Scenes from Nebraska

Karen Jackson Israel digs into her dinner, a petite filet mignon and a baked potato, at Johnny's Cafe, Omaha's oldest steakhouse, established in 1922. A native of Red Cloud, Nebraska, Israel was tending to 400 head of cattle and 500 chickens by the time she was 12. "I was my dad's boy," she says.
Omaha and New York City lay rival claims to originating a classic American sandwich, the Reuben. The Drover, a cozy Omaha steakhouse, makes this toothsome riff on the Reuben using fresh-sliced prime rib.
In 2012, local restaurateur Gene Dunn reopened a faded Omaha institution, Gorat's, a longtime favorite of billionaire Omaha native Warren Buffet. Dunn purchased the 69-year-old Italian-style steakhouse from the Gorat family and restored much of its mid-century interio
In a freezer at the specialty foods mail-order company Omaha Steaks, Lloyd Moore fulfills orders. During the winter holidays, this one warehouse ships as many as 700,000 food items a day, from the steak for which the company is known to seafood and poultry, sauces and soups. Founded in 1917 by Lithuanian Jewish refugee J.J. Simon and his son B.A., the fifth-generation family-run company mails out so many perishables that it is the country's largest single-location consumer of dry ice.
Besides the ubiquitous steaks, beef is a popular ingredient in dishes all over Omaha. At pizzerias like Orsi's, founded in Omaha's Little Italy neighborhood in 1919, ground beef smothers a Sicilian-style pizza. The bakery is also known for its goudarooni, an enormous saucy and cheesy calzone that is often stuffed with potatoes, onions, and ground beef.
Thousands of Czechs settled in Nebraska in the late 1800s, lured by the promise of free land under the Homestead Act. Omaha was once home to a thriving Czech community. Though many families have moved out of the city, the Bohemian Cafe, established in 1924, still lures crowds with foods of the homeland. Here, waitress Lori Mangiameli serves roast duckling, dumplings in dill gravy, and Polish sausage.
It's not all old-school spots in Omaha. At the contemporary restaurant the Grey Plume, 27-year-old chef Clayton Chapman keeps things colorfully locavore in the middle of the Midwest winter by pickling thousands of peak-season vegetables from area farms, some of which are shown here on his mis-en-place, along with house-cured charcuterie and gnocchi made with housemade buttermilk.
Omaha dining is changing in other ways, too. Where once immigrants from Europe flocked, now there are newcomers from Mexico and other parts of Latin America. At Iglesia Templo Victoria, a church in Omaha's Little Bohemia neighborhood, tamales, enchiladas, and puffy tacos like these are sold out of a basement kitchen.

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