Going out of town can sometimes be a pain in the rear. I spent the 12th through 16th in fabulous Omaha, coming back to a desk full of more work than I knew what to do with. This was no vacation either: I spent two days in travel and each of the other days working 9-10 hours on-site with a client. With the travel home on Sunday, it meant I didn't have a day away from work for about 12 straight days. Needless to say, getting together the list of yummy restaurants in this medium-sized Midwest city was low on my priority list.
With all of the work being done, I didn't find a chance to play tourist. I didn't go see the Winters Quarters temple. I didn't go looking for Warren Buffett's house. I didn't even go strolling by the banks of the Missouri River. I did, however, enjoy quite a few bits of good food.
Jack and Mary's Restaurant
655 N 114th St
Omaha, NE 68154
Three in the afternoon, haven't eaten lunch, will eat almost anything. With an immediate need for food to be satisfied, I decided to cruise past some of the nearby shopping centers in search of food. The hotel I stayed in the middle of a business park and was surrounded by restaurants. I figured that a run-of-the-mill American restaurant would fit the bill. I walked into a deserted restaurant caught between the bustle of the office lunch hour and dinnertime. Given the size of the restaurant, it seemed like they usually would do a lot of business.
The menu hinted that their claim to fame was fried chicken, though that didn't really strike me as what I wanted at that time. I settled on the chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and corn. It also came with a side of my choosing, so I opted for zucchini and tomatoes. The food itself was alright, though the zucchini and tomatoes were fantastic. I wouldn't run out and recommend eating here or anything, but I also wouldn't tell anyone to steer clear. This is is a 3.5 out of 5 experience. Not great, but good.
1001 N 102nd St
Omaha, NE 68114
I went here for dinner on a recommendation from the client. My experience has shown that most places that advertise themselves as "brew pubs" usually pull out all the stops in the kitchen as well, so I was expecting great things. It didn't take long for me to figure out that this was a good choice regardless of it being a regional chain.
I started off with some spinach artichoke dip that would've knocked your socks off. You know how most dips use a fair amount of cream cheese to stretch it out? That wasn't going to do. No, this was a bunch of spinach and artichoke in a bath of gooey fontina served with some good crostini. Note to restaurateurs: this is how to make spinach and artichoke dip.
Being that I'm back in the Midwest, steak was a no-brainer for an entree. I went with the special, a black peppercorn sirloin with cabernet reduction sauce and blue cheese crumbles served with loaded mashed potatoes and broccoli. The steak was a perfect medium rare, something that seems to be rather elusive these days. You either get a "barely cooked on the inside" bloodfest or an overcooked and tough piece of meat. The spicy peppercorns went wonderfully with the tangy sauce and pungent cheese, a great combination of flavors.
Let me also take a moment to discuss the "loaded" mashed potatoes. They are a cardiologist's nightmare, layered with cheese, bacon and at least 4 tablespoons of sour cream. In case that's not enough saturated fat and cholesterol for you, it also includes a side of butter, just in case. They're every bit as good as they sound. Despite this massive amount of food, I was still ambitious enough to go for dessert, a slice of pecan pie a la mode. It was pretty good, though not up to my Southern standards. Most folks not from the South will notice.
I also want to take a moment to say that the service at this place was excellent. The waiter was personable and helpful with suggestions not to mention very attentive. With the awesome food and great service, this is going to be a 4.5 out of 5. I don't know about the other locations, but I definitely recommend this one.
Rivera's Mexican Food
12047 Blondo St
Omaha, NE 68164
I'm usually suspicious of Mexican food outside of Western and border states, but the reviews on this place were very positive. After dining there, I can see why. I showed up around 7:45 on a Friday night and the place was hoppin'. The waitresses just about left flaming skid marks on the floor while they flew from table to table. I figured a place this busy had to be good.
I started things off with a pork and hominy soup, one of the daily specials. It was a little on the oily side but had some great flavor and was very satisfying. For an entree I went with shrimp and lobster enchiladas with a serrano cream sauce. The accompanying rice and beans were nothing to write home about, but the enchiladas themselves were fantastic. I was especially surprised since finding really good seafood that far inland can be a chore. Given the quick service and surprisingly good food, this one scores a 4.25 out of 5. I can see some room for improvement on the sides, but don't let that stop you from paying them a visit.
1224 S 103rd St
Omaha, NE 68124
From what I've heard, this is pretty much the "must have" breakfast in Omaha. As part of working on Saturday, the client bought breakfast for us from here. I'll give fair warning that because this was carryout, I have no idea what the dine-in experience is like.
What struck me immediately is the breadth of the menu. Breakfast alone took up a full 7 pages of items, enough to make your head spin. I decided on the Pope Benedict which came with fried eggplant, sliced tomatoes and roasted peppers. Let me tell you folks, it's every bit as good as it sounds. The flavors blended perfectly, the hollandaise sauce was spot-on and the eggs were perfectly poached, creamy without being overly runny. This was, without a doubt, the best breakfast I'd had all week. This flawless execution earns a 5 out of 5 and a recommendation that no matter what else you think you need to do in Omaha, going here in more important.
1010 Howard St
Omaha, NE 68102
Much like Shauna, I've been on an Indian food kick lately. Given that we're up to consuming it about once a week now, you might even go so far as to call it a bender. There were a lot of listings for Indian restaurants in the area (though nowhere near as many as Salt Lake) but the consensus centered on Indian Oven located in the downtown area. Apparently Howard Street is an old cobblestone road turned into a pedestrian mall a la South Street in Philadelphia. There's a lot of old brick buildings filled with shops and restaurants of all description and, of course, a dearth of parking. Make sure you bring an extra $6 if you plan on driving down there to use one of the paid lots.
The restaurant itself occupied the ground level and 2nd story loft of one of these row buildings and had a decor that made me think this might be a bit of fusion cooking instead of the normal fare I'd recently become accustomed to. After an appetizer of spinach pakora, I was satisfied that this was the real deal. The pakora packed an interesting heat, one that struck immediately but stayed with you at a constant level for quite some time. It didn't make me want to keep reachi
ng for my water either.
I followed up with an entree of saag gosht (lamb) with a side of garlic naan. The saag was perfectly seasoned and came with a side of rice. Oddly enough, it also came with a small green salad, something that seemed a bit out of place. I mean, it was good, just not what I think of when I think of Indian food. I'll warn you now that the garlic naan is very powerful stuff. Most garlic naan I've had will bake it right in. This had what appeared to be about 4-5 minced cloves sprinkled on top with a handful of fresh cilantro. It was very tasty though you might want to brush off the garlic as it is VERY strong.
I'm no expert on Indian food, but I think this more-or-less fit the bill of what I was looking for. I'd rate Indian Oven a 4.5 out of 5. The service could have been a little quicker and the garlic on the naan would be way over the top for most diners.