Come to Omaha  hungry, and your stomach won’t be sorry. Lunch on the patio at Stokes Grill (12th and Howard Sts., 402/408-9000, www.restaurantsinc.net , 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Fri.–Sat., 10 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun., $6.45–27.95) is a relaxing setting for Southwestern cuisine. Take my word for it and order Sharon’s almost-famous chicken enchiladas washed down with any of the bar’s signature cocktails, like a raspberry mojito.
If you’re in the mood for American food and locally brewed beer, the Upstream Brewery (514 S. 11th St., 402/344-0200, www.upstreambrewing.com , 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–midnight Fri.–Sat., 2 p.m.–midnight Sun., $7.50–36.50) awaits with pizza, salad, and perfectly cooked steak—including an Omaha Steaks filet mignon—that pair well with Upstream’s house-made brews.
If you crave a laid-back atmosphere and simple, filling fare, head to Lisa’s Radial Cafe (817 N. 40th St., 402/551-2176, 7 a.m.–2 p.m. daily, $3.99–8.99), an Omaha  institution in the Cathedral District that serves one of the best breakfasts in the city.
And when you’re finished, pop over to nearby Sweet Magnolias Bakery (813 N. 40th St., 402/934-6427, 7 a.m.–2 p.m. Mon.–Sat., less than $5) for oversized cupcakes, cherry scones, and iced cinnamon rolls, perfect to satisfy an immediate sweet-tooth craving or to save later for snacks.
For dinner, head back to Old Market  for pasta and salad at family-friendly Spaghetti Works (502 S. 11th St., 402/422-0770, www.spagworks.com , 11 a.m.–9 p.m. Mon.–Thurs. and Sun., 11 a.m.–10 p.m. Fri.–Sat., $5.99–14.49), which lets you pick the sauce, noodles, and additional toppings for a truly customized—and bottomless—pasta dish. And all entrées come with a salad bar, a seemingly lost art in today’s restaurant world.
If you’re looking for something more intimate, Vivace (1108 Howard St., 402/342-2050, www.vivaceomaha.com , 11 a.m.–11 p.m. Mon.–Thurs., 11 a.m.–midnight Fri.–Sat., 5 p.m.–10 p.m. Sun., $8.95–14.95) serves up traditional Italian favorites with a side of ambience. The covered patio beckons with relaxing visions of enjoying wine and bread while people-watching, although if you plan to go on a Friday or Saturday night, make a reservation or be prepared to wait an hour or more.
If you decide to explore the more outlying areas of the city, look for an outpost of Runza (www.runza.com , 10:30 a.m.–10 p.m. Mon.–Sat., 10:30 a.m.–9 p.m. Sun., $4.95–8.95) while you drive. The favorite fast-food joint, consistently voted as having Omaha ’s best french fries, carries the city’s signature stuffed sandwiches (think Hot Pockets, but way better) with combinations like swiss mushroom or the original.