Nebraska from The Best Food and Drink in Nebraska for 2018 Gallery
The Best Food and Drink in Nebraska for 2018 Gallery
Food in the Cornhusker State is about more than just America’s greatest staple grain. While it’s true that Nebraska is the nation’s third largest producer of corn, the state is an agricultural powerhouse in general and a leading producer of everything from hogs, eggs, and dairy to wheat, dry beans, and sugar beets.
The state’s agricultural richness is part of what has turned the city of Omaha into a major economic hub; industries like meat packing and grain processing helped form the foundation for the city to become a modern center for transportation, telecommunications, and finance. That wealth in turn means that Omaha features prominently on our list of the best eats in the state.
Facebook/The Homy Inn
Best Bar: The Homy Inn, Omaha
Originally called The Homey Inn, this Omaha dive bar had to change its name because all the letters wouldn’t fit on the sign. It is, indeed, a homey place with walls lined with charming vintage Americana like tap handles, rare baseball cards, and political buttons. Opened in 1956 by Maynard Finkle (today his son Terry Finkle runs the bar), The Homy Inn quickly gained a following for its Champagne on tap, which comes in four varieties: dry, sweet, strawberry, and peach. It’s served by the flute — for less than $5 — or by the pitcher. If you run up a $100 tab, you get a free T-shirt.
Courtesy of Nebraska Brewing Company
Best Beer: Black Betty Imperial Stout, Nebraska Brewing Company
With numerous awards, Nebraska Brewing Company’s Black Betty Imperial Stout is what puts Nebraska beer on the map. True to its name, it pours pure black and has notes of rich chocolate, oak, and coffee.
Photo by Cin T. via Yelp
Best Chinese Restaurant: Canton House, Omaha
At Nebraska’s best Chinese restaurant, each of the 25 varieties of dim sum, including Shanghai soup dumplings, steamed spare ribs with black bean sauce, egg custard buns, siu mai, barbecue pork crêpe, and stuffed crispy fried dough are made fresh in-house and never frozen; and Canton wonton and shrimp dumplings (ha gao) are made to order. Find more details on Canton House here.
Chef-owner Jimmy Ng (who began his cooking career in Hong Kong more than 30 years ago) is also turning out a selection of Cantonese specialties including honey barbecue pork, roasted duck, salted pork and century egg congee, and stewed beef shank.
Best Cupcake: The Cake Gallery, Omaha
Trademarked as ULTRA moist cakes, these little bites are a total treat. The Cake Gallery has mastered the cake-to-frosting ratio on each of its cupcakes and provides patrons with uniquely enticing flavors. Try the banana split (which looks like an actual bowl of ice cream), “a banana cake filled with strawberry and a dollop of pineapple, iced in whip, dipped in chocolate, and topped with nuts and a cherry.”
Best Dive Bar: Homy Inn, Omaha
Omaha has its fair share of fine dive bars, but our choice for best bar in the state, Homy Inn, checks enough of the dive bar boxes to win this category as well. The walls are lined with old-school memorabilia, like Elvis posters and vintage baseball cards. Most distinctively, Homy Inn has bubbly on tap — serving cheap sparkling wine by the pitcher is enough to earn dive credibility for any bar. The lack of pretension seals the deal; the bubbly is just $5 a glass and poured by the friendliest bartenders you’ll ever meet.
Olsen Bake Shop
Best Doughnuts: Olsen Bake Shop, Omaha
Visiting Omaha’s Olsen Bake Shop is like taking a step back in time. It opened in 1942 and really hasn’t changed much since then. Get there early and grab a chocolate glazed cake doughnut with a strong, hot cup of coffee to get your day off to the best possible start. For more information on Olsen Bake Shop, click here.
Courtesy of Omaha Farmers Market
Best Farmers Market: Omaha Farmers Market, Omaha
Locals say the Omaha Farmers Market is one of the best parts of summer in Omaha. They love it because while produce changes with the seasons, the vendors, atmosphere, and people stay the same. At the market, you’ll find fresh-picked celery, German sausage, and ready-made habanero lime pasta. Click here for more information about the market.
Best Fried Chicken: Alpine Inn, Omaha
Alpine Inn might seem unassuming based on the exterior, but their fried half-chickens served with large potato wedges should not be overlooked. In business for more than 40 years, the spot (which doubles as a biker bar at night) has been known to feed the roughly 50 local raccoons their leftover chicken scraps. But don’t be scared off by their furry friends; we promise this dish is worth it.
Photo by Open Harvest Co-op Grocery via Yelp
Best Grocery Store: Open Harvest Grocery Co-op, Lincoln
One reviewer says it all about Open Harvest Grocery Co-op: “This is my favorite grocery store, and to me is not just a local, but a national gem. This is better than Bi-rite and Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco, a fraction of the price, and a much more relaxing atmosphere. Nothing pretentious like Park Slope co-op in Brooklyn. Just people who care doing it right.”
McFarlands & Son’s Authentic Irish Pub / Facebook
Best Irish Pub: McFarland and Sons, Lincoln
Best Italian Restaurant: Spezia, Omaha
The charming Spezia, which also has a location in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is a total crowd pleaser. The menu is expansive and offers a wide variety of antipasti, flatbreads, salads, pastas, wood-grilled and oven-roasted specialties, and Angus steaks. Specialties include flatbread with Italian sausage and roasted peppers, a wood-grilled chicken salad with crispy prosciutto and gorgonzola, Scottish salmon and farfalle in a tomato and basil cream sauce, seafood risotto, rack of lamb, wood grilled scallops, and a grilled 14-ounce rib-eye with Burgundy jus and roasted onions.
Best Mexican Restaurant: La Choza, Omaha
Specialties of El Salvador and Mexico are on display at this popular Omaha spot where Salvadorean specialties like pupusas and plantain leaf-wrapped tamales share the bill with the best Mexican food in the state. To prepare the al pastor, pork is marinated for three days before being grilled with chunks of pineapple, and the end result is the best taco in the state.
Most Expensive Restaurant: Gorat’s, Omaha
This Omaha institution dates back to 1944, and it claims none other than Warren Buffet as a fan; his go-to order is a T-bone with a salad with blue cheese dressing and a cherry Coke to drink. At $39, that T-bone is the most expensive item on the menu; other pricey cuts include the New York strip ($37) and the bison rib-eye ($35).
Yelp/ Will S.
Best Pasta Dish: Giglio With Chicken and Asparagus at Spezia, Omaha
The always-crowded Spezia serves some of Omaha’s finest steaks, but it’s also a popular pasta destination. The real standout is the giglio with chicken and asparagus, twisty pasta in a creamy pesto sauce with grilled chicken, toasted yellow peppers, and tomato basil relish. It’s a symphony of flavors. Find more details on Spezia here.
Best Pizza: Zio’s, Omaha
Opened in Omaha's Midtown in 1985 by Daniel and Usha Sherman, Zio’s serves New York-style, hand-stretched, thin-crust pizzas made from scratch each day. Over the years, it has expanded into two other locations (one in the earnest and lovely Downtown Old Market, the other in West Omaha) and moved each again to accommodate the crowds that keep coming to fill up the family-friendly spots (it's the kind of restaurant where they give dough to the kids to play with at the table). And along with the crowds come the accolades. As its website proudly declares, it’s the "recipient of more than 33 best pizza awards."
Best Sandwich: Cheese Runza From Runza
Sort of like a Hot Pocket on steroids, a runza is essentially a long roll that’s been stuffed with meat, onions, sauerkraut, or other fillings, and this Volga German-inspired sandwich is insanely popular in parts of the Midwest, especially Nebraska. That’s the home base of a chain of the same name that has about 80 locations throughout the region, and it serves legitimately good runzas. The original ground beef, onions, and cabbage variety is a traditional standby, but the addition of some gooey American cheese kicks it up a couple notches.
Yelp/ Michael N.
Best Soup: Bread and Cup, Lincoln
This modern, rustic restaurant in Lincoln’s historic Haymarket is quickly becoming a local destination, thanks to its creative recipes and commitment to using the freshest local ingredients and preparing just about everything on the menu from scratch. The soups on offer change, but they’re always a sure bet; favorites include chicken bacon and bean stew, Southwestern black bean (pictured), pork and green chile, and roasted seasonal vegetable.
Yelp/ Anthony G
Best Steakhouse: Gorat’s, Omaha
When Warren Buffett regularly holds court in your restaurant, you know you’ve got a keeper. That’s the case at Omaha landmark Gorat’s, which has been going strong since 1944. It remained in the Gorat family until 2012, when it was purchased and given a renovation, but the quality and preparation of the steak (which comes from — where else? — Omaha Steaks) is as good as ever. For the true Buffett experience, do as he does and order the T-bone, rare, with a double order of hash browns and a Cherry Coke. Find more details on Gorat’s here. For more states, check out our ultimate guide to the best food and drink in every state for 2018.