A landmark hotel is staging a second act in Omaha’s midtown Blackstone District, supported by a cast of character-filled places to eat and drink.

By Karyn Spencer
October 20, 2020
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A sign on a building at 40th and Farnam streets in Omaha marks where the Blackstone District’s rebirth began.
| Credit: Jason Donnelly

When developer Jay Lund and a few friends renovated an old building at 40th and Farnam streets in Omaha eight years ago, it set off something of an urban gold rush. A steady stream of prospectors began mining the neighborhood—known as the Blackstone District—for spaces to rehab into retail. Visit today, and you’ll find an eclectic enclave of dining spots and bars.

Whether you’re sauntering down a grand marble staircase at the Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel (née The Blackstone Hotel), or sampling eats from around the world across the street at The Switch, the revitalized Blackstone District brings energy back to a neighborhood that engendered envy a century ago. Mansions of the city’s elite surrounded the hotel, famous for its Cottonwood Room lounge, where celebs hung out, and a lighted faux cottonwood tree “grew” out of a circular bar.

The 1929 stock market crash brought an end to those heady days. The neighborhood eventually became a drive-through for commuters between downtown and the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Leading the comeback is the hotel, renamed for legal reasons and restored to 1916 glory (including a re-created Cottonwood Room). When it opens (rooms available by January 1), travelers will finally have a place to stay in the heart of the district—on Farnam Street, the district’s main drag. “It’s the anthesis of generic,” Lund says.

The Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel’s Orleans Room reimagines a dining space in the erstwhile Blackstone Hotel.
| Credit: Courtesy of Kimpton Cottonwood Hotel

Meet The Neighbors

Discover the Blackstone District (version 2.0) at locally owned spots along a seven-block stretch of Farnam Street.

Coneflower Creamery co-owner and scoopologist Brian Langbehn offers farm-to-cone ice cream flavors.
| Credit: Courtesy of Kristin Doyle/DineandDish.net

Coneflower Creamery Inventive ice cream flavors and a nod to the past: Blackstone Butter Brickle. (It’s said the old hotel debuted the toffee-studded treat.)

The Switch Go global (e.g., Italian, Venezuelan, Vietnamese, New York-inspired) and eco (they try to compost and recycle everything) at this beer and food hall.

Early Bird Brunch Fuel your day with hits like Woke Omelette or Cereal Killer Pancakes (sprinkled with the sugary childhood fave of your choice).

Stirnella Bar and Kitchen Shared plates, welcoming servers. People-watch from a high-top table under the string lights on a four-season patio.

Daiquiri-esque Clever Girl (left) and minty, fruity Time Lord keep spirits up at Nite Owl.
| Credit: Jason Donnelly

Nite Owl Retro movies play on a big screen behind a sunken bar among kitschy velvet paintings and swag lights. Pair craft cocktails with sliders and “totchos.”

Red Lion Lounge A jazz club in the ’50s, this moody spot nails the era: cushy red booths, wood-grain tables, mid-mod cocktails, pub snacks. Everything but smoke.

Scriptown Brewing Company Old neighborhood photos and faded ads cover the brick walls. Try staple beers like Yotus IPA or Nutjob Brown Ale, plus rotating taps.

Archetype Coffee Complex, small-batch roasts warm the soul in a simple industrial space. Brew-ribbon baristas take part in national competitions.

Brothers Lounge A standby from before Blackstone was cool—dimly lit, cash-only (ATM back by the darts) and punk rock on the jukebox.

Crescent Moon serves a killer Reuben. Local lore says the sandwich was created during a poker game across the street at the original Blackstone Hotel.
| Credit: Jason Donnelly