Nebraska’s largest city will never abandon its taste for a thick, juicy steak. But that doesn’t mean freshly flown-in oysters and vegan mac and cheese can’t fit in, too. Check out the sizzling array of restaurants that are changing the flavor of Omaha.

By Jess Hoffert
Fresh oysters at Plank Seafood Provisions.

A breath of fresh (sea) air

Plank Seafood Provisions brings a splash of coastal flair to Omaha's popular Old Market district with ocean murals on the walls, an oyster bar and the skeleton of a boat hanging from the ceiling. Visit during a happy hour for $1 oysters (the selection is flown in fresh daily) and a $3.25 cup of velvety New England clam chowder jazzed up with leeks, thyme, Yukon gold potatoes and thick pieces of applewood smoked bacon. (402) 507-4480; plankseafood.com

Fresh oysters at Plank Seafood Provisions

Wash it down

Light from an antique chandelier illuminates the exposed brick walls of the 19th-century building housing Wilson and Washburn. With 24 craft beers on tap and cocktails like the Josie Washburn (Bombay Sapphire gin, lavender and German wheat beer), you won't thirst for variety here on the outskirts of the Old Market. Bring an appetite, too, for stellar pub grub like the house-smoked pulled pork sandwich smothered in robust bourbon barbecue sauce. (402) 991-6950; wilsonandwashburn.com

Wilson and Washburn has 24 beers on tap

Farm-fresh mornings

A wall-size jigsaw puzzle of scrap barnwood covers any evidence that Over Easy used to be the home of a Blimpie sub shop. Ingredients sourced from area farms, gardens and dairies flavor custardy pancakes served in skillets with homemade jam and the bread pudding-like cranberry-almond French toast studded with raisins. In a hurry? Grab a buttery homemade Pop-Tart at the drive-through. (402) 934-2929; overeasyomaha.com

Over Easy's reclaimed decor

A new twist on steak

Unadorned white walls and stark black booths and chairs keep the focus on the food at Italian Avoli Osteria, a Dundee neighborhood hot spot. Not to be missed: the Bistecca Grilliata, a rare and tender 30-ounce Piedmontese ribeye from an Italian cow bred in Nebraska (who knew?). Indulge in the crème fraîche panna cotta with Meyer lemon curd and house gelato. Delizioso! (402) 933-7400; avoliosteria.com

Vegan for all

New York City transplant Isa Moskowitz cranks out comfort food and desserts from a small kitchen in Modern Love, a 13-table vegan beacon. The Mac and Shews-an utterly creamy cashew-based version of macaroni and cheese-left us wondering if the dairy-free label was a mistake. A side of BBQ cauliflower adds zippy crunch. (402) 614-6481; modernloveomaha.com

4 Omaha Classics

Pay your respects to the Old Guard at these winners that keep the locals coming back.

1 The Flatiron Cafe Chef Robert Hill serves some of the city's finest surf and turf downtown. Splurge on poached lobster with king crab and truffle oil risotto, or opt for grilled beef tenderloin and a tower of saffron mashed potatoes. (402) 344-3040; theflatironcafe.com

2 J. Coco In an old Dundee neighborhood grocery store, the chef delights guests with entrees of udon noodles and shiitake mushrooms topped with a crispy duck breast. (402) 884-2626; jcocoomaha.com

3 Dinker's Bar Just off Interstate-80, a sign on the plain exterior boasts Omaha's Best Burger. We were sold after one bite of the mouth-watering Haystack Burger topped with honey ham and a fried egg. (402) 342-9742; dinkersbar.com

4 The Grey Plume In its five years, the Midtown Crossing spot has earned nationwide props for its green initiatives (floors of recycled barnwood) and organic food that's so fresh there's no need for a walk-in fridge. We loved our juicy bison burger. (402) 763-4447; thegreyplume.com

Chefs say the scene is:

"A vastly growing portion of life in this city. There are some great chefs putting out amazing items all over this town." Travis Cochran, executive chef at Wilson and Washburn

"Getting local. The best, juiciest tomatoes I've ever eaten were grown right here in Omaha." Isa Moskowitz, chef and owner of Modern Love

"Continually improving. The last decade has seen a major growth in chef-driven restaurants." Dario Schicke, executive chef and owner of Avoli Osteria

"A community. Competition is foreign to us. We want to see other places succeed because that's a win for the community as a whole." Tim Maides, chef at Over Easy

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