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Runza 01.jpg
A runza sandwich from the Runza fast food restaurant
Place of originUnited States
Region or stateNebraska
Created byNone/Traditionally Ethnic (Volga German)
Main ingredientsBread, Ground beef, Cabbage, Seasonings, Onion
VariationsCheddar Cheese, Swiss Cheese & Mushrooms, Italian style, Jalapeños
Food energy
(per serving)
530 (Standard/"Original")[1] kcal

A runza (also called a bierock, krautburger, fleischkuche, or kraut pirok) is a yeast dough bread pocket with a filling consisting of beef, cabbage or sauerkraut, onions, and seasonings.[2][3][4] Runzas can be baked into various shapes such as a half-moon, a rectangle, a round (bun), a square, or a triangle. The runzas sold by the Runza restaurant chain are rectangular while many of the bierocks sold in Kansas are round buns.[5]

The runza is a regional cuisine of Nebraska, with some commentators calling it "as Nebraskan as Cornhusker football."[6] It is served by the Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C.[7] and the Nebraska Society of New York[8] at their Taste of Nebraska events and was chosen to represent the state at Flavored Nation, an event serving iconic dishes from all fifty states.[9]


The runza sandwich is said to originate from pierogi, dumplings filled with savory ingredients popular in Eastern Europe,[3][10] but is more closely related to the similarly-named Russian dish called pirozhki (literally "little pies"). Volga Germans, ethnic Germans who settled in the Volga River valley in Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great, adapted pirozhki to create the bierock, a yeast pastry sandwich with similar savory ingredients.[3][10] When the political climate turned against the Volga Germans many emigrated to the United States, creating communities of Germans from Russia across the Great Plains. These immigrants brought their bierock recipes with them, including the Brening family that settled near Sutton, Nebraska.[10] Sarah "Sally" Everett (née Brening), originally of Sutton, is credited with adapting her family's bierock recipe into the runza and also inventing the name for the sandwich.[3][10][2][11][12] In 1949, Everett went into business selling runzas with her brother Alex[13] in Lincoln.[11][2][3]


Many sources agree that Sally Everett invented the name "runza"[11][2][10] although it is likely she adapted it from an existing name for the sandwich. It could have been the Krautrunz,[11] an older, different German name for the bierock, or it could be from the Low German runsa,[10] meaning belly, alluding to the gently rounded shape of the pouch pastry. The modern German Ranzen, meaning belly, also derives from runsa.

The word "runza" is registered as a trademark in the United States. The trademark is held by the Runza restaurant chain.[14]

Runza restaurant[edit]

IndustryFast Food
FoundedLincoln, Nebraska (1949 (1949))
  • Sarah "Sally" Everett
  • Alex Brening
Lincoln, Nebraska
United States
Number of locations
85 (November 2018)
Area served
  • Nebraska
  • Iowa
  • Colorado
  • Kansas
Key people
Sally Everett, Alex Brening & Donald Everett, Sr.
Productsrunza sandwiches, chili and cinnamon rolls, hamburgers, chicken strips
ServicesFast Food

Runza (formerly Runza Drive-Inn[15] and Runza Hut[16]) is also the name of a fast food restaurant whose flagship menu item is the runza sandwich. Founded in 1949 by Sally Everett, inventor of the modern runza, the chain began its expansion under Sally's son Donald Everett Sr. in 1966 and started franchising restaurants in 1979. As of November 2018 there are eighty-five Runza restaurants operating, eighty in Nebraska, two in Iowa, two in Kansas and one in Colorado.[17] The restaurant chain is still owned by the Everett family and Sally's grandson Donald Everett Jr. serves as President.[18] In addition to the titular sandwich the chain serves chili and cinnamon rolls[19] (a Midwest dish) and other fast food staples like hamburgers, french fries and onion rings.

The chain attempted to expand outside of Nebraska in 1989. Executives tried to open a restaurant in the Latvian republic of the Soviet Union,[20] going as far as shipping two hundred frozen runzas to the Soviet Ministry of Agriculture as a part of its negotiations.[21] The deal fell apart after Latvia was invaded by the Soviet government in an attempt to keep it in the Union.[20] Stores did open in the Las Vegas Strip at the Fashion Show Mall's food court[22] and a mall food court in Moline, Illinois[23] but both failed to gain traction and closed within a few years.[20]


Runza, the vendor of the runza sandwiches that are sold at home games for the University of Nebraska in Memorial Stadium, sells over 10,000 sandwiches at each football game. The Temperature Tuesday promotion is held on Tuesdays in the months of January and February. Each store sells runzas to customers at a price equal to the 6:00 A.M. temperature at the store in cents. If the temperature is zero or below the sandwich is free. In 2017, the Omaha Storm Chasers, Omaha's Triple-A baseball team, rebranded themselves as the Omaha Runzas in a cross-promotional event.[24] The team's rebranded uniforms featured a cartoon runza sandwich and shared the green and yellow livery of the Runza restaurant chain.[24] Runza operated a 50s themed Rock n' Roll Runza featuring memorabilia, vintage automobiles and roller skating carhops out of downtown Lincoln from 1991 to 2004.[25]

A Runza restaurant in Papillion, Nebraska received some publicity in 2018 when a newlywed couple ate there after their wedding ceremony. In an interview they explained that the restaurant was prominent to their relationship up to their marriage.[26]

Nebraska Union controversy[edit]

The Runza restaurant operating out of the Nebraska Union, the student union at the University of Nebraska, closed in 2018 after a decade of operating in the location.[27] Runza was outbid by a combination of two vendors bidding together.[28] There was public outcry from the student body[27][28] as the runza is strongly identified as a Nebraskan food and students felt that it should be sold at Nebraska's flagship university.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Runza Nutrition Information" (PDF). December 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d Rojas, Warren (March 26, 2014). "Nebraskans Know There's No Substitute for Runza". Roll Call. Washington D.C. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d e Bordsen, John (December 27, 2016). "Sandwich That Stems from Eastern Europe Powers Great Plains Chain". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  4. ^ Billingsley, Kay; Carman, Tim (April 29, 2016). "Nebraska Runzas, by Way of Washington". Washington Post. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  5. ^ Neil, Denise. "Where to get bierocks, the official food of Kansas in the fall". The Wichita Eagle. Some bake them in a round shape. Some make them rectangular.
  6. ^ Landsel, David. "Only Nebraskans Know The Runza". Food & Wine.
  7. ^ "2016 Taste of Nebraska". Nebraska Society of Washington, D.C.
  8. ^ MacMillan, Kyle (15 May 1987). "Manhattan to Taste Nebraska Foods". Omaha World-Herald. What do you do when you live 1,252 miles from Nebraska and you suddenly have a craving for a Runza or a slice of Valentino's pizza? You order them flown in, of course. That's exactly what the Nebraska Society of New York plans to do for its Nebraska food extravaganza in New York City Sunday.
  9. ^ O'Connor, Michael (28 August 2017). "The Runza will represent Nebraska at new national food event". Omaha World-Herald.
  10. ^ a b c d e f Baker Hansen, Sarah (1 April 2017). "Runza: The story of one of Nebraska's most treasured foods". Omaha World-Herald.
  11. ^ a b c d Rosengarten, David (11 April 2018). "The runza sandwich: Where else but Nebraska?". Dallas County News.
  12. ^ McMorris, Robert (15 July 1978). "Runza: Original Name for Old Recipe". Omaha World-Herald. pp. 15–16.
  13. ^ "Alex Brening". Orlando Sentinel. 12 June 1992.
  14. ^ "How We Support Our Franchises". Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  15. ^ "Runza Drive - Inn Opens in Aurora". Omaha World-Herald. 31 March 1991.
  16. ^ "Omahan Charged In Armed Robbery". Omaha World-Herald. 31 May 1987. Robert Benford, 33, 1825 Northwest Radial Highway, was charged Saturday with the armed robbery of Runza Hut, 1325 Northwest Radial Highway.
  17. ^ Krohe, Kalin (9 May 2018). "Runza Coming To Chadron". Panhandle Post. Alliance. Retrieved 25 November 2018.
  18. ^ "Company Overview of Runza National, Inc".
  19. ^ Mayfield, Trevor. "Chili and cinnamon rolls: The murky origin of the nostalgic food pairing".
  20. ^ a b c Smith, Mitch (15 August 2011). "Epilogue: Three hours south of Lincoln, an edible bastion of Huskerdom". Lincoln Journal Star.
  21. ^ "Runzas Pass Soviet's Test". Omaha World-Herald. United Press International. 4 May 1989.
  22. ^ "Runza Drive - Inns Bet on Las Vegas". Omaha World-Herald. 28 November 1989.
  23. ^ "Runza Opens Two New Stores". Omaha World-Herald. 21 October 1990.
  24. ^ a b O'Connor, Michael (5 June 2018). "Food fight: Omaha Runzas will face Green Chile Cheeseburgers at Werner Park this weekend". Omaha World-Herald.
  25. ^ Korbelik, Jeff (9 Dec 2004). "An end of an era': Rock n' Roll Runza set to close". Lincoln Journal Star.
  26. ^ O'Connor, Michael. "'Runza romance': Groom slips onion ring on new wife's finger 5 years after homecoming proposal at restaurant". Omaha World-Herald. Wayne Wilson, managing partner of the Runza, said there’s something about the Nebraska-based restaurant chain that leads to romance.
  27. ^ a b Larsen, Ben (3 May 2018). "Employees, final customers react to the Nebraska Union Runza closing its doors". The Daily Nebraskan.
  28. ^ a b "Fast-Food Chain to Leave University of Nebraska-Lincoln". U.S. News & World Report. Associated Press. 6 April 2018.

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