a vegan’s guide to eating in omaha

I came to Omaha last August for a year-long position at a nonprofit organization.  As my year wraps up, it seems like a nice time to write about the amazing food I’ve had here. I know most people who live elsewhere don’t think much of this city, smack dab in the middle of the country, surrounded by the Dakotas, Iowa, and the rest of Nebraska. Well, I have news for all of you! Omaha is awesome! I mean, as awesome as any small to midsize city. It has a lot of very serious problems that other cities also face: a mayor who loves the police a little too much, racial segregation, people who hate reproductive rights, people facing severe economic injustices, pollution, police brutality and militarization, and pipelines galore. But Omaha is not whatever empty wasteland people from the coasts (and even from snobbier parts of the Midwest!) imagine. It has a rich culinary community, and there are plenty of wonderful places to eat if you’re vegetarian or vegan. Here are some of my favorites:

Modern Love | $12-20 for an entree | All vegan, multiple cuisines

The only completely vegan restaurant in Omaha, Modern Love has delicious options for folks who want to eat typical vegan fare (e.g. salads and curries) and for people who are curious to try vegan versions of meat-based dishes, like burgers, fish sandwiches, gyros, and banh mi. I can vouch for their burgers, seitan buffalo wings, brussels sprouts, seitan gyros, and enchiladas. Their mac and cheese was only average. They also have fun and unusual drink options, both with and without alcohol.

El Basha | $7-9 for an entree | Middle Eastern

This was the first restaurant I went to in Omaha! It has great falafel, as well as hummus and veggie wraps, which is nice so you can switch it up. They also have great appetizers: their hummus and baba ghanoush are delicious, their grape leaves are divine, and their lentil soup is the best lentil soup I’ve ever had.

Tokyo Sushi | $14 for AYCE lunch | Japanese

Omaha has a couple of decent sushi places, including Blue Sushi, which is a chain that has some fun and unusual vegan sushi options (and a really good lunch special). However, I prefer Tokyo Sushi’s lunchtime all you can eat option, which is only $14! It can get a bit pricey if you’re not there for this specific AYCE time, but it’s a pretty good deal for a treat. They have all the classics and a solid number of vegan options.

Ugly Duck Ramen |$11-13 for a bowl of ramen | Japanese

Ugly Duck is one of two ramen restaurants in Omaha; the other is Ika, but the only time I went there, they messed up our order and one of the dishes also wasn’t super tasty, so I would recommend Ugly Duck over Ika if you’re looking to satisfy your ramen tooth. They have a very delicious vegan ramen, as well as plenty of meaty ones. They also have some great vegan appetizers, including an edamame dip, as well as some that change (I had shishito peppers there once, but they seem to be off the menu right now). They also have non-ramen options, including sandwiches and salads. But I have no idea why you wouldn’t want the ramen!

Nite Owl | $5 for slider, $11-14 for a burger | Multiple cuisines, mostly American

This perpetually-dark hot spot, with swivel chairs at a low bar and an old, weird movie always playing in the background, is my favorite bar. They have a range of alcohol (and prices). Sometimes I’ll get a $3 PBR, but they also have lots of really fun and delicious cocktails, as well as a SLUSHY cocktail, which are always so good (by which I mean a little sweet and very strong). They also always have a cocktail and sangria on tap and some solid rotating beers on tap. In addition to their alcohol, they have a really good vegan burger, a vegan slider (different from the burger), and a great hummus plate. Most of their stuff is not vegan, but it’s worth it to try their burger. Their kitchen is also open late, so if you’re in the mood to destroy some delicious food after a night out, this is a great place to go.

Kitchen Table | $8-10 for an entree | American, funky and modern

Kitchen Table focuses on local ingredients and making things from scratch but not to the exclusion of familiar favorites. I’m really not an egg fan, but their deviled eggs are SO good. Not vegan, but just saying. They have stuff for the meat-eaters, but they have a couple of very delicious vegan sandwiches (including veggie dogs!), as well as vegan soups, really good pickles, and popcorn. They are rumored to have a great brunch, although I’ve never been. They serve alcohol and the service is friendly and quick.

Block 16 | $7-10 for a sandwich | Mostly American with some “Asian fusion” (IDK less problematic ways to say this)

Alton Brown loves this place, and while Alton Brown irritates me, I agree with him on this! This place has mostly sandwiches and a few salads, and they have vegan versions of quite a few things, including their burger, sloppy joe, and dragon wrap (you should get the dragon wrap, it’s freaking awesome). Though they don’t have a ton of vegan options, they’re very mindful of vegan stuff– I once ordered a vegan dragon wrap and some dragon fries on the side (the sauce is really good!!!) and person taking my order asked if I wanted to leave the cheese curds off of the fries to make them vegan too. They also serve alcohol, which is fun. They have weird hours and are pretty much only open for lunch, but the line is worth it. The service is generally quick, and the food is great.

Blackstone Meatball |$9-12 for an entree | Italian

I had never been to a meatball restaurant before this, but it’s a pretty good idea. Meatballs are delicious, and they have a really REALLY good vegan, mushroom and white bean one. You can order it in a bowl, on a sub, or in a slider. I also once ordered one plain, just by itself. It was a great snack. You can choose a side, too, and their risotto is AMAZING, as were their roasted vegetables. They also have drinks, and sometimes host bingo and house DJs. Kind of a funny place, but their food is great, and they have a nice open-air balcony area.

Salween Thai | $8-10 for an entree | Thai

Salween Thai is both a restaurant and a grocery store in a little strip mall with a super weird, difficult-to-navigate parking lot. The restaurant has a wide variety of dishes; I had a delicious fried woon sen and really good Thai iced tea. I also ate off of other people’s plates and the pad thai and cashew chicken were both tasty too. There are a few Thai restaurants in Omaha that all have great vegan options, but out of the three I tried, this one was the best!

Pitch Pizzeria | $14-22 for a pizza | Italian

Okay, this one is not vegan at all, or even very vegetarian-friendly. Oopsie. But if you’re a flexible vegan like moi, you should know about this because I ate the best artichokes I have ever had in my entire life at Pitch. They’re served on a green salad with a delicious dressing, over which is a crispy flatbread slathered with hummus, and finally, resting on top of this regal culinary throne, are the artichokes in all their long-stemmed glory, grilled and dressed in a lemon garlic aioli. They are transcendent. The pizza here is also very good (I would recommend their shrooms pizza), but the artichokes are the star of this show, as far as I’m concerned.

Mother India | $7-11 for an entree | Indian

Mother India is a tiny and cute restaurant that is best for either carryout or for warm weather when you can sit outside, because they only have a few tables inside, so it’s often hard to get a seat. They have a really wide range of dishes, including 8 types of bread! Their vegetable curry, vegetable jalafrazi, and chana masala are all awesome. If you’re in Omaha in the spring sweet spot, before it gets to 90+ degrees F every single damn day, you should definitely try to get a spot on their patio. Plus, it’s right at the edge of two residential neighborhoods, so you can go for a pleasant walk (away from the cars) after dinner to get that digestion going.

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