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Restaurant Hoppen: Best modern brunch spots in Omaha

Posted at 10:40 PM, Jul 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-26 21:13:43-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — There’s something comforting and homey about saddling up for brunch at a classic diner. It’s settling to gather with old friends, loosen the belt a few notches, and hunker down for a mountain of flapjacks or a platter of eggs, toast, and wonderfully greasy bacon.

But food is constantly evolving, and the way chefs experiment with traditional breakfast food has almost unlocked a new genre. These are the breakfast classics you grew up with, but with tweaks that make them feel like a new plate entirely.

Classic diners and eateries will always hold a special place in Omaha’s restaurant scene. But when you want to switch up your brunch routine from the greasy spoon dives, here are seven places to check out.

Saddle Creek Breakfast Club

Prior to opening Saddle Creek Breakfast Club in 2017, the majority of chef/owner Chase Thomsen’s restaurant career consisted of cooking in night-time restaurants. He used that experience, approach, and attention to ingredients to elevate the plates at SCBC, and he thinks he’s only scratching the surface of what’s possible for AM meals.

“When I start thinking of the next couple years, we’re going to be pushing a lot harder with what people are comfortable with as breakfast,” Thomsen said on the Restaurant Hoppen podcast. “That’s where I want to be. I don’t want to be expected.”

That’s why SCBC’s menu, which changes frequently, includes eggs Benedict composed of succulent braised short rib, omelets studded with flatiron steak and whipped chevre, and a stack of luscious pancakes topped with bananas, peanuts, and a peanut butter whip so airy it nearly floats. SCBC isn’t afraid to push the limits on what breakfast can be, and its creativity has lines spilling out the doors during peak brunch hours.

Sunnyside on Center

Remember those greasy, salt-bomb hash brown patties you feasted on during lunch in grade school, blissfully unaware things like “calories” and “sodium” existed? Sunnyside on Center took those perfectly crispy potato cakes and turned them into sandwich buns.

The Hashbrown Throwdown, which slides buttery eggs, melted American cheese, and either bacon or housemade sausage between those rectangular potato discs, is a delightful ode to breakfast gluttony. It’s also an example of the *wink wink* twists Sunnyside on Center puts on traditional brunch.

Sunnyside’s menu includes a Breakfast Cubano sandwich, an Egg & Cheese Quesadilla, and a Southwest Burrito stuffed with chorizo, chipotle queso, and citrus sour cream. But Sunnyside has its real fun with its specials, which have included the Apple Pie Cinnamon Roll, Kimchi & Dumpling Pork Burrito, and a Breakfast Philly.

Early Bird

Whatever your favorite breakfast food, chances are Early Bird has put a funky spin on it.

Pancakes? Early Bird has 10 varieties, ranging from S’mores to Pecan Pie to Cinnamon Toast Crunch.

Eggs Benedict? You’ll find nine options here, including eggs benny versions of shrimp & grits, crab cakes, BLTs, and even a version served on waffles (Waffle Cordon Bleu Benny).

Bacon? Early Bird offers four varieties, all of which can be enjoyed in the When Pigs Fly bacon flight.

Oh, and there’s an A.M. Pot Pie, PB&J French Toast, Churro Waffle, and Cinna-Bobs, skewers of fried cinnamon roll dough with vanilla frosting and caramel dipping sauces. Early Bird is bold when it comes to brunch, but it ensures these unique creations aren’t stunt food; the flavor combinations absolutely work.

Lola’s

While many new-style brunch joints add flair with more ingredients, Lola’s goes the opposite way. Most of its dishes have only 4 or 5 components, but the quality of the ingredients and the way chef Corina Figueroa prepares them to make flavor fireworks.

The best example of this is the Toastie, a breakfast sandwich that combines buttery, fluffy scrambled eggs, salty prosciutto, and the best focaccia (perfectly oily and chewy) bread you’ll find in Omaha for a masterclass in sandwich building.

The pastry counter is filled with an ever-changing roster of baked goods, including morning buns, scones, chocolate knots, and banana bread. Everything about Lola’s is simple, classic, and fresh. Each dish tastes as if it were baked minutes before your arrival: the breads are warm, the meats peppery and fatty, and the vegetables crisp and vibrant. The service is quick, and those at the counter are happy to answer any questions about the menu or what scones, muffins, and breads are fresh in the counter that day.

Good Lookin’

If you simply read the names of the menu items at Good Lookin’, you’d probably think you were at a classic diner. But once you start looking into the components, you realize there’s an elevated twist in nearly everyone.

The Breakfast Burrito not only contains fluffy scrambled eggs, but also chorizo, tater tots, and Oaxaca cheese. The Chicken Fried Steak is a breaded sirloin smothered in brilliant chorizo gravy. The Eggs Benedict subs out ham for cold smoked salmon and adds bacon jam. And rather than serve traditional home fries or hash browns, Good Lookin’ boils its potatoes, squeezes them by hand, then fries them, not only making each bite of Breakfast Potatoes unique but also adding crispy crevices and crunchy bites.

Over Easy

Over Easy’s brilliance and creativity might be best defined by one of its most simple dishes: the Hash Brown Rounds. These spheres contain four cheeses, bacon, shredded potatoes, and sweet caramelized onions, all deep fried to golden perfection and served with a creamy spicy aioli. It’s as if all breakfast side dishes got rolled together and dropped into the fryer, and the result is delicious.

In that vein, the menu at Over Easy is filled with dishes you won’t find anywhere else in Omaha. There’s a Dutch Baby Pancake, a fluffy flapjack cooked in a cast iron skillet. The Chicken and Waffles are served with a bubbly, savory egg waffle. Replacing the traditional flatbread is the Breakfast Naan, which uses a puffy, grilled base to support a cream cheese spread, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, four cheese blend, and jalapeño jam.

Over Easy doesn’t just offer updated versions of the classics; it provides things that are entirely new, a welcome breath of fresh air to the brunch scene.

Orleans Room

Located inside the Cottonwood Hotel, Orleans Room offers a swanky, modern take on brunch, and none is a better example than the Corned Beef Hash.

It’s almost too beautiful to eat; that is until you take your first bite. Then you can’t stop shoveling it in fast enough. The same brilliant corned beef that elevates the restaurant’s signature Blackstone Reuben is combined with crispy shaved brussels sprouts, acidic red cabbage, buttery fried potatoes, and a perfectly cooked fried egg. The kicker is the pops of tang from mustard seeds littered throughout the dish. This plate is as stunning flavor-wise as it is visually.

You’ll also find French Toast made from challah bread, Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, Shrimp Cocktail, and even a prime rib carving station. Few places make brunch feel as elegant as Orleans Room.

Don’t see your favorite spot for modern brunch in Omaha on this list? Let me know where I need to check out next! Tweet me your favorites at @danhoppen, message Restaurant Hoppen on Facebook, or DM @dan_hoppen on Instagram to let me know where you love to enjoy brunch.

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