Drum roll, please: I have eaten what might be the best chicken-fried steak north of the Red River. The steak itself is tender and deeply beefy, girdled in a shattering-crisp envelope of crust. That’s the heart of it, and there is so much more: luxuriously creamy country gravy crowded with reefs of spicy sausage; a passel of sauteed mushrooms, onions, and peppers; and a bed of crunchy hash browns.
For the chicken-fried steak alone, I’d put Lisa’s Radial Cafe on the Omaha must-eat list; but this colorful, quirky urban diner also is a source of handsome omelets, waffles topped with the freshest of fresh fruit, and giant skillet meals piled atop dandy short-order hash browns. Specials include Benedicts, stuffed French toast, and breakfast burritos. It is a morning place (closing at 2pm); however hamburgers and sandwiches are available for lunch.
While the menu is short-order diner fare, this is not a cafe where people come to eat it and beat it. Meals are scrupulously cooked to order, so it takes a while for the food to be served. Plus, it’s popular enough that there often is a wait for a table to open up. (The counter is great for single diners.)
Aside from good food, Lisa’s Radial Cafe is noteworthy for its welcoming vibe. Both clientele and staff are a remarkably diverse group of people — of all ages, and from all walks of life. Decor is kitschy-arty-retro, including lots of food-themed paintings and odes to I Love Lucy. Its name, by the way, comes from Omaha’s Northwest Radial Highway where it is located.
Note that business is cash-only.