When writing our Roadfood guide book, which divides the nation into regions, Nebraska is a problem. Is it the Midwest or the West? Culinarily, it’s some of each, but Omaha, its biggest city, goes way beyond such labels. Yes you can find a big, expensive hunk of aged beef (at Johnny’s Cafe, the cattlemen’s choice since 1922); but on a recent trip, we found a panoply of hidden gems that defy Omaha stereotypes. These include breakfast made and served with cutting-edge style; a vegan coffee house; neighborhood ethnic bakeries, and a sandwich specialty unique to the city, known as the Frenchee. Here are a dozen Roadfood favorites:
A big, efficient bakery and three-meal-a-day restaurant, Wheatfields has a broad menu with something for everyone. We like the savory meat loaf sundae.
Stylish interpretations of traditional cafe fare made with seasonal & local ingredients make SCBC a coveted destination among food-savvy Omahans.
Lisa's Radial Cafe serves urban-diner breakfast & lunch at their finest, including magnificent chicken-fried steak & crisp hash browns.
An Omaha coffee house with masterful espresso and drip brews, Amateur Coffee is strictly vegan, including gluten-free waffles and oat milk for coffee.
Shirley's is a heartland cafe serving the unique Nebraska cheese frenchee: a grilled cheese sandwich dipped in corn flake batter and deep-fried.
Harold's is a bright, happy, mid-20th century urban coffee shop with great pies, donuts, and hot breakfast as well as heartland square meals for lunch.
Don & Millie's serves well-dressed burgers, chili-cheese dogs & the Omaha specialty Cheese Frenchee: a batter-dipped grilled cheese sandwich.
Breads, pastries, rolls, and cakes are at their best in Omaha's Olsen Bake Shop. Must-eats include strudels, turnovers, kolaches, and all-American donuts.
Omaha's Lithuanian Bakery is famous for a spectacular Napoleon torte; it's also a source of kolaches, cookies, breads, and cakes.
Johnny’s has been Omaha’s steak house since 1922, a grand-scale restaurant where beef rules: steaks, chops, ribs, liver, even sweetbreads and chicken-fried steak.
Joe Tess sells deep-fried carp, crusty and moist. Have it with crunchy disks of fried potato -- a unique, vintage taste of Omaha, Nebraska.
11-Worth is a spacious vintage Omaha coffee shop known for especially giant breakfasts and hot sandwiches -- all with plenty of gravy.