As the granddaughter of a Polish immigrant who fed her family by working long hours in the packing house, I know precisely how ubiquitous beef is to Omahans. In fact, growing up, chicken was a once-a-month delicacy in our home. Every other day of the month, beef was what’s for dinner. When I first became vegetarian at the age of 19, there was nowhere to go for a meal that wasn’t served with, cooked in, or made exclusively of meat.
Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find a spot that didn’t have a good number of vegetarian items to offer. It’s less common, however, to find a restaurant that is truly committed to animal-free, plant-based cuisine. This month, we wanted to honor the establishments taking a risk and devoting their menus to meals that really are meat-free.
While many local coffee establishments took recent supply chain issues as a sign to stop offering dairy-free milks, Amateur became a poster child for standing by your ethics. The sweet shop offers a full roster of specialty roasts, complete with oat, almond and other alternative milks and a brand-new fall menu of vegan bites that cater to a number of allergies and food sensitivities. The establishment also offers a new compost and recycling counter, ensuring that your stop is powering you up without powering the planet down. If you’re going to grab a daily coffee, grab one you can feel good about!
You can find this plant-based pop-up sharing their wares at places like Edge of the Universe, Stir Coffee Bar, and Diana’s Papillion Tea Shop, or catering personally to those who place an order online. You can enjoy baked goods, pizzas and burritos, many of which are also offered gluten-free. Conscious Comforts may qualify as the most decadent addition to our list, with towering chocolate drizzled cakes and rich
cinnamon rolls. The caring minds behind the comforts leave no craving uncured.
1319 S. 50th St.
A lot of time, energy and thought went into what will be a quick bite for you at Fauxmaha. Enjoy your Chicago Dog, French Dip or hearty Garbage Burrito at this all-vegan lunch stop. The nacho cheese and fox sauces make every bite more fun, while the potato salad is a bright and refreshing side to the savory mains.
Many of the establishments on this list qualify as stealth-vegan. Vegan but you wouldn’t know it. With Ital, you won’t waste a moment questioning if what you’re eating is truly vital nutrition. Enjoy bright smoothie bowls, fresh cold-pressed juices and dehydrated fruits to glow on the go!
1247 S. 11th St., Lincoln
It takes a lot to get me to make the drive to Lincoln, but JuJu’s Jambalaya is my son’s favorite, which instantly makes it worth the jaunt. I can imagine how one could create vegan Latin food or Mediterranean, and a few faux meats can make even standard American food plant-based. But I never expected to experience vegan Creole cuisine, and I’m so glad Juju’s has spent the last two years making it happen. Hot hush puppies and cornbread are flavorful and satisfying enough to have you forgetting your main course is still on the way. By the time the aromatic jasmine rice meets your mouth, however, your appetite will know what to do.
Wherever this spicy shop pops up, the crowds seem to follow. Is it the spicy asada nachos, or the child-sized burritos? I don’t mean child-sized serving, I mean the burrito is approximately the size of a human child at birth. These things are massive, but if you try your best and believe in yourself, you might just conquer it and live to enjoy Ve’s Horchata before you go!
Modern Love Omaha
Isa Moskowitz and her team are constantly creating, and the Modern Love owner has quite literally written the book on vegan cooking. The Veganomicon in my kitchen is, itself, well-loved and food-splattered, and the creativity it contains doesn’t touch the ever-evolving menu at Omaha’s most iconicmeat-free eatery.
Oso Good Kitchen and Panaderya
Legally considered a cottage-bakery, this sweet little spot delivers directly to customers. Occasional pop-ups include treats like mango cupcakes with Pinoy orange curd filling, and Calamansi buttercream donuts. Special order cakes are brilliant, colorful and creatively decorated, with flavors that will make any occasion special. Gluten-conscious options are also available.
1311 S. 11th St., Lincoln
Another Lincoln addition to our list, Pepe’s nachos valencia and curry burrito have been known to lure people from a lot farther than Omaha. Herb roasted okra tacos might be the only way I’ve ever personally enjoyed okra, so if you’ve been looking for a reason to give it another go, this might be the reason to take a chance.
Soular Power Plate
Chef Lex Ewing has put the heart into heart-healthy dining. Her one-woman show is a completely customizable menu of vegan comfort foods, designed to meet each of her client’s health exactly where they are. Be sure to check out our profile on Chef Lex by searching “Soul Food With Style” at The Reader
Animal-free, gluten-free, nut-free. When I first heard Veg.Edible’s claims I gave a weary sigh. Having a child with food sensitivities, I knew for sure this list also meant to add “taste-free.” Usually, foods that meet all of these criteria are unimaginative bowls of bland veg, but Veg.Edible came to play. Each dish is flavorful, fresh and fun. It’s not a struggle to get a kid to eat a beautiful teriyaki kebab. In fairness, any food you put on a stick is going to get a kid’s attention. Every plate features rich colors, textures and a
satisfying serving of the energy you need to get to dessert — but I swear if you take the last kolache you’re going to need that energy because we’re throwing hands.
Runner Up: Naughty Buddha Burger Bar
707 S. 24th St.
Naughty Buddha opened mid-pandemic with big goals and big flavors to back them up. So why is a fun atmosphere with high-energy owners and a truly delicious burger not prominently featured on this list? Myriad mistakes, many on the part of a supplier, and the rest the result of misread labels have made the spot not officially 100% vegan — yet.
From cricket protein to milk powder in chips, a number of products have been found to contain non-vegan ingredients or animal byproducts. So rather than exclude them from the list, let’s call them an up-and-comer carefully navigating a new business with very specific demands. Those with food allergies and strong convictions, be sure to check your labels carefully as they continue to improve their supplier relationships.