Shopping Local: Wohlner’s Neighborhood Grocery & Deli

Wohlner’s has been a family-owned Omaha grocery staple for almost a century. It used to be located on Leavenworth, but within the last handful of years relocated to its new Midtown Crossing location. It’s right on the corner of Dodge and 32nd streets.

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Aside from being local and independent, there are lots of things I enjoy about shopping at Wohlner’s. The first thing is the parking garage.

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Customers can park for free for up to three hours at a time. It’s great because it’s not a busy parking lot, and, compared to large chain grocery store parking lots, I feel a lot safer when I go there with my kids. I don’t haveto walk far to get to the store’s front door. It’s also handy when the weather is bad. Last time I went to Wohlner’s there was a rain storm, but I didn’t have to worry about getting wet on my way to the car. 

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Inside, the store has fabulous produce, an extensive wine selection, grocery basics and hard-to-find gourmet products. They also stock locally-produced items, like eggs, cheese, bakery items, etc., and they have fresh sushi (delicious and reasonably priced!) around the lunch hour.

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Probably what Wohlner’s is best-known for, though, are its deli and meat counters. With butchers on staff, Wohlner’s is famous for its quality meat and seafood. You can also grab a quick bite to eat from the deli, where they offer delicious breakfasts, sandwiches, burgers, soups, fried chicken,sides, and much more. 

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I have enjoyed Wohlner’s friendly service, and the smaller store layout makes it much faster and easier to get everything I need. So instead of heading out to a chain grocery, go try Wohlner’s at Midtown Crossing. You won’t be disappointed!

Editor’s note: I did not receive compensation from Wohlner’s for writing this post. I just enjoy shopping there!

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Shopping local: Fat Brain Toys

Fat Brain Toys is a fabulous Omaha treasure, and if you haven’t been, you must go when you have some time. I always end up wishing I had more time (and money!) to spend there.

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Fat Brain has a retail store in the Village Pointe area and its main office based out of Elkhorn. It sells toys and books that are supposed to make your kids’ brains… well… fat! They tend to be simple, high-quality, and many are quite unique.

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There are ride-on toys, baby dolls, blocks, marble runs, puzzles, board games, pretend play items, books, science kits — basically great stuff for kids of any age. There are also many areas of the store where children (and adults) can give certain toys a trial run.

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You can shop online at fatbraintoys.com and opt to pick up your order in the store for free. The website is great because you can find toy recommendations based on age and interest and view customer reviews. They also provide a money-back guarantee. If your child doesn’t like the toy, take it back within 90 days and pick out something else or request a refund. I recently went to pick up a few gifts for my daughter and some children of friends, and the workers there were friendly and helpful, as usual. They even gift-wrapped my toys for free!

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So the next time you need to buy a child’s birthday gift or shop for the holidays, head over to Fat Brain Toys for selection and expertise that is superior to the big boxes.

Editor’s note: Fat Brain Toys does not know who I am and did not provide me with any compensation for this blog post. I just enjoy their store!

Shopping local: The Bookworm

Words cannot adequately express how much I enjoy books. I love them. One day, my dream is to have a house with a library nook. In the meantime, I am working on building up my book collection. I enjoy holding real books. I do have an e-reader, but I have found that I really don’t like to read books on it, and it ends up getting used for games instead. I’d much rather read an old, tattered copy of A Tale of Two Cities than a tablet version any day. I like to buy my books at thrift stores, garage sales, and of course, the bookstore. The Bookworm is a fabulous one.

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Courtesy of iheartmonster.com

Of course, The Bookworm has lots and lots of books, and I believe that books can make the perfect gift. But the store also has many other items in addition to books, and it has become one of my go-to places for buying Christmas and birthday presents. They have games, toys, decorative items, jewelry, journals, stationery, a great card department, and I’m sure lots of other things I am missing.

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In addition to free gift wrapping, they provide very knowledgeable staff members who can assist with book recommendations if you’re not quite sure what to choose. The children’s department is fabulous, and every time I go I wish I could just buy up the whole thing.

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A small corner of the children’s department.

It’s located in the basement of The Bookworm, and under the stairs they have my children’s favorite feature: The Goodnight Moon playhouse. My daughters love to go play in there while I am browsing.

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One of the major pluses of shopping in a bookstore instead of online is that you can discover books you didn’t even know existed. Of course, if you prefer to purchase books online, you can still shop locally! The Bookworm allows customers to purchase books through its website. You can either have them shipped to your home, or you can opt to pick them up at the store for free. You can even wait to pay for the book until you go to the store to look at it.

Of course there are lots of other benefits to stopping in at The Bookworm in-person. There are a variety of book clubs for all ages and interests, the adjoining Village Grinder coffee shop, book signings, storytimes, and other events.

So stop in and visit my favorite Omaha bookstore, The Bookworm. And be sure to give yourself plenty of time to browse!

Editor’s note: I did not receive any compensation from The Bookworm for writing this review. I just enjoy shopping there!

Shopping local: V. Mertz

Nestled in the Old Market Passageway, V. Mertz long has stood out to me as one of Omaha’s classiest restaurants. This spring, I finally had the chance to try it.

My husband and I went to V. Mertz to celebrate our anniversary in May. I had read many great reviews for the restaurant, and I was eager to try it for myself. Reservations are recommended, so we reserved a table online about a week in advance.

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When we arrived on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was humming. We were immediately greeted and led to the bar, where we waited just a couple of minutes for our table. We were sat near the patio, which was not open that night, but still provided ambiance and people-watching opportunities. The restaurant offers elegant simplicity, with its white tablecloths, candles, exposed brick walls, and tin ceilings. An impressive wine collection and bar area dominate the back of the restaurant. Our server later explained (and apologized) that the restaurant was noisier than usual because of a large party that had been seated. Still, we were able to make conversation and enjoy ourselves without any trouble.

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V. Mertz specializes in fine American and French cuisine that is locally sourced whenever possible. The menu changes frequently according to the seasons and ingredient availability. My husband and I each sampled a different first plate, salad, main course and dessert. Our waiter explained the ingredients in each dish as he brought it out to us, which was incredibly helpful as all of the dishes were new to us. While everything we ate was delicious, our favorite samplings were the artisan cheese plate for the first course, roasted duck breast for the main course, and chocolate overload for dessert. The portions were much more generous than I expected them to be, and after a two-hour dinner, we left completely stuffed.

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A signature V. Mertz main course

V. Mertz was by far the nicest restaurant I have ever dined in, and the quality of service and food exceeded my expectations. Our bill easily exceeded $100, making it a “special occasion only” spot for us, but we would go back again. Overall, V. Mertz exemplified great service while providing an upscale – but not stuffy – atmosphere. Give it a try when you have something to celebrate or would like a unique dining experience.

Editor’s note: The people who run V. Mertz do not know who I am, and I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. I just enjoy visiting new, local restaurants!

Also, the restaurant seemed way too high-class for me to take pictures of my food during my meal, so all photos have been generously provided by the V. Mertz website.

Shopping Local: Dragon’s Lair Comics (Guest Blog)

In case you didn’t hear, many local, independent comic book stores hosted Free Comic Book Day on Saturday, May 4. My husband, Tony, decided to go check it out and offered to write a guest blog about the store he visited, Dragon’s Lair Comics, located on 83rd and Blondo streets. Here’s his take:
 
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While working at my day job, I received an instant message from my wife that piqued my interest: “It’s Free Comic Book Day!”
 
I have never been one for comics, but I DO have daughters who love cartoons, one niece that loves Manga and two other nieces that love to use their imaginations in general. I also remembered that I needed a set of dice for a game I have been playing with friends.
 
Dragon’s Lair Comics has been a staple for comic book and gaming lovers in Omaha since 1975. They sport a fantastic and mind-boggling selection of comics at two locations. They also have anything you might need for gaming with friends and family.
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The first thing I noticed when I walked in on Saturday was how busy it was. The store was clean, in order and hopping like crazy. A gentleman wearing a Superman T-shirt was at the front of the store, directing people and answering questions with professionalism. He pointed me to boxes of comics where one could grab up to 10 comics for free – 10! – as well as walls of comics where customers could pick up to 5. Finding comics my 4- and 2-year-olds would love was easy. I grabbed three more for my nieces.
 
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Checking out was just as pleasant of an experience as speaking to the gentleman at the front door. I let them know I needed a set of dice, and they were prompt in producing a box full of options, clearly marked with pricing. Total spent: $4.12.
 
Whether you have kids interested in art and imagination, or you are looking for a fun game to play with friends and family, Dragon’s Lair Comics delivers. Help support another local independent business by checking them out. I’m glad I did!
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Editor’s Note: The author did not receive any compensation from Dragon’s Lair in exchange for this post. He just enjoys shopping there!

Shopping Local: Sakura Bana

When I was growing up and into my young adulthood, I honestly thought sushi sounded disgusting. Raw fish? Gross.

It wasn’t until we were out of town visiting some friends a couple of years ago that I decided to give sushi rolls a try, and I was hooked!

The search to find a great sushi restaurant in Omaha was on. And while we have tried a few places, there is one we come back to again and again: Sakura Bana, a Japanese restaurant tucked away in a strip mall south of West Dodge Road and 74th Street.

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Sakura Bana, courtesy of Yelp.com

Walk in and you will see the sushi bar, tables, and booths. The tea rooms in the back are great for some extra privacy or corralling children. There are also a number of flat-screen televisions hung throughout the restaurant for those who don’t want to miss the game while they eat. Right now, the restaurant is decorated with colorful paper cranes.

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Sakura Bana has consistently great sushi, and the entrees are excellent as well. FYI for Japanese food newbies: not all sushi is raw. There are lots of sushi rolls that include cooked fish or other seafood. Also, if you don’t want to try sushi, there are other great things to order, like their tempura or teriyaki dishes. My favorite starters are the miso soup and the salad with carrot ginger dressing. Some of our favorite sushi rolls are the Crunchy California Roll and the Paradise Roll. You can see their full menu here. We try something new every time we go and have not been disappointed. They also have excellent sushi happy hour specials, and they offer take-out.

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Delicious sushi rolls

Sakura Bana has now become our go-to place when we want to celebrate or are just craving some great sushi. In our opinion, their sushi is better than what you will find at some of the more expensive places around town. And as an added plus, it’s a local, independent business that we can support. Give it a try, and let me know what other sushi places you enjoy.

Editor’s note: Sakura Bana does not know who I am, and I did not receive any compensation from them for this post. I just love their food!

Shopping local: Indian Creek Nursery

The weather is finally starting to warm up, and I have been looking forward to planting flowers and sprucing up my yard. Luckily, I live near a local, independent nursery that provided a great selection of flowers, herbs, and veggies for my garden this year.

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Some of what’s going in my garden

Indian Creek Nursery on Saddle Creek Road, just north of Dodge street, is where my mom always shopped when I was young, and it’s now where I take my kids to pick out plants. I am a gardening novice and haven’t earned my green thumb yet, so I need help picking out the right supplies sometimes. The shop workers were friendly and happy to answer any questions I had about choosing the right plants, containers, and fertilizer.

Outside they have a sprawling garden center with greenhouses full of beautiful plants and hanging baskets. They also have trees, shrubs, and mulch.

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One of Indian Creek’s greenhouses

Inside, they have lots of seeds, bulbs, containers, accessories, fertilizer, and wonderful gifts. Stop by there this weekend and I’m sure they can help you pick out a beautiful Mother’s Day present for your mom’s garden. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to say hello to their long-haired cat, Captain, who acts like he owns the place (and probably does).

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Inside Indian Creek’s store

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A peek at Indian Creek’s pots and gifts

Be sure to shop local and independent as you work in your garden this spring. The quality and customer service are well worth it!

Editor’s note: Indian Creek Nursery does not know who I am, and I did not receive any compensation from them for this blog post. I just like to buy their rose bushes, tomato plants, etc. For more information on Omaha’s local, independent businesses, visit shoplocalomaha.com.