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Editor’s note: Ground Zero traditionally takes road trips to visit restaurants outside of Lincoln during July, this week, Jeff Korbelik visits Beatrice.

BEATRICE -- To say Ron Tegtmeier is a visionary may be a bit of an understatement.

Tegtmeier, who at one point owned and operated the country bar, Uncle Ron’s, in Lincoln, opened a restaurant in his hometown of Clatonia five years ago. His idea was to create a nostalgic eatery, filling the restaurant with memorabilia celebrating the small Nebraska town.

He hoped Legends of Clatonia would be successful.

And was it ever.

Not only was it a museum of sorts, but it featured some of the best homestyle food around, including fried chicken using the Red Rooster recipe. The portions were large, the prices extremely reasonable and the salad bar … oh my!

In February, Tegtmeier announced he was moving Legends to Beatrice. While Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays were good in Clatonia, business was slow on the other days.

“I felt it was the right move to make,” Tegtmeier said. “I felt I needed a larger town, even though Clatonia had been very good to me.”

He opened Legends of Nebraska in mid-April in the Indian Creek Mall, just off of U.S. 77 on the north side of Beatrice. Legends took over spots once occupied by Woodee’s diner and a deli, which used to be a Sam & Louie’s pizzeria. He still owns the buildings in Clatonia, and has turned over the operation there to his head server, who plans to re-open it as a bar and grill.

Tegtmeier said he’s not trying to be another Black Crow in Beatrice, saying he highly respects Black Crow owners Ray Arter and Kate Ratigan; nor is he trying to be another sports bar such as nearby Risky’s.

“I’m more middle of the road,” he said. “There wasn’t anything like it in Beatrice.”

Food

Tegtmeier brought his homestyle menu, which made Legends such a hit in Clatonia, with him to Beatrice. Diners will find such comfort classics as hot roast beef with homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, hamburger steak, seven burgers and 11 sandwiches, prime rib (10- and 16-ounce cuts), and, of course, the Red Rooster fried chicken. Prices range from $8.95 to $29.95.

My wife and I dined on the prime rib (10-ounce, $24.95) and two-piece dark chicken (thigh, leg for $15.95). Both entrees included a choice of potato (fries, mashed potatoes, homemade hash browns or, after 5 p.m., a baked potato) and trip to the salad bar.

Lightly seasoned on the edges, the prime rib came out as ordered (medium rare). My hash browns were indeed homemade. As were my wife’s mashed potatoes. The chicken is something else, especially for those of us who remember Red Rooster. The breading is crunchy, but not heavy. It’s quite a treat.

The salad bar, named Dorothy’s Garden Bar for Nebraska-based Dorothy Lynch salad dressing, is a draw. On our visit, the bar had six homemade salads (crab, potato, broccoli, etc.), cut watermelon and a dessert pudding. You also can build a lettuce-based salad with several topping choices. The dressings also are homemade -- except the Dorothy Lynch.

We finished with a home-baked, sour cream raisin pie. Tegtmeier’s pie makers are two women, ages 83 and 98, who really know their way around an oven. They bake 20 to 25 pies a week for the restaurant, Tegtmeier said. Grade: A

Atmosphere

Legends, with its nostalgic decor, padded booths and large tables, reminded me of a couple of legendary steakhouses: most notably Misty’s in Havelock and the old Dreisbach’s in Grand Island. It not only had the look, but the feel of those places.

The bar area is separate from the dining room and looks like a den.

The dining room decor is fun, with black-and-white photos of notable Nebraskans, including those with Beatrice-area (Lady Beatrice, homesteader Daniel Freeman, Vise Grip founder William Petersen and legendary actor Robert Taylor) and Nebraska (Johnny Carson, Larry the Cable Guy, Marlon Brando, Henry Fonda) ties. There’s even a photo of Kaley Cuoco, who’s not from Nebraska, but her “Big Bang Theory” character, Penny, is. Grade: A

Service

Patrons wait to be seated. It’s first-come, first-served. Tegtmeier originally had tall tables in the bar, but replaced them with low-tops, which now are used for overflow seating/dining. There were no tablecloths, but there were cloth napkins. Our young server, Kaylee, was polite, uber-friendly and available, checking on us throughout the meal. The turnaround time from the kitchen was pretty much right on. Our entrees arrived just a few minutes after we had finished our salads. Grade: A

Specialty diets

The menu has no vegetarian options, but for the salad bar, which features aforementioned homemade salads, fruit and lettuce with all the fixings, such as radishes, shredded cheese, boiled eggs, sliced cucumbers, tomatoes and more. One trip is $10; all-you-can-eat is $14.99. The menu makes no reference to gluten-free dining. Grade: C

Jeff Korbelik is the tasting room manager at James Arthur Vineyards, former Journal Star features editor and author of “Lost Restaurants of Lincoln, Nebraska.”

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