Picture this: it’s a Saturday morning, your favorite cartoon is on TV, and a bowl of cereal greets you at the kitchen table. The infamous Mario jump and “waka waka” Pac-Man sounds dance around your head, exciting you for the video games that await after breakfast. With a stomach full of deliciousness, you set foot onto your next adventure in the living room to beat Bowser’s Castle before your post-breakfast food coma hits. Ah, life is good.
Coffee and cereal may arguably be the perfect pairing to jumpstart the morning. The feeling of comfort and relaxation that coffee provides combined with the fun and ease of a bowl of cereal make for a breakfast built on happiness. After Nick Maestas launched Muchachos—a restaurant and food truck in Lincoln—he and his wife, Jenny, began their next adventure.
Striving to elevate the coffee scene in downtown Omaha, the two brainstormed how they could offer a unique establishment for any generation to enjoy. Pairing inspiration from global cereal bars with nostalgia from their childhoods, the Maestas created a retro eatery complete with Ruth Bader Ginsburg coffee, 33 varieties of cereal, and 18 different toppings. Ready to make every day feel like a Saturday morning, CTRL Coffee & Cereal Bar was born.
Creating a concept solely built on cereal is challenging, so to stand out in the industry, the Maestas knew they needed to offer Omaha something that couldn’t be replicated. CTRL manifests a free-for-all arcade decked with everything from Guitar Hero on Play Stations to Mario Kart on mini consoles to bring back childhood nostalgia. This means that while kids play games after their Saturday morning cereal, adults can enjoy their coffees—some of which are inspired by the team’s favorite idols printed on lattes.
When Nick Maestas discovered a ripple maker that allows graphics to print on coffee, it was no question that CTRL needed it in its shop. As the only place in Omaha that offers this unique concept, the bar depicts celebrities who have impacted staff members, like Betty White and Prince, atop lattes. “Most people don’t go to local coffee shops just for coffee,” Jenny Maestas said. Along with these staple offerings, portraits of these individuals are hung along the shop’s idol wall. “It’s people who used their craft with excellence, and that’s what we want to do,” she said.
The colorful coffee shop has become well known on social media platforms like Instagram, playing into the owners’ vision. From a graffiti wall plastered with the word “love” to a wall strung with thrifted furniture, the shop’s savvy aesthetic not only creates satisfying photo opportunities but also offers employees an opportunity to rearrange shop items so the vibe is constantly changing. “We wanted our staff to be a part of it,” Jenny Maestas said. Many employees put their own spin on CTRL by bringing in their own furniture, such as grass rugs and coffee table books. “It’s not just a place to work,” she said. “This is their place, too.”
The possibilities are endless at CTRL, allowing customers to pick up to three kinds of cereal, two toppings, and milk of their choice. Maestas said this gives people the freedom to create their own concoctions that they love. Along with a wide variety of cereal choices, the toppings range from bananas to gummy bears so people can control what they want. “It’s a lot of sugar, but this is a place to let loose and do something out of the ordinary than what you would normally do,” she said. “You can decide if you want to be healthy or go wild.”
Since May 2022, CTRL has become a hot spot for Omahans and cereal lovers galore. While the retro vibes and colorful aesthetic draw people in, the passion for inclusivity and partnerships with local shops and nonprofits are what the Maestas are most proud of. Whether you’re craving a cup of coffee and a bountiful bowl of cereal or ready to get your gaming on, CTRL awaits.