The SBH Review: A patio season appreciation, with 34 Omaha outdoor dining recs

It’s the most wonderful time of the year again: time to eat on the sidewalk, bask in the summer sunshine, drink something fruity and let’s be honest, sweat a little bit. 

I love patio season. There’s something special about dining outside. Food tastes better. Seasonal drinks take on an ultra-refreshing vibe. Happy hours outdoors with friends seem right any night of the week.

And Omahans love it too. I did three interviews with three restaurateurs who run popular but very different patios to ask them why that seems to be the case, year after year. It’s a question that has many good answers. 

I’m also sharing an update on my favorite patios in the city, and more than 20 reader suggested favorites, too. If yours is missing, let us know in the comments what else we should check out.

Happy al fresco dining season. Now get out there already and drink some rosé.

A west Omaha lakeside getaway. (Really.)

The patio at Salted Edge, in Waterloo, sits next to West Shores Lake and has a variety of seating, food, drinks and regular local music. Courtesy photo

Situated on the banks of West Shores Lake near Waterloo, one of the city’s newest patios comes with a lakeside view and a breeze to match. Chef Joel Hassanali said it’s the kind of patio that makes diners feel like they’re on vacation, not in Omaha. 

“The patio design changed four or five times before we opened,” he said. “A lot of thought went into it.” 

The patio includes various shades and dividers so it can be broken up for several parties, or used as one large area. It has a wide variety of couch and high top seats, plus a full bar outside.

Chef Joel Hassanali said a lot of time — and several redesigns — went into creating the lakeside patio at Salted Edge. Courtesy photo.

Hassanali also rolled out a special patio only menu that debuted a few weeks ago, including a summer cucumber gazpacho, a variety of seafood and burrata appetizer. Through the summer, the patio will also feature a variety of local music during a weekly Monday night patio party 5-10 p.m. Those events, too, will feature special food and cocktail menus. 

“We’re seeing a huge following already,” Hassanali said.

Salted Edge is located at 110 S. 243rd St. For this downtown Omaha dweller, it’s well worth the drive.

Cocktails, wine and firepits anchor Corkscrew’s two patios

Corkscrew, with two Omaha locations in Blackstone and Rockbrook Village, is a fine spot for outdoor dining. It’s one of many selected by Sarah Baker Hansen and her readers as among the best patios in the city. Courtesy photo

Corkscrew is rare because it’s nailed two very different patios in two very different parts of Omaha. Both include outdoor magnets like fire pits, shade trees, twinkle lights, comfortable seating, and, above all else, wine. In the Blackstone District, Corkscrew has an east facing back patio with plenty of shade as well as a patio on the street in front of the business. Further west, in Rockbrook, the other patio has a seasonal fireplace and both shaded and sunny areas.

“There is always demand in Nebraska for outside dining,” said co-owner Corey Keith. “We made the effort to expand the Blackstone patio during COVID, and we have been able to reap the rewards from that decision.”

Corkscrew’s Rockbrook location. Courtesy photo

Keith said the Rockbrook location sells about 80% wine, while the Blackstone location is more evenly split between wine and cocktails, and the staff there puts more effort into creating a more robust offering. Blackstone guests — probably not surprisingly — are younger, and stay out later than its west Omaha guests. 

Keith said he thinks one of the reasons outdoor dining is so popular in Omaha is because the four seasons in Nebraska don’t always allow for it. 

“If we lived in a market that was always beautiful patio weather, you wouldn’t appreciate it,” he said. Particularly at the Blackstone patio, people sit by the large fire pit in the back starting on the cool spring evenings and continuing through the fall months.

Corkscrew Wine & Cheese is located in Rockbrook Village at 10924 Prairie Brook Road and in the Blackstone District at 3908 Farnam St. I have spent many nights on both patios, and I love them both.

In Benson, patios create an off-street “oasis” 

The back patio at Barchen, in Benson, is a hot spot for soccer fans and Benson families, said owner Ryan Miller. Courtesy photo

Ryan Miller is no stranger to creating patios in Benson. More than a decade has passed since he owned Benson Brewery — one of the few neighborhood spots that has both a front and back patio. Now he runs Bärchen Beer Garden, with its massive back patio, and in July will open The Tenant, in the former 1912, which will feature a street-facing patio and a roof deck for outdoor dining and drinking. (He also owns the Dundee Dell.)

“Benson has a lot of small, dark, older buildings. Having a nice outdoor open area where people can relax is great when it’s nice out,” he said. “A small, dark bar can have an oasis in the back.”

At The Tenant, which will serve southeast Asian-inspired smoked meats and small plates and feature a rosé garden, Miller said the roof deck offers a singular view. 

“You can see down Maple probably to 59th Street and it’s good people watching,” he said. “Everyone loves a rooftop.”

Bärchen Beer Garden is at 6209 Maple St. and The Tenant is coming soon to 6201 Maple St. See you there. 

Here are eight more of Sarah Baker Hansen’s favorite Omaha patios

The patio at Le Bouillon has seating that faces busy Howard Street, in the Old Market.
Courtesy photo

My personal faves tend to veer toward east Omaha, since I’m a longtime east Omaha resident. But I love patios across this fine city. Here are my picks.

Mr. Toad, 1002 Howard St.

I like Mr. Toad, an old-school Old Market bar, year round, but there is a particular charm about its patio, located on one of the main corners of the neighborhood, at 10th and Howard streets. Half-circular booths and tables get shaded by mature trees during the day and lit by fairy lights in the evening. The cocktails are stiff and affordable, and in the summer, I almost always find myself ordering a classic gin and tonic. 

Le Bouillon, 1017 Howard St.

Le Bouillon’s patio, with its street-facing tables and wide selection of well-priced wines, is one of two Old Market patios that really remind me of Paris cafe culture. I would say I’m not sure how Omaha got so lucky, but I am sure: Paul Kulik and Vera Mercer are the reasons. Kulik, like the Mercers before him, is among the stalwarts that have kept the Old Market such a special neighborhood in our city. Bouillon’s patio is best experienced during its happy hour, Monday through Saturday 3-6 p.m., which includes 30% off wine from neighboring Howard Street Wine Merchant and discounted snacks, including oysters, a meat and cheese plate and caviar and potato chips, among other treats. 

La Buvette, 511 S. 11th St.

No surprise that this is the other Parisian patio I mentioned above. Management has changed at Buvette in the past year, leading to a pretty regular line at the entrance to the restaurant. I’ve spent less time at Buvette lately, but it remains a fact that the restaurant still has one of the best patios in the city to sit, people watch, drink a glass of crisp white wine and share whatever is the special of the day. It’ll always hold a place in my heart. There’s simply nothing else like it in Omaha.

Gather in Omaha, 1108 Howard St.

I know this list features a lot of patios in the Old Market, but trust me: Gather is on top of the patio game in a big way. Not only has it reinvented the large patio on Howard Street, in front of the restaurant, it has a second, equally large patio at the back of the restaurant, tucked in a nook off 11th Street. I have dined on both and like them both quite a bit. Gather has quietly become one of my favorite local, reliable spots for dinner. If you haven’t visited, might I recommend an order of mushroom toast with melted brie and a Caliente Wey cocktail? 

The Trap Room, 733 N. 14th St.

In spite of its location adjacent to the annual College World Series, The Trap Room manages to fly pleasantly under the radar for most of the year. That is one of my favorite things about it, along with its wraparound patio with picnic tables and colorful flower boxes. I called its bloody mary (with help from a team of tasters) the best in Omaha, and I maintain that. I also love their margaritas on tap — particularly delicious in the scorching summer heat.

Lola’s Cafe, 4952 Dodge St.

I love the Yves Klein blue patio furniture on the deck tucked behind Lola’s Cafe, the excellent restaurant inside Film Streams. I have (and will again) meet a friend there for lunch or brunch and dine on that patio, be it an egg dish or their fantastic kale salad. I love sitting in the font windows at Lola’s along busy Dodge Street; the patio offers a shadier, more peaceful vibe. It’s a contrast worth appreciating. 

Krug Park, 6205 Maple St.

The petite patio behind Krug Park in Benson has been a long-standing favorite of my friend group. I can’t count the times we’ve found our way there for happy hour or later at night after dinner somewhere else in the neighborhood. I know the bar is mostly known for beer and bloody marys, but I’m a true fan of its shortlist of craft cocktails, which are always seasonal, creative and delicious. 

Inner Rail Food Hall, 1911 S. 67th St., behind HDR

Inner Rail, the food hall in Aksarben Village, is one of those Omaha spots where we often choose to sit outside versus inside because their patio, with fire pits, yard games, twinkle lights and music, is just that pleasant. The ever-changing lineup of restaurants means there’s always something news to choose from: I’m looking forward to trying Zaytuna, a Mediterranean concept, and Tiny’s, a new pizza joint. I’ve found you can never go wrong with a solid burger from Smash City.

Monolithic Brewing, 4915 N. 120th St.

Flatwater readers on X, formerly known as Twitter, prompted us to check out Monolithic Brewing. Though a sudden rainstorm had closed its patio, which is adjacent to a park and fishing pond, it certainly looked like a peaceful spot to me. Pair that spot with a lovely blood orange margarita, a solid lineup of craft beers and house-smoked Angus burgers served on warm, toasted buns and I count it among the patios I will return to.

Dante, 16901 Wright Plaza

The small patio at Dante is one of the most pleasant in west Omaha. I have always enjoyed a seat under their umbrellas complete with friendly, efficient service, excellent cocktails (it feels absolutely right to enjoy a spritz at one of the city’s best Italian spots) and, of course, great food. I find the seasonal dishes to be particularly inspired during spring and summer; fresh and local done the Dante way is always worth heading west for.

22 more FFP reader recommended patios 

402 Eat + Drink, 17305 Davenport St.

Barrett’s Barleycorn Pub & Grill, 4322 Leavenworth St.

Bearded Brewer Artisan Ales, 18039 R Plaza

Blue Sushi Sake Grill, 14450 Eagle Run Drive (reader specified this location, though there are others in the metro area)

Charlie’s on the Lake, 4150 S. 144th St.

Charred Burger + Bar, 1150 Sterling Ridge Drive

Copal, 3623 N. 129th St.

Copacabana Cocktails & Cigars, 17520 Wright St.

Geno’s Bar & Grill, 3821 N. 167th Court

Jukes Ale Works, 20560 Elkhorn Drive, Elkhorn

Kros Strain Brewing, 10411 Portal Road, La Vista

Lazlo’s Brewery & Grill, 2425 S. 192nd Ave.

Maximo’s Cantina, 2613 N. Main St., Elkhorn

Ollie & Hobbes Craft Kitchen, 10387 Pacific St., Omaha; 310 E. Gold Coast Road, Papillion

Pacific Eating House, 1130 Sterling Ridge Drive

Pasta Amore, 11027 Prairie Brook Road

Pint Nine Brewing Company, 10411 Portal Road, La Vista

Pitch Pizzeria West Omaha, 17808 Burke St.

Talus Spirits & Sustenance, 10914 Cumberland Drive, Papillion

Timber Creek Pizza Pub & Grill, 6718 S. 178th St.

Tracks Lounge, 1506 S. 60th St.

Twisted Vine, 123 N. Washington St., Papillion 

By Sarah Baker Hansen

Sarah Baker Hansen launched her own food website covering the food scene of her hometown, Omaha, in 2020. She works as the Director of Public & Media Relations at Emspace + Lovgren. For eight years, she was the food critic at the Omaha World-Herald. She started the periodic Food Prowl series, wherein she created teams of tasters and found favorites in a number of categories. The series resulted in close to 40 “best of Omaha” winners, including Reuben, fried chicken, ice cream and more. She won a 2015 Great Plains Journalism Award for best review and a 2017 Great Plains Journalism Award for best feature.

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