Jessica and I have been friends with Josh and Jackson for more than 10 years—ever since we all met our freshman year of college. Assigned to the same dorm, we had clicked instantly and were inseparable the next four-plus years. During that time, Jessica and I found common interests and fell in love, as did Josh and Jackson. After graduation, I was excited we all landed jobs in the same city so we could stay close.
When we all had a free weekend coming up, we decided to take another road trip together. We looked at several cities we hadn’t explored before within relatively short drives. After talking it over and doing some online research, we decided on Omaha, Nebraska.
One of my co-workers is an Omaha native and recommended we visit the Blackstone District, an area of the city experiencing revitalization with great restaurants, bars and nightlife on every corner. I told Jessica, Josh and Jackson about it, and we all agreed it sounded like a fun option, so we made plans to head out the following Friday.
Along the way, we spent most of the trip reminiscing about our college adventures—the first time we met while moving into our rooms, pigging out on late-night snacks from the dining hall, our many study sessions at the library—and discussing how excited we were to explore a new city.
When we arrived, we checked into our rooms at a hotel within a short drive of the Blackstone District. We parted ways and agreed to meet in the lobby the next morning to plan our day.
After a good night’s sleep, we were ready to take on the first day of our trip. We decided to head up the street to what we’d heard is an iconic bar and restaurant in Omaha—The Crescent Moon.
We grabbed a seat in a wooden booth and each ordered the world-famous Reuben sandwich, which originated in the 1920s in the Blackstone Hotel across the street.
“This. Is. Delicious,” Josh said in between bites of corned beef, sauerkraut, and Swiss on marble rye.
“And what a cool, laid-back atmosphere,” added Jessica, her gaze moving from the bike hanging above the bar to the list of draft beers written on a chalkboard mounted on the wall. “This could be an option for an after-dinner nightcap.”
Boasting more than 60 beers on tap, Crescent Moon had brews for each of our tastes. After throwing a couple back, we ventured further west on Farnam Street toward the heart of the Blackstone District.
Along the way, we talked about how vibrant and alive the area felt. We found our way to Scriptown Brewing Company, a taproom in a converted warehouse that offered a variety of session beers. I asked the waitress what makes a session, and she explained they have a relatively low-alcohol content in comparison to many other craft beer styles.
“This allows you to enjoy several pints and drink in ‘session’ with friends and family,” she said, assuring us that they also serve some beers with a higher alcohol content on a seasonal basis.
“Sweet! That means we can drink and enjoy the afternoon without Jackson starting to nod off at the bar,” Jessica joked before ordering a YOTUS IPA.
Josh, Jackson and I followed suit, each of us ordering a uniquely flavored local brew. The best part was taking turns sampling each other’s choices. Jackson raved about his St. Meinrad Golden Strong Ale because of its clean, fruit taste, and before we knew it, a couple hours had passed and we all had a few empty glasses on the table in front of us.
We left Scriptown to grab some locally sourced ice cream at Coneflower Creamery, and then we headed back to the hotel to relax a bit and change clothes for dinner.
We met up in the lobby before heading to Stirnella, a gastropub Jackson had read about online and that had received rave reviews from a couple we met in the hotel lobby. Jessica reviewed the menu before we left the hotel and told us the restaurant was known for its use of local ingredients and dishes with a “global influence.”
Jackson and I both ordered the Blackstone burger, while Jessica got the steak & frites and Josh had the pork shank. We shared the Brussels sprouts and a bottle of Bordeaux wine.
“What a fantastic way to end a Saturday,” Jackson toasted. After we had polished off the bottle, we saw that Stirnella has eight wines on tap, so each of us enjoyed another glass (or two). Before we knew it, the bartender let us know it was final call, so we headed back to the hotel.
The next morning, we again met in the lobby and took an Uber to the Dundee District, another cool, historic neighborhood near our hotel. We decided on brunch at Pitch Pizzeria, one of the hottest spots in the continuously evolving neighborhood.
Having read that it’s important to get there early if you don’t want to wait for a table, we arrived before 10. The hostess sat us in a cozy spot near the front windows. We each ordered something different—Jackson the crème brûlée-stuffed French toast, Jessica the Monte Cristo sandwich and Josh the crab cake Benedict. My co-worker had urged me to try the arugula salad with pears and balsamic vinaigrette, and it didn’t disappoint.
Knowing we wanted to stop at Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob and eCreamery before heading back home, we tried our best to eat lightly, although that was easier said than done with so much delicious food in front of us.
After finishing brunch at Pitch, we strolled through Dundee and window-shopped at some of the neighborhood’s quaint boutiques before stopping at Amsterdam for a quick lunch. Touted as European-style street food, this is a fast-casual spot with counter service. We each picked a different protein and sauce and shared an order of curry fries, served Euro-style in a paper cone with a fork.
We enjoyed our food on the patio, and then took a stroll around the corner to eCreamery. Jessica had seen the owners of the Omaha-based business pitching to the Sharks on Shark Tank and knew she had to sample some of the small-batch flavors, which change every day at noon.
Jessica got a scoop of sea salt caramel in a waffle cone, while Jackson and I went basic with chocolate cones. Josh tried a cup of cheesecake ice cream, and he spent most of the day raving about the crunchy graham crackers mixed into the creamy base.
“I don’t think we could have enjoyed a better weekend than this one,” Jackson said as he finished the last bite of his cone.
“I agree,” Josh said. “I didn’t know much about Omaha before this trip, but everything we’ve seen has made me a believer. When are we coming back?”