In the early 90s, after years honing their hospitality chops at institutions such as The French Café and V. Mertz, Kathleen and Steve Jamrozy dreamed of opening an innovative chili restaurant in Omaha’s Old Market. When the lease fell through on their intended location, they found themselves clambering over dirt piles with toddlers in tow to tour an alternative site in a blighted area of town. The new site was the Flatiron, far better suited to fine dining, so the couple pivoted, relying on pure grit and family support to build The Flatiron Café from the ground up in 1995.
Kathleen epitomizes old-fashioned hospitality, exuding a pleasant combination of class and kind sincerity that puts everyone at ease. The establishment has no formal hospitality training, preferring instead to allow each team member to express their own innate sense of service in organic ways, not unlike the way grapes express their terroir.
Many employees stay with Flatiron for years, and it’s easy to see why. The vibe during afternoon set up is reminiscent of a close-knit family, with Kathleen’s daughter vacuuming floors and servers chatting as they ready the elegant vintage dining room for evening service.
Kathleen’s son Joe was a natural choice to take over as general manager, given his intimate familiarity with the establishment through years spent there as a child and young employee. An avid hunter, Joe is also an excellent and creative home cook with a passion for good wine and a knack for orchestrating the attentive, yet unobtrusive, service that defines a top-notch dining experience.
The best service cannot override subpar food, and that is not the case here. For the past seven years, Chef Rob Hill has developed and refined an imaginative, modern menu focused on classic dishes with eclectic twists. “I grew up eating hearty comfort food,” Hill said, “and that is the type of food I love to cook.” Hill describes the Flatiron menu as New American, a melting pot of flavor leveraging seasonal produce, classical French techniques, and hearty, comforting flavors.
Plates are beautiful but intended to enhance an environment in which diners can enjoy each other’s company alongside perfectly prepared food. In this same vein, flavors are designed to delight, not challenge palates.
First plates include crispy, rich arancini studded with crispy pork and served with bright tomato preserves, and an incredible warm beet dish sure to please even the vegetable averse. The colorful, well-balanced dish uses duck fat to enhance and carry the aroma and flavor of the beets, and blue cheese, making it impossible to stop at just a bite or two.
Main plates include a classic French beef tenderloin, well-seasoned and cooked to perfection, each bite like a warm hug in front of a roaring fire. The glistening salmon fillet is perched atop a crispy king crab and sweet corn croquette and highlighted by a classic lemon beurre blanc. Tournedos of beef are accompanied by a stunning Peruvian potato puree and more luscious king crab.
An exceptional wine list provides both new and old world options to please the most discerning palate. Knowledgeable servers are happy to recommend a glass or bottle to pair beautifully with your meal. For dessert, the shareable chocolate torte topped with a delicate caramel sauce is an excellent option. Refreshingly, each plate presents exactly as described by Hill, who allows the food to do the talking in the best, most unpretentious manner.
Throughout the entire operation, hospitality and a sense of teamwork are expressed in myriad ways, including the quality service and product provided by purveyors such as Lone Tree Foods, Dutch Girl Creamery, and Plum Creek Farms. Kitchen staff is minimal, so everyone pitches in. As Hill shared, “Being successful is our job, and sometimes that means you do the dishes.”
Regular patrons span generations—couples celebrate anniversaries annually for 25 years, and in later years their children visit as young adults, discovering the satisfying joy of a delicious meal in an elegant setting. The restaurant is enjoying a bit of a renaissance, with younger clientele discovering and making this their celebration destination. “When the energy is right, there is a great buzz in the room, both back and front of house,” Kathleen remarked. The proximity to the historic Orpheum Theater also makes the spot an ideal pre-theater dinner destination; staff works hard to ensure diners do not miss curtain times.
In a town laden with diverse eateries run by local talent, what is the secret to longevity for an Omaha restaurant? Kathleen gave a simple answer: the people. The Flatiron Café creates comforting, classic dishes complemented by unfailingly excellent service in a beautiful, historic space, resulting in an experience that is at once high-end and homey, perfect for any occasion.