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History

A History of Lee's:

At the end of Prohibition (Circa 1933) Al & Elizabeth Remaly bought what was called "the shack" on the corner of 1940 West van Dorn & Burlington. After some remodeling, it opened as "Als Inn" which had seats for a dozen people in boots and the bar counter.   They specialized in beer and deluxe hamburgers.

A few years later, Peter & Dorothy Dreith purchased the tavern. While keeping the menu intact, they put on the first addition. In October of 1945, Lee & Alice Franks purchased it. The building had no running water or plumbing and had an outdoor bathroom. Alice recounted years later they would have to transport buckets of water from miles away for the basic daily functions of the business.

According to Alice, there were days they did not even take in five dollars. Desperate to find something that would bring people in she pickled up Wenzl's menu maker, a popular book for restaurant owners. Alice found the french fries deep-fried in peanut oil an interesting idea. So, with a five-dollar deposit, she purchases a tabletop deep fryer from the Sears catalog.

vintage photo of Lee's
Lee posing for a photo

Sometime later a customer came in and requested Fried Chicken so Alice went out back then killed and dressed a chicken per her family recipe from Louisiana. It was a huge hit and from then on Lee's Tavern specialized in Southern Fried Chicken.

By 1955, after the completion of the main dining area, Lee's Drive-In seated up to 125 people and could serve 200 vehicles outside with its car-hop service. Throughout his entire time in business, Lee Franks was an innovator. Being among the first places to have a television to watch sports in the 1950s and also among the first restaurants in Lincoln to add air conditioning. By far the most profitable of the ideas he used was the advent of carr-out and catering for picnics and gatherings of all types. From that time onward carry-out and catering have remained a specialty of Lee's. Lee's served on average 400 Chicken Dinners per day through the 1950s and early 1960s.

By the late 1960s, there had been thirteen additions to the original structure including added seating, enlargement of the kitchen, an apartment upstairs, and private party rooms. The indoor seating had reached over 400 persons. On football Sundays, a thousand hungry diners would wait in line out the door and around the building to get some of that famous fowl. They would serve over 600 Chickens (5,400 pcs!) through the dining room, drive-in, and carry-out services.

In 1969, long-time managers Paul (Ozzie) Wilcoxen and his wife Janice, purchased the now-famous establishment. Although being the second generation of owners of Lee's as of 2019, they have owned it longer than Lee & Alice did. Ozzie passed away a couple of years back, however, his wife Janice is still actively involved in running the business. They have always had the motto "if it isn't broke, don't fix it." They held the mantra and still do today. Lee's has stayed successful due to that one simple statement. You can expect the same great food and service you had yesterday, last week, last month, last year, and thirty-plus years before and afterward.

vintage photo of family eating at a table