While Omaha is almost synonymous with the word “steak,” there is a refreshing amount of growth in the vegan contingent of the city. First and foremost, there’s a renowned vegan restaurant there, Modern Love. Second, several other non-vegan restaurants have vegan offerings and/or separate vegan menus. (That’s a good thing since you can’t eat every meal at Modern Love. They don’t have daytime hours, except on Sundays.) And of course, there’s always Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Natural Grocers to pick up any other vegan specialty products you may need.
Today I’m sharing some of the vegan options I’ve tried in Omaha and beyond.
Even though I’ve written about Modern Love extensively (here, here, and here), I could hardly have a vegan Omaha round-up without it. (If you missed it the first time around, be sure to check out this road-trip video to Modern Love.)
After 2 years in Omaha, Modern Love recently opened a location in Brooklyn. (Poor New York. Always getting Nebraska’s sloppy seconds.) 😉 But the original still stands with comfort foods that have an elegant twist.
The menu changes depending on the season, which means that just as soon as you’ve driven to Omaha and gotten your fix, you’re almost certain to have FOMO with their next menu update on Facebook.
Their current fall menu includes chana masala, lentil sloppy joes, oyster mushroom chimchurri, and seitan chops & applesauce. (I’m dying to go visit while that last one is still available!)
One of the last times I was there, the summer menu was still in effect. I had the barbecue seitan cookout with seitan steaks, grilled corn on the cob, warm potato salad, coleslaw, and watermelon.
David got the Modern cheeseburger made with a lentil patty, smoky cashew cheddar cheese on top, and served with fries. (Pictured at the top of this post.)
If that looks like a delicious mass of edible nostalgia, looks don’t deceive you. A New York-based reviewer asserted that some of the meals at Modern Love were overly heavy, but I disagree completely. Often non-vegan diners complain that vegan food is anemic or too light. Modern Love obliterates that worry and offers food that requires a doggy bag. (Your pooch has never been so lucky.) It leaves you feeling satiated in all the best ways. Yes, there are times for raw zucchini noodles and collard wraps, but it’s not while you’re dining at Modern Love.
On Sundays Modern Love offers brunch. Like their dinner menu, the brunch menu changes with the seasons. If you can make it there on a Sunday morning or early afternoon, you will be rewarded with a meal that’s worth changing out of pajamas and slippers.
When we were there, I had the scramble rancheros. This massive plate was filled with scrambled tofu, local beans, fried potatoes, and toppings galore like smoky ranchero sauce, sour cream, and guacamole. On the side, corn tortillas for scooping.
David opted for seitan & waffles. This beautiful stack was a configuration of waffles, breaded seitan, fresh berries, and raspberry butter.
Usually at shopping malls the vegan options are slim or underwhelming. But at Flagship Commons, the food court is tremendously vegan-friendly, with many of the vendors having more than one vegan option. It works out well when dining with people who have different tastes, because everyone can grab something that suits them.
While we were there, I had the vegan currywurst at Blatt Beer & Table, which has three locations throughout the city. I’d been eager to try it for a while, but since David isn’t the sauerkraut fiend that I am, I wasn’t sure when I’d have the opportunity. So it worked well that he could venture elsewhere while I grabbed this curry flavored sausage in a pretzel bun and topped with caraway sauerkraut. For my side, I ordered french fries.
The entrée was true to its name and gave exactly what was advertised. However, all things said and done, I didn’t think the flavor of curry entirely worked with sauerkraut. Something like a Field Roast smoked apple sage sausage would be more up my alley. Also, once you’ve gotten spoiled with fresh raw sauerkraut, the kind that comes out of a can is underwhelming, and that’s how this kraut tasted.
I’ve heard good things about their root burger, which is made with red quinoa and roasted beets.
David opted for Weirdough Pizza, where they sell whole pizzas and pizza by the slice. He got a slice of cheeseless vegan pizza, which was topped with roasted mushrooms, garlic, and fresh salad greens. I saw an infograph recently in Food Network Magazine, in which they questioned readers about where they stand on salad as a pizza topping. The Food Network readers were staunchly against it, but I’m all for fresh salad as a finish on pizza. It gives pizza a lightness that I really enjoy, and especially when the pizza is cheeseless, it adds another point of interest.
Other options at Flagship Commons include a falafel sandwich, ramen, sushi, sashimi, rice bowls, and more. Every Thursday Flagship Commons celebrates Vegan Thursdays with a dollar off certain vegan food items. You can see all of the details here.
At Crystal Jade they cook up Indian, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, and Malaysian dishes in a renovated Village Inn. It’s a common phenomenon in the Midwest for Asian restaurants to have menus with an amalgamation of cuisines, as opposed to focusing on one country. It’s been my experience that at restaurants with a divided focus, the results are never wholly satisfying. Instead of doing one type of cuisine well, it’s all over the map – literally. Crystal Jade didn’t buck that trend, unfortunately.
Crystal Jade isn’t a vegan restaurant, but they have an extensive vegetarian menu available upon request with loads of vegan options.
We started with a vegan egg roll and curry puffs. The egg roll was pretty standard, and the curry puffs reminded me of flattened samosas.
For our main courses, we shared the spicy tofu bulgogi & peanut butter tofu. All of the tofu tasted deep fried and spongy, making both dishes very oily. I liked the peanut butter sauce in the PB tofu, but I wish there had been vegetables in the dish instead of tofu alone. I had high hopes for the spicy bulgogi sauce, but it was nothing to write home about. (Sorry, mom. I know how you love mail.)
It wasn’t awful, but all in all, I wouldn’t hurry back to Crystal Jade with so many other options in Omaha.
Block 16 is a casual eatery, where you order at the counter. It’s not a vegan restaurant, but they always have several vegan options available.
One option that’s on the menu currently is the Block burger. You can get it with traditional burger toppings or with pickles and peanut butter. David opted for the latter, and was rewarded with a sandwich that was warm & melty. The peanut butter is chunky and adds some texture, like placing potato chips on your peanut butter sandwich.
(You can see my full review of Block 16 here. But before you get your hopes up, the vegan reuben isn’t on their current menu.)
If beer and appetizers are your game, swing over to Benson Brewery. It’s a non-vegan restaurant with vegan options like warm & soft pretzels served with IPA mustard, a wedge salad that can be veganized, and seitan wings in your choice of hot, BBQ, or IPA mustard. The mustard sauce has boozy undertones and a rich umami flavor. It comes with a side of vegan ranch.
The Chocolate Bar
If your travels will be taking you beyond Omaha, you may be surprised to find vegan options in small town, Grand Island, which is a couple of hours to the west. (There are not loads of other options in Grand Island, but you can read how to make it work in this post about eating vegan from a hotel fridge.)
One of the staff members at The Chocolate Bar is vegan, and she encouraged the owners to add some vegan options. She was working the day David and I stopped by and gave us each a high five when she realized we were both vegan too. It was pretty adorable.
The Chocolate Bar is a coffee shop first and foremost. They have soy and almond milk for adding to your java of choice.
As for food, when we were there they had one vegan option that could be prepared three different ways – as a wrap, a sandwich, or a salad. But since then they’ve added other veganizable options with a garden ranch wrap, Thai chicken wrap and salad.
David and I both ordered the pesto-bella. He had it as a sandwich, and I had it as a wrap. Grilled Portobello mushrooms were served with a pesto spread and leaf lettuce.
Finally, you can stay up to date with vegan options in Omaha by checking out the Vegan Omaha page on Facebook. They share pictures of new vegan offerings in the city. Plus, they regularly have meet-ups.
What are your favorite vegan options in Omaha? What should I try on my next visit to the area?