueria El Rey Truck(s)
Los Portales
El Rancho
Saigon Surface
Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob
B&G Tasty Foods
La Casa Pizzaria
Brazen Head Irish Pub
Dario’s Brasserie
Joe's Café
King Kong
Mangia Italiana
Sage Student Bistro
Taxi’s Grille & Bar
V. Mertz
Wave Bistro
China Palace
Frank’s Pizza
Goldbergs in Dundee
Hartland Bar-B-Que
Laos Thai Market
Mediterranean Bistro
Nosh Wine Lounge
Orsi’s Italian Bakery
Taqueria Tijuana
Surfside Club
Varsity Sports Cafe & Roman Coin Pizza
Razzy's Deli

August 07, 2014

My friend Courtney gave me this great idea to do a post on which area of town has the best restaurant. It may come as no surprise to some that I have my biases already (Midtown for life!) but being of an analytically-inclined mind, I had to do the calculations to be sure.

Then things got a little crazier.

Inspired by the Yelp 100 list, and the popularity contest that is the annual 'Best of Omaha' I thought it would be a good idea to also figure out what the top places to Eat in Omaha were!

This list was created with Yelp's listing of the restaurants in Omaha, sorted by 'Highest Rated'. I made a spreadsheet an took the top 200 listings, and calculated a score for each based on the average rating and number of reviews. This was a little tricky and is totally arbitrary, but I think came up with a reasonable result which didn't unfairly rank places with 5.0 ratings and 5 reviews higher than places with 4.5 rankings and 100 reviews.

I didn't include the Culvers and Which-Wich chain-type places that were included in the top 200. Or things that I don't think qualify as 'restaurants' - awesome though they maybe - like Howlin' Hounds, International Bakery or Jacobo's. I also tried to exclude places that have more than 5 locations (Bonefish Grill, Sullivan's Steakhouse) in an attempt to answer the "what qualifies as a chain" question.

Also, I deleted duplicates (sorry Abelardo's and the many iterations of Blue Sushi) and - this was a difficult decision - places with less than 10 reviews (sorry Mariscos los Willy's). To handle score ties I also sorted by average rating, then # of reviews. I also feel the need to point out that these are NOT my favorite restaurants, or even necessarily an endorsement, but it's certainly a better indicator than rating alone or popularity alone.

Here's what I came up with for our Top 150 (because 100 just wasn't enough!) Interestingly enough, I have only been to 127 of these restaurants. There are probably better ways to do the formula, so bear with me on this first 'Best of' iteration.

The 150 "Best" Restaurants in Omaha 

Rank Yelp Restaurant Avg. # Score
1 33  M’s Pub 4.0 222 622
2 3  Stella’s Bar & Grill 4.5 167 617
3 108  Upstream Brewing Company 3.5 266 616
4 9  The Drover 4.0 214 614
5 7  The Boiler Room 4.5 144 594
6 2  The Grey Plume 4.5 130 580
7 5  Block 16 4.5 125 575
8 37  Pitch Coal-fire Pizzeria 4.0 173 573
9 11  Dario’s Brasserie 4.5 104 554
10 15  Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob 4.0 149 549
11 6  Lot 2 Restaurant Wine Bar 4.5 88 538
12 46  Plank Seafood Provisions 4.0 135 535
13 8  Kitchen Table 4.5 77 527
14 21  Leo’s Diner 4.5 73 523
15 14  Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant 4.5 72 522
16 17  Mother India 4.0 121 521
17 95  Blue Sushi Sake Grill 3.5 170 520
18 12  801 Chophouse 4.0 117 517
19 30  Saigon Surface 4.0 114 514
20 4  Mahogany Prime Steakhouse 4.5 59 509
21 18  Taqueria Tijuana 4.5 58 508
22 16  Crescent Moon Ale House 4.0 104 504
23 10  Laos Thai Market 4.5 52 502
24 19  La Buvette Wine & Grocery 4.0 100 500
25 26  Mangia Italiana 4.5 48 498
26 49  Marks Bistro 4.0 98 498
27 31  Big Mama’s Kitchen 4.0 98 498
28 39  Avoli Osteria 4.5 43 493
29 122  Twisted Fork Grill and Bar 3.5 141 491
30 38  Taita 4.5 40 490
31 75  Korean Grill 4.5 38 488
32 65  Lisa’s Radial Cafe 4.0 87 487
33 20  The Salty Dog Bar & Grill 4.5 35 485
34 27  Hartland Bar-B-Que 4.0 85 485
35 62  Dixie Quicks 4.0 85 485
36 107  California Tacos & More 3.5 131 481
37 22  Maru Sushi & Korean Grill 4.0 80 480
38 69  McFoster’s Natural Kind Cafe 3.5 129 479
39 43  Nicola’s 4.0 78 478
40 66  Espana Restaurant 4.0 78 478
41 60  Pizza King 4.5 27 477
42 28  Twisted Cork Bistro 4.0 77 477
43 23  Thai Kitchen 4.5 26 476
44 51  John’s Grecian Delight 4.5 26 476
45 24  Blatt Beer & Table  4.0 76 476
46 64  Hiro 88 4.0 75 475
47 45  Jackson Street Tavern 4.0 73 473
48 34  Golden Palace 4.5 21 471
49 59  Shuck’s Fish House & Oyster Bar 4.0 71 471
50 68  El Basha 4.0 71 471
51 89  Time Out Foods 4.5 20 470
52 71  Bangkok Cuisine 4.0 68 468
53 52  Localmotive Food Truck 4.5 17 467
54 41  Jams 4.0 67 467
56 86  Star Deli 4.5 14 464
57 83  Zio’s Pizzeria 4.0 64 464
58 168  Sam’s-Leon Mexican Supplies 4.5 13 463
59 187  Harold’s Koffee House 4.5 13 463
60 85  Dinker’s Bar 4.0 62 462
61 189  Morning, Noon, & Night 4.5 11 461
62 74  Salween Thai 4.0 61 461
63 47  Wilson & Washburn 4.0 58 458
64 78  New Gold Mountain 4.0 58 458
65 84  Bailey’s 4.0 58 458
66 35  Flavors 4.0 57 457
67 57  Louie M’s Burger Lust 4.0 56 456
68 88  Flatiron Cafe 4.0 56 456
69 105  Marrakech Gourmet 4.0 55 455
70 73  Abelardos Mexican Food 4.0 53 453
71 123  11-Worth Cafe 4.0 53 453
72 100  Sakura Bana 4.0 52 452
73 167  Vivace 3.5 101 451
74 145  Bohemian Cafe 4.0 50 450
75 104  Dundee Dell 3.5 100 450
76 56  Swine Dining 4.0 49 449
77 29  French Bulldog 4.0 49 449
78 102  Azteca 4.0 48 448
79 157  7M Grill 4.0 48 448
80 114  Spezia 4.0 46 446
81 36  Boxer Barbeque Co 4.0 46 446
82 127  Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill 4.0 45 445
83 90  Dudley’s Pizza & Tavern 4.0 45 445
84 32  Ragazzi’s Pizza 4.0 44 444
85 98  Oscar’s Pizza & Sports Grill 4.0 43 443
86 110  Eat the Worm 4.0 43 443
87 148  Roja Mexican Grill + Margarita Bar 3.5 93 443
88 164  Tokyo Sushi 4.0 42 442
89 87  Sushi Japan 4.0 42 442
90 42  Mai Thai 4.0 42 442
91 82  Wave Bistro 4.0 40 440
92 141  Netties Fine Mexican Food 4.0 39 439
93 131  Brazen Head Irish Pub 4.0 39 439
94 97  Taxi’s Grille & Bar 4.0 38 438
95 109  Nosh Wine Lounge 4.0 37 437
96 161  Railcar Modern American Kitchen 4.0 36 436
97 58  Dolce 4.0 36 436
98 76  Worker’s Takeout 4.0 35 435
99 150  V Mertz 4.0 35 435
101 99  Canton House 4.0 35 435
102 134  Thai Spice 4.0 34 434
103 112  Over Easy 4.0 34 434
104 101  Mantra Bar & Grill 4.0 34 434
105 48  Katie’s Restaurant & Taverna 4.0 34 434
106 195  Malara’s 4.0 33 433
107 106  Tanduri Fusion 4.0 32 432
108 192  Pla Too Thai 4.0 32 432
109 55  Orsi’s Italian Bakery 4.0 32 432
110 166  Kobe Steakhouse of Japan 4.0 31 431
111 61  Ethiopian Restaurant 4.0 31 431
112 116  Le Voltaire 4.0 30 430
113 152  Bulldog Burgers 4.0 30 430
114 165  Le Bouillon 4.0 29 429
115 151  Legacy Gyros 4.0 28 428
116 113  JC Mandarin 4.0 28 428
117 124  Pudgy’s Pizzeria 4.0 26 426
118 179  Okinawa Sushi 4.0 26 426
119 156  Jim & Jennie’s Greek Village 4.0 25 425
120 178  China Buffet 4.0 24 424
121 139  Beyond BBQ 4.0 24 424
122 153  Rivera’s 3.5 74 424
123 197  Thai Orchids 4.0 23 423
124 162  Shirley’s Diner 4.0 22 422
125 184  Vietnamese Restaurant 4.0 21 421
126 128  Gerda’s Bakery 4.0 21 421
127 103  Caribbean Delights 4.0 21 421
128 190  Vidlak’s Brookside Cafe 4.0 18 418
129 129  Taqueria La Esmeralda 4.0 18 418
130 147  El Rancho 4.0 18 418
131 193  El Alamo 4.0 18 418
132 135  Dante Pizzeria Napoletana 3.5 67 417
133 137  Los Portales 4.0 16 416
134 130  House of Hunan 4.0 16 416
135 163  Ethnic Sandwich Shop 4.0 15 415
136 144  The Jaipur 3.5 64 414
137 169  La Casa Pizzaria 3.5 63 413
138 136  Jimi D’s 3.5 61 411
139 132  J Coco 3.5 57 407
140 125  Ponzu Sushi & Grill 3.5 56 406
141 94  Sinful Burger Sports Grill 3.5 55 405
142 154  Rice Bowl 3.5 54 404
143 172  Vietnamese Asian Restaurant 3.5 51 401
144 121  Benson Brewery 3.5 48 398
145 138  Sgt Peffers Cafe Italian 3.5 47 397
146 115  Guaca Maya 3.5 47 397
147 158  Wheatfields Eatery and Bakery 3.0 97 397
148 171  Three Happiness Express 3.5 46 396
149 117  Salt 3.5 46 396
150 159  Mama’s Pizza 3.5 46 396


And what about that neighborhood thing? From the list above, I next needed to list which neighborhood each were in. (Luckily I could do this mostly from memory, which saved some time).

To do this, I had to decide which neighborhoods to use, and to keep it simple I originally used the Visit Omaha website and was going to use:

Downtown Omaha

20th Street on the west to the Missouri River on the east, and Leavenworth Street on the south to Cuming Street on the north.

North Omaha

Cuming Street on the south, Read Street on the north, 72nd Street to the west, and East Omaha and Carter Lake, Iowa to the east

East Omaha

The Missouri River on the east, the Carter Lake and Carter Lake, Iowa on the south, and Florence Boulevard from Jaynes Street north to Read Street on the west.

South Omaha

Dodge Street on the north, Harrison Street on the south, the Missouri River on the east, and 72nd Street on the west

Midtown Omaha

Cuming Street on the north, Center Street on the south, 24th Street on the east, and Saddle Creek Road on the west.

West Omaha

Traditionally all areas of Omaha west of 72nd Street, but by the early 21st century 72nd Street to I-680 is often considered Central Omaha

But that seemed too simplistic, plus the definitions were a little arbitrary and up for debate. So, I decided it'd be much more fun to just make a big Google Map of these restaurants and let people decide for themselves. It's kind of a toss-up depending on where you draw the boundaries. Enjoy!