As you may know, I was born and raised in the Midwest. I hold a dear place in my heart for beautiful Nebraska. Although our many moves and travels are always fun and adventurous and we are loving the East Coast, lately I’ve been thinking about my hometown. So this week’s Top 5 is all about the Cornhusker state. It’s really hard to sum up my favorite things into just 5; I may have to do a follow-up post soon with the rest that didn’t make this cut.
Earlier this week I talked about recipes and showed the steps for making cabbage burgers. I mentioned in passing that these are so popular back in the Midwest that they actually have a restaurant franchise that sells them on the menu. Runza restaurants are a fundamental part of Nebraska culture. Their entire way of doing business stands out from the crowd. Despite being “fast-food” the quality of ingredients, cleanliness and appearance of their kitchens and dining rooms, and their friendly staff always makes eating there a great experience. You can go with the classic and order a Runza Sandwich (the cabbage burger), or treat yourself to fantastic hamburgers, fresh salads, homemade chili, cinnamon rolls, their famous onion rings, and top it off with delicious cookies and ice cream. They have been in business for over 60 years and once you get a taste of their food it’s easy to see why they are so successful. If you live in Nebraska, you have over 70 locations to choose from across the state, and they have recently expanded to parts of Colorado, Iowa, and Kansas, as well. However, if you are longing for a taste and don’t live in the area, just follow this link to get Runzas sent to your front door. Check out the rest of their site too for the latest Runaz news, promotions, gift cards, t-shirts, and activities for the kids. As their logo states, “Runza, the difference is real.”
Traveling across the state on I-80 it’s impossible to miss The Great Platte River Road Archway just off the exit for Kearney, Nebraska. The structure weighs 1,500 tons and spans across all 4 lanes of the interstate. Getting the monument in place took immense planning and engineering. Erected next to the road, it was hoisted into place in just 8 hours on an August night back in 1999. The project was met with skepticism (admittedly, I was also one of the doubtful onlookers). Thankfully, I found myself moving to Kearney 6 years ago to be near my boyfriend, who is now my husband. Long story short, during our search for wedding reception venues he suggested the Archway. We set up an appointment, toured the facility, and for the first time we were able to check out all the sight had to offer. The reception space was perfect for our needs, and I was blown away by the “interactive adventure” that makes up the museum. The integration of authentic memorabilia, computer technology, and live historians made the journey through 150 years of westward migration breathtaking. Beautiful murals enhanced with lighting, sound, and atmosphere literally left me in tears as I finished the visit. Needless to say, I would go back again and hope to take my kids there in the future. The Archway team did an excellent job working with us for our wedding reception. Check out their website to get a glimpse of everything that’s going on at The Great Platte River Road Archway. Make it a part of your travels or family reunions this summer; nothing compares to education and entertainment all in one.
Continuing east, it wouldn’t be a trip to the state’s capitol city without stopping by Lazlo’s Brewery and Grill in the Haymarket District of Lincoln. Keeping with the historic setting, this resturant has beautiful architectural features, a relaxed ambiance, and outstanding food complimented with handcrafted ales and drinks. Ask for some Beer Bread while you look at the menu and start with the Lahvosh to whet your appetite. With everything from aged Omaha Steaks to Grilled Salmon and Avocado Salad, everyone is sure to find a delicious dish that satisfies their hunger. Of course I could go to Lazlo’s solely for dessert. In all of the places we’ve traveled and all of the things we’ve experienced, their Apple Dumpling still tops the list of my all-time favorites. Lazlo’s also has a great kids’ menu, call-ahead seating, and options for private dining and hosting parties. They have 2 other locations, South Lincoln on Old Chaney Road and on the edge of West Omaha on 192nd. Perfect for a night out or meeting up after work, Lazlo’s is one of Nebraska’s best places to dine.
If you are in Omaha and find time for a little shopping, check out The Afternoon. Located in Westroads Mall and also in the Midtown Crossing area on Farnam Street, this quirky store is a delight for the senses. They always have a great selection of books, hilarious greeting cards, home décor accessories, journals, unique toys and games, office supplies to liven up your desk, and fabulous kitchen gadgets. They have a little bit of everything and are one of the fist places I try to look when shopping for presents. You are sure to find something you’ve never seen before. Visiting one of their stores is in your best interest, but if you are not from the area they do a good job of keeping their website up to date and stocked with entertaining items. You can join their mailing list to make sure you don’t miss any of their promotions and order right from the secure site. Pick up a Hot Dog Leash for your pooch or a Plush Brain Cell Toy for your science-minded little one. Save yourself some time when shopping and have tons of fun in the process, hit up The Afternoon this weekend.
Finally, to round out your Nebraska trip while still in Omaha, be sure to head down to the Old Market and get some Ted and Wally’s Ice Cream. I would almost consider myself an ice cream connoisseur, and I must say you have not truly lived until you’ve had Ted and Wally’s. Here ice cream is made the way God intended, right on the premises using rock salt and ice, the old-fashioned way. They have over 450 different flavors that change daily, but if you have a favorite they do take orders for half-gallons and bulk orders for special occasions. The interior is vintage complete with a working soda fountain. Everything is homemade from the raspberry topping to the bags of popcorn. Of course, ice cream is the main event and throughout the year you can indulge in flavors such as Pumpkin, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Nebraska Sweet Corn, Green Tea, Guinness Lager, and they now even have rotating vegan options. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter to see their current flavors and participate in give-aways and discount offers. Ted and Wally’s takes homemade ice cream to a whole new level.