Monday, September 29, 2014

Where to eat, play & stay in Omaha

Where to eat, stay & play in Omaha, NE

I can’t believe it was over two weeks ago since we were in Omaha.  It was quite a whirlwind of a weekend and my days since getting back have been even more so but I am finally getting around to sorting through the pictures and I’m so excited to share our favorites places around the fun city.  I have to be honest – Omaha pleasantly surprised me!  I did not imagine that I would find so much culture, art, unique attractions and local food, but that we did!  So here is our list of where to eat, stay and play in Omaha.  There were actually several places on my list that we didn’t get to visit so I would imagine that we will be back soon!

EAT (& DRINK)

First things first: the food!  And oh my goodness, does Nebraska know how to do food!  We were impressed from the minute we arrived and you better believe that we are more than our fair share during our three-day-stay.  Of course, we were there for Restaurant Week so we had very nice (big) dinners but that did not mean that we skimped on breakfast and happy hour!   Omaha knows food but they also know Happy Hours.  I think every restaurant you pass by has a happy hour and each one seemed better than the last!

1.  Wilson & Washburn.  We arrived on Thursday night and just took off on foot from the hotel.  The staff at the hotel recommended we stop in to Wilson & Washburn for good craft beer and snacks.  And it was a win right away.  We weren’t exactly hungry but mu husband has a thing for malt vinegar and one of the first appetizers on their menu was Beet Chips with Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar, so of course, we had to order some.  And they kind of knocked our socks off.  I actually wish I had been more hungry because I would have loved to try some of their other food.

Harney Street Tavern

2. Harney Street Tavern.  We continued our stroll toward the Old Market District and as we did, we heard live music coming from a bar, so we headed inside and enjoyed some local whiskey drinks – me an Old Fashioned, Paul a Bourbon Press.  This place was so cozy…you had to walk down some stairs to get in; it was very industrial but in a warm, old barn tavern kind of way.  That doesn’t really make sense but just trust me – you want to go there.  Paul introduced himself to the musician (of course) who recommended we try Lisa’s Radial Cafe for breakfast/brunch if we liked diner breakfast.

Lisa's Radial Cafe

3. So, duh, Lisa’s Radial Cafe. There is one thing about visiting a city and using Trip Advisor or Urban Spoon to pick your restaurants.  But it’s a whole other thing to eat where the locals eat.  So when a local tells you to try a breakfast place, you try that breakfast place.  And this was the place.  Adorable atmosphere – total eclectic decorations and the sweetest wait staff.  We had typical breakfast food – my usual is 2 eggs, over medium with bacon, hash browns and a side of gravy.  And Lisa’s delivered, for sure.

Plank Seafood Provisions

4. Plank.  Oh, Plank.  It’s been two weeks since we were in Omaha and no less than a half-dozen times either Paul or I have said “I wish we had a Plank!” or something of the sort.  I actually don’t have enough good things to say about this place.  From the atmosphere and decorations, to the most friendly service to the outstanding food and drinks and happy hour menu.  Every city needs a Plank, and that is no exaggeration.  To be honest, Plank wasn’t even on my list of places to go.  It was by sheer accident that we walked in.  We had been to a museum (more on that later) and hadn’t eaten since breakfast at Lisa’s so we needed a little something, but didn’t want to ruin our dinner so we strolled around, exploring the Old Market District when we turned a corner, and saw a sign for $1 Happy Hour Oysters.  Paul couldn’t get to the door fast enough and holy moly – the oysters!  I never would have imagined that we would drive to Nebraska and have amazingly fresh oysters!  We sat at the bar where they are shucking the oysters right in front of you, we enjoyed drinks (margarita with homemade lemoncello & pomegranate juice – yes!) and fresh oysters.  And then we went back the next day for more.  And we are not ashamed.  This place is the real deal.

5. Brix. Our first Restaurant Week meal was at Brix Omaha in the Midtown area of Omaha.  There are tons of shops, restaurants and apartments in the area and it included a beautiful view of downtown.  Brix is unique in the fact that it’s a restaurant – but also a wine & spirits shop.  The walls are lined with different choices and they have dispensers throughout the store for you to taste different wines.  It was packed and everyone seemed to love the option to try different wines before you buy them!

Brix Omaha

Our dinner included three courses – appetizer, main course and dessert.  Both top pictures are our appetizers – I had fried green tomatoes and a huge chunk of burrata cheese which I could have eaten all day long.  Paul had lobster mac which was out of this world!  I chose wild mushroom pasta for my main which was full of fresh herbs and really flavorful wild mushrooms with a creamy white wine sauce, and Paul had grilled salmon with vegetables.  Dessert, which was my favorite part of the whole meal, was dark chocolate mousse with fresh berries and salted bourbon caramels.  I’m salivating just thinking about it!

6. Bailey’s. Bailey’s is a breakfast and lunch-only restaurant which is part of a restaurant group that participated in Restaurant Week and Bailey’s was an awesome brunch before we headed to the Omaha zoo.  I had pretty typical breakfast food again but I have to rave about the bacon.  It was thick and perfectly crispy.  And I tried some silver dollar pancakes since I had skipped the sweets the morning before and Bailey’s pancakes were so soft and tender.  I’m not a huge pancake fan but if I’m going to eat them, I want pacakes like those. Paul had Crab Benedict and oh-my-goodness was it incredible, that is, the one taste I did get.  Paul wasn’t much for sharing that meal!

Blue Sushi

7. Blue Sushi. Our second Restaurant Week meal was at Blue Sushi.  When I saw a sushi option on the list, I knew it was a must.  The drink menu was extensive and I ended up going with a sake martini which was served with a slice of fresh cumumber – so refreshing!  We shared edamame, miso soup, and four sushi rolls:

South Pacific: eel tempura, cream cheese, pineapple, scallion, & eel sauce – it was super unique with a little sweetness from the pineapple – not your average sushi roll.

Crunchy Blue (our favorite!): spicy crab, cilantro, crispy panko, & eel sauce – the cilantro (which we love) pushed this one over the top for us, mixed with the crispy panko it was definitely our favorite!

Bumble Bee: spicy tuna, spicy salmon, cucumber, red pepper, & soy paper – this one was interesting, the filling was very flavorful and almost refreshing with the cucumber and looked adorable on the plate with black/yellow alternating soy paper.

Roja: tuna, yellowtail, avocado, cucumber, cilantro, soy paper, & spicy sauce – this roll was great but pretty spicy!  We loved the mixture of tuna and yellow tail.

Are you hungry yet?

STAY

We stayed at Hotel Deco XV – it’s an artsy boutique hotel in a restored building in the heart of downtown Omaha.  We ended up walking most of the time were were there, only needing our car for a few destinations.

Hotel Deco

I didn’t do a very good job of snapping any shots before we started unpacking so unfortunately, this is the best I can do.  However, I will tell you that the rooms were so comfortable and Paul and I left convinced it was time for a new mattress. Also, the showers will make you want to renovate your bathroom and pronto!

PLAY

1. The Durham Museum.  The Durham Museum is located in Omaha’s historic Union Station so immediately upon entering you feel like you could be stepping back in time.  The building is beautiful and so much history is housed there.  Omaha has a rich history in American Indian culture as well as was a US history being found along the Lewis and Clark trail.  The Durham is associated with the Smithsonian so you know that the exhibits won’t disappoint.  My favorite part was the Trish & Dick Davidson Gallery including a replica store front of the original Buffett Grocery Store that opened in 1915, an O scale model train layout including a city scape, if you will, showing Union Pacific’s rail line from Omaha to Ogden during the 1950s.  Also, for all of my fellow train nerds, the museum houses real train cars  which allow you to walk through a steam locamotive, a caboose, a sleeper cabin and a lounge car.  It was so cool to see that history and actually walk through those cars.

The Durham Museum

2. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium. Well, the Doorly Zoo is rated #1 in the world for a reason – it is top.notch.  From the well-kept grounds to the extreme detail in the exhibits, this is an Omaha attraction you will not want to miss.  We had an absolutely gorgeous day for exploring the zoo.  And we started in the Desert Dome which you can see when you are coming into town.  It’s an indoor desert – in the middle of the US.  How cool is that?  And underneath is a exhibit called Kingdoms of the Night showing all different kinds of nocturnal animals.

Henry Doorly Zoo Desert Dome

There were so many exhibits to walk through and I am not sure you could actually see everything in one day but we kind of prioritized and made sure to scope out our favorites – mine being the gorillas (my college mascot!) and tigers, we also were sure not to miss the monkeys, giraffes, bears and the outstanding aquarium.  The aquarium features sharks, penguins and coral among lots of other great exhibits.

Henry Doorly Zoo

3. Pioneer Courage Sculpture Park.  This park is another thing we sort of stumbled upon while driving around downtown Omaha.  We came to learn that this sculptures in this park were created to pay respect to the courage, bravery and spirit of the generations of people who risked it all to move west.  The sculptures are built to 1 1/4 in scale and are so life-like and extremely detailed.  The pictures cannot do them justice!

Pioneer Courage Sculpture Park

5. Old Market District.  We totally fell in love with the Old Market.  From restaurants (see above) to ice cream shops, antique shops, stores, and bars, the Old Market is full of culture and art.  Our hotel was just a few blocks from this part of town so we spent most of our weekend here, checking out all that we could.  Next time we will be checking out more of the antique shops, for sure!  Be sure to check out local event calendars if you are in Omaha – they had several festivals and musical events going on while we were in town, and that seems to be the case throughout the year.

The Old Market

6. Kerry Pedestrian Bridge. Ok, where else can you go and find a pedestrian bridge over the Missouri River, that allows you to stand in TWO states at once?  I found this bridge to be so cool and after we actually started walking across it was even better.  The bridge is beautiful to look at and connects Omaha to Council Bluffs, Iowa.  It spans across the Missouri and it was so crazy to me to think that the water I was walking over could be the same water that flows to and from Jefferson City, where we currently live.  I might be a river nerd. 🙂

Kerry Pedestrian Bridge in Omaha, NE

Lots of other things such as the Joslyn Art Museum, Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha Children’s Museum, and Hot Shops Art Center are, from what we hear, great places to explore while in Omaha.  They are definitely on our list for next time!

Omaha, Nebraska

Visit Omaha graciously sponsored our trip to Omaha but, as always, our opinions are 100% our own.  

 

4 Responses to “Where to eat, play & stay in Omaha”

  1. #
    Sues — September 29, 2014 @ 7:18 am

    What an incredible trip filled with SO much delicious looking food. I’d never think of Omaha as a foodie destination, but I think you changed my mind 🙂

  2. #
    Ali+|+Gimme+Some+Oven — September 29, 2014 @ 9:32 am

    Yay! I’ve been looking forward to this post. I can’t believe this city is so close and I’ve never been there! Looks like a great — and delicious — trip. 🙂

  3. #
    Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps — September 29, 2014 @ 3:33 pm

    We have friends that live in Omaha that we visit a couple of times a year, but they live outside the city, so they don’t really know all the restaurants in Old Town. This will come in handy next time we go! Looks like you had a blast!

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