Restaurateur known for selling 25-cent tacos dead at 50

2007-07-12T19:00:00Z Restaurateur known for selling 25-cent tacos dead at 50JEFF KORBELIK / Lincoln Journal Star JournalStar.com
July 12, 2007 7:00 pm  • 

The tacos were 25 cents each, a dime more with sour cream.

Michele Landolt has no idea how many hard shell treats her late husband, George, served over the years.

“At least a million, just like McDonald’s,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you honestly.”

She guessed high, gauging from the long lines at Knickerbockers on Thursdays and, back in the day, on Sundays at George’s Red Pepper Grill and, later, Crawdaddy’s.

“They would be out the door and down the sidewalk,” she said. “It was complete chaos. Just the way (George) liked it.”

On Thursday, Knickerbockers at Ninth and O was selling tacos — but without George.

Next to the service window, a sign bearing his obituary explained his absence.

Landolt, 50, died Monday from complications from diabetes, his wife said.

“We’re kind of shocked,” Knickerbockers co-owner Chris Kelley said. “We knew he was struggling with some health things, but we certainly didn’t expect this.”

Landolt ran George’s Red Pepper Grill on North 10th — a viaduct away from Memorial Stadium and the UNL campus — from October 1997 to December 2002.

He started Crawdaddy’s at Knickerbockers in February 2000, serving gumbo and jambalaya on Wednesdays and Fridays. He moved the restaurant to Seventh and O, where it stayed until it closed in December.

 The Red Pepper Grill was known for its Big Ass Burrito and Gut Buster Burger, while Crawdaddy’s emphasized Landolt’s passion for Cajun cuisine.

But his tacos were his claim to fame.

Michele Landolt said he began selling them 25 years ago at Jacks or Better, a former tavern in north Lincoln, and later at C Gee’s, which became Knickerbockers in 1993.

“They go great with beer, and they are fun food to eat,” Landolt said in 1998. “You can pick them up and wolf them down and get your money’s worth.”

Landolt filled each crispy shell with ground beef, lettuce, cheese and a choice of  one of his homemade sauces — mild, spicy and his infamously hot “mofo.”

“It will melt the chrome off of anything,” Knickerbockers employee Chris Hussey said. “That’s the way George made it … it’s the hottest stuff you’ll ever have.”

His tacos merited a following.

They were popular among students. And they were favorites of downtown employees who waited their turns every Thursday at Knickerbockers.

“I’ve got people who are eating them now at one place or the other that ate them 12 or 13 years ago at Jacks or Better,” Landolt said in 1998. “Some I still see every Thursday. That’s bizarre.”

But easy to understand.

Landolt is survived by his wife and children, sons Calvin and Bradley Peters, and daughters Bobbi, Michaelynn and Collette. Services are planned for Saturday at Oak Lake Park, with a time to be announced.

Reach Jeff Korbelik at 473-7213 or jkorbelik@journalstar.com.

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