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Big Ten Baseball Tournament: Corn Nation’s Guide to Omaha

Coming to Omaha for just a game or staying for a few days? Here are some things to do AND EAT when you are not at the ballpark.

Aaron Rastovski

There are nearly endless options for where to grab a bite or a drink, as well as what to do when your team isn’t playing. Here are some Omaha veterans’ picks based on our obvious experience at eating, drinking and taking in the sights and sounds of Omaha.

Food and Drink Nearby

Todd’s Picks

I’m going to defer to families first in this category. In 1974 Spaghetti Works (502 S 11th Street) was founded in the Old Market, just a few blocks south of Charles Schwab Field. The old girl is showing a bit of wear and tear, and most of their sister restaurants in other cities have closed, but for great pasta, a solid salad bar, and a variety of other menu choices all at a more than reasonable price, this is your spot. When you order spaghetti, you can keep on ordered more, even with different sauces, as long as you can put it down. If you have big eating teens with you, give this place a shot!

The Old Market is full of choices for every taste, but I am going to go a little closer to the ballpark for my next recommendation. Another tradition filled joint is D.J.’s Dugout located at 1003 Capitol Avenue is the spot for great bar food and drinks. Burgers are very good as are the Super Bowl Nachos and wings. You can get your favorite brews in multiple sizes, including Zipline Brewing’s Dear Old Nebraska Brew. While it makes me a little sick to recommend anything associated with Creighton, my wife is a huge fan of Bluejay Lemonade, so I will include that for all you non-beer drinkers. And if you want to get the day off to a good start, the loaded Bloody Mary will put you in the right frame of mind!

One more spot in the area is Mr. Toad (1002 Howard Street) back in the Old Market. Patio seating is great at this long-standing popular watering hole. A wide selection of domestic, craft, and imported beer along with a full selection of cocktails will satisfy thirsty baseball fans. The place has a good vibe and has been a meeting spot for sports fans in Omaha for many years.

Aaron’s Picks

For my money, there is no better place in Omaha to eat than Block 16 (1611 Farnam St). Marketed as “Farm to Table Street Food”, chefs and owners Paul and Jessica love to have their staff come up with different takes on street food staples. They have received national recognition from outlets such as USA Today, Food Network, MSN, Yahoo, etc. for having the best burger, chicken, and vegan food in the region. How many places can boast that? B16 offers many other options, including various specialty fry dishes, from poutine to “Duck-Duck-Goose fries” (My personal favorite, pairs well with the poutine burrito!). Check twitter and facebook daily to see what their special is each meal. They come up with some wild concoctions like the “fried chicken/bacon/PB&J burrito” and have specialty grilled cheeses that changes daily. Get down here!

A new restaurant to the Omaha scene after years as a food truck and restaurant in Lincoln is Muchachos (1258 S 13th St). Just on the outer edge of downtown, Muchachos offers up a Mexican-BBQ fusion that quickly became a favorite in Lincoln. Ask any Husker baseball player you see this week, and they will sing its praises. Smoked pork, chicken and brisket can be eaten on everything from breakfast burritos, to nachos, and tacos. Don’t forget the ever popular “Hatch Mac and Cheese”, which can also be ordered in a quesadilla or burrito. A nice variety of “local and beyond” beers/ciders/seltzers are available.

Todd mentioned DJ’s Dugout, which is in Omaha’s Capitol District, which hosts a number of bars and variety of restaurants. Another excellent choice that just opened up a new location there is Frank’s Pizzeria (1170 Capitol Ave). Frank’s is New York style pizza, and as close as you are going to currently find in Omaha to what you can get in NYC. If you have a decent sized group or just want some leftovers for the hotel room, grab a Sicilian style pie. Its the personal favorite crust of mine in the metro area.

Food and Drink A Little Ways Away

Todd’s Picks

If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown, there are three places that I am going to pitch. I’m a burger fan and they do not get any better in the Omaha area than Stella’s Bar and Grill down in Bellevue, located about a fifteen-minute drive south of downtown on 106 Galvin Road South. Set your GPS for this place as it is a little tricky to find. Stella’s is a little joint that puts out an outstanding burger, considered by many to be the best in Omaha. The fries and rings are perfect compliments. You don’t need to know what else is on the menu because this place is all about the burgers. Grab a bunch of napkins!

Switching gears completely, one of my favorite fine dining places in town is Spezia (3125 S 72nd Street), a traditional Italian restaurant. Depending on the night, it may be a good idea to get a reservation as this is a very popular place for locals. Everything I have eaten from the menu has been outstanding so I am not going to single out anything for special praise. They have an extensive wine list as well so if you are in to that, you will not be disappointed.

One last spot is going to be one of those places where I recommend you get carry out and take the food back to your hotel or find a picnic table in a park under some shade trees, though there is a small seating area on site. Hartland Bar-B-Que (5402 NW Radial Hwy) is one of many small BBQ joints in Omaha that do a great job smoking meats and putting out sides that can stand on their own. The ribs and brisket at Hartland are top-notch, and both the baked beans and cornbread hold their own with any I’ve eaten. It’s not too far from downtown and a place to make a quick run between games.

Aaron’s Picks

If you need a quick late night meal (or anytime for that matter) Lighthouse Pizza and Fries (1004 S 74th Plaza) is open until 10pm most nights and 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. They also have a drive thru that is extremely convenient when you want good food in a hurry. You are also not locked into getting the same pizza as everyone, as they offer pizza by the slice, and the slices are substantial, 14 of a large pizza. They offer a wide variety of specialty slices, or create your own custom slice. Splitting an order of one of their specialty fries is also a must. Beef and Blue cheese, BBQ pork and cheese, and poutine are just a few of their selections.

Can’t agree on what everyone wants to eat for a meal? Flagship Commons (10000 California St) is a food hall out at the Westroads Mall that features more upscale and local varieties compared to your standard food court. The different types of food include Mexican, sushi, ramen, pizza, salads and wraps, Mediterranean, along with bar fare from Blatt Beer and Table. (Their location right next to the stadium is also a good choice.) Most restaurants offer alcoholic drinks that can be enjoyed inside the food court, or a boba tea spot is also popular.

In the mood for something a little more upscale like a nice steak dinner? Omaha has many traditional steakhouses to choose from, and you really can’t go wrong. One of the more popular is Gorat’s Steakhouse (4917 Center St). Started in 1944, Gorat’s has long been a favorite stop of Warren Buffett. It was purchased by a local restauranteur in 2012 and updated inside, but the go to Whiskey Ribeye is the same as it ever was. You can’t go wrong with the steak burger or steak kabobs either.

What To Do with Down Time

Todd’s Picks

As far as I am concerned Omaha provides two incredible opportunities for visitors to town. The world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best, and, it sits right where Rosenblatt Stadium — long-time home of the College World Series — once stood. If your team has a day off and you want something to do other than spending another day at the ballpark, and especially if you brought along your kids, this is the spot. The displays are incredible and I challenge you to have any other emotion that absolute joy when you watch the penguins!

The other one is Omaha’s newest attraction, the Kiewit Luminarium, located on the river side of the CHI Health Center. Having just opened on April 15 of this year, I have not yet had a chance to visit, but people who have claim it is an incredible experience. It is billed as a “place for everyone to explore the astonishing phenomena that shape our world, our communities, and ourselves.” Over 100 engaging interactive experiences await the whole family. It is a short walk from the stadium and a place where I sure memories will be made.

Aaron’s Picks

Well dang! I didn’t know Todd would steal both of my heavy hitters! A popular area to have an evening stroll is Gene Leahy Mall and The Riverfront. Both have been recently updated and offer 3 parks to walk through that include new state-of-the-art playgrounds, large slides, a modern dog park, numerous art pieces and statue garden. There is also an amphitheater that host musical entertainment throughout the spring and summer.

Another favorite of all members of our family, from 3-37 years old, is the Durham Museum (801 S 10th St). Located downtown in what used to be Omaha’s Union Station, the upper floor of the museum is how the art deco Great Hall of the train station looked while it was in use from 1931-1971. On the lower level are examples of trains and other types of vehicles from the past for adults and kids to explore, as well as a history of Nebraska from the times Indians roamed the great planes, to early settlers, to more modern times. If you are lucky enough to be here starting on May 27th-September 3rd is a traveling exhibit Towers of Tomorrow with LEGO.

Have recommendations of your own? Or specific questions? Comment below!