Lee's in 1946, look closely and you can see the outdoor toilet to the right of the building
At the end of prohibiton (1933) Al Remaly and his wife Elizabeth acquired the shack at 1940 West Van Dorn and Burlington later re-named South Coddington Avenue. After some remodeling it opened as "Al's Inn" which seated a dozen customers in the three booths and bar counter. A few years later Peter & Dorothy Dreith purchased the tavern from Al. While keeping the menu of hamburgers and beer the same they began the first addition.
Lee & Alice Franks purchased Al's Inn in October of 1945 from Peter & Dorothy Dreith and renamed it "Lee's Tavern". The first addition had been completed a few years prior and the second was in progress. The first addition is the area directly in front of the bar area today. It had no indoor restrooms, plumbing, or running water. Desperate to find something else to bring people in Alice saw an ad for a tabletop deep fryer in a Sears catalog, and for a $5 deposit they started serving french fries a popular novelty at the time. Some time later a customer came in and requested fried chicken so Alice went out back killed a chicken then cooked it using her family recipe from Louisiana. It was a huge hit and from this day on Lee's specialized in Southern Fried Chicken yet has always featured hamburgers on their menu.
By 1955 after the completion of the "main" west dining room Lee's Drive-In seated 125 people plus could serve 200 vehicles outside with its car-hop service. The advent of carry-out and picnic style caterings became a huge hit and has remained a specialty of Lee's to this day. Lee's served on average 400 chicken dinners a day through the 1950's and early 1960's.
By the late 1960's there had been a total of thirteen additons to the original structure including additonal customer seating, private party rooms, added kitchen space, and an apartment above the now famous reatuarant. The indoor seating had reached over 400 persons. On Husker football Saturdays Lee's would serve an average of 1000 hungry diners and use over 600 chickens (5,400 pieces). People would in line outside and around the building to get in for that famous fowl.
In 1969 long-time managers Ozzie & Janice Wilcoxen purchased the restaurant and still own it to this day. Although being the second generation of owners as of 2019 they have owned Lee's longer than the original owners did. While Ozzie passed away a couple years back Janice is still involved in the daily management of the restaurant. While there have no physical additions to the restaurant itself during their tenure Ozzie & Jan have updated the dining room, kitchen areas, restrooms, put in new exhaust hoods, added an outdoor dining area, and put in a computerized ordering system to name just a few.
Lee's has remained succesful through the years for one simple reason. We do everything the exact same way as it has been done since 1945. Many customers compliment to this day everything from the decor to the food & service are the same as 20, 30, 40 plus years ago and as Janice likes to say "that is the best compliment we can receive."
Lee Franks-Founder-Mid 1950's