More than cows and corn, it’s worth it to visit Omaha, Nebraska for quality coffee, ice cream, vintage, and more!
Visit Omaha? Where is Nebraska?
Whenever people ask me where I’m from, I say, “Pennsylvania, but I was born in Nebraska.” My Nebraska stint was only the first two years of my life, but I like to include that tidbit because Nebraska is a part of my story and my family’s culture. More importantly, most people think Nebraska is just corn and cows. Yes, the state does boast a lot of corn and cows, but there are indeed people there. I live to tell.
What might be even more unexpected though is there are cities too! Whaaaaat?
Since my sister and her family are Cornhuskers through and through, I’ve had the chance to explore Omaha, Nebraska quite a few times, and it’s worth the trip. Most recently, my partner joined me, and I enjoyed sharing my favorite places with him. Now I’ll share them with you!
I’ve collected these photos and places over the course of a few visits (and seasons). I was relieved to see my favorite places had weathered the Covid-19 storms but not without their challenges. If you have a chance to support these businesses, please do.
Visit Omaha: Blackstone District
Come hungry! This district mainly offers food and drink experiences.
Early Bird (Blackstone District)
“Not your everyday brunch, every day.” Early Bird offers the diner experience but with real food and a bright, sunny vibe. Dylan ordered a chicken-fried steak and commented how surprising it was that it was an actual steak and not a mysterious ground beef.
Since it’s Nebraska, be sure to get a side of the corn-cob-smoked bacon. I’m a sucker for the crab cake Benny and the brick of hash browns. And, go ahead and order coffee because Early Bird uses Archetype Coffee… more on them coming up!
Bob’s Donuts (Blackstone District)
This is the sister biz of Early Bird, and the one business that seemed to struggle the most with staffing after quarantine. Their website says they’ll soon be “Hurry Bird” and offer to brunch to go. I hope they still offer donuts because these square treats were one of my Omaha traditions.
Archetype Coffee (Blackstone District):
After Early Bird and donuts, it’s time for more coffee, and Archetype is the place.
Archetype Coffee in their own words, their values are:
“Fastidious Roasts. Punctilious Brews. Ridiculous People.”
Fastidious Roasts: because attention to accuracy and detail leads to consistent, high-quality roasts.
Punctilious Brews: because calculating and caring for each cup of brewed coffee and a shot of espresso means we can guarantee every drink is made with intention.
Ridiculous People: because coffee tastes better when we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
I won’t name names, but one member of family said, “oh is this one of those $13 coffees?” So we bought him a $3.00 coffee which he then admitted was the same price as his gas station sludge, and he noticed the [obvious] quality difference.
Cheers to the friendly man behind us in line who laughed at said family member’s skepticism and helped to recommend a gateway coffee that would be a bit on the darker side like he was used to. I’d say this scenario touched on all Archetype’s values, and they nailed it.
I loved the pour-over presentation, and I always pack a bag of their coffee in my suitcase.
Noli Pizzeria (Blackstone District)
Noli Pizzeria in their own words:
Inspired by the Italian Pizzeria slices of New York City, we are local Omahan’s bringing the passion + quality home to the Blackstone District in Omaha, Nebraska. Quality slices are served alongside fresh hand-crafted salads. We pair the ‘traditional’ with the ‘artisan’ by showcasing specials and sourcing local + seasonal ingredients when available.
As any new yorker will tell you- The Secret of the New York Slice is in the water- we have partnered with a local filtration company to bring the city water to your plate.
Coneflower Creamery (Blackstone District)
Possibly the place that excited me the most – “farm to cone” ice cream shop with seasonal flavors and design details.
Coneflower Creamery in their own words:
Crafted with creativity and a love of real, local ingredients, our ice creams, waffle cones, and heck, even the sprinkles are made in our own kitchen. We put time, passion, and pure ingredients into our sweet delights, and the results are worth it! What we don’t make ourselves we bring in from the best shops sharing our passion for quality ingredients.
Farm to cone means knowing where our ingredients come from, ensuring they’re fresh, and changing our offerings based off what’s in season or available. Our mission is simple: Make really good ice cream using really good ingredients.
Visit Omaha: Old Market District
Old, industrial buildings, wide, cobbled streets, independent shops and restaurants, coffee, and architectural details, and $2.00 ALL-DAY PARKING (!!!) make the Old Market District a must in your Omaha itinerary. The Old Market is also home to the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, which was closed during my visit, but it’s worth a trip.
Flying Worm Vintage (Old Market)
Vintage denim? Check. Time-tested farmer fashion? Check. Weird 90s references? Check. Flying Worm Vintage has you covered.
For even more vintage, be sure to mark your calendars, and check out Junkstock Vintage Festival.
Hardy Coffee (Old Market)
Hardy Coffee is a bakery + coffee roaster + coffee lab, and we were addicted to their fall special, a maple cardamom latte.
Hardy Coffee in their own words:
To us, specialty coffee (and all that goes with it) isn’t so much about indulgence, but ritual–having places and moments and things in life that add value and create rhythm.
We’re open daily for our neighbors to grab a cup of coffee together, launch a business, schedule a study session, or meet up for a story time playdate. It turns out that excellent coffee and baked goods make for a great excuse to get together and build something or simply unplug.
Fairmont Antiques & Mercantile + Hollywood Candy (Old Market)
Hollywood Candy et al. is one of the strangest, most delightful combinations of businesses under one, industrial roof, and it’s a must if you visit Omaha. Antiques meets old-school diner, meets epic candy shop, meets pinball arcade, meets vinyl shop, meets small movie theater, meets celebrity paraphernalia… and probably more that I am missing. It’s everything! There’s even the piano that Lady Gaga played in her music video when she referred to her “cool Nebraska guy.”
Looking Glass Spirits & Curiosities and Wicked Rabbit (Downtown/Old Market)
Just when I thought I was over the speakeasy resurgence, comes a nod to Alice in Wonderland that revived my curiosity and excitement for ordering a cocktail. Enter through the Looking Glass Spirits & Curiosities shop, a shelf of spirits becomes a door, and voila, proceed to the dark and moody Wicked Rabbit for a classic cocktail in an intimate setting.
I haven’t had the chance yet, but I’m hoping to continue the Alice-themed explorations with a trip to Monarch Prime & Bar at the Hotel Deco (all the same owners).
Visit Omaha: Benson District
Vintage, independent shops, coffee, a good neighborhood for a little stroll.
Hardy Coffee (Benson)
Our craving for those maple cardamom lattes hit, so we tried a second Hardy Coffee location and spent time in the lovely garden. Also, this cafe is on Maple Street, so maybe we were just missing our little Maple Le.
Shop Five Nine (Benson District)
What you see in this picture is what you get – a sliver of a shop – but it’s so well curated. I found Shop Five Nine particularly inspiring as a reminder that dreams can start small. You don’t need the biggest space to open a shop. This space was even more inspiring after we chatted with the owner, Megan Hunt (and her dog, Cricket). It turns out Megan is also a state senator. Talk about being multi-passionate. I’m all about it!
Visit Omaha: Little Bohemia
A vestige of the Czech immigrant community that settled the Midwest, and an appeal to my Czech side. Take in the historic buildings, restaurants, breweries, and shops.
Another jolt of Archetype Coffee (Little Bohemia)
That’s it for now. I look forward to more explorations, and hopefully I’ve convinced you to visit Omaha.