It’s projected that up to 275 indoor shopping malls could fade from the retail scene within the next five years. Omaha’s Westroads Mall plans to be around long after celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018. To do that, Westroads recruited new, more contemporary stores, such as The Container Store, while seeing older stores undergo renovations to remain competitive.
Nothing may be more impacting than Flagship Commons, the mall’s new food court. Opening in late 2015, Flagship Commons – owned and managed by Omaha-based Flagship Restaurant Group – changed the mall food scene in Omaha. Gone are the days of fast food restaurants and burgers and fries. Instead, mall visitors can partake in fresh sushi, ramen, tacos or even a custom-made salad.
Flagship Commons, which hails itself as an “Uncommon Food Hall,” is home to three local restaurant locations, while welcoming five new concepts to the food scene. What is a food hall? Visitors can enjoy comfortable seating in an open environment and watch their food prepared in front of them, fresh and fast. People actually plan to meet at Flagship Commons for dinner. When was the last time you met your friends for dinner at a food court?
Flagship Commons features a big screen TVs and a fireplace in the center of the space. In addition, local singers provide entertainment once a week. The commons also features craft beer.
Locally, Blatt Beer and Table offers a sitdown environment for craft beer and pub food. The concept is similar to the original location in Omaha’s North Downtown area. Lisa enjoyed the alcohol-infused cider from Glacial Till, a Nebraska winery. We split an order of pretzel bites served with German mustard and gruyere fondue. We plan a return visit for a full meal.
Amsterdam Falafel and Kabob is a second Omaha eatery to have a spot at the food hall. Marketed as “European Street Food,” Amsterdam offers a variety of menu options, ranging from a sandwich to hummus topped with lamb, chicken or beef. The first Amsterdam restaurant calls the Dundee neighborhood home. I’m not a fan of hummus, so I didn’t care for my dish overall. However, the lamb and chicken were tasty. A friend joined us for one of our visits and enjoyed her hummus dish. So, I chalk it up to my hesitation on trying new things.
Aromas Coffeehouse’s third location calls Flagship Commons home. Two others are in the Old Market area and Benson neighborhood. Aromas offers delicious coffee and desserts. We enjoyed a variety of desserts and coffee during our first visit to Flagship Commons including a taste of local favorite Ted and Wally’s Ice Cream
Yum Roll is an offshoot from Omaha-based Blue Sushi. The original eatery opened in northwest Omaha 15 years ago. Yum Roll offers fresh sushi and yum-yum bowls (rice based dishes). Lisa enjoyed her sushi. She had enough for leftovers, which she says was good the second day.
I instantly became a fan of ramen when I tried my first slurp (yes, I said slurp) of Tonkotsu at Yoshi-Ya Ramen. The dish includes pork, chicken, noodles, corn and egg, mixed with spices. I tried it during two visits. When I know I like something good, I stay loyal to it. Add an order of Korean or Japanese chicken wings and you have a meal large enough for two people. This is grown-up ramen; not the stuff you ate in college.
Weirdough makes some good pizza. Lisa and I have dined here on separate occasions. We each tried The Butcher pizza, a combination of pepperoni, Italian sausage and hamburger, mixed with Mozzarella cheese. Weirdough makes the pizza fresh and slices are served in squares (my favorite style). This is not your typical mall pizza. Weirdough challenges any pizzeria for quality pies.
If you enjoy tacos from a food truck, then Juan Taco is right up your alley. Even the restaurant’s design resembles a food truck you may encounter in your favorite part of the city. Tacos and quesadillas await to please your palate. Sides include Charro beans and green chile rice. We have tried tacos each of our visits and agree they taste fresh and remind us of food truck food (which Lisa loves).
If you’re in the mood for something lighter and a tad bit healthier, then Clever Greens is a perfect choice. Home to fresh made salads and wraps, Clever Greens uses a variety of vegetables and fruits to create the perfect salad for you. Lisa and I split the Baja Moment, with chicken (for $3 extra), jack cheese, crispy tortillas, black beans, sweet corn, grape tomato, charred red onion, avocado, romaine (minus the avocado and onion) with Tex-Mex ranch dressing. (chipotle vinaigrette is also available).
Teaming up to help others
While Flagship Commons presents an uncommon approach to replacing mall food courts, the company goes even further and uses your visit to donate to local organizations and causes. The company works with TAGG (Together a Greater Good). You can download the TAGG app on your cellphone. Then, when you visit one of the TAGG-participating locations, such as the restaurants at Flagship Commons, you take a picture of your receipt from the restaurant. Upload it to your TAGG app, having selected the organization or cause you want to support. The Flagship Commons restaurant will donate to that organization.
So, how can you not support a place that offers good food and does good for the community? We recommend dining at any of the Flagship Commons restaurants and signing up for TAGG. Together, we can make a difference.
Disclaimer: Thank you to Flagship Commons for the gift cards to dine at the restaurants. However, we have also dined there without sponsorship. All opinions and views are ours.