OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — As Valentine’s Day approaches, you’re likely looking for a great restaurant to impress your significant other: a destination that will not only deliver spectacular service and a romantic atmosphere, but most importantly, a memorable meal.
Luckily, Omaha has plenty of great options. Below are five of Dan Hoppen's personal favorites, and even if reservations have dried up around Valentine’s Day, they’re fantastic places to have a delightful time and show someone you care about them year-round.
Few restaurants in Omaha can take you on a culinary journey like Au Courant. Here, rather than order the typical appetizer, entrees, and dessert, you can opt for the chef’s tasting menu. This six-course progression changes weekly based on modern cooking trends, what ingredients are in season, and the techniques and flavors that the chefs and cooks are most passionate about that week.
It's an experience more than a meal. It is a savory story of flavor, progressing from lighter dishes like soups, croquettes, and small pastas into portions of fish, steak, and short rib, all capped off by a delicious dessert. The time between courses gives plenty of time to talk and enjoy the night with your significant other, and the cocktails and wine selection of Au Courant’s bar are top tier. Chef and Owner Ben Maides was a James Beard Award semifinalist in 2020, and Au Courant provides a unique experience sure to thrill any diner.
The Boiler Room
The Boiler Room provides diners with more than just dinner — you get a show, too.
The restaurant’s unique design and open kitchen concept allow diners seated on the second floor to look down into the kitchen and view how their meals are cooked. It’s an eye-opening joy to watch the chefs and cooks at work, and seeing James Beard-nominated Chef Tim Nicholson expedite on the line is a sight to behold. No Omaha restaurant gives a clearer view into the kitchen, and it’s a fun experience to share with someone special.
But even if The Boiler Room’s kitchen were completely hidden, it would be a fantastic spot to take a date. The ever-changing menu is filled with perfectly-cooked proteins, handmade pastas and thoughtful flavor pairings. If you’re into charcuterie boards, you won’t find one better than at The Boiler Room.
When you step into V. Mertz, you don’t feel like you’re in Omaha anymore. Located in the lower level of the passageway in the Old Market, V. Mertz blocks out all views of the outside world, leading you to think you’ve been transported to another location, far away from the issues of everyday life. It’s an escape before a plate even hits your table.
As great as the atmosphere is, the food is even better. Head Chef Amanda Sheeler and her team are experts at delivering a litany of flavors, textures, and techniques in masterful and surprising dishes. V. Mertz excels at subverting expectations; you may think you know what you’re getting when you order, but you find yourself simultaneously astonished and thrilled when it arrives and you dig in.
To top it all off, General Manager Matthew Brown is one of Omaha’s premier spirits experts. The man can pair the perfect wine with anything from a seared duck breast to a bowl of SpaghettiOs. His proficiency at matching food and drink is worth a visit alone, as is V. Mertz’s signature dessert, the Farm Egg Creme Brulee.
Admittedly, this article has, to this point, focused on high-end, fine-dining restaurants. Stirnella offers a more casual option that doesn’t sacrifice flavor.
The restaurant’s cozy setting is complemented by its embrace of what Chef and Owner Matt Moser describes as “refined comfort food with global influences.” Stirnella’s menu consists of familiar dishes enhanced with their own special tweaks.
Stirnella’s elevated version of fried chicken includes a housemade hot sauce and buttermilk creme fraiche. This theme of simple-yet-sophisticated reverberates throughout the menu. Stirnella’s Swedish Meatballs get a boost from foie gras and a caramelized onion puree, and the Pot Roast French Dip, composed of wagyu short rib, potato puree and taleggio cheese is an improvement on the classic sandwich. And that's even before a dunk into the red wine veal jus.
Stirnella’s relaxed atmosphere helps it find the space between stuffy and special, and dining here certainly won’t break the bank.
Dario’s is the perfect place for a date with a casual atmosphere where you can prove you’re a cultured diner familiar with European cuisine and classic French techniques. The setting provides an intimate, elegant feel that one might find in an informal French cafe, complete with banquette seating and gentle lighting.
The menu offers new dishes for you and your date to explore together, such as savory crepes, escargots, steak & frites, and some of Omaha’s best mussels. Bosnian-born Chef and Owner Dario Schicke combines his European upbringing, passion for Belgian cuisine and beer, and French training to craft a unique menu full of delicious dishes.
If you’re not feeling adventurous, just opt for Dario’s Cheeseburger, which is among Omaha’s most beloved burgers for a reason. Whatever you order, Dario’s provides the type of French menu, unique beers, and laid-back atmosphere to make for a fun date night.
These are only a handful of Omaha’s great spots for a date. But Hoppen wants to hear from you — what are your favorite date night restaurants in Omaha? Send a message to @dan_hoppen on Instagram [instagram.com]or @danhoppen [twitter.com]on Twitter.