What To Eat in Nebraska
The word “runza” has been trademarked by a fast food chain out of Lincoln, but the German/Russian meat-filled pastry pocket from which the name was derived is found throughout eastern Nebraska, where it is called bierock, Go Cart, or, simply, cabbage burger. A must-eat! Omaha is home not only to impressive steak dinners, but to a unique specialty known as the cheese frenchie, which is a cornflake-crusted, deep-fried grilled cheese sandwich. Up in the northwest, look for extraordinarily good Mexican food – a legacy of farm workers who migrated here generations ago.
The bierock is a gift of Volga Germans, a group of immigrants who originally fled Germany for Russia, but then came here from Russia to escape communism. They brought with them recipes for a baked yeast-dough bread pocket filled with beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, and onions. These portable meals, which are similar to the Upper Midwest's pasties, were a favorite lunch among farm workers; and today they are served at Church suppers and fund-raisers throughout Nebraska and Kansas.
Cheese frenchees are an Omaha specialty: grilled cheese sandwiches dipped in batter, crusted with cornflakes, and deep-fried. Some include mayo, some don’t; many are made on extra-thick Texas toast. The contrast of crunchy exterior and creamy cheese inside makes this a sandwich that is as good for texture as it is for taste.
Scottsbluff, Nebraska, has been home to immigrants from Texas and Mexico for nearly a century; and it boasts restaurants that reflect that southwestern flavor. The custom in many of them is to flash-fry corn chips and tortillas so they puff up in the oil and become as three-dimensional as a sopaipilla – airy breadstuffs with fragile skin. As simple chips, they're great, and as shells for tacos, their pillowy character adds crispy-chewy pleasure to every bite.
The taco at this Nebraska restaurant comes in a crisp corn shell pliable enough that it doesn't shatter, loaded with ground beef that is cream rich and peppery.
French fries at Scotty's Drive-In are thin & crisp with nice potato flavor. They go well with short-order hamburgers in single, double and triple configuration.
Best dish at Nebraska's Gering Bakery is the cabbage burger - a pocket of tender bread enclosing beef, cabbage, & onion. Frosted peanut butter pretzels, too!
A friendly Nebraska cafe with south-of-the-border décor, Rosita's makes everything from scratch, even the amazing puffy corn chips.
A small-town cafe in the city of Lincoln, Tina's is known for immense cinnamon rolls and an item called the Go Cart, which is the classic Midlands Runza.
Shirley's is a heartland cafe serving the unique Nebraska cheese frenchee: a grilled cheese sandwich dipped in corn flake batter and deep-fried.
Flavorful hamburgers, freshly ground and hand-pattied, make Stella's an Omaha-area gem. French fries are fresh cut and fried crisp, served in abundance.
Bob's is an unrepentant Nebraska dive bar known for double-wide hamburgers. Cheese is optional. Onions and pickles come on the side
Homemade Heaven of Ogallala bakes its own bread and makes cabbage pockets, the meat-filled pastries that Nebraskans also know as runzas or bierocks.