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Best Omaha Restaurants

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You’re in Omaha. You eat steak. You eat it for lunch and then again for dinner. Do that every day for a week and you still won’t have experienced a fraction of the many the classic steakhouses that are among Omaha’s best restaurants. Some good Mexican restaurants have popped up along South 24th Street, and Italian, Czech and German restaurants are equally abundant. But the classics the locals love are family-owned and operated, as they have been for generations. Businesses have survived because they offer good food and great service. Sometimes the décor is not what you’d like, but hey, nobody criticizes how grandma’s house looks, do they? For cutting-edge cuisine, the Old Market area has a selection of restaurants that would require yet another week dedicated solely to steak consumption. A number of places will boast that Warren Buffett eats there, and he probably does. The guy loves dining out and he’s found much to keep his palate busy. Each October, the restaurants of the city team up for Dine Out Omaha, a fundraiser for a local food pantry.

Gorat's Steak House

Neighborhood: Midtown Price: Expensive

If you want to eat like the richest man in America, come to Gorat’s Steakhouse and order a T-bone. That’s what Warren Buffett orders when he comes to Gorat’s, one of his favorite places in the city. But folks with far less cash in their pockets have been coming to this family-owned steakhouse since the 1940s for dry-aged steaks, incredibly large potatoes and really friendly service. Sure, everyone claims to have friendly service, but Gorat’s is the real deal when it comes to Midwestern hospitality—probably one of the reasons Mr. Buffett feels so at home here. For those cutting back on red meat, Gorat’s has a nice selection of chicken, fish and pasta dishes as well.

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Caniglia’s Venice Inn

Neighborhood: Midtown Price: Moderate

In 1946, the Caniglia family were the first restaurateurs in Omaha to serve pizza, but these days, Caniglia’s Venice Inn is better known for its steak. The family came to Omaha directly from Sicily, so the pizza and pasta, even the salad dressing, have authentic Sicilian flair. The eggplant Parmigiana and homemade lasagna are as good as the steak Delmonico. Really, anything on the menu is a winner, and abundantly so considering the prices. If you’re not that hungry, stop by for a glass of wine on the deck or in the lounge. Then take a moment to appreciate the artwork on the walls by Lynn Piper, who’s also a waitress. If you’re lucky, you’ll be seated in her section. Her personality is just as wonderful as the red sauce.

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Johnny's Cafe

Neighborhood: Midtown Price: Moderate

Located near the heart of the former Omaha stockyards, Johnny’s Café is often listed as one of the best restaurants in town, and it’s also the oldest. Since 1922, Johnny’s Café has been serving great steaks (which once were fresh off the hoof). Granted, it doesn’t look like much on the outside—or inside for that matter; it was originally just a small saloon for cowboys—but the steaks are indeed worth the drive from any distance. The granddaughters of the founder, Frank “Johnny” Kawa, now run the place and are proud to tell you the story of how their Grandpa, a Polish immigrant, built this classic business.

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Bohemian Cafe

Neighborhood: North Downtown (NoDo) Price: Moderate

When they’re in the mood for a liver dumpling, goulash or Svickova, this is where all Omahans eventually come. Since 1924, the Kapoun family has been serving good food in a setting as authentic as their Czech heritage. It may at first appear slightly dated and in a bit of disrepair, but don’t worry about that. The food and the sassy waitresses make the experience. The bar includes a huge collection of Jim Beam Whiskey bottles. They say it’s the largest in the world, but who’s counting? While you’re there, buy a T-shirt. Then have your picture taken wearing the shirt in some notable spot, and send it back to Omaha. The Kapouns will post your picture on the wall, and you’ll be one of the family.

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Cascio's Steak House

Neighborhood: Midtown Price: Moderate

Another of Omaha’s classic steakhouses, this place has been around since just after World War II, and gets better every year. As juicy as the filets and strips are, you might want to try the pastas. Cascio’s is famous for their marinara and alfredo sauces, but they sure won’t share the secret ingredients that make them so good. The salad dressings, in particular a lovely Roquefort, are all house-made. And since this is an Italian-owned steakhouse, order the spumoni ice cream for dessert.

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Piccolo Petes

Neighborhood: Metro Omaha Price: Moderate

Another of Omaha’s oldest restaurants, Piccolo Pete’s, has been owned by the Piccolo family since 1933. A little tavern turned grocery store during Prohibition, Piccolo Pete’s at one point was also a dance hall. The original crystal ball from that era still hangs in the dining room, and owner Donna Piccolo says that when music plays here, “it just seems so right.” Among the interesting knickknacks on display in the lounge is the cake-top from Donna’s parents’ wedding. They lived above the restaurant for more than 60 years. You’ll also see pictures of Omaha’s best-known resident, Warren Buffett, dining here with his friend Bill Gates. By the way, Warren and Bill—they love the root beer floats here.

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Drover (The)

Neighborhood: Midtown Price: Moderate

Another of Omaha’s many must-to-experience steakhouses, The Drover has developed a fan base around its steaks soaked in whiskey. Of course, they won’t tell you what kind of whisky—that’s their secret. A big old salad bar starts your meal off with a bit of anything and everything you need while the steak is grilled just so. And the baked potatoes, well, load ‘em up with everything. They’re big enough to take it. A table by the fire on a cold winter evening makes dinner here a must on everyone’s Bucket List.

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The Boiler Room Restaurant

Neighborhood: Old Market Price: Moderate

The menu changes daily at this restaurant in the Old Market, but calamari, chicken livers and lesser-known species of fish are frequently paired with locally grown fruit and vegetables. Since opening in 2009, The Boiler Room and executive chef Paul Kulik have earned a reputation as the place to experience craft cocktails in Omaha. Not a lot of places in town even have Pimm’s No. 1, let alone know what to do with it. The owners also infuse their own vodkas and use fresh-squeezed fruit juices.

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Wheatfields Eatery and Bakery

Neighborhood: Old Market Price: Budget

Order a slice of wedding cake with your eggs and coffee. They do it all of the time at this newest of three Wheatfields bakeries. Served without the need for bride or groom, the wedding cake is just one of many delightful sweet treats that fill the shiny glass cases in the bakery side of this restaurant. The menu is a potpourri of ethnic influences:  Italy, Germany, Switzerland, even Lichtenstein. What do they eat in Lichtenstein?  Breakfast combos might match a Czech kolache with bacon and eggs. Lunch and dinner might include fried chicken, a fondue or braunschweiger. The patio at the Old Market location is great for people watching, especially while you’re enjoying a glass of wine from the extensive wine list.

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Crescent Moon Ale House

Neighborhood: Midtown Price: Budget

With more than 550 specialty beers, the Crescent Moon is THE place for beer lovers. Actually, the Crescent Moon is three distinct bars under one roof: Downstairs is Das Huber Haus, looking like a German bier hall; next door is Max & Joe’s, a salute to Belgian beer-drinkers (Maxine and Joe were the owner’s parents) and then there’s the all-American Crescent Moon, with pinball machines, dart boards and flashing neon signs touting everything from Schlitz and Falstaff to Nebraska brews like Lucky Bucket and Spiker Ales.

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Runza

Neighborhood: Midtown Price: Budget

There are about two dozen Runzas in the Omaha area and according to many fans of the meat sandwiches, that’s just not enough. A Nebraska original that is slowly creeping into neighboring states, Runza is kind of hard to describe. The original is spiced ground beef, cabbage and cheese baked in dough. It was a wrapped sandwich before wraps were cool. You can also get a basic hamburger, chicken sandwich or even a healthy salad there, but that’s not a Runza. If you’re not originally from Nebraska, there’s a good chance you won’t like this Cornhusker contribution to the culinary world, but you ought to at least give it a try.

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Joe Tess Place

Neighborhood: South 24th Street Price: Budget

If you’ve got a craving for carp sausage, Joe Tess Place is the place to come. This neighborhood bar, around since the 1930s, has grown and expanded to become an extremely popular restaurant and market featuring fresh fish, primarily from the Midwest. Catfish, carp, walleye—you name it, it’s on the menu, breaded and fried every so lightly. It may be a cliché to say that the cole slaw and baked beans taste just like somebody’s grandma made them, but take a look into the kitchen. That’s somebody’s grandma cooking everything from scratch. The drive-through and carryout windows are convenient, but then you’d miss the big shrimp boat that’s been converted into a bar inside the main dining room, and the fountain and pond filled with catifish, koi, and crawdads.

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