A piece of Iowa City is coming to Nebraska this summer, as local favorite Oasis Falafel opens a second location in Omaha. The Omaha Oasis is the first expansion for the restaurant founded in 2004 by Naftaly Stramer and Ofer Sivan. The new restaurant will be a partnership between Stramer and Sivan and former Iowa Citians Mike and Kellie Osler.
The Oslers approached Oasis two years ago while they were still living in Iowa City, to ask about the possibility of opening a location in Omaha, Sivan told Little Village.
“They said they loved [Oasis’] food,” Sivan said. “They’re vegans and they thought it would really fly in Omaha. They’re from Council Bluffs and wanted to move back to that area.”
Since they knew Mike Osler’s reputation in the Iowa City area food scene, Stramer and Sivan decided to take a chance.
“Mike helped open Kalona Brewing Company. He was a chef at Red’s Alehouse and Jimmy Jacks. He’s a talented chef and kitchen manager,” Sivan said.
The Oslers spent a year working at Oasis to master the restaurant’s menu and operating style. They sold their house and went west earlier this year, and six weeks ago found a location for the new Oasis in Omaha.
Plans call for the Omaha location to open in July, or by the end of the summer.
“I remember when we got this space [in Iowa City], we thought it take six weeks to open and it took 16,” Sivan said.
Sifan thinks Omaha is good fit for Oasis. It’s just across the Missouri River, so there are Iowa connections, including people who have been to Iowa City and remember Oasis. The city already has some restaurants that serve falafel, so there’s some familiarity with the cuisine (although a 2012 Omaha World-Herald article described one restaurant’s falafel as “sort of like chickpea hush puppies”), but the market isn’t oversaturated.
One further advantage of the new location at 1620 Harney Street in Omaha, Sivan said, is its distance from Iowa City.
“It’s close enough that we can participate [in the new restaurant], but it’s also far enough that I won’t have to go and wash dishes,” he said.