The 38 Essential Omaha Restaurants – Sarah Baker Hansen

Inside Lola’s Cafe | Lola’s Cafe

Where to find farm-to-cone ice cream, Burmese ramen, totchos (tater nachos), and the purported home of the original Reuben

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.

Update October 2021:

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.

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.

Sarah Baker Hansen is an award-winning writer who covers the food scene in Omaha, Nebraska.

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