In an online world of food blogging, food posting, food critique and food criticism, Papillion’s own “Omaha Fattie” stands apart from the maddening din.
Danell Taylor is legitimate. Not “legit” as in real, but “legitimate” as in genuine. The local food writer has become a trusted voice over the past year for thousands of area residents. It is easy to see why. His style is engaging and infectious, fun to read on Facebook and fun to watch on YouTube.
“Food and music, I find, are the two things that bring people together. It’s home,” Taylor said. “You can remember the stuff your parents used to make for you as you grew up. That certain scent of something that takes you back to being a kid.
“I can always remember my mom and dad making the best fried potatoes ever. No matter how much I make them, they don’t taste the same. Or the homemade dinner rolls we had at my grandmother’s. Oh, it’s just memories.”
There is no artifice in his reviews. He tells you why he likes something or why he likes it not-so-much. However, Taylor won’t tear down the food, the restaurant or the staff. There is no delight in presenting a negative review. Not that he backs off a critique, but Taylor will write off a bad dish and try it again later in hopes of a better result.
In a two- and a half-hour lunch interview at Bellevue’s Umami Asian Cuisine, Taylor was unfailingly positive and exuberant. He legitimately loves local restaurants and local businesses and wants them to succeed. His reviews are primarily local joints, with the occasional chain restaurant thrown in.
He loves his wife, Mitzi, and their two kids, Jamelah and Ariah, whom he speaks of with glowing pride and are a part of this food journey. And he absolutely wants to be an honest broker so families can have a positive dining experience.
“I want to go to a place that the average family can afford. I am not trying to do an expensive night out, that’s not what it’s about,” Taylor said. “I am an Average Joe eater. I’m a T-shirt and shorts guy. I’m pretty simple, pretty basic.
“It’s always good when someone tells you they went somewhere based on a recommendation or something they saw. But it is really good when it’s a small place they didn’t even know about, and they go there and they loved it, and they’ve gone back three or four times.”
Taylor works at a nondisclosed megafirm in Omaha, but on the side, he runs Small Guy Promotions. Small Guy arranges events for area small businesses and nonprofits. It is also how Omaha Fattie was born. While travelling around the region for promotion work, he was “checking in” with Google.
“And I started getting that notice ‘Hey, do you want to write a review? Do you want to share a photo?’ and I started doing that more and more,” he said. “I started seeing the people really loved the food content. I started tagging it #foodies, but then I decided #omahafattie. People started gravitating towards it.”
Omahafattie.com was born in late 2019, followed by a social media presence on Facebook and Instagram. The restaurant content is there, along with some home cooking projects and vegetable gardening stuff. He has even reviewed a fried chicken fundraiser at Holy Ghost Church (the full Five Fatties) and Ariah’s school lunch at Rumsey Station Elementary (only Three Fatties, but the kids seem to like the lunches, and the teriyaki chicken was tasty.)
When the pandemic hit, Taylor’s workplace was one of the first to go remote. He said his workload was very heavy, but so was the overtime pay. As local dining spots were shuttered, the community promoter hatched a plan.
“I kept hearing about all these restaurants closing,” Taylor said. “So, I told to my wife ‘Look, we are OK financially. We have all this extra money from me going into my dining room and working at 10 o’clock at night. Let’s just double down on what we would normally do.’
“So, Monday through Thursday, we ate at home, but for the weekend, we would go out and support local restaurants.”
Taylor estimates he spent around $2,000 in the last year at eateries, and “it was so worth it.” Restaurants got reviews, and Taylor earned more than 5,000 followers on his social media platforms and nearly 20,000 page views on the website.
“It’s not about me, it’s about us. About what we can do together as a community,” he said.
The Dayton, Ohio native moved to the area in 1994 and attended Papillion La Vista High School before graduating from Bellevue East. After living in South Omaha for years, his family moved to Papillion after finding the perfect house.
“The first time I felt at home. People actually wave at you,” he said.
The kinds of foods he is eating, and the size of his reviewing area, has grown because of his children. The family travels more to attend their activities, and local food is a part of their journeys.
“As much as I love the ‘Oh, I remember this’ stuff, I am at a point where I want to be able to try new things with my kids,” Taylor said.
“My kids eat almost anything. We go to Hollywood Candy, and they want to eat crickets or the suckers with the scorpions. Just seeing them experiment and not be afraid of new things. My kids are the reason we eat seafood.”
Taylor was only a “shrimp scampi guy,” having had a bad seafood experience. But when his kids once ordered crab legs, he found he loved them. It brought Taylor around to trying things again, be it a cuisine or a restaurant. It is one of his few rules.
Another rule, treat the restaurant staff with respect. He tells his children service work is a proud tradition. His parents did it, he did it, and they will work a service job, too.
The only other rule is pizza joints should serve wings, and they should be as good as the pizza.
“If they don’t have wings with the pizza, I feel like I am missing out,” Taylor said.
For the record, despite his businesses being named “Small Guy” and “Omaha Fattie,” Taylor is really neither. Credit would go to his time in practicing Jiu Jitsu, though he may not strictly follow the dietary guidelines of his fellow athletes.
“I know people who are into fitness, and they are just eating for fuel. I am not eating for fuel, I am eating for love,” he said.
Follow Taylor at omahafattie.com, facebook.com/OmahaFattie, instagram.com/omahafattie, @omahafattie on Tik Tok, @OmahaFattie on Twitter, and Omaha Fattie on YouTube. He can also be heard on his podcast “What’s Up Omaha with Small Guy Promotions.”