Saturday, January 29, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 5 - Favorite Food

Week 5 Challenge: Favorite Food. What was your favorite food from childhood? If it was homemade, who made it? What was in this dish, and why was it your favorite? What is your favorite dish now?

I've got to admit, I really struggled with what to write about for this week's challenge. I really couldn't come up with anything really spectacular. I couldn't find my Mom's recipe for homemade cinnamon rolls. I found a couple recipes of my favorite cookies, but those were straight out of the Betty Crocker cookbook. Boring!

Tastee Inn, Lincoln, NE, October, 2008Then it struck me! How could I have forgotten my favorite drive-in restaurant from the 1950s! It's a major dive on North 48th Street in Lincoln, Nebraska called Tastee Inn & Out.

In the late 1950s, my family was living in Greenwood, Nebraska and every Saturday morning, my parents would drive me in to Lincoln where I was taking ballet and tap dance lessons at the Merry Manor School of Childhood. The location is still called Merry Manor, but is now operated as a child care center. I think the directors are sick of hearing me tell how I used to tap dance there!

Anyway, my classes were over about 11 a.m. and that meant that we went down the street to Tastee's for loose meat sandwiches, onion chips (or fries) and strawberry shakes. This made doing all of those dance steps and wearing a leotard and tights worth it! I loved Tastee's!

We always went via the drive-in window. There was a u-shaped drive lined with seven or eight speakers on posts where you gave your order. To this day, I have not figured out how they managed to get the correct order to the right car with all of those speakers.

Saturday Morning Dance Class
Meant Tastee's for Lunch

Whoever designed the layout for this drive-in window clearly assumed that there would be two people in each car. Why? Because the window is on the passenger side of the car! I think this is the only drive-in I've ever seen where the window is not on the driver's side.

Today's sign has the name of the restaurant spelled Tasty instead of Tastee. And it announces "Open Monday." The reason for that explanation is because all of the time that I was growing up in Greenwood and in Lincoln, Tastee's was closed on Monday. It's now open 7 days a week.

What can I say about the food? If you like greasy food, this is the place for you. I really don't know how they get their ground meat to be ground so fine. There's a great blend of spices and these are not Sloppy Joe's - there is no tomato sauce - it's just meat. Now - there have been rumors over the years as to what kind of meat is used, but the truth is that it is beef. The loose meat goes on a small bun with one pickle and a very small amount of mustard. I've got to add a little more mustard. The onion chips are to die for, and if you make a habit of it, you probably will. These are not onion rings, but big chunks of onion, coated in batter and deep fried. You've got to order an extra large onion chip dip - the base is cottage cheese (recipe below).

Tastee Inn, Lincoln, NE, October, 2008

What I remember from my childhood:

  • The drink cups stated "Tastee's - Always two good meals for less than a dollar"
  • You could order a Tube of Tastee's - a round cardboard cylinder that held six sandwiches.
What's changed in 50 years:
  • Not much. They've added a bump-out "sun room" to the indoor eating area.
  • There's only one speaker where you place your order.
  • It is still the same dive that it was 50 (actually, 60) years ago.
  • If you do a search for Tastee's on the Journal Star web site, you get quite a few hits on violations from the county health department. My friends are shocked that I still eat there, given my phobia about food safety and sanitation. I figure if they haven't killed me in 50 years, I've built up my immune system.
Do I still eat Tastee's? You bet. In fact, I got carry out for my Dad and me only a few nights ago. But the two good meals now cost $17.59. And it's not as easy to crawl over a bucket seat to get in the passenger side to pay and get the food. Unlike many other local eateries, the food has not changed one bit over the years. It is exactly the same. And I've got to get my Tastee fix about once every six weeks.

Visit Tastee's on Facebook

Tastee's Onion Chip Dip

¼ cup buttermilk
16 ounces of cottage cheese, large curd
16 ounces of sour cream
5 grinds of black pepper
Dash of red pepper
½ teaspoon of salt
½ teaspoon of accent
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon celery salt
¼ teaspoon onion salt
½ envelope onion soup mix
Beat the buttermilk and cottage cheese together.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well; a food processor works best, and refrigerate at least four hours or overnight

Related article: A Time Machine: Lincoln's Tastee's Inn and Out

Photos are shared via Noncommercial, Share Alike license on Flickr. Photos from Maggie Osterberg's photostream.

About 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Amy Coffin of We Tree Genealogy has created a third year of blogging prompts for genealogy bloggers. 


  1. OMG - though I never lived in Nebraska, I actually have heard of Tastee Inn & Out - from two different people. Both loved the place and said that it was a real comfort food icon. And the fact that they know the best accompaniment to ground beef is mustard and a pickle (my favorite hamburger fixins) shows that they know from comfort food! Enjoyed reading this!

  2. Greta - WOW. What can I say? It's hard to believe that Tastee's are known outside of my city! Maybe I need to get Guy Fieri to show up for an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives! Thanks for your comment!

  3. You have such a fabulous memory, and a great way of presenting all your material, whether it be about genealogy or about Tastee's. Always, thanks.

  4. I understand that Tastee's was one of the first drive-through restaurants, so I can see why it wouldn't occur to them to put the drive-through window on the driver's side. But after all these years, haven't people urged them to switch it around?