I Checked In A Room Today Up Above The Downtown Market Bricks

As I mentioned in my initial blog post, I love lists.  I know it’s kind of a weird thing to like (and no, I can’t explain it), but whatever.  I have to think I’m not alone in this, though (think of all the top 10, top 20, top 50, etc. lists you see in magazines, online, and so on) … So maybe someone will actually enjoy reading my random lists!

This week’s list: My Top Ten Favorite Restaurants in My City

As I’ve mentioned before, I live in Omaha, Nebraska.  If there’s one thing Omaha has (besides Saddle Creek Records and a pretty great zoo), it’s a shit ton of restaurants.  We have a lot of your typical chain restaurants, from fast food like Taco Bell, Subway, and Chipotle to casual dining like Applebee’s, The Olive Garden, and Chili’s to slightly nicer (or, you know, slightly more expensive!) casual dining like P.F. Chang’s, The Cheesecake Factory, and Bonefish Grill.  We also have some amazing local restaurants.

This list is dedicated to those local restaurants.  I can’t claim I’ve tried every restaurant in town, but of those I’ve tried, these are the best of the best.

10.) Crystal Jade

Located at 7255 Cedar Street Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.jadedinners.com

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Personal photo.

Crystal Jade is located in a nondescript building, and the interior isn’t really anything special.  However, I come to this restaurant not for ambiance, but for the food.  Because it’s good.

And they don’t just give you your food on a plain plate.  Oh no.  They create some lovely things out of food (such as the example in the picture above)!  Honestly, though, I wouldn’t care if they didn’t … It’s a nice touch, but the food is delicious with or without potato and carrot swans on the plate.

Crystal Jade offers quite a few types of cuisine, though the majority of their menu is devoted to Chinese and Malaysian choices.  My favorites are the Malaysian Yellow Curry and the Malaysian Lemak Curry.   I’ve honestly never had a bad meal there, though, and neither has Eric or any of the friends I’ve gone with.

While it’s not necessarily the most authentic place in town, it’s worth checking out.  As I said, the food is delicious and they also make some pretty tasty cocktails (and often run drink specials)!

9.) Zurlo’s Bistro Italiano

Located at 13110 Birch Drive Suite 100 Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.zurlos.com

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Image courtesy of groupon.com.

I could definitely see Zurlo’s moving up closer to the top of the list over time, but it’s a little lower simply because I haven’t eaten there as often as I’ve eaten at some of the other restaurants listed here.

Zurlo’s Bistro is located in a strip mall, but don’t let that throw you off.  The interior is actually quite chic and the food is amazing!  Eric and I have also had the pleasure of meeting with the owner/head chef on a couple of occasions because he will be catering our wedding.  (We couldn’t be more excited about this!)

Everything we’ve tried has been delicious, from the Braised Pork to the Chicken Picatta to the Beef Tenderloin … And we definitely had a hard time choosing the menu for our wedding.  Chef Enzo was also more than willing to work with us on creating appetizers that help us tell the story of our relationship (more on that later!), which we thought was fantastic!

I’m constantly recommending this restaurant to friends.  It’s great food at a reasonable price, and I hope Eric and I have plenty of opportunities to try all of the menu offerings over time.

8.) Mother India

Located at 3572 Leavenworth Street Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.motherindiarestaurantomaha.com

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Image courtesy of yelp.com.

Like Zurlo’s, I imagine that Mother India will move up the list even further over time.  Eric and I haven’t gone there often (mostly because it’s kind of far from where we live in relation to some other Indian places we enjoy), but the food was as good as I imagined it would be after hearing some rave reviews from friends.

Mother India isn’t a place you’d go to for ambiance … It’s a bare bones kind of restaurant.  However, Mother India is a place you go to for awesome Indian cuisine!  I would never call myself an expert on Indian cuisine … But I do love it.  A lot.  So when I say an Indian place is good, I mean it.

Eric and I always get lamb dishes when we go out for Indian, so we typically spend a little more when we get this type of cuisine.  At Mother India, though, the prices are great (even for lamb!).  And that means we can indulge in our love for Indian food a little more often.  Lamb Vindaloo is my personal favorite dish, and Mother India doesn’t disappoint.  Throw in some garlic naan, Mulligatawny, and meat samosas, and you’ve got a perfect meal!

7.) Roja Mexican Grill + Margarita Bar

Located at 1212 Harney Street Omaha, NE and 17010 Wright Plaza Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.rojagrill.com

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Image courtesy of urbanspoon.com.

I typically go to the Roja in the Old Market (the Harney Street location), but I’ve been to both locations and both are delicious.

If you’re looking for authentic Mexican cuisine, this isn’t the place for you.  If, however, you want some tasty Tex-Mex style food, you’ve come to the right restaurant!  It’s a great place to meet up with friends for Happy Hour, as the vibe is just really laid-back and fun (perfect for 20 and 30 somethings) and the specials are pretty great.  (Not to mention the fact that the margaritas are pretty strong!)

My absolute favorite dish at Roja is the Green Nachos with fajita beef.  The plate is huge, and it’s usually offered at a discounted price during Happy Hour.  Mmmm … Now I’m craving nachos.

6.) Brazen Head Irish Pub

Located at 319 N 78th Street Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.brazenheadpub.com

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Image courtesy of urbanspoon.com.

First clue that the Brazen Head Irish Pub is awesome?  They play some amazing background music including The Decemberists and Death Cab for Cutie (two of my favorites!), among others!  The music isn’t the only good thing about this place, though.

The Brazen Head is a pub, so you’re definitely going to get pub food … But it’s a little more upscale pub food (if there is such a thing).  I’ve tried quite a few things on the menu including their prime rib sandwich, smoked turkey melt, and (my new favorite dish) the County Cork Boxty, which is filled with asparagus, crab meat, and havarti cheese.  Yum.

Another great thing about the Brazen Head?  Eric and I have this thing about getting spinach and artichoke dip everywhere we go.  We will literally order it at any restaurant that offers it.  So … Obviously we know a good spinach and artichoke dip.  And the Brazen Head has the best spinach and artichoke dip!  We both agree that it’s our absolute favorite.

Finally, I can’t forget about the beer!  They have Smithwick’s on tap.  Enough said.

5.) Jim and Jennie’s Greek Village

Located at 3026 N 90th Street Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.jimandjennies.com

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Image courtesy of blog.omahype.com.

Eric and I eat at Jim and Jennie’s Greek Village quite a bit.  Although the decor is lacking (the restaurant is located in a strip mall with a diner feel inside), the food is not.

Family owned and operated, Jim and Jennie’s is the perfect spot for a laid-back, delicious, authentic Greek meal.  This is one of those places where I always end up getting the same thing because it’s just too good to pass up.  I may branch out on future visits (I mean, I am dying to try their keftedes, lamb kabob, moussaka, pastitsio … The list goes on and on), but I typically stick with the old favorites.  For me, that means dolmades as an appetizer and a gyro platter (with the best tzatziki I’ve ever had!) with Greek potatoes and a salad with Greek dressing.  Mmmm … Delicious!

They also offer some more “basic” meal options (such as the grilled chicken breast dinner and the breaded, fried shrimp platter), so even a picky eater could find something there.  Eric and I both love Greek food, though, so I’m sure this will continue to be one of our favorite spots in town.

4.) Saigon

Located at 12100 W Center Rd Omaha, NE

Website: There is none, sorry!

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Image courtesy of urbanspoon.com.

This has quickly become one of our (our being Eric and me, of course) favorite restaurants.  Like Crystal Jade, it’s nothing special to look at, but the food is fantastic!  Even better, it’s very reasonably priced.

Eric and I typically get the same few dishes every time we go because they’re just too good to ignore.  I always tell myself I’ll try something else, but who am I kidding?  When I go to Saigon, all I can think about is getting a giant bowl of Pho (with extra noodles, a healthy dose of Sriracha, and a combination of rare steak, beef brisket, and meatballs!).  Throw in some fresh spring rolls and a refreshingly sweet bubble tea (either Jasmine or Taro), and I’m in heaven!

I would (and do!) absolutely recommend Saigon to anyone looking for some great Vietnamese food in Omaha.  I’d also recommend this place to anyone who hasn’t tried Vietnamese … When my mom was in town visiting last January, we took her there (she’d never had Vietnamese before) and she thought it was great!

3.) The Jaipur

Located at 10922 Elm Street Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.jaipurbrewhouse.com

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Image courtesy of urbanspoon.com.

I’m going to be honest … The Jaipur is considerably pricier than Mother India (and some of the other local Indian places).  It’s also slightly more “upscale” than some of the other Indian restaurants in the area.

That being said, The Jaipur is one of our favorite spots to go to when we’re celebrating a special occasion.  We’ve had several (dating) anniversary dinners there, several birthday dinners there, and the occasional “just going out” meals there as well.  I’ve honestly never been disappointed with anything I’ve had there (though, to be fair, Eric and I usually stick with our favorite dishes because they’re just so damn good!).

Our meals typically start with the spinach dip stuffed naan (yeah, it’s as amazing as it sounds), followed by salad (Eric) and a bowl of Mulligatawny (me).  The entree is always a lamb dish (as I mentioned in my Mother India review, we love our lamb!): for Eric it’s the Lamb Bhuna and for me it’s the Lamb Vindaloo.  I’ve had Lamb Vindaloo at quite a few Indian restaurants in my lifetime, and The Jaipur serves one of the best.

2.) Rivera’s

Located at 12047 Blondo Street Omaha, NE

Website: http://www.riverasmf.com

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Image courtesy of yelp.com.

I could seriously just give this place a rave review based on the guacamole alone … But it’s so much more than just a good bowl of guac.  Located in yet another strip mall (Omaha seems to have a lot of these), Rivera’s is kind of a hidden gem.  In fact, most people I know have never heard of it, let alone tried it.

The food is a little pricier, though that’s to be expected since many of the dishes offered contain seafood.  Yes, there is actually some delicious seafood in landlocked Nebraska!  I’m a huge fan of Mexican seafood dishes anyway, but Rivera’s does them so well … Better than any other restaurant I’ve ever been to.  (And you can’t go wrong with one of their super strong margaritas!)

I’m obsessed with their Crab Enchiladas and their Enchiladas Acapulco (which include both shrimp and lobster), and Eric loves their Mahi-Mahi Pibil and Carne Asada.  I hope to try many more of their dishes in the future (though the ones I’ve tried are so amazing, it’s hard to go with anything else!), and look forward to our next visit to Rivera’s.

1.) Wheatfields

Located at 1224 S 103rd Street Omaha, NE, 7775 Olsen Drive Papillion, NE (right outside of Omaha), and 1202 Howard Street Omaha, NE (an “express” location)

Website: http://www.wheatfieldscatering.com

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Image courtesy of http://www.foodspotting.com.

I absolutely love brunch food.  As much as I enjoy Indian, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, etc., I could probably eat brunch food every single day and be extremely happy.

Wheatfields is one of my favorite places in Omaha.  It’s not fancy, but it doesn’t need to be.  The servings are huge, the food is always phenomenal, and they sell fresh baked goods on site.  I love many of the other brunch places in town, but this one will always be my absolute favorite.

I’ve tried quite a few things on the menu, but the items I’m constantly going back to are the AM Big Burro Burrito (and it is huge, as you may be able to tell from the picture above) and the French Riviera Omelette.  And I almost always have to indulge in the Creme Brûlée Potatoes … Yes, they are as amazing as they sound!

If you ever find yourself in Omaha, please check these places out.  You won’t be disappointed!

And, if anyone reading this is from Omaha (or has just been in the area long enough to try a few places out), please feel free to comment with some of your favorite local restaurants.  I’m always up for trying new places!

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