Travel log: Omaha, NE • Subtitle: How I found out that Dundee and Benson are awesome!

Travel log: Omaha, NE • Subtitle: How I found out that Dundee and Benson are awesome!
I’ve been visiting Omaha since I was 15, when I started visiting my boyfriend, now husband there. At the time I thought it was very cosmopolitan and fancy compared to where I was from. Even though I am a bit more well traveled now, I still really like Omaha. Maybe partially for nostalgic reasons, but it’s also a really interesting city that’s easy to get around.

My husband and I hadn’t been to Omaha for anything other than family visits in several years, but last month we took a mini-vacation up there, and I had more fun than I was expecting!

A big part of this is thanks to Jeff, aka Photo Assasin and his lovely wife, Lu. Jeff gave us a giant list of places we should go. My husband was familiar with some of them, but they were pretty much all new to me.

We rolled into town in a Thursday in time for a late lunch. I wanted something fancy, per usual, and we ended up at J Coco. We joined the late ladies who lunch crowd and started with their calamari, then I had the Nicoise salad with seared tuna and David had the Wagyu burger. There used to be a local grocery in the building that houses J. Coco and a comic book shop now, and it still maintains that feel. In fact, J. Coco has old photos of the grocery blown up into a mural along the wall oposite the bar. It’s a very cool space.

Then we went and checked into the hotel, the Element Omaha Midtown Crossing. Element is a Westin/Starwood property, so you know the customer service will be good. It’s near the Omaha Mutual buildings on Dodge, just outside downtown. This was my first time staying in one of these hotels, but I was impressed from the moment we stepped inside. Dark wood floors, concrete, white and green accents. The rooms all have full or partial kitchens, and are sleek and modern just like the lobby. Other than maybe the W, I have never stayed in a hotel this modern. It was really, really gorgeous and I would definitely stay in one again. Not to mention it was really affordable. Oh, and did I mention they have wine tastings every evening? Yeah. Also, that local grocery that used to be in the J. Coco building now has a location in the lower level of the hotel building, along with the lobby and the parking garage. Pretty sweet since the rooms have kitchens.

David and I took a ton of photos at the hotel, he’s working on editing them so you’ll have to wait.

After we checked in, we ran over to Omaha Whole Foods which has a HUGE wine and beer section. Kansas and Missouri should be jealous. Anyway, it was time to meet Jeff and Lu, so we headed toward Benson, an area I wasn’t really familiar with, but David was.

We met them at the Benson Pizza Shoppe, which I was unsure about based on my Pizza Shoppe knowledge. When we walked in it was clear this was different. It has a bar, for one. We found out from our server the gal who owns it basically has permission from PS corporate to run it how she wants. Which means there’s a music venue attached, where bands, poetry slams and more happen. The whole thing called the PS Collective. David and I were still pretty stuffed from lunch, but shared a “Prince” sized pizza, and enjoyed some drinks. It was right in the middle of that when storms rolled in and the baseball game Jeff and Lu were supposed to go to was cancelled.

Since we now had Jeff and Lu for the evening we ran in the rain down the block to Beercade, which is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s a bar with old arcade games (and Skeeball, where you can win enough points for a free hotdog or a discount on a beer). The walls are painted with video game characters and they have a decent selection of games, according to David. The bar isn’t just beers, though they do have an impressive and rotating list of craft beers. They have a full bar too, but I enjoyed a Strongbow, and played Skeeball and several of the pinball machines.

From one of the pinball machines I played.

After Beercade we wanted something sweet and headed over to Dundee for eCreamery. I guess they have gotten a ton of press and whatnot. It reminded me of some of the cupcake places in KC that you can just tell want to be a franchise really bad (the name is a registered trademark), but they aren’t quite there yet. The place is well lit, clean and modern with lots of white and bright colors. I guess the people who own it have another location by a different name that Jeff and Lu like a little more but it was pouring and this was closer. I can’t remember exactly what I had but it was tasty.

The next morning I sent David to Brueger’s Bagels while I got ready, then we ate yummy breakfast sandos and watched terrifyingly bad Omaha public television. It was still really overcast outside but everything was really green from all the rain the night before.

I had a whole list of places I wanted to go, and we started out at Back in the Day Antiques. This place is wacky, and the owner is a really suave guy. You know when you walk in a place, and the people immediately want to show you their 1950s cat eye glasses, you’re in for a good shopping trip. The lower level is vintage clothes and Mid-Century furniture, and definitely worth a look. They also have gorgeous jewelry in their upstairs cases. I actually didn’t end up getting anything but David got an antique Mason’s ribbon, and a really cool shotgun tie bar. I love this place though, and can’t wait to go back!

This was after antiques downtown, headed back toward Dundee. Omaha is FULL of amazing old signage. I’d really like to make a project out of documenting it.

After getting our fill of antiquing, we headed back to Dundee.

See? More cool signage.

So, I’d been told we needed to hit Scout Dry Goods & Trade for re-sale and vintage clothes, as well as stuff from local designers. So hit it up we did. The owner could tell we weren’t from Omaha, and took my picture, which was cute and flattering. Turns out she went to school for graphic design, which is part of why her logo and shop are so adorable. In addition to the store in Dundee she has an Airstream trailer that she takes around filled with goodies. Do I really need to admit that I bought a pile of stuff? She’s got prints from local artists, local accessories designers, all kinds of good stuff.

Jewelry!! They have really good jewelry. I had a hard time not buying everything.

Aren’t her fliers so cute? Li’l Scoutie is the trailer that she drives around!

A few of the pins I bought at Scout. The one with the martini is fabric that was once a vintage tie. Also note the plastic pin in the shape of Kansas.

By the time we were finished at Scout it was lunch time. We headed around the corner to a place Jeff had told us to go, Amsterdam Falafel & Kabob. It was at this moment that I think I lost my husband, who found his new true love, The Doner Kabob, which is a lamb sandwich. I got the falafel salad, with all 3 sauces they offer. It was pretty damn amazing. Oh, and we got curry fries. Uhhh yeah. Having been to Amsterdam, this reminded me the most of something you’d actually eat in a little cafe there. They really like curry flavored things.

The aforementioned Falafel Salad from Amsterdam Falafel.

More Dundee cuteness.

After lunch we killed some time, there’s a cute vintage and resale shop back in Benson called Paperdoll Vintage. I didn’t get anything, but it looks like one of those places you’d find a treasure if you checked it on the regular. Then it was late enough in the afternoon that the bars opened (God I love vacation) so we staked out a spot on the patio at Bottle & Cork, back in Dundee, next to Amsterdam Falafel. I had a cocktail and a glass of the Pinot Noir on special. Delish. David found a beer from a Nebraska brewery.

Love this label!!

That evening we went and picked up David’s mom and had dinner with the bother and sister in law and their four kids. We spent the night there, and had a lazy breakfast the next day. On our way out of town though it was lunch time, and we had Mai Thai (another suggestion from Jeff and Lu!), which was a bit out of the way but so worth it! Omaha is a lot of fun, and it’s closer than St. Louis. We definitely need to get back sooner rather than later because I still have a giant list of places we didn’t even get to go!
Have you been to Omaha? Leave a comment!

This article has 1 comment

  1. The Amsterdam is an always favorite stop. Two words: Curry Fries. And I am not a fry lover. Nice write up on some great spots. Keep on keeping on.

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