Restaurants Reinvented

Flagship Commons elevates your food court experience

Omaha has enjoyed the national food movement for the last several years, especially with local favorites such as Blue Sushi, Roja, and Blatt Beer & Table—all concepts from Flagship Restaurant Group. Now that movement has expanded into a new format, Flagship Commons, which is the first upscale food court in the area housed within Westroads Mall. Featuring seven restaurants, a coffee shop, and a full bar, Flagship Commons has become an instant success.

Nick Hogan, CEO of Flagship Restaurant Group, attributes that success in part to the fact that people are increasingly making dining out a priority. “Dinner used to just be the precursor to seeing a movie,” Hogan explained. “Now it’s all about the dinner, from the atmosphere, to the service, and the culinary experience.” General Growth Properties, which owns Westroads Mall, approached Flagship about creating a new food court concept. With 13 years of local restaurant development, Hogan said it was an opportunity to design a concept that would bring in new customers to Westroads, creating a destination where people could be more socially engaged while there.

Hogan and his team traveled across the country to other markets that have upscale food courts in order to determine the best way to translate the concept to Omaha. They took a few of the Flagship favorites and created menu variations for the Commons. These include Blatt Beer & Table; Juan Taco, which uses flavors from Roja in a taco truck style; and Yum Roll, which is an off spring of Blue Sushi. The team also created a new fresh, healthy salad concept, called Clever Greens, as well as partnered with Amsterdam Falafel and Aromas Coffee.

Additionally, Flagship worked with local chefs from other restaurants to bring in some brand new offerings. Weirdough is the creation of Dante Pizzeria Chef Nick Strawhecker and features a new style of Roman pizza that has made Dante a West Omaha favorite. Another new concept is the ramen noodle restaurant Yoshi-Ya created by long-time Flagship Chef David Utterback. Yoshi-Ya means “David’s Shop” and is a dream come true for Utterback who spent the last three years traveling to Japan multiple times a year, eating at 15-20 different ramen shops each time.

“I wanted to be the first to bring ramen to Omaha so that I could provide the highest quality experience possible,” Utterback said. That includes testing 40 different types of noodles before choosing the right ones. “Ramen is all about the noodle,” he explained. “Because of its pedestrian roots, most people don’t realize that quality ramen takes just as much time to cook as other cuisines.” Utterback said 24 hours of work goes into every bowl of ramen, and where a typical busy ramen restaurant makes 200-300 bowls a day, Yoshi-Ya has been making 600 bowls a day. “We make everything from scratch, beginning to end, so it’s a challenge,” he said. “But the response has been great.”

Hogan agreed that the response has been overwhelmingly positive with a majority of traffic occurring during the lunch hour from shoppers and nearby businesses. The next step is to attract more evening diners, which they plan to do by introducing some happy hour offerings as well as educate customers that the Commons is open even after the mall has closed. “It’s a large project and unlike anything we’ve done before, so there’s a lot of learning to do, for everybody,” Hogan said. “But Flagship Commons is an extension of everything we’ve done over the past 13 years. We take a huge amount of pride that we’re a local company, and hopefully people will get excited about that and will get behind it and support it.”

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