Okay, so Omaha, Nebraska isn't a sexy city, but if you are coming up for college baseball's big show, the NCAA College World Series, sexy probably isn't what you're looking for anyways (which probably explains why Omaha fits college baseball like a glove). Omaha may be short on chic lounges, 5-star hotels and huge skyscrapers, but one thing we do have here is food! (Okay, so I don't technically live here anymore, but it's hard to stop saying.). So, "What is there to do in Omaha for The College World Series?". Eat and drink! That's the simple answer. And why shouldn't you. I'm not going to throw a bunch of boring stats out at you like, 'Omaha has more Fortune 500 companies per capita than any other city in America' or that 'Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando and Gerald Ford are all from Omaha'. That's not how I roll. I thought I'd get into the 'meat and potatoes' of things to do; all the eateries and bars that you should go to when you are here. Also, if you live in Omaha and haven't tried these restaurants, then you are not a true Nebraskan and should pack your bags and move across the river (or at least try them).
If you are in Omaha for the NCAA College World Series, then you are probably staying in a hotel near the stadium. This is perfect because the first area of Omaha I'm starting with is the stadium area. In terms of 'college baseball stuff', this area has sports bars, ballpark food stands and memorabilia shops open specifically for the College World Series. Here are several restaurants to try while in this area of the stadium, perhaps before a game.
If you have been coming to the CWS for a while now, you know that the beloved Zesto ice cream shop near the old Rosenblatt Stadium was a cause for concern with many, because of the stadium move to TD Ameritrade Park. Everything is good though, as they have relocated directly across the street from the new park. An ice cream shop where even Texas Longhorns' baseball coach Augie Garrido visited every time he was in town.
Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill/Slowdown Tent
Once, as I'm sure you can guess from the name, a mattress factory for the Central Mattress Company, Old Mattress Factory Bar & Grill has become an iconic restaurant in Omaha with the emergence of their beer garden during the College World Series. If you are not into having fun with thousands of people, this place probably isn't for you, but chances are the NCAA College World Series aren't for you either, so I just waisted a sentence typing.
Blatt Beer & Table
This sports bar is directly across from the stadium on the south side, making it an easy pick for pre-gaming and post-game celebration, before you head out for a dinner in The Old Market or Midtown Crossing. One of the many pluses with Blatt Beer & Table, besides being right next to Zesto, is the large selection of beer that is on tap. This restaurant is no stranger to accommodating loud sports fans, as it has become both a Creighton and UNO hangout during basketball and hockey season. Sports grill food is not really my thing, but they have that too if you get hungry before a game.
The Old Market
A trip to Omaha without a stop in The Old Market is like vacationing to Paris without seeing the Eifel Tower. The Old Market, besides being Omaha's most historic neighborhood, is packed full of the best restaurants, bars and stores for a full day of fun and entertainment. Of course, since I am focusing on the restaurants and pubs, I am omitting the stores from this list, however keep in mind there are plenty, along with theaters, art galleries and museums as well.
Jazz - A Louisiana Kitchen
I was born in Shreveport so I know good Cajun food and although this isn't the bayou, Jazz - A Louisiana Kitchen has some pretty good dishes for you LSU, UL-Monroe and UL-Lafayette baseball fans that want to feel a little southern comfort while you're here. I do have to admit it is not all fresh however some of it is, and the stuffed fish is amazing.
Sakura Bana is a gem, and it is way better as far as taste than always-packed and incredibly lame Blue Sushi Bar and Grill. Try it! It is packed away close to 10th Street just north of most of the buildings in the Old Market.
Ted & Wally's Ice Cream
There is no better way to walk around The Old Market then with a waffle cone from arguably Omaha's most famous ic cream shop (sorry Zesto).
Best time to go: anytime!
Across the street from Blue, V. Mertz is an fine-dining restaurant that offers a number of progressive food dishes, as well as a full gluten-free and vegetarian menu. Grabbing a scotch after one of the games sounds like a great idea to me, and this place has the best selection in town. Enjoy The College World Series away from the crowds for a night of fine-dining and premium scotch, cognac and if you later feel the urge for craziness, hit up one of the basement bars nearby afterwards.
The Upstream Brewing Company
As corny as the website makes them look, calling themselves a restaurant different from the rest, one thing this Omaha staple has is high quality, Nebraska-brewed beer. And lots of it. After one of the baseball games, stopping in for some food and a few pints of highly alcoholic (I believe there is 12% beer) brew is a good way to get the night started right.
For light food and sandwiches, there is no better place to eat in Omaha. This charming urban pub reminds me of Chicago and grabbing a bite and a beer here is a great way to celebrate a win or sulk in a loss.
Recognized as the best pizza in Omaha by most sources, Zio's is a great place to grab a slice and go, or dine-in and enjoy some of the great selections like Chicken Pesto!
A quick $6 cab ride away from the Old Market is Midtown Crossing, Omaha's newest development project. To be honest, and I've literally been everywhere, Midtown Crossing is actually pretty upscale. No, you will not find designer shops but the restaurants and bars (like I've said from the beginning) are superb and you won't regret coming out this way. It's Omaha. Everything is close!
Brix - A Wine and Spirits Experience
WineEmotion dispenser at Brix
Brix is one of the more technologically innovative wine bars I have been to. The reason is quite simple too. You pour your own drinks! That's right. If you are going to be in Omaha, not just for The College World Series, you are going to want to have a few glasses of wine from their many WineEmotion dispensers around the bar and wine store. With the ability to pour a taste size, half-glass or full-glass, Brix lets you dictate how much wine you get, what price you pay and when you get it. No need to wait for a server. Something that I have discovered, probably from living in two of the most pretentious cities in America (Boca Raton, Florida & Naperville, Illinois), is that Omaha is not pretentious at all. So don't be afraid is what I am saying, to try a place like Brix! I'm aware that wine doesn't necessarily shout, "I'm a college baseball fan and ready to party!" However, it provides a nice change of pace from Bud Light and ballpark franks.
College baseball doesn't necessarily bring out the best eating habits in everyone, however at this restaurant, you have the ability to create your own meal using raw foods and other ingredients to really tailor what you eat. From sandwiches, salads, to things hot off the grill, Ingredient is a place to come for a healthy and delicious lunch that is a bit different.
I have actually never been here, but from everything I hear, this place is awesome! With locations in Coral Gables (University of Miami) and downtown Minneapolis, I expect this chic American restaurant (with a sushi bar) to be an experience. From the atmosphere to the fresh regional flavors, according to their website, eating at CRAVE is known as the CRAVE experience (I guess we will have to take that for what it is).
Best time to go: Enjoy 1/2 price appetizers and beers every Monday-Friday from 3-6.
The Grey Plume
This "green restaurant certified" stop embraces the locally grown produce and livestock and creates it into culinary excellence unlike most other restaurants in Omaha. With many awards in masterful meals, The Grey Plume creates food that not only tastes amazing, but also doesn't disturb the environment.
The Drover (out West)
If you are flying in from California, the Carolinas, Texas, Louisiana, or wherever; I'm sure enjoying a Nebraska steak is one of the first things on your mind. There is no better place to go then The Drover for steak. Featured on Man vs. Food, the whiskey filet is what you must order if you only plan to come here only once. Although once trying it, I'm sure you'll find a way to come back a second time.
In conclusion, whether you are coming to Omaha for the NCAA College World Series or are just visiting a friends wedding for the weekend, you are doing yourself a grave dis-service by not trying many of these pubs and eateries while you are here. I'm warning you, there is not that much to do in Omaha if you don't follow my advice. So be warned! College baseball is an event in Omaha every year and I feel it's my job to prepare people for the best time they can possibly have. So enjoy the games, enjoy the drinks and enjoy the food!
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