Like most Omaha teens of the '90s, I spent a handful of very, very late nights at the Donut Stop. They all sort of run together now, but I know they often happened after shows at Sokol Underground, after nights of after-hours dancing or after hitting the downtown bars, once I was old enough.
I remember only one night in particular. It was the night I decided it would be a great idea to eat not just one but two strawberry glazed cake doughnuts.
Trust me, it was a bad idea.
I present you with an alphabetical short list, culled from my doughnut Food Prowl, of my favorite stops and, in one case, a particular pastry item, to be found throughout the metro area.
1603 Farnam St., opening soon in Midtown Crossing
I've gone on and on before about Culprit's crème brûlée doughnut, a true feat of baking magic. Somehow, it's got a tender crumb, a creamy filling and a crispy brûléed top that cracks just like it does on one of my favorite desserts. I don't really care how it's made, it's so good. The bakery also makes a regular list of super original doughnut flavors. Instagram tells me one of the more recent selections is matcha white chocolate.
Olsen Bake Shop
I love the Olsen Bake Shop. If you like the old-school vibes of Donut Stop, you'll also love it. Though it doesn't have any sweet cat posters, it does have amazingly good, crispy-on-the-outside/tender-on-the-inside doughnuts that are, in my humble opinion, downright swoon-worthy. And also, while you're there, get one of their toffee coconut cookies.
Note: Culprit and Olsen tied for the Food Prowl win.
Jim And Connie's Blair Bakery
This tiny spot is a favorite because of its sheer charm alone. Blair Bakery is such a staple in Blair that if you get there by, say, 9 a.m., most of the case is sold out. I really enjoyed trying what we could get our hands on the day we visited, particularly a simple but classic glazed doughnut.
I mean, Sweet Magnolias is just so dang cute. They have some of the most adorably decorated doughnuts anywhere in Omaha (see the photos for proof) and, in another fine detail, they make vegan doughnuts and fun flavors: honey almond donuts with toasted almonds and bee pollen is a recent example. The shop has been on my list more recently not for a doughnut but a newer item they've introduced called a unicorn bar, a layered rainbow treat that includes, of course, lots of funfetti and sprinkles.
2229 Thurston Circle, Bellevue
One of the Food Prowl judges, Sarah Lorsung Tvrdik, clued me in to the existence of the glazed croissant. This seemed like the right time to bring that delicious pastry back into the conversation. Who needs to wait in a huge line in Manhattan for a cronut when you can get an oversized, tender French croissant dipped in a classic doughnut glaze right over in Bellevue? Beats me.
1 of 10
Barchen, 6209 Maple St.
Tucked behind Barchen, the German beer hall in Benson, is a giant beer garden. I have to say, the setup really reminds me of some of the beer gardens I visited in Berlin, and that, in my opinion makes this one an instant favorite. Grab some friends, a picnic table and a big beer, and enjoy. Bonus points for the sausages and soft pretzels.
Stirnella, 3814 Farnam St.
At first blush, it doesn't really look like Stirnella, in the Blackstone District, has outdoor seating. But when the weather warms, the restaurant rolls up two garage door-style windows in the front of the building, and the whole foyer turns into an all-season patio. A seat facing the street at the high top bar adjacent to the windows is one of my favorites in Midtown.
Rally Coffee Co., 749 N. 14th St.
I wish I made it over to Rally more often for a slice of honey butter toast and a truly excellent cup of coffee. Now that it's warming up, I plan to do just that, particularly when I might snag a seat on the shop's patio, which always looks extremely inviting.
The Trap Room, 733 N. 14th St.
I never understand why this little downtown bar, which happens to make excellent Bloody Marys (it won the Bloody Mary Food Prowl!) plus lots of other good cocktails isn't absolutely packed to the brim. Nonetheless, check out the bar's little patio, which is lit with twinkle lights and one of my favorite spots to meet friends for an after-work drink.
La Buvette, 511 S. 11th St.
You can find me many a summer night on the patio at La Buvette. Its rather incredible patio is a spot I would argue offers the best seat for people watching in the entire city of Omaha. It's also the best for drinking a coffee the morning of a farmers market, or the best to drink a glass of rose on a hot summer evening, or the perfect place to get the first glass of red when the weather turns crisp. You get my point. It's my favorite.
Corkscrew Wine and Cheese, 3908 Farnam St. and 10924 Prairie Brook Rd.
Corkscrew Wine and Cheese has two excellent Omaha patios. The best part of the Rockbrook Corkscrew’s patio is its camouflage: It's right by the Interstate and busy West Center Road, but it doesn't feel like it. Strategically placed tables, lush greenery and a fireplace that runs on cool evenings makes you forget about all that. And in Blackstone, its second location has a patio tucked at its back; the big fire pit draws a crowd — of course, the wine doesn't hurt, either.
Nite Owl, 3902 Farnam St.
My other favorite Blackstone patio has to be Nite Owl, which manages to replicate the funky decor of the bar in the outdoors, with retro patio furniture and colored Christmas lights. The seasonally rotating cocktail menu means they’ll have something perfect for warmer weather. And if you’re hungry, there’s tots.
Rose and Crown Pub, 515 S. 20th St.
The shade of the tall tree that acts like a natural umbrella over the patio at Rose and Crown Pub, an otherwise completely unremarkable dive bar. Their patio is like one of those hidden gems I feel glad to know about. It's obscured completely from the street view by a big, tall wooden fence, which makes it feel secretive and cozy, and the beer is cheap, too. Check it out in the spring, and I don't think you'll be sorry.
Mr. Toad, 1002 Howard St.
Mr. Toad’s patio — the o.g. Old Market patio — must be one of the most popular in the city, and there's good reason for it. Booths situated on the sidewalk at the corner of 10th and Howard Streets, a.k.a. the Old Market main drag, make it another excellent vantage point for people watching. Grab a cocktail and relax.
Le Bouillon, 1017 Howard St.
I have a real fondness for the seating arrangement on the patio at Le Bouillon, which you should check out for brunch this weekend. The chairs are set to face the street — very Parisian — making it ideal for people-watching. Isn’t that mostly what the Old Market is about anyway? Be sure to try one of the toasts while you’re there, and the rotating house-made punch selection is both tasty and well-priced.