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 captures, for us at least, a certain Midwestern otherworldliness. It looks like many other fast-food outlets, bright and accessible and chirpy. They serve well-regarded burgers, messy and good foot-long chili cheese dogs, onion rings and french fries glistening with oil. And they also specialize in 99-cent long-necks and margaritas! The margaritas you can watch bubbling away at the order counter, in those old-fashioned fountain-style drink coolers you'd see at the lunch counter of Woolworth's.
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! Does it taste good? Well, it does in the same way that Deep South fried dill pickles dipped in creamy dressing taste good. You know it's about as naughty a food as humankind can create, and yet it provides a regional culinary thrill for the adventurous of palate and iron of gut. You'll be grateful for the beers and margaritas.
We haven't tried the frenchees at other Nebraska restaurants, so we can't say that this is the "best" version of the "dish"; but it probably doesn't matter. At least once, we'd recommend hitting Don & Millie's some afternoon for cheese frenchees and 99-cent margaritas. How can you not love Nebraska?
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As avid readers of Roadfood.com, we have come to organize all of our roadtrip eating around this site's recommendations. As a result, we've had some of the best meals ever. Don & Millie's, however, was by far our biggest disappointment to date. Perhaps we were there on an off night.
We ordered the Cheese Frenchees and onion rings. Both tasted like they had been fried in a vat of grease that was way overdue for a change. For drinks we ordered the 99-cent margarita and a 99-cent bottle of Bud. The Margarita was by far the worst we've ever had. One drink and it was quickly moved off to the side, leaving the 99-cent bottle of Bud as the highlight of our meal. Perhaps if the grease had not been so stale, and used to fry everything on their menu, we would have had a better experience.
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