When looking at this past year, the soul and spirit of our Omaha community, its entrepreneurship and unwavering patronage is very evident. As we see so many new establishments becoming part of our growing culinary metropolis, we look back on 2013 as a very diverse and crafty year for food and drink.

Let’s look back and celebrate some of the new restaurants that have opened this past year. Even a chain restaurant should be celebrated as it shows that our area is one of growth and provides jobs to our community. So we will start with Chicken. Papillion opened the very much-anticipated Chick-fil-A while Raising Cane’s Chicken Fingers was added to the Dodge strip east of 72nd. Next worth mentioning is the bevy of sub shops that have been added to our food mosaic with Firehouse Subs in the Shops of Legacy with another location off 72nd and Pacific, McAlister’s Deli off Center west of 120th, and Lenny’s Sub Shops of Omaha in Midtown Crossing.

Next we narrow it down to the Old Market where we recognize Plank Seafood Provisions, J’s on Jackson and the re-launch of the new Indian Oven, which collectively are bringing more interested parties into to the Old Market as well as offering visitors a plethora of great dining options. Keeping it hip, the Old Market brought about the in-trend prohibition era bar with the Berry and Rye as well as Wilson and Washburn which are serving up popular, new age, old-style craft cocktails.

As with the popularity of the craft cocktail, the interest in craft beer has increased throughout Omaha. Eagerly, the Benson neighborhood welcomed both The Benson Brewery and Infusion Brewing Company. Joining in the merrymaking of craft beer,

Omaha also welcomed the new Borgata Brewery and Craft Distillery, 1116 Jackson St, and Storz Trophy Room Grill and Brewery at 345 Riverfront Dr. in the old Rick’s Café. At the same time, Nebraska Brewing Company opened an additional facility to continue to spread the love of their craft beers to the Omaha area and beyond making Omaha a Micro Brewery Hub.

Next, we turn to those restaurateurs who already maintain well-established restaurants. Luckily for us, their craft has expanded into a second venture. We have been very intrigued with Dario Schicke’s of Dario’s Brasserie’s second restaurant, Avoli Osteria, an Italian eatery, which opened this past summer in the heart of Dundee. Happening late 2012 but worth mentioning for early 2013 are joint collaborators, Anne Cavanaugh and Phil Anania, who first crafted Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob, a popular Dundee late night hot spot, then joined with Bryce Coulton and opened their second hot spot, The French Bulldog at 5003 Underwood. I would like to know if 2014 will craft us another Cavanaugh/Anania hot spot?

Newest to the scene, opening just this December, in the space once occupied by the French Café in the Old Market, is Le Bouillon, the second restaurant for chef Paul Kulik of the Boiler Room. We have also seen another Brix added to Midtown Crossing and a second mid-town location for the West Omaha favorite, Charleston’s, at 7540 Dodge St.

Even if not mentioned, there are many other restaurants that have opened in 2013 that are crafting flavor and flair to the greater Omaha food scene. As a community, it is our job to go forth and try them all. Of course, we would be remiss to mention many additions to the Omaha food scene without a few nods to those restaurants that have passed on… We pay tribute to the soon to be demolished Louie’s Bar and Grill which remained an Omaha fixture in the Benson neighborhood for 79 years. And personally, I was sad to see Tommy Colina’s Kitchen close their doors for one reason or another because their Chicken Diablo soup was super delicious.

One common denominator in most of the above establishments is the steadfast attention to our local food movement. More than often, a local purveyor’s name will be listed on a menu as an ingredient’s source, signifying the need and want of diners alike to keep it local. As our farmer’s markets grow in number, as well as our local purveyors, the push to eat close to home remains strong. Our restaurateurs are working closely with farmers in our surrounding areas to bring the truest food to their kitchens. And with popular publications like Edible Omaha as well as the many markets across town our community is learning how to make our own home kitchens more sustainable as well.

So as we say goodbye to 2013, we celebrate the new ventures crafted to satiate our appetites. We celebrate many of our Omaha chefs who have been being honored with awards as well as our bartenders, meadery and farmer’s markets. Omaha is now being recognized nationally as a food hub. And we have only begun. To 2013, from those lucky enough to live in this culinary mecca or those fortunate to visit, we thank you for a year of full stomachs and happy taste buds.

–Krista O’Malley

Contributing Editor, Dish Omaha

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