The Hunger Block
11036 Elm St (Rockbrook Village)
Fare: Latin American
Cost: $40 per person for a drink, appetizer, meal and dessert
Reservations: Accepted for parties of 10+. Limited seating, but not needed for our 6:00 Friday night visit.
Greetings, eaters and readers!
For a minute there, Jac and I were ahead of the blogging game. Between friends visiting and impromptu meals that turned into material, we had a few posts lined up and waiting on the runway. So after what felt like a small eternity (in reality, maybe a month had gone by), it was time for us to meet up and dig in to some new-to-us Omaha foodery.
Joining us this time was our graphic designer Lindsey. If you love our new logo (LIKE WE DO!) – she’s the master who brought our vision together and made it perfect! We wanted to thank her and give her that behind-the-scenes look into our very particular research process. (See: stuffing our faces.)
My choice this month was The Hunger Block in Rockbrook Village. You may not know the name just yet, but you’ve probably seen some drool-worthy photos of their milkshakes floating around Facebook and Instagram. After closing Little España in 2017, the owners opened The Hunger Block in the same location with a reimagined and inspired take on flavors from their South American heritage. The shakes might be what pulls you in the door, like they did us, but we were also excited to see what their worldly menu had to offer.
I started off with a white sangria. It was delicious and refreshing, but nothing mind-blowing. I don’t remember if the menu boasted about it being housemade, but I remember being more impressed with Little España’s sangria creations.
Jaclyn’s friend Andrea had recently visited Peru, where her drink of choice was a Pisco Sour. Excited to see it on the menu, but unsure of the egg whites, Jaclyn went for it. And she was surprised at how delightful it was. Under the settling whipped egg whites was a mix of Pisco liquor and fresh lemon juice. On top was a dash of Angostura bitters. She equated the taste to an amaretto sour, but much lighter and very smooth in taste.
Lindsey’s Passion Fruit Margarita was both sweet and tart. And in honor of New Food Friday, she was glad she chose a flavor new to her palette.
The first round of chips and housemade salsa are on the house and are your standard munching finger food. Opting for what seemed like a new experience for all of us, we also ordered the Arepitas – deep fried corn flour masa served with queso fresco, avocado and Salvadorian creme. After the server dropped the warm tray at our table, the owner and creative muscle behind The Hunger Block circled through the restaurant and stopped to tell us how the Arepitas are a staple in South American homes, to be enjoyed with each meal, or late at night after an evening out, or anytime. Doing as we were told, we cut the small, still warm pockets open and put in a dollop of everything. It was a delicious and creamy bite every time and we all savored a few of them while we waited for our main courses.
As indecisive as ever, I landed on what the menu described as “chicken fried steak with ham, mozzarella, tomatoes, fried egg and French fries.” I don’t know if I was already full or what, but when the Milanesa landed in front of me, I was overwhelmed at the size of the portion, but also underwhelmed with the creation. If you give this plate a whirl, keep American versions of chicken fried steak far from your mind. The mozzarella slowly cooled to a solid sheet of cheese that, ultimately, I moved to the side to be able to get at the fried steak. The steak, though seasoned and flavored well, was thinner and tougher than I prefer. I didn’t want to discount it though, because perhaps this is how it’s supposed to be served? Again: trying to push the American version out of my mind. Overall, I picked through and focused on the egg, a few fries and the chicken fried steak.
Jac got two things for her main dish. The first: a beef Empanada – fried corn mesa stuffed with meat and cheese. She chose to make hers an Empanada Operada, adding avocado, black beans and sweet fried plantains. First bite in, Jaclyn promptly stated, “Oh, that is so good.” She loved the mesh of diverse flavor – most of all the fried sweet plantain. This would be her recommendation to anyone trying The Hunger Block for the first time.
The second item Jac got was a Llanera Arepa: grilled corn meal masa sandwich stuffed with carne asada, tomato, cheese and avocado. At first, she thought it tasted a little bland compared to her Empanada, but after adding drizzles of their house ranch, she liked it a lot more.
Lindsey’s entree was the Bandeja Paisa, which was a plate full of seasoned ground beef, fried pork, red beans, rice, fried egg, avocado, sweet fried plantains and arepa. She enjoyed everything on the plate – commenting that the beef had good seasoning and the fried sweet plantains were a nice balance to all the savory meats.
We all kept the end game in sight: those Insta-famous milkshakes. Waste lines be damned, we knew we wanted to try to tackle one for ourselves. As the server explained, no two milkshakes are created the same. Mostly similar, but always a little different. We were able to choose chocolate or vanilla ice cream for our base and whether or not to add Oreo to the mixture. We opted for vanilla and yes to adding Oreo. Heads and chairs nearby all turned to look at our milkshake as it arrived. It was every bit as tasty as it looked.
While Jaclyn gives The Hunger Block an immediate fork up – which she attributes to ordering as authentically as possible – I feel stuck at sideways fork for reasons that are probably as much my fault as the restaurant itself. I will definitely go back, but I’ll aim to order the empanadas Jaclyn seemed to enjoy so much, or just something a little more manageable than what I had this visit. We both think The Hunger Block is worth adding to your list – for the authenticity and effort the staff puts into everything, as much for the milkshake creations we know you’re going to love. If you go – be sure to tell us about your experience!