Nebraska isn’t defined by a prevalence of regional or noteworthy cuisines, and outside of a hunk of beef, I couldn’t uncover any must try local delicacies in my research. The closest that I came was a place called Runza, a small regional chain native to Nebraska with about 80 plus locations scattered throughout the state. Founded in 1949, Runza specializes in a unique kind of sandwich, aptly named a “Runza”. The Runza is a bread pocket type sandwich stuffed with spiced beef or pork, cabbage and onions, and owes its’ origins to the Volga Germans that settled in the Great Plains. Though I normally avoid chains, an exclusive sandwich was something I felt compelled to try, so I put my biases aside and ambled in for a bite.

At the fast food style counter, I ordered up the Swiss Mushroom Runza on the recommendation of the cashier. Naturally, this included fries and I felt compelled to give the chocolate milkshake a run as well. The Runza can most appropriately be described as the fast food equivalent of a hot pocket. It was warm, doughy, moist and gooey inside and certainly good filler on a chilly afternoon. While in true fast food fashion the actual contents of the filling remain a bit mysterious, in addition to the cheese, mushrooms and beef I picked up notes of cabbage, onions, and some unidentified spices. The fries were standard variety, though surprisingly crispy, while the thick chocolate shake more closely resembled a Wendy’s Frosty (and hence perfect for dipping the fries).

Runza was an interesting stop, and I was glad to try one of the few foods native to Nebraska. At the end though, the sandwich is hardly remarkable from a hot pocket, and pretty standard fast food fare. It’s deserving of a taste from a curiosity standpoint, but hardly worth going out of your way for. I’d love to unearth a place that had a more inspired home made version of the sandwich. Interestingly, I discovered that they serve Runza’s in Memorial Stadium, and on a cold day in Lincoln they certainly make a better alternative than a hot dog.

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