Video by Noelle Agenor
Omaha native Nick Strawhecker is the owner-chef behind Dante, an Italian restaurant featuring scratch-made pasta, fresh seafood, and locally sourced produce, cheese and meat. Since 2009, Dante has served its guests seasonally inspired dishes and offered a generous all-Italian wine list.
What would you tell visitors about the Omaha food scene?
We have variety, and we have talent.
What are some standout Omaha restaurants?
El Alambre is the best Mexican in town, and nobody seems to know about it. They have incredible tacos. For Thai, Khao Niao is killer. Hyderabad House is regional Indian and absolutely fantastic. They opened a grocery store and a deli as well. Speaking of delis, Asian Market is my favorite restaurant in Omaha. It has a Chinese bent. Also for authentic Chinese, Blue & Fly is my wife’s favorite. We love the Sichuan cold potatoes. Pro tip: order from the back of the menu.
And the best diner in Omaha is Vidlak’s Brookside Café. Growing up, my family went there every Sunday. It’s been there for 30 years, and it’s packed. They absolutely crush it, and it’s an amazing value. When I pick up friends from the airport, I take them to Block 16. The food is great, and I like how it makes me feel. It’s a comfy place. That’s what I look for in a restaurant – how it makes me feel.
Where do you like to go out in Omaha?
With Omaha’s growth, the amount of things to do at night has grown immensely – especially with live music. The Admiral is amazing. The renovation of the building honored its history, and it’s easier to get a drink now. Steelhouse Omaha is a new venue where I saw one of my favorite shows, The Flaming Lips, which was wild. Barnato in West Omaha is a smaller venue with a bar and private rooms in the back. We’ve had a couple of parties there.
If you had a day in Omaha with an unlimited budget, what would you do?
First, I would ask my wife. I’m sure she’d want to go to Borsheims to buy jewelry. Then we’d go to Kaneko. We have some amazingly talented artists in Omaha. I’d buy some art if they happen to be selling some.
Then we’d have our first dinner at The Boiler Room. Next, we’d cut across town to Benson and have a second dinner at Yoshitomo. Chef David Utterback was nominated for a James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Midwest. I think he’ll (eventually) win it.
Please tell visitors: what’s special about Omaha?
Omaha is uniquely Omaha. A lot of folks are born here, leave, gather information and experiences, then return and try to improve our great city. That’s what I did with Dante. And I couldn’t have done that in any other market for various reasons.
Omaha also has a rich tradition of immigration. I’m a product of immigrants. I went deep into my Italian roots, traveled to Italy, and learned about the cuisine. And that’s true of more recent immigrants, who bring their cuisine – amazing food I’ve never seen before. Of course you can come to Omaha and enjoy a delicious steak. I love 801 Chophouse for a fancy steakhouse and The Drover for a casual steakhouse.
But we have so much more than that. We have secret menus at the Sichuan place (Blue & Fly), Ethiopian bread on Saddle Creek (Lalibela Ethiopian Restaurant), and a deli in the back of Asian Market with all sorts of delicious and interesting things. So come to Omaha and enjoy the steak, but try some other things we offer.