The cheese frenchee (on some menus, frenchie) might be the quintessential bar food: a salty, fatty, gooey, thirst-inducing snack. Invented at a now-defunct regional chain named King’s Food Host, it shows up on the fast-food menus of a few eastern Nebraska restaurants, including Don & Millie’s, a mini-chain with about half a dozen locations between Omaha and Lincoln.
Don & Millie’s looks like many other fast-food outlets: bright and accessible and chirpy, with nostalgic mid-20th century rock & roll for background music. It serves mighty handsome hamburgers, known as Dons, Double Dons and Triple Dons when outfitted with cheese and bacon; And there are chili cheese dogs and beautiful salty-crusted sweet onion rings. To quench thirst induced by all these drive-in delights, you can buy a margarita — lime or strawberry flavored — for all of 99 cents! No, they’re not craft cocktails, and you’d have to drink a gallon to get a buzz, but they are refreshing, served in icy mugs with salt around the rim if you wish.
The cheese frenchee? This is like a grilled cheese sandwich, sort of, except instead of getting the grill treatment, it gets a spread of mayo, it’s cut into triangles, dipped in batter, rolled in cornflake crumbs, and deep fried. The result is a sandwich that tastes richer than it really is, exuding buttery, cheesy flavor with every messy bite. A deep-fried cheese sandwich, for Pete’s sake! It is about as naughty a food as humankind can create — a genuine Eastern Nebraska regional culinary thrill for the adventurous of palate and iron of gut.