Benson, Nebraska was founded in 1887 by Erastus Benson. Erastus Benson was a land speculator and investor from Iowa who was an early partner in marketing Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscopes. He ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Omaha in 1906.
Benson bought a tract of land from Omaha pioneer John Creighton on the far northwest side of town, about 9 miles outside. Called ‘Benson Place’, the village grew as one of the new Omaha suburbs. By 1917, the town of Benson, as it is known today, was annexed by the city of Omaha.
Today, Benson is a historic neighborhood in north-central Omaha. The streets are lined with 100-year-old buildings full of quirky shops, a variety of interesting restaurants, and some of the best brewpubs around. It is still very much has a ‘small town’ feel, with Maple Street running through the center, and streets full of cute bungalows and larger historic homes on the north and south side streets.
Music, food, and beer are the biggest attractions in Benson today. In this article, I’m going to talk about some of the varied options in ‘brick and mortar’ restaurants in the area. I say brick and mortar as Benson has any number of food trucks and ‘pop-up’ eateries on its streets throughout the year. I’m going to discuss the more traditional restaurants. If you are interested in some of the special event activities in Benson, check out the Benson Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BensonNebraska/. There is always something going on in this hip Omaha neighborhood!!!
6201 Maple St.
The building stands on the corner, a BIG brick structure that at one time housed a grocer. It is fronted by large glass garage doors that are open on hot summer nights. The interior is brick and wood, with high ceilings and wooden beams. A long double-sided bar dominates the center of the room. This is a big hangout for the hip crowd in the evenings when they are packed! I prefer to come for an early dinner, or my fave, their Sunday brunch, and I always have the bottomless Mimosa deal!!
1912 has terrific food. Many gluten-free and vegan items are on the menu. But one thing that stands out for me is the number of local providers they source for their food!! Always a good sign! Try their ‘Benson Poutine’ and top it with crispy pork belly or fried tofu for an appetizer, or make a meal out of it with a fried chicken breast on top. Poutine is a Canadian dish consisting of French fries topped with cheese curds and gravy. Poutine is a “thing” in Benson. I don’t know why, but several places have it. 1912’s poutine is my go-to.
Can’t close without mentioning their wonderful rooftop deck!! There are not a lot of outdoor options for dining in Benson because most places are right on the street and don’t have the room. 1912 took it up to the roof and created the best place to have a drink and dinner on a warm summer evening.
6059 Maple Street
Benson Brewery has some of the best beer in Benson! Love their IPA!! But I’m going to talk about their food. This is a regular spot for me. The room is beautiful, with comfy bench seating in the main room, and an overflow/party room on the east side. Décor is a bit industrial, with the coolest looking giant lights! There is also a cozy back patio that is almost like a garden with potted plants and “grass”.
There are several vegan and gluten-free options on their menu and they have a daily soup.
Start with the roasted Brussels Sprouts. If you’ve never been a fan of Brussels Sprouts, you will become one after having these!!! The Warm & Soft Pretzel Sticks are another top choice! As for entrees, the Fish & Chips is delicious. Benson Brewery uses mahi-mahi, not the usual cod, and they are beer battered. House-cut French fries come on the side. House cut French fries are the way to go on all of Benson Brewery’s sandwiches! They are addicting. Baked Mac and Cheese is a comfort food winner here, with three kinds of cheese and a crispy panko crust.
The star of the menu, for me, is the Bacon Blue Burger. It is absolutely one of the best burgers in Omaha. Balsamic Bacon Jam and blue cheese on top of a locally-sourced, hand-formed burger. With those addicting fries on the side. Heavenly.
6913 Maple St.
Mantra is a little outside of downtown Benson. We’ll call it Benson West. A colorful bar and grille, with brightly colored walls and a bar that is almost as long as the room. Mantra is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week! Bonus – another favorite Benson brunch location!!! Mantra has a huge brunch menu. And they know how to do a brunch. Owner Mac Thompsen is an Omaha restaurant legend. His fabled Neon Goose restaurant set the brunch standard in town.
Mantra’s lunch and dinner menu start with ‘small plates’. These dishes can be shared as an appetizer or a light entrée if you are not that hungry. The crab cakes are delicious and you will find them in a field greens salad with artichokes and penne in the salad section of the menu, equally appealing.
I especially like the turkey burger. Served on a pretzel bun, topped with cheese, and avocado, and the burger fixings on the side. Have the house made-potato chips with it. If you have a big appetite, try the meatloaf and mashed potatoes with gravy. A generous and flavorful entrée that tastes homemade. Mantra’s Ahi Tuna Tacos are light and chock-full of flavor topped with a ginger-soy dressing. Rice and beans complete this plate.
This is a limited list of Benson restaurants. A ‘Part 1’ survey of the neighborhood’s dining options. Check back for future updates.