Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Great Plains >
Oct 17, 2011 09:16 AM

Questions about regional foods in Nebraska/Omaha

I've recently been doing some traveling in Nebraska and got to thinking about foods that the state is known for. The first things that came to mind are runzas and steak. I've learned since that the reuben originated in Omaha (even though it seems to be more associated with NYC in my opinion) and that the traditional side for steak in Omaha is pasta. But I had a couple of specific questions too:

1. Is there such a thing as"Nebraska-style BBQ?" Since Nebraska seems to be known for beef, I didn't know if BBQ in Nebraska typically meant brisket (like in Texas). I also thought that maybe Kansas City Style BBQ (ribs, sauce) was the popular local type given proximity to KC. Any ideas?

2. I've heard mention of "Omaha-style pizza" but can't seem to figure out what this is exactly. Any ideas?

3. Are there any other regional foods closely associated wih Nebraska and/or Omaha that I've missed? Any corn-based dishes? Are Midwest sandwiches like the pork tenderloin and loose meat popular here?


  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hi,

    The only unique food item that I recall from Nebraska was BBQ spaghetti and meatballs. I had it at a couple of places. The meatballs were smoked and instead of a traditional Italian tomato sauce the meatballs and pasta were tossed with a smoky BBQ sauce.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Fowler

      Thanks for the reply. That is interesting about BBQ spaghetti - I always associated that dish with Memphis (except with pulled pork instead of meatballs). Were the types of places you had this at in Nebraska Italian restaurants or more BBQ joints? I was surprised with the number of Italian restaurants there seems to be in Omaha so maybe I have some more exploring to do!

    2. The BBQ is kind of like KC, but slightly different. I've only had it a few times because I prefer other styles of BBQ more.

      Omaha style pizza is probably what they serve at Mama's on Saddle Creek. Again, not my favorite.

      Pork Tenderloins and loose meat sandwiches are around, but not venerated as they are in Iowa. The chain Runza's is unique to NE, as is dorthy lynch salad dressing. Cheese frenchies are also unique. You could find cheese frenchies at Don and Millies. Again, their is one on saddle creek. Up in the North East part of the state, you start seeing chislic, but that's from SD. I've never heard of bbq spaghetti, but I never go to the steak houses in Omaha.

      I grew up in NE, went to college there, and am a huge foodie. Their isn't a lot of fusion style cuisine in Omaha or Lincoln. I still don't like most fusion cuisine. I think that's just how the food culture is. Their are a ton of good ethnic restaurants that are very authentic. When I think of Nebraska food, I think of super authentic mexican, and czech food (Bohemian Alps!). I also think of hamburgers and mountain oysters in the sandhills.

      2 Replies
      1. re: ajb05854

        Wow, thanks for all the great insight. I think I had heard about cheese frenchies but never really knew what they were. After reading your tip I looked these sandwiches up and it definitely looks interesting!

        I've heard of Mama's for pizza, and it is on my list. I've talked to several locals about pizza in Omaha and get different ideas about what defines the pizza of the area. As far as I can tell, there are a handful of pizza joints that have an established following in the area (LaCasa, Big Fred's, Mama's, Sortino's, etc.). When people talk about these places they mention how romano cheese is popular instead of simply mozzerella, and hamburger seems to be the popular topping for traditional locals. Oh and people say that pizza is cut in squares (which I knew that they did in Ohio). So maybe this is Omaha-style pizza - I haven't tried any yet because my travels through Omaha are solo - but hey, I guess next time I can order a small!

        1. re: tom82

          Mama's crust is more like a bread. And yes, they do cut it in squares. LOL...I forgot about hambuger pizza being weird. I'm back in the midwest for now, so it's just normal to me.

          I made cheese frenchies at a party a few months back. Everyone thought they sounded gross until they tried them. One friend looked at me and said, "I hate you, this is so good."

          One place I forgot about is Joe Tess's. It's definitely unique for omaha. They served fried carp and have been around for a long time. Down on that side of town are a few of my favorite restaurants anywhere. Their is a really good authentic mexican resturant. I grew up in a packing plant down, so I'm super picky with Mexican. It's called Birrieria el Chalan. The thai place next to it is one of the best thai places I've been to in years. Their might be other places that are better, but whenever I've been in Omaha the past few years I go out of the way to go to one or the other.

      2. Runzas aka bierocks aka cabbage burgers.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Melanie Wong

          The crucial thing is *not* to try these at Runza, the chain. Or so I've been told. I just moved to Nebraska and had a runza at the chain and thought it was foul, and everyone told me they're actually really good. It's like a hamburger - you wouldn't want to judge what they're like only by tasting one from Burger King.

        2. First, Nebraska is more than Omaha! I spent my first 30 years between Columbus and Norfolk. Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches in Norfolk were wonderful. Columbus has a lot of Polish and Czech influence - wonderfully kolaches. Neighborhood bars were great for pickled eggs and turkey gizzards. ...oh, and the Nut fries (testicles) - even served at Banquets. And the frog legs from gIgging at the Platte River! Lots of fresh veggies, fruits and unbelieveable melons!