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!

August 02, 2014

I've had this place on my radar since the OWH article back in May, and just today found the time (on a Saturday) for a visit!

Driving all the way to Bellevue to hit up this truck felt a bit like a road trip, but I had a hankering for watermelon and some time to kill.

It also felt a little wrong going to Bellevue and not going to Stella's, but this was still well worth the trip in and of itself.

Since the truck is located in - what else - an O'Reilly Auto Parts parking lot, I stopped in the store to purchase a couple replacement bulbs for my car before lunchtime... Win, win!

Plenty of parking (lot).
I already had my eye on the Green Chile Smoked Cheddar pasta from yesterday, and it was still on the menu but did spend some time waffling between it and the other two items du jour (Carnitas Pulled Pork Burrito and Playa del Carmen Beach Brat), before I want for it, with the encouragement of the staff.

Today's menu-board
Plus, of course, the watermelon salad. Apparently there was a honey-mint version previously available that  sold out... but who cares, I had zeroed in on the Lime Chile Tamarind variety already. (Sensing a theme here?)

Note that if it's your first visit, the super friendly folks inside the truck will also offer you a free beverage (at least they did today!)

And though there were several tent-covered tables available for onsite seating, I opted to take my order to go. So I sipped my cold complementary cream soda in the shade of the truck canopy and waited...

It came up in pretty short order, and I was on my way (after taking pictures of course)!

Green Chile Smoked Cheddar Pasta w Grilled Chicken
Lime Chile Tamarind Watermelon Salad
Everything made the trip home nicely. The chicken stayed hot and the watermelon cool - though I did pop it in the refrigerator at home while I noshed on the pasta, which was a pretty perfect summertime dish. Hard to achieve with pasta.

I'm easy to please when it comes to watermelon, but this was something to write home about. Or maybe to make at home. Either way, I was happy. A bit of spice, plenty of sweetness a hint of citrus and that weird but wonderful tamarind flavor.

Now let's talk about value. This place has it.

The watermelon was only $2. So next time I'll probably get both flavors. Though honestly I'm such a fiend I'd probably get 5 orders if they had that many varieties.

And the $8 pasta was enough for two people. Cheesy macaroni topped with plentiful chicken and tons of summer veggies... green beans, mushrooms, squash, zucchini, peppers... It filled the entire to go container and weighed in at over 2 pounds (yes, I busted out the kitchen scale to check). I really enjoyed it as-is, though it was even better with the Cholula hot sauce I had at home.

Now I have both a full tummy and a half a container of pasta to eat later!

Nicely done, FTLoFT. I'm looking forward to my next visit - and maybe coming up with a new acronym. Based on the other delicious things they've been posting on their Facebook page, that next visit won't come soon enough, but I'm happy to have found another solid food truck option.

For the Love of Food Truck on Urbanspoon

August 01, 2014

2012 - Tour de Taco

Let's travel back in time a couple years to 2012... this was back in the dark ages of Yelp Omaha, before we had a community manager or Events page and had to plan everything through the Talk Boards

This idea was fueled by meat and drinks at 801 Chophouse. So why not swing all the way to the other end of the spectrum and spend a day eating a belly's worth of value in South Omaha? Props to Matt M. for the name too!

Our first tour took place on Saturday, July 7th, 2012 and there were t-shirts and everything.

Locations included:

Sam's Leon Mexican Supplies -…
Taqueria Tiiuana -…
Tacos el Peligro -…
Taqueria El Paisa -…
Don Gaby's Restaurant -…
Paleteria & Restaurant San Luis -…

We walked to them all (map here) except TT, which was sadly closed, and I was ridiculously full afterwards. - Then I went on a patio ride! (Note to Patio Ride Omaha, a taco tour would possibly be a good investment if they ever expand out of downtown). 

Taqueria Tijuana was closed
We were sad about that.
This was also the day I first was introduced to Horchata! A day that changed my life... thanks Aimee P! This year was also my first ever trip to International Bakery. Another place you just kind of have to go with the flow at... nothing is labeled, and they have a huge variety from jalapeno-cream-cheese filled pastries to regular 'ol sprinkle donuts (and nearly everything in between). Though note: "International" doesn't mean you'll be finding any macaroons here. Read up on your Mexican pastry (or Pan Dulce / sweet breads) here:

But basically, just grab some tongs and a tray. Load up and enjoy.

All in all, we had such a great time, another tour was planned for shortly thereafter. 

Taco Tour - Redux

A little over a month later on August 18th we were at it again. This time, we started at Taqueria Tijuana (who by this time had their electrical issue / fire repairs completed), then headed back to two favorites from the previous tour (Taqueria el Paisa and Tacos el Peligro) and rounded out at Jalapeno!

No pictures of this one, but I did go get a tattoo right after (plus a bonus black squirrel)!

Squirrel logo tattoos are only $25 at Black Squirrel Tattoo

2013 - Tour de Taco

Our third tour... second annual, took place on July 13, 2013. 

We visited:

El Rancho -
Taqueria El Paisa - again, since this and el Peligro were my favorites
El Rinconcito -
Tacos el Peligro - again
Taqueria La Esmeralda - (where I couldn't eat another bite and had to throw in the towel). 

This time I tried to eat all the chips.
And, of course, we stopped at International Bakery

2014 - Tour de Taco

And then suddenly it was 2014! This year's tour was hosted on the brand new Yelp Omaha Events Page, but the funny thing about that is that once an event has passed... it's like it never existed. (Or I just can't find it). But that's okay because this one is still relatively fresh in my memory since it only happened 3 weeks ago on July 12, 2014!

(Never-mind, I found the event listing after all... thanks Google!)

Oh this is also probably a good time to mention I have also written a taco primer for anyone thinking about orchestrating their own tour:…

So Here's What Went Down...

La Casita 

First stop on Tour de Taco is usually somewhere we can gather and wait out the stragglers. There were definitely some stragglers this time... (April R. I'm looking at you!) 

But no matter, we had plenty of time to peruse the menu, order food and then consider ordering more while I slugged down a large horchata. 

The problem with taco tour is what usually I get so excited that by the time we start ordering at the first place I usually over order. This is probably compounded by the fact that I try to eat a small breakfast on tour days - after the gym - so I'm typically ravenous at the first location also. 

I kept it in check and just ordered a couple tacos to start while I satiated myself on horchata. They also bring out a complimentary warm bean dip with chips here. Pretty nice! 

chips here were good, and salsa's are pretty spicy.
my staple Al Pastor and I think a Cachete
I'm going to write a more detailed review of La Casita since we've been back several times since the tour, so hang tight for more details on this place. It was definitely a winner for food, but not so much for friendliness.

Dos De Oros 

De Oros has two trucks, which led to some confusion on our part. Both are on 24th Street, but one is in the O'Reilley Autoparts parking lot at Vinton Street) and the other - the one listed on Yelp - is at G Street in the Envios de Dinero parking lot. You can see it on Google Streetview and everything.

This was an interesting stop for several reasons... first, it was super busy and on a busy street. Second, because this was the first time in my life I've met a quesadilla I didn't like (old grease explosion is how I'd describe it) and third, because when I went across the street to use the restroom I considered using the mens single-holer since there was someone in the women's... DON'T. That mens' restroom is one of those restrooms you may have nightmares about. (Probably best to either pee before you go, or just drive right on by here in general).

As you may have gathered, I wasn't enamored with the food. It was just kind of rough. Everything was a little too mushy and greasy, the Al pastor appeared to be topped with canned pineapple and even the shells weren't really palatable. The coke was good and cold though.

Waiting in line... keep a sharp ear to the food calling too.

Al pastor, is that you?
Mushy greasy meat... 
The coke was good.

Driveway Tacos (S 23rd St & N St)

On to the next stop, or so we thought. This was one of Matt M's finds, a husband a wife team who apparently make tacos in their driveway. The cart was there, and there was some kind of swap meet going on across the street... but no tacos could be found. Scratch that one off the list for now. 

That was the kind of hazard I was hoping to avoid on this tour, which after La Casita, was really all trucks or food of a similar mobility. Speaking of which...
In June I was in touch with Maria Bonita via their Facebook page. Truck #1 was otherwise occupied, but Truck #2 (aka Taste of Sabor) was available, as I was told. My directions were to text them and either find the truck or it would come to us.

Even though I did text and Facebook message, neither of those things happened. Scratch that. 

Interesting anecdote about the Taste of Sabor truck... I didn't know this was Maria Bonita until recently. So while I've still never had food from Truck #1, I have eaten from Truck #2 and I wasn't impressed.

Mariscos Los Willy's

I've already written a detailed review singing my praises of Willy's, so you can check that out here, follow them on Facebook here, add your own reviews on Yelp here, and generally we can all thank Dale L. for this because this place continues to knock it out of the park when it comes to seafood. Tostadas Mixtas and Fish Tacos, and I was a happy camper.

Tostadas Mixtas!

The crowd chowing down (some)... Love the canopies and tables. (and music).

Some were still ordering...

Nice variety of hot sauces available

Tacos de Pescado!
Restrooms are in this building to the East (customers only!)

International Bakery

Yes, we also went to International Bakery again. I do so love traditions.


Helados Santa Fe

Apparently we were on a roll for sweets at the end of this year's Tour de Taco, so we audibled to Helados Santa Fe for a closer. I will say that if you don't mind moldy dank smells, feel free to enjoy your ice cream and pelatas inside. William G. and I ventured outdoors and commenced some kind of accidental speed eating competition to finish before our treats melted.

I enjoyed a paleta (think popsicle) of the pineapple-chile variety, and since this was also my first time having paletas... I see more of these in my future with all the interesting flavor options!

Here's what they have on tap here.


Arroz - Rice
Chicle - Bubble Gum
Coco - Coconut
Esquimales - Eskimos?
Fresa - Strawberry
Fresas c. Crema - Strawberry w. Cream
Frutas Secas - Dried Fruits?
Galleta - Cookie
Limon - Lemon
Mango c. Chile
Nuez - Walnut
Pina - Pineapple
Pina c. Chile - Pineapple w. Chile
Sandia - Watermelon
Vainilla - three guesses on this one

Helados (Ice Cream):

Chongos - cinnamon and milk
Fresas c. Crema
Fruitas Secas
Gansito - a Mexican snack cake that's covered in chocolate and filled with strawberry & cream
Mantecado y Chocolate - Shortbread and Chocolate
Rompope - Eggnog?
Zarzamora c. Queso - blackberry cheesecake?

More great informaiton on Helados here:

Only after the fact did I remember that the OWH said this place had some kind of amazing 'bread ice cream'. Maybe that's the Mantecado y Chocolate? Maybe I can go back tomorrow?

Just writing this post has me all ready for tacos and pastries all over again! And the best part is that there are still places I haven't even tried yet. Onwards!

The exterior kind of gives you an indication of the upkeep on the interior...
Pretty cool signs greet you upon entry.
Feast your eyes on this!
Elote makes a good dessert too!