Omaha’s downtown dining culture is marked by plenty of fancy joints. That’s all fine and good when you’re out on the town, but where to turn when you just want … lunch? A desk covered in paperwork only has room for one to-go container, so it’d better be good. Luckily, the folks at Worker’s Take-out take the business of feeding hungry businesspeople seriously. As I found on two recent visits, this straightforward sandwich shop may be worth the trip, even if your workplace is out of the way.
The restaurant is tucked away in an unassuming location across from a hair salon, sharing counter space with a coffee shop. During lunch, the aroma of melting cheese eclipsed that of cappuccino. Like clockwork, a member of the kitchen staff emerged with an order every minute or so. Much of the business is take-out, but the dining space is comfortable enough to eat in. Ten minutes passed before my name was called at the counter, and in the meantime I tapped my foot to the upbeat movie soundtrack on the stereo.
The Spicy Tuna Melt ($6) was served on deliciously doughy pressed white bread. It was crunchy, but didn’t leave that painful Mark of the Panini on the roof of my mouth. The “Thai-inspired” tuna provided a spicy kick that cranked up the dish to at least a five on the hotness scale. Even through the spiciness, I could still detect the melted Swiss cheese, rendering an overall balanced flavor.
My dining buddy ordered the Cuban Pork Roast ($7), served on the same pressed bread with mayo and yellow mustard, and piled with rustic deli ham, slow cooked pork, smoked provolone cheese and pickle chips. The pork had been simmered in spices, and was falling-apart tender. Each individual flavor could be distinguished from the next, since the neatly assembled sandwich wasn’t stacked a mile high. No, a jaw dislocation won’t be necessary here. I only wish the mustard was a tad more exciting than the basic yellow variety.
Each dish came with a generous handful of kettle potato chips, but I also ordered a side of Cuban Black Beans and Rice ($1.50), which was a simply executed dish – and a healthy alternative to the chips.
Laura’s Texas Caviar and Chips ($4) isn’t as luxurious as caviar from the sea, but the sweetly crunchy veggie dip is still a worthy appetizer. The oil and vinegar marinade creates a harmonious melding of flavors, but I thought the healthful vegan offering was missing a final ingredient, perhaps an herb such as dill or cilantro. Along with the Garden Favorite, it is one of the solid vegetarian options.
Worker’s Take-out has been serving lunch in this location for over a year, but only recently opened for breakfast. The menu features various incarnations of the egg scramble with a playful geographic theme: Mexican, American, Southwestern, etc. The Florentine ($3.89) has chopped bacon, spinach and tomatoes mixed into the eggs, which were impressively scrambled neither too wet nor too dry, and topped with a modest sprinkle of feta cheese. Two slices of exceptional whole grain toast served as the accompaniment. I also tried a Cuban scramble ($3.89), with ham, onions, and a touch of sautéed garlic. The bread was also garlicky, but I appreciated that it wasn’t overpowering, since no one wants to offend his coworkers first thing in the morning. The egg scrambles provide a nourishing and delightful morning meal, especially in the absence of fried potatoes and indulgent confections.
Owner Christopher Machmuller says he first opened the restaurant to fill a niche. “At the time,” he says, “there weren’t too many places to get a Chicago dog and an Italian beef sandwich.” Both Chi-Town favorites are popular items, along with a range of cold deli sandwiches and house-made sides. Half sandwiches—for about half the price—are a good option for a lighter meal. Canned soft drinks are available, and of course any beverage from the neighboring coffee shop is welcomed.
Most of the dishes at Worker’s Take-out are entirely homemade. The vegetables are fresh and never wilted, and the meat and breads are of utmost quality. Regrettably, the relatively hidden location and plain Jane dining area may keep some from trying a great spot in town. Still, it’s only a matter of time before downtown workers can no longer keep their favorite take-out place a secret.
Worker’s Take-out is located in the lower level of the First National Building at 1620 Dodge Street, East entrance. Hours are Breakfast Mon. – Fri. 7a.m. – 11a.m., Lunch Mon. – Fri. 11a.m. – 2p.m. Call 402.991.6131 or visit workerstakeout.com for more information.