Alotta Brownies is a true-blue neighborhood bakery where glass cases reveal sweet morsels of handmade decadence. The inviting confectionery is owned by New York native Michelle, whose former stomping grounds had her baking cakes for the sweet-toothed likes of Madonna, Mary Tyler Moore, and Yoko Ono. She and her lovingly prepared sweets migrated to the Midwest, where a 100-year-old sugar-cookie recipe mingles with more than 20 varieties of brownies and bars and a full menu of edible rewards. If you don't see your consummate confection, opt to customize a cake. Choose the filling, layer-count, frosting, and decoration, such as an eight-inch, three-layered creation smothered in cream-cheese frosting for $29.
Named business of the year in 2010 by Heritage Nebraska, patrons sit down at the Heartland Cafe for breakfast and lunch amid traces of local history inside a building constructed in 1919. In this setting, diners dig into fresh-made pancakes and made-to-order omelets, conversing and creating new memories. The quiche florentine brims with bacon, spinach, and mushrooms baked in a housemade pie crust and covered with hollandaise. For lunch, the cooks whip up reuben sandwiches, fish ‘n’ chips, and elk burgers. Heartland Cafe's owner, Sharon Janovsky, was also named 2012 business person of the year by the Western Douglas County Chamber of Commerce for the cafe's active role in the community, such as hosting the annual tree lighting ceremony.
The Donut Professor uses locally sourced ingredients to create fresh donuts, pastries, and muffins every morning. With 37 varieties of donuts ($0.99 each; $9.29 per dozen) ranging from garden-variety glazed to elusive vanilla peanut, The Donut Professor offers a full catalog of fried, doughy treats. Éclairs, fritters, and cinnamon rolls ($1.19) satisfy partisans of pastries without holes. All locations open at 6 a.m., mere minutes after fresh donuts come into being, giving night-based vigilantes and day-faring caped heroes a place to eat while comparing notes. If the full amount of the Groupon is not used in one visit, The Donut Professor will issue a gift card with the remaining balance.
Whipping up tasty bites made fresh from itch with all-natural ingredients, 84th Street Café provides a neighborhood spot for home-style meals without serving vinyl siding with a side of roof shingles. A welcoming ambience soothes hungry nerves and allows for laid-back taste-bud stimulation akin to licking batteries on a Tempur-Pedic bed. Amid a relaxing, window-wrapped atmosphere, patrons can sample a wide variety of big-portioned menu options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and every imaginary meal in between. Try a tongue-tantalizing breakfast burrito platter with chorizo, fruit, and hash browns ($7.25), Luis’s famous spicy pork chili with a dish of rainbow sherbet ($4.25, lunch; $5.25, dinner), or beef pot pie topped with crispy cheddar ($8.50, $12.50). Drinks such as wine and desserts like the cheesecake of the day ($4.25) pair with each meal much better than a clingy barnacle.
Fresh fruits imbue the rainbow of smoothies that populate the menu at Tropical Smoothie Café with vibrant colors and vital nutrients. The café's staffers also create casual, health-conscious beverages, sandwiches, and salads. To create their sweet amalgams, staffers blend a full spectrum of top-quality ingredients, ranging from strawberries to white chocolate. They'll also fortify the naturally wholesome elixirs with nutritious accouterments, such as whey, soy protein, and supplements that help regulate weight, the immune system, and heart health. Furthermore, sandwiches and wraps swaddle an eclectic variety of fillings, such as hummus and wasabi caesar.
The Tea Smith owner Tim Smith searches out loose-leaf teas from all over the world—and he says he has to consciously limit himself as he fills the shops' stock of about 150 teas. But it wasn't long ago that Tim didn't even like tea. "I thought tea was brown water and a bag," he confesses.
It took a gift for his wife to change that. "I was traveling for business, it was around Valentine's day, and I was married long enough to know that you don't come home empty-handed," he says. So he bought her some loose-leaf tea and the right accessories to brew it. "She made me try it, and it was surprising," he says. "It was not that stuff in a bag. It had some character and some taste to it."
He began researching, and realized that tea—already the world’s most widely consumed beverage after water—was experiencing a resurgence in the United States. While many tea spots have British or Japanese themes, Tim decided to open a tea shops with a "comfortable contemporary" vibe, where people could enjoy hot, iced, and bubble teas with friends. For at-home brewing, visitors can shop for classic teas such as Earl Grey, sample more unusual flavors such as the “Iron Goddess of Mercy” (an oolong), or browse seasonal blends such as pumpkin spice, cranberry cream, and fireside chat. The shops also stocks travel tea mugs, teapots equipped with infuser baskets, and unglazed Chinese YiXing clay pots that enhance the tea’s flavor.
Tim knows that many people who walk into the shop are unfamiliar with loose-leaf tea and may not be sure what they'll like—which is why he only hires tea enthusiasts. "Part of their training is to come in and drink each of the teas, and make notes on the flavor profiles," he says. That way, the staff can recommend blends suited to each customer's palate, rather than having to analyze a Rorschach tea-blot test. In addition to events including an annual blending contest, they also run periodic Tea 101 sessions that introduce attendees to the "history, the myths, the legends, and the lore of tea," says Tim.