Reading the chalkboard at Kitchen Table, I sipped on a fennel bourbon and listened to the excited chatter of the crowd behind me, anticipating a dinner unlike one I had ever participated in. The first course would be served on Farnam St., the second on 10th St. Bourbon at every stop except dessert. Our walk between each of the four courses made me anticipate the next mystery stop and new food adventure. Three hours later, I had made new connections and sampled some of the best vegan food in Omaha.
This is Dishcrawl.
Dishcrawl, a three year old San Jose startup, organizes events and gatherings for people who love to explore meals in their cities. Dishcrawl is walking tour with a theme. People sign up for a Dishcrawl online, only knowing the general location of the event, leaving eager foodies dying with anticipation. A few days before the event, the organizer will send you an email letting you know where to meet. Upon meeting at the set location, participants explore four restaurants over the course of three hours, without knowing where they are headed until the tour begins.
Recognizing the potential for a market in Omaha, Dishcrawl event planner and new Omaha resident Rachel Grace wasted no time getting the tour set up.
“In the past year there has been a bigger push to expand Dishcrawl into more cities, and once I heard about the Dishcrawl premise – bringing people together over good food, supporting local business, trying different foods – I got in touch with them.”
Dishcrawl in Omaha launched in April of 2013 and the response was fantastic, selling out with 40 RSVPs with an event at Upstream Brewery.
Not only do participants get to sample perfect portion sizes of specialty made food, they also get a chance to go behind the scenes. “At each stop, we ask the chefs and/or owners to come out and address the crowd, either individually or as a group,” said Grace. “This ‘meet and greet’ really makes the experience worthwhile – anyone can go eat out at a restaurant, but you don’t always get the chance to get to know the face behind the food.”
We attended the July 16th Vegan Dishcrawl that began at Kitchen Table. The menu was heirloom beans and greens in a rich, succulent sauce, with almost a spinach and artichoke feel, served along side carrot and lentil soup. The secret to the mindblowingly good soup? Smoked sea salt. Finally, an interpretation of a peanut butter and jelly, with peach preserves and a mixed nut butter. We talked with table mates over each bite, savoring the flavors. It was tough to leave, but we had three more stops to make.
The tour, led by Grace, split the attendees into two groups, the Pamela Andersons, who would walk a little further than the Bill Clintons. As an Anderson, we set off for the second stop, Indian Oven. Sitting at the bar, we munched on Spinach Pakoras, Bartha Ganouj (a medley of eggplant, tomato, cucumber, cumin, paprika, ginger and garlic), and Stuffed Paratha, a fluffy bread filled with potato and peas, literally bursting with spices.
We headed back to Farnam St., to Block 16, a newer eatery that is as popular as it is innovative. For Dishcrawlers they prepared jackfruit tacos, “meatball” sliders, and gansta and dirty fries, served with a delicious, poutine like sauce. The jackfruit had a succulent flavor that wrapped my palate in familiarity, making me feel like I was actually eating a taco from a truck.
Finally, we headed back to the Old Market, to Bliss Bakery. A favorite amongst Omaha locals, Bliss served two mini cupcakes, one peanut butter and one strawberry, with cookies to finish. I could hear murmurs over coffee and tea, I can’t believe this is vegan!
At each stop, the owners and chefs had come out to greet us and tell us about our meals, eager to share their stories. Dishcrawl participants can expect plenty of walking, available alcohol (generally not included with the ticket) and new foods. A participant gets to experience local food as a journalist, learning the how-what-why behind each item and behind each chef whose pride is evident in their dishes. To walk away uninspired is unheard of.
By hosting events like these, Omaha has proved itself on the food scene both locally and nationally. “I moved to Omaha 2.5 years ago, and I’ve watched the number of options expand – locally owned, innovative ingredients and preparation, etc.,” said Grace. “That’s the main reason I wanted to bring Dishcrawl to Omaha: to really highlight this upward trend, and contribute one more fun food event to the community calendar.”
For more on Dishcrawl, or to reserve a seat at the next event, visit dishcrawl.com/Omaha. Stay connected with Dishcrawl on Facebook, facebook.com/DishCrawlOmaha, and on Twitter, @dishcrawloma.