For the winner of Best Appetizer, Rivera’s Shrimp Alambres takes the title. Six butterflied shrimp are char-grilled, stuffed with breadcrumbs, cotija cheese, jack cheese, chili peppers and cilantro and then wrapped with bacon. It is as delicious as it is spicy. This dish brings a lot of heat. The shrimp are served with a dipping sauce that cuts the heat a little, but make sure you have a cold beverage to go along with it. Listed as a favorite item on the menu, the Shrimp Alambres isn’t even marked as spicy. Those bold flavors still show over the spice making it a favorite item for our readers.
When you order the Fried Calamari at Upstream, your companions will hope that you are nice enough to share. Not only is the portion size big, but this Fried Calamari comes with fried spicy banana peppers as well. The breading is light and crunchy and it is served with cocktail sauce. Try it with a side of the Sriracha mayo.
Casablanca – Midtown Omaha
As delicious as it is caloric, Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion is the type of appetizer you can’t stop eating. Dip the battered and fried onion petals into the signature Bloom Sauce and then try to stop yourself from grabbing another piece. Who knew onions could be so darn tasty?
This thin, leavened flatbread comes dotted with sesame seeds and a layer of rich, buttery havarti cheese. The Florentine lavosh – topped with scallions, spinach and tomato – is best with bacon added on, but then again, what isn’t? Seven other topping combinations round out the list. Try them all. We’re pretty sure most Omahans have.
The Blackstone Reuben
The Crescent Moon
The Crescent Moon has been a much loved hangout in Midtown Omaha, bridging the gap between beer snobs who long for Lambic and former Budweiser drinkers who are just graduating to Stella. A constant, however, is the love of all palates for sandwiches brimming with flavor. Prepare to fall in love with the Blackstone Reuben. Along with Buffett and the Blackshirts, Nebraska is famous for being the birthplace of the Reuben, specifically at the Blackstone Hotel just across Farnam. This marble rye sandwich doesn’t skimp on the slow roasted corned beef, topped with melted Swiss and a special sauce (1000 Island), with enough sauerkraut to make you feel as though you have fallen into the jar. There are a few other ingredients, but the Moon isn’t telling. Come down and see for yourself!
On a typical weekend night, Amsterdam serves hundreds of these tasty Euro-style sandwiches, no doubt due in part to their 3 a.m. closing time on Fridays and Saturdays. The lamb and beef kabob meat, sliced to serve, is placed inside a warm pocket of Mexican-style telera bread and topped with chickpeas and carrots, pickled cabbage and tabbouleh. For the sauce, be prepared to answer the all-important question: spicy, garlic or herb?
BBQ Chicken Sandwich
They take a quarter loaf French bread, cut, slice and grill for the bun. On one half, they stack lettuce and tomato. The other bun is topped with a grilled chicken breast lathered in their homemade BBQ sauce along with coleslaw. It is all then piled together into a tasty delight.
Layers of roasted chicken, caramelized onions, spinach and robust Gorgonzola cheese pressed on ciabatta bread: it’s a recipe that keeps guests coming back. The mix of sweet potato and regular fries with peck seasoning and black pepper aioli on the side doesn’t hurt, either. If you have one Panini this year, make it this one.
The Pulled Pork Sandwich
Artesian meets Awesome here at Block 16. Formerly named New York Chicken & Gyros, Block 16 has exploded onto the Omaha food scene with incredible farm to table menu options. All their dishes are amazing, but the Pulled Pork roll has a special place in many hearts. This sandwich features slow braised, Truebridge Farm pork with rich, caramelized onions and melted Swiss cheese on sourdough kissed with mayo and mustard. Drop what you are doing immediately and come try this delightful dish.
The Italian Night Club
Salami, Capicola, Smoked Ham – what else do you need on a good sandwich? Jimmy John’s ties it all together by adding provolone, lettuce, tomato, onion, mayo and their homemade Italian Vinaigrette. For even more flavor, hot peppers are a great addition. The bread is always fresh and the delivery is “freaky” fast.
Pepperjax offers an impressive selection of Phillies, but it’s the Steak Philly that’s the real highlight of their menu. Get the traditional version with the steak, veggies and cheese or add any variety of sauces and toppings including sour cream, salsa and black beans. You can also get the Steak Philly as a bowl, but it’s really best when served on the baked roll.
Served on a Vietnamese baguette, which is a little lighter than the classic French version, the Bahn Mi is a specialty sandwich sometimes served with pork pate. At Saigon Surface, you get grilled pork instead with crispy pickled carrots and daikon radishes, all topped with onions and cilantro.
Three ingredients -- Ri 1 rye whiskey, a blend with a lighter rye taste, Amaretto DiSaronno and Angostura bitters -- are hard at work on this straightforward cocktail that is typically served up, and bruised, setting it apart from the rest. The initial bite gives way to velvety smoothness, making it a great one to unwind with after a long day.
The Grapefruit Martini
Watching your weight? Then pass on the sparkling water, because Blue has a martini just for you. Blue’s bartenders pride themselves in providing naturally enhanced spirits by infusing the flavor of fresh cut fruit in their vodka. The Grapefruit Martini is a marriage of tart grapefruit, muddled with triple sec, cranberry juice and fresh orange. The only dessert you will need is the cane sugar rim on the glass, a perfect complement to a lovely drink.
The Moscow Mule
The Homy Inn
Lauded by experts as the first drink to popularize vodka in the United States, the Moscow Mule packs a spicy punch with vodka, lime and ginger beer shaken over ice. Served in a distinct copper mug, this cup is said to enhance the flavor of the ginger beer, and serves as a great conversation starter. This drink is served the world over in the same manner, all the way to the Homy Inn here in Omaha. Push aside the pitcher of champagne and enjoy this classic beverage with a dog dish of warm peanuts. The night can’t get any better.
House of Loom
The incredible rise of the AMC hit “Mad Men” has seen an influx of impeccable style amongst its fans, including women in pencil skirts and kitten heels, men in fitted trousers with shined shoes and all drinking some very fine spirits. One of these classic cocktails is the Old-Fashioned. This hearty drink invokes the confidence and beauty of a generation long past, no matter the gender or the age of the person who consumes it. House of Loom’s take on the cocktail is simple: Dickel Rye whisky, Angostura bitters and a bit of sugar shaken over ice, but served neat. House of Loom is the perfect place to enjoy the pure elegance of the Old-Fashioned. Cheers.
Roja Mexican Grill
Roja Mexican Grill offers so many varieties of margaritas that you may have a tough time deciding which one to try first, but rest assured that all of them are tasty and all of them are carefully crafted by skilled bartenders. Start with a frozen lime margarita and then work your way through the long list of especiales.
The Mint Mojito
Mint is one of the staple flavors of summer, its scent evoking memories of warm nights spent with friends on the patio of a favorite restaurant. Kona Grill, a west Omaha hot spot, boasts incredible sushi and exquisite drinks year round. But this summer, the Mint Mojito is a must try. Fresh lime and mint are muddled with Cruzan rum, producing a classic drink that is not too overpoweringly sweet. Feeling spontaneous? Try a different flavor! Kona offers mango, strawberry ginger and raspberry as well.
The Perfect Manhattan
Some things just don’t need messing with, and a classic cocktail is a perfect example. Sullivan’s Steakhouse, an upscale restaurant on the edge of the Old Market, knows just how to make a Perfect Manhattan. Sullivan’s prides itself on using premium spirits for their drinks. The Manhattan has a base of Maker’s Mark, blended with a bit of sweet vermouth and topped with a cherry. Simple and Perfect.
Stella’s is the talk of the town when it comes to burgers, and the proof is in the constant crowd of people around her door on an ordinary afternoon. Of course, being close to an Air Force Base has helped spread Stella’s burger love. For over 70 years, the hand-pressed burgers have stood the test of time. Always fresh, never frozen meat and a family recipe have made this burger a giant success. The original cheeseburger is thick, juicy, cheesy and topped with a fresh white bun. All burgers are served on a napkin, and it is said that the original cast-iron griddle is still being used today. Talk about well-seasoned -- well, that is Stella’s.
Regular Hamburger with Swiss
Louie M’s Burger Lust
Fresh grilled mushrooms and melted big-eye Swiss cheese are atop a hand crafted, fresh chuck hamburger patty, which is grilled to taste and served on a sesame seed bun. There are no other seasonings or salt used, which allows the other ingredients to shine.
THE BURGER STAR
Burger Star boasts about having “Omaha’s Freshest Burgers,” and the reputation is well-deserved. The signature Burger Star manages to be juicy without being soggy and tasty without being overpowering. Choose a 6 oz. patty or make it a Rock Star by doubling up on the meat. Choose your own toppings or make it Star Style with cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, grilled onions and Star Sauce.
The Black and Bleu Burger
Goldbergs in Dundee
This Dundee staple has been feeding the young and trendy for years. They are famous for their “Goldburgers,” each of which is carefully prepared to order, with a range of options for even the pickiest eater. A favorite of my husband’s, the Black & Bleu burger is a 6 oz. charbroiled burger with juicy sautéed mushrooms and grilled onions, served with creamy blue cheese dressing. Choose between a toasted pretzel roll or gourmet bun.
Dinker’s started as a small neighborhood bar in the heart of Sheely Town, a Polish immigrant area. More than 40 years later, they are proud to say that they have stayed the same but have been famed with one of the best burgers in Omaha. Dinker’s makes their burgers the old-fashioned way, using an ice cream scoop and then hand-pressing it. Each burger is over a quarter pound USDA Choice ground beef. Go ahead and create-your-own. All burgers are served with chips and kosher dill pickle slices.
Loose meat sandwich
B & G
Well-seasoned, loose ground beef is piled on a breaded white bun and served plain, but B & G recommends adding other toppings, such as mustard, onion, pickles or cheese. While you are there, treat yourself to a milkshake and sink into the past.
Kansas City Style Burger
Hailing from Council Bluffs, Tish’s Restaurant started as a walk-up window in 1980. Today, Tish’s is a full service restaurant serving a great Kansas City Style Burger. This burger is hand crafted and topped with thick bacon, melted cheddar cheese and barbeque sauce, then served on a toasted Rotella’s bun.
King Kong Burger
Behind the Gorilla is one great burger. And it is not small. It is a half pound of burger, char-grilled and served on a sesame seed bun. Of course, it comes with lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles, too. Extra add-ons such as mushrooms, bacon and cheese are ways to increase its deliciousness.
Don & Millie’s
Don & Millie’s Baked Potato Soup is only offered seasonally, so don’t expect to get your hands on this hearty soup until the weather begins to cool again. This soup is great for a few reasons: it’s delicious, it’s inexpensive and you can get your hands on it quickly. You may find it hard to believe that this soup comes from a fast food joint.
Baked French Onion
Caramelized onions are soaked in a rich beef stock with wine. Ladled into a bowl and covered with provolone cheese, this soup is covered with melted cheese and served with bread and crackers.
French Onion Soup
Omaha Press Club
Another classic dish that’s been redefined by the Omaha landmark, the traditional onion soup is served in either a cup or a bowl at the Omaha Press Club and has become a regular on their menu. The dish, which is slowly simmered for a couple of hours, has an abundance of onions. Made with beef stock, their special seasoning and provolone cheese, it is often sprinkled with parmesan cheese when completed.
Tom Kha is a soup made of chicken cooked in bubbling coconut milk that has been infused with galangal, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves. It’s one of Thailand’s most unique food items and is always hot and ready at Bangkok Cuisine.
French Onion Soup
When you talk about delicious, talk about Dario’s French onion soup. The broth is perfectly balanced in flavor with plenty of caramelized onions. Crowned at the top of the soup is crusty bread under melted gruyere cheese. It’s best to scrape off and eat the cheese that has melted down the side of the footed bowl. And be sure to give yourself a moment or two before you start slurping because you might burn your tongue.
Sometimes something simple proves to be extraordinary, as is the case of Schuck’s Lobster Bisque. It is made with lobster stock, heavy cream and sherry, then puréed into a smooth and creamy bisque. The Lobster Bisque is served hot with crackers and offered at all locations as a daily soup.
Any Asian Vietnamese Restaurant
Pho is a deeply rich broth with noodles and shaved braised meat, usually either pork or beef. Then add a variety of Asian vegetables like bok choy, bean sprouts and the like. Finish off with cilantro and squirts of fresh lime juice and slurp away. Usually served in a big bowl, steaming hot, it can be made spicy, if that is what you like.
Le Voltaire’s menu covers many regions throughout France, but this winner is from the region of Burgundy, where peasant food is turned into Haute Cuisine, which is how one would describe Boeuf Bourguignon. This dish is prepared with Beef stew meat slowly braised and settled into a long simmer in red wine with carrots, mushrooms and onions added towards the end. Le Voltaire recommends a big Red Burgundy wine to accompany this dish. Voila!
Chimichanga de Pollo Poblano
This chimichanga is stuffed with chicken, poblano peppers, oxaca cheese and topped with in-house ranchera sauce. It is rich but definitely easy to finish. The lush tortilla is served with Mexican rice and daily vegetables. It’s not too spicy and definitely delicious.
Cedar Plank Salmon
The success of this dish was 10 years in the making. How to get the Cedar Plank Salmon perfectly smoked was a work in progress. Today it is one of the most revered dishes on the Hiro menu. It comes to the table served on the cedar plank for which it was grilled and accompanied with pickled cucumbers and Fuji Apples.
Of course a Risotto had to make the list, and Spezia’s Seafood Risotto is a favorite. It is made with a seafood stock and stirred until creamy, with grilled shrimp, sea scallops and green lip mussels added in. Top it off with fresh asparagus and you have an any-time-of-day entrée for seafood lovers.
The Greek Islands
Since its opening in 1983, the Greek Islands has been serving the Dolmathes Dinner with gusto. It is best described as seasoned ground beef and rice wrapped in grape vine leaves, topped with Avgolemono Sauce and served with Greek potatoes. Opah!
Jaipur Brewing Restaurant
Boneless pieces of tender chicken are cooked in a creamy curry sauce that is addictive to the taste buds. This dish is not as spicy as other Indian foods, but it certainly boasts the flare of Indian cuisine. Ask for another side of naan to dip in the yummy Korma sauce.
Macaroni and cheese
Marks Bistro says they are “where people go out to feel at home.” The macaroni & cheese, the only menu item to survive all 10 years of their existence, is a testament to that “at home” feeling. It all starts with a béchamel sauce executed with perfection – no grainy roux taste here. Cheddar, havarti, Asiago and blue cheeses are added and the mixture is poured over cavatappi pasta, finished with panko bread crumbs and broiled for a bit. While most of us could probably try this at home, we clearly don’t want to. Co-owner Rachel Kolb says it’s their undisputed top seller, a treat routinely enjoyed by guests even in 100-degree weather on their patio. Try it plain or with toppings like bacon and jalapeño, or chicken and spinach.
Beef and dill gravy
This dish starts with boiled beef and is carved at a steam table. The gravy is made from boiled beef stock and slathered in butter and flour with sugar, vinegar and dried Dill. The feeling of being in Eastern Europe is easily reached from this dish and the ambiance of the Bohemian Café.
Traditional Lasagna is a great comfort food, and Pasta Amore’s is as comfy as it gets. The popularity of this dish is due to authentic Bolognese, which is layered between lasagna noodles and cheeses. Served with rolls and a salad, Pasta Amore’s Lasagna is tops in the winner’s circle.
Macaroni and Cheese
This comfort food is served only on Fridays, and Taxi’s still suggests a call ahead if you have your taste buds set on Mac and Cheese, Taxi style. Made with penne pasta and five cheeses (Gouda, Havarti, Cheddar, Swiss and Romano), Taxi’s Mac and Cheese is super creamy and served with toasted bread crumbs on top.
Jimi D’s Lasagna isn’t just lasagna – it’s deep dish lasagna, meaning there are layers upon layers of deliciousness. The preparation and ingredients vary depending upon which particular homemade lasagna is on the schedule for that day, so ask the server before you order to see if the day’s lasagna is to your liking. There’s a good chance that no matter what day you visit, the lasagna will be amazing.
Beer-Braised Pot Roast
Slow-roasted in dark beer is how the Upstream prepares their popular Beer-Braised Pot Roast. It is then served alongside Yukon gold mashed potatoes and a bunch of seasonal vegetables. The slow roast makes it super tender. This is a cut-with-a-fork type of pot roast that brings you back to home cooked food.
Strawberry Wedding Cake
The Strawberry Wedding Cake is as beautiful on the outside as it is delicious on the inside. Serve it at any occasion and your guests will be happy, for this cake does have a wow factor. It starts with a moist pudding-esque yellow cake. Then it is layered with a sweetened whipped cream frosting and sliced strawberries. Then the cake gets another layer of the same starting with the cake. After several layers, it is frosted with sweetened whipped cream and decorated with strawberries for the finished look.
Whiskey Bread Pudding
They’ve had the bread pudding since opening, and it’s been a staple for nearly 10 years. They use bread from local le Quartier. It’s simple yet elegant. Egg yolk, sugar and actual whiskey are folded into the recipe. First they make custard with egg yolk, then whiskey is tempered and vanilla bean added. Bread is soaked and compressed to absorb everything.
When you think of cheesecake, doesn’t the Cheesecake Factory come to mind? With 38 flavors of cheesecake, nothing beats the Original, which is creamy cheesecake with a graham cracker crust and a sour cream topping. But go ahead and try the other 37 varieties of cheesecake just to be sure.
Key Lime Pie
Key Lime Pie has become a staple of many restaurants over the years, especially those found in the south or who have their roots in the south, but Charleston’s here in Omaha has taken the classic dessert to a whole other level. Made in house with a walnut and graham cracker crust, it’s a top seller for the restaurant. It has a deep flavor profile and homemade whipped cream and is large enough for at least three people. It’s a crumbly, rich treat.
Fried Ice Cream
One of the most classic desserts and one traditionally found in Mexican restaurants, Fried Ice Cream became a classic dessert for the family owned Grandmother’s years ago. Made in the restaurant with a flour tortilla shell sprinkled with cinnamon sugar and vanilla ice cream rolled with Oreo cookie and graham cracker crust, the deep fried dish is one of Grandmother’s signature dishes.
Sweet Potato Pie Ice Cream
Big Mama’s Kitchen
When you are at Big Mama’s Kitchen, you are at the home of Sweet Potato Pie Ice Cream. This ice cream is everything it should be: cold, sweet, creamy and made with sweet potatoes. The only way for it to be your favorite too is to try it.
With a cross between a ’30s speak-easy and old western saloon, the Drover continues to serve up Omaha’s original Whiskey Steak. Since the ’70s, the Drover’s nationwide clientele has dined on grilled to order steaks most often with the house specialty: the Whiskey marinade. The Whiskey Steak comes available in all cuts from the Porterhouse to the Bone-In Ribeye to the Petit Filet. The marbled meat is quickly marinated in whiskey and soy then immediately grilled, creating a crisp, savory crust. The rest of the menu is geared around the main course, offering a salad bar and simple sides. Still a favorite today, the Drover’s Whiskey Steak is hard to beat.
A 7 or 9 oz. filet salted and grilled on a hot flat top grill is the start of Longhorn’s best steak contender. It is then seasoned with southwest spices and topped with a pat of lemon butter. This filet is served with steamed vegetables or rice. Longhorn Steakhouse has their recipe tried and true just for you.
Rib Eye Steak
Texas Roadhouse calls their Bone-In Rib Eye Steak their “most flavorful steak.” An impressive 20 oz. steak, this entrée includes the special Texas Roadhouse peppercorn sauce. Choose two of their 13 sides to accompany the steak, but the real highlight of this meal is the steak itself. Big and juicy, the rib eye is hand-cut and cooked to your liking.
Omaha Press Club
Patrons go crazy for this choice rib eye that is slowly roasted and seared on a broiler to keep the juices intact. The Prime Rib is made with their special seasoning and patrons of the Omaha Press Club don’t even need a knife to cut it, but instead can use a fork for this tender dish.
The T-shaped bone is cut from short loin. It holds the New York strip and tenderloin on the other side. Charbroil your steak or choose to sear it. Gorat’s will cook it either way. It is finished with a simple seasoning and brushed with butter for perfection.
M’s Pub labels their escargot “renowned.” To many in Omaha, they are a true standard in Omaha cuisine. The renowned escargot are baked in a casserole dish with garlic and butter then topped with Havarti cheese, which is broiled until it is golden and bubbly. The escargot come to your table hot and ready to eat. Served with a side of crusty bread, you are able to taste the exotic snails in a perfect balance of flavors. Use the bread to soak up the extra garlicky butter and grab a mint on your way out the door.
Foie gras is a French delicacy made from goose liver. The dish contains a rich flavor and smooth texture. It has become a staple of French food, and La Buvette is one of the only places in Omaha to experience such luxury. Hudson Valley marinated with calvados and wrapped on torchon shape and poached. Served cold.
Calamares Salteados Tapas
Ringlets of squid are sautéed in olive oil, white wine, garlic and parsley and served warm with crusty bread. This is not your typical calamari but rather juicy and complex in flavors. You will wish you ordered two.
The Combination Plate
Lalibela Ethiopian is Omaha’s most well received Ethiopian restaurant. Patrons favor the Combination Mahabrawi Plate, which offers a selection of six to eight different vegetable and meat dishes. The plate is big enough to share and is also served with Injera, which is a type of sponge bread. After your meal, ask to participate in a coffee ceremony then go tell all your friends about your Ethiopian experience.
Goi Bo (spicy beef salad) is a traditional dish that appears in the Bo Bay Mon or Beef Seven Ways Feast in Vietnam. Here in Nebraska, our own Vietnamese Restaurant offers Goi Bo for us to feast on year round. It is made of tender steak that is quickly seared then dressed in a spicy lime sauce and tossed with bean sprouts and herbs.
The Frog Legs are sautéed in a buttery sauce and battered to crisp. They are served on the buffet most days. Frog legs are a unique aspect of Chinese food and are a great addition to China Buffet. The buffet has an array of sauces to elevate the taste; some include soy and some include more butter.
Fried Coconut Chicken Salad
What a winner this salad is. Others try to create their own version, but no one will come close to the original. Jams’ menu can be described as innovative and the Coconut Chicken Salad is one example, for it is unique in both taste and design. It starts with fresh greens, and then they add coconut coated fried chicken strips, artichoke hearts, avocados, Swiss cheese, red onions, croutons and almonds. The salad is served with a creamy herb dressing and then drizzled with raspberry sauce, which gives it a sweet taste that ties all the toppings together. It is big enough to share if you are feeling nice. Otherwise, go ahead and eat it all by yourself.
A big bowl of salad to share is not the only reason why Olive Garden’s salad makes the list. It is creamy and tangy and has lots of croutons. It is always served exceptionally cold and includes salad greens, red onions, tomatoes and black olives.
Crucifer CRAZY Salad
Table Grace Café
Table Grace Café’s cleverly named salad features a medley of cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower and different types of cabbages. Add to that a light honey mustard vinaigrette and you have a delicious salad crafted by Chef Matt that pops up on the menu about once a month or so.
The salad bar at Whole Foods not only offers a dazzling variety of items to choose from, but they also do their best to make sure that their offerings are natural, preservative-free, and when possible, organic. The presentation is attractive and the food is delicious. You’re not going to find wilted iceberg lettuce and crusty processed cheese at this salad bar.
Omaha Press Club
The Omaha Press Club is a local institution, so it’s fitting that one of their best dishes is also a local treasure. Made with their unique thunderbird dressing and bacon, bleu cheese, shredded mozzarella, chives, roma tomatoes and homemade croutons, the Thunderbird Salad is way more delicious and satisfying than any salad has the right to be.
Are you looking for the hottest dish on the menu? Look no further than Mother India’s Chicken Vindaloo (you can also order it with lamb). Being marinated in vinegar, sugar, ginger, chilis and other spices is what makes this Vindaloo super spicy. This dish also includes potatoes, which is traditional American Indian Vindaloo considering “aloo” in Hindi means potato. Underneath all that spicy is a sweet and sour taste that has Omahans coming back for more.
White snails are delicately sautéed in your choice of white wine, butter or spicy Brava sauce. This is not your typical dish, but it works with tapas since it encompasses seafood and spice. It may be a small plate, but it has a big kick.
Jaipur Brewing Restaurant
Highly spiced lamb in a sharp, pungent gravy that is served over rice. This spicy sauce is a striking red color and screams spicy. The lamb meat is very tender, but the spice is powerful.
Blackened Chicken Hot Fanny
This dish is described as blackened chicken served over dirty rice and fanny-fried mushrooms with jalapenos in a rich garlic butter sauce. A vegetable medley and potatoes are served on the side to complement this spicy dish. It feels like you’re in the South when they set this heaping plate of taste in front of you. ,