On a crisp, spring Saturday evening, I found myself meandering through the Old Market; laughing among friends I’d just met, eating delicious bites in gorgeous local restaurants and earning some extra steps on my newly acquired Fitbit. No, I wasn’t in some fabulous travel commercial, I experienced a culinary tour with the Nebraska Tour Company...and enjoyed every minute.
The evening started out with our gracious host Haley greeting me at the large glass doors of a french inspired dining legend. The others were already seated inside, chatting about their experiences thus far in Omaha (admittedly I was running a little behind). I joined three different couples; a pair from South Dakota who met their friends from Kansas for a little weekend getaway, and a Millennial couple originally from Pennsylvania who moved here after college for work. Introvert that I am, I was nervous about joining in the conversation, but our host suggested everyone kind of introduce themselves, and that definitely helped break the ice. Here on our first culinary stop, we were encouraged to try one of the small plates and a refreshing adult beverage. I opted for the Spanish Omelet, which was complimented by an arugula salad peppered with large chunks of briny crab. I chose the house punch for my libation, which came out peony pink in an ornate crystal cup. A twist on a Negroni, it was cool and refreshing, perfect for an evening in spring. My fellow explorers were equally as pleased with their picks, but it’s hard to go wrong with anything from this original Old Market restaurant.
Something I love about walking tours, is that you get to be fully immersed in the vibe of the neighborhood. The brick roads were alive with people from everywhere; young folks in fancy prom clothes posing for selfies, families and munchkins enjoying treats from Dolci, a gentleman on the saxophone adding a melodic soundtrack to the wonderful chaos of it all. Our next culinary adventure brought us to an award winning restaurant tucked away from the main road. I’d always heard good things about this place, but I wasn’t quite prepared for how beautiful it was; two levels of exposed brick and metal, softened with round tables and fine white linens. After we were seated, a few of us took photos of the exquisite setup and the open kitchen. Here we were treated with profoundly delicious charcuterie boards; our helpful server explained in detail what everything was, but by the end we were using our own names like “yummy ham stuff” and “the one that tastes like pepperoni”. Our visitor from Kansas encouraged us to name our favorite bits on the board, but I had trouble choosing just one. I will definitely be back!
Strolling again, we popped into the fascinating Passageway for a moment, just to observe. It’s resembles a lush, three-dimensional garden, with galleries and dining on either side; the air fragrant with incense from the various shops within. Before we became fully enchanted, we pressed on to our final destination, a local American grill. The high tables and glamorous chandeliers were tempered by the wooden bar and the games on the screens, a hint to the eclectic mix found on the menu. Seated at a long table, we exchanged traveling stories as we waited for our appetizers; fried ravioli, crispy lavash and Asian pot stickers. We passed the well-appointed dishes around family style, and I found a new favorite in the crunchy yet creamy ravioli.
Throughout our excursion, Haley pointed out points of interest and historical facts about the area, and I learned some things I never knew about the city I love. Not to mention the fun of trying new things with people from different backgrounds, and learning something about myself in the process. My suggestion? If you’re visiting Omaha, try a tour. If you’re a local native, try a tour. If you’re adventurous, try a tour. If you’re shy...well you get the idea. Just book it! Thank me later.