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Omaha Magazine

History & Innovation

Oct 22, 2023 02:02AM ● By Tamsen Butler

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

B&G Tasty Foods [3 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
B&G Tasty Foods is so much more than an eatery—it’s a playground of memories for countless Omaha natives. Originally opened in 1953, this loose-meat sandwich shop’s popularity ebbed and flowed for years and exchanged hands more than once. And though the years passed, the love affair Omaha had with the tasty recollections of B&G Tasty Foods never seemed to wane. 

“It was one of those rites of passage as a young Omahan,” explained Nick Bartholomew, local restaurateur and new owner of B&G Tasty Foods. “If you were with your family, and you were in that area, even if it was past lunch, you made an excuse to go to B&G and enjoy some family time together. It really put whatever you did that day behind you because there was always something on that menu that someone could enjoy.” 

Though the location has changed (its new storefront is located at Nebraska Crossing), Bartholomew still gets to enjoy the reminiscing that customers often share when they stop by to eat. “I can tell you that nearly every day goes by, someone walks in and says, ‘In ’67, I was one of the original carhops….’ It’s stories from people who lived it, even 10 years before I was born, this was this guy’s first job,” he relayed. 

Bartholomew was thrilled to bring B&G back to Omaha. When it closed back in 2019, he already knew he wanted to put in an offer to buy. 

“Not only is it fun to be able to resurrect that and hear those stories,” he continued. “But I knew, ‘You better get this right and take it seriously—it’s not something you’ve done before.’” 

Typically known for his culinary innovation, taking on a legendary Omaha eatery—and trying to keep the recipes the same to honor the menu’s history—was a new endeavor for him.

“For the people who’ve had experiences at B&G, it’s not just about food. It’s never just been about food; it’s been about that shared experience and the creation of culture,” Bartholomew said. “It’s about Omaha being able to count on something no matter what’s going on around us." 

How did Bartholomew and his staff get the recipe to taste like the food everyone so fondly remembered? 

“It was hard,” he admitted. “I wanted to get it right, that was the new challenge—to make sure that this was a pretty intricate recipe, and it took us a couple of years to get it right.”   

When the sandwiches just weren’t turning out right, Bartholomew brought in previous owner Eddie Morin to show them how it should be done. 

“I finally had the previous owner standing next to me and videotape him doing it. It was one of those things that was elusive for me,” Bartholomew confessed. “Now we’ve got to a point where we nailed it.”

Morin, who bought B&G in 2009 after working there and falling in love with the place, said that when he came to teach Bartholomew and his crew how to properly make the loose meat sandwiches, he brought along B&G’s old head chef, Eric Shew. Shew’s chef history with B&G predates Morin’s, and “he always understood the food,” Morin added. 

It turned out that the key element Bartholomew and his team were missing was one very important factor of the meat preparation. 

“You get into a position where you feel like, ‘Oh, I’ve got this, it’s just a recipe. My grandma gave me thousands of these.’ But the truth is, we screwed it up before we got it right,” Bartholomew revealed. “We didn’t screw it up at this location. Within the pop-ups and those kinds of things, where we were trying to get our footing and see if this was something that was really going to draw people. We wanted to know if it would have the same appeal that it had in 1971 as it does now.”

They’d been erring with one simple but important step—they were cooking the sauce separate from the meat. But it was a lightbulb moment when they realized that, of course, a recessionary food like loose meat sandwiches would be made in one big pot instead of prepared separately and then combined. Once Morin and Shew showed them the correct way to prepare the meat, everything fell into place. 

And, with that, the B&G Tasty Beef Sandwich was back in business.

The move to Nebraska Crossing was largely because the location simply made more sense than the original storefront at Beverly Hills Plaza. With only one cash register and no drive-thru at the original spot, and rent that was surprisingly high, “it was going to be detrimental to its health if that didn’t change,” Bartholomew said. 

“Although we loved the location, the truth of B&G is, if there was going to be an evolution, it had to start with us, and we had to pull the Band-Aid off right away,” he continued. “We knew we weren’t going to go back to Beverly Hills Plaza, but we started looking for areas, you know spots around that area we could take on and we felt confident we’d find one."

In fact, Bartholomew’s idea that B&G had to move to succeed was one of the main reasons Morin sold to him. Morin was courted by a variety of prospective buyers—some who traveled from as far as the West Coast to propose a buy. 

“They all wanted to keep everything the same,” Morin noted. “Nick was younger and had a better vision. It needed to be moved; Nick was the only one who seemed to get that.”

Morin liked the idea that Bartholomew only wanted to buy the B&G brand, not the space. For Morin, who had also explored moving the restaurant’s location prior to making the decision to sell, Bartholomew was the only prospective buyer who understood what it would take to allow this Omaha favorite to flourish in a new era. 

It helped Morin to know that B&G would be in good hands, with a local restauranteur with demonstrated success. Ultimately, that made it easier to let go. 

“It’s not my baby,” Morin said, who was the fourth B&G owner in the history of the eatery. “I was the caretaker. I wanted to hand it off. I wanted Omaha to have a B&G.” 

Nowadays, Morin cheers on Bartholomew’s efforts from afar. 

“I wish them the best success. I just don’t want to run it,” he said. 

“Still, to this day, Eddie’s been on the spot to show us any recipe we need, day or night,” Bartholomew noted. “He’s a phenomenal human being.”

While Bartholomew has proven his resolve toward honoring B&G’s history and Omaha’s love for the food by sticking with the original recipes, he’s also true to his well-documented nature as a culinary innovator and has introduced some new menu items to complement the classic menu. 

“The idea now is this is going to be the evolution of B&G,” Bartholomew explained. “What carries us forward as a concept? What gets us to the next levels of what we need to be for Omaha?” 
His introduction of alcohol-based ice cream has proven a welcome addition. 

“The bourbon caramel ice cream will change your life—I mean, truly,” he said. “It’s 7.5 to 8.5% ABV so you will feel its presence. We use a nice bourbon in that and there’s one that we do for all the horchata that’s absolutely fantastic.” 

Bartholomew and his team are also working on ways to make the food more accessible. 
“If you want them premade with fries and condiments on the side, it’s ready. If you want it in a hot setting in a catering dish where your guests can walk down a buffet line and be more presentable like that, no problem,” he said. "If want it frozen and sent to Portland, ME, we got you.
"I think that’s the next step. Moving forward with the other lo
cations, the event style, community style creation of this is bigger than just food feeling. Because truly, B&G represents, at least in my mind and in the minds of other Omahans, this feeling of family.”

With plans in the works for new B&G locations throughout Omaha, including the old Over Easy location on Q Street, it’s likely the Metro will soon witness the resurgence of this beloved brand—and the triumphant return of Omaha’s original Home of the Loose Meat Sandwich. 

This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, 
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