San Ann'as Pizza and Mexican celebrating 45th anniversary

1 month ago Fremont Tribune

When Cale Williams thinks about the history of San Ann’as Pizza & Mexican restaurant, he recalls the cheese dip story.

It happened when the restaurant was on Fremont’s 23rd Street.

One day, a guy’s buddies told him he needed to get some cheese dip. A young woman's friends told her to do likewise.

“They ended up meeting — both on a run for cheese dip — and they ended up getting married and having children,” Williams said, adding, “I’ve heard many stories along those lines, where people had their first date or that San Ann’as is where they met.”

Years passed and the restaurant relocated, while retaining its unique style of Tex-Mex entrees, along with a variety of pizzas, burgers and later wraps — cooked from scratch instead of with pre-packaged ingredients.

From barbecue chicken pizza to bacon cheeseburgers to shrimp tacos and pork tenderloins, the restaurant offers a plethora of options for hungry customers.

Now, as the restaurant celebrates its 45th anniversary, it’s offering dine-in, daily lunch and dinner specials, which include pizza and Mexican selections.

“It’s our way of saying ‘thank you very much’ for the 45 years of support,” Williams said.

The restaurant’s origins began with Al Biesecker, who formerly owned a Sax Pizza franchise on the northwest corner of Military and Somers avenues. Williams’ dad, Dennis, was a kitchen manager for the former night club, Sweep Left, in Lincoln.

Biesecker invited Dennis to help run the pizza restaurant and, after a few years, they relocated to 748 E. 23rd St.

The San Ann’as Pizza & Mexican restaurant and bar was housed in a building that included the Alco Discount Store, Cinema III movie theater and a couple other businesses.

Being near the movie theater helped the restaurant. Couples or families ate at the restaurant before going to a movie.

“I think it set the tone for a lot of people’s idealistic family night or date night,” Cale Williams said.

Williams recalls stories of dads dropping off their daughters at a Disney movie, then watching a game in the restaurant’s bar.

Customers liked to watch games on the establishment’s big screen television — especially in the 1970s and 1980s when the Nebraska Cornhuskers played the Oklahoma Sooners at 11 a.m. on Fridays.

“My dad would tell me that they would have standing room only by 10 o’clock,” Williams said.

Along with townspeople from Fremont and area communities, students of what’s now called Midland University frequented the establishment as did a variety of sports teams with players of various ages.

“We sponsored a softball and a volleyball club and those who were part of that can remember gatherings in the party room upstairs,” he said.

Cale Williams’ grandfather, the Rev. Burnell Beyers, was a pastor of several churches and after retirement served part time at Trinity Lutheran Church from 1989-96.

During those years, he and other pastors led Bible studies in the restaurant’s bar in the daytime. The Fremont Chamber of Commerce met there, too. Women gathered there to play cards or as part of the Red Hat Society.

In 2005, Fremont Area Medical Center, looking toward future expansion, bought what had become the former Alco store building.

The restaurant/bar owners had the option of relocating or ending their business.

“Rich Paden reached out to my dad and offered us this location,” Williams said.

The restaurant relocated to 1945 E. Military Ave., in the Dollar General shopping center across from Parkview Plaza.

“It’s a good street to be on,” Dennis Williams said in a 2007 Tribune article.

Work went into transforming their new location.

“Within a month, we converted what used to be a cold sandwich shop into a full-service restaurant,” Cale Williams said. “We’ve been here for 15 years now.”

Cale Williams moved to Colorado for a few years, returning to Fremont in 2014 and has been operating manager since.

Williams describes the restaurant’s food as an eclectic mix. The early 1970s didn’t have the vast market for ethnic foods seen today.

Years ago, his father took a few ideas from someone with a background in Mexican food and implemented them into what would be San Ann’as dishes.

“Back in the early ’80s, he was naming things that weren’t quite well known,” Cale Williams said. “For instance, we have what’s called the Mexican Roll, which would be considered a chimichanga today.”

Cale is quick to point out: “We’re not authentic Mexican. We’re original.”

A goloso would be considered as a burrito supreme. A conquistador would be a chimichanga (deep-fried burrito) supreme.

The restaurant’s menu describes what’s in the entrees.

“We have a vast menu that can feed anyone’s particular palate,” Cale said.

Pizzas include: ground beef; pepperoni, sausage, Canadian bacon with pineapple; and specialty pizzas like the Chicago 7 with pepperoni, Canadian bacon and American sausage.

“I love our barbecue sauce on the barbecue chicken pizza,” Cale said. “We make a mean cheeseburger pizza, too.”

San Ann’as has cheeseburgers, a pizza burger and even a stroganoff burger with sautéed mushrooms and onions with sour cream on top.

Sandwiches include the barbecued pulled pork. Wraps include a Southwest Wrap with grilled chicken, chipotle sauce, cheddar cheese, tomato and lettuce with a side of Southwest ranch.

Side dishes can include hand-cut french fries, rice, beans or a salad.

The restaurant has a taco salad and a barbecue chicken ranch salad.

Breakfast burritos are served from 8-11 a.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Saturdays and from 6-11 a.m. Fridays.

“We’ve had huge success with those,” he said.

The cheese dip and homemade corn chips have long been a customer favorite. Customers also order a half cheese and half bean dip.

For years, people have enjoyed San Ann’as Mexican foods.

Besides golosos, Mexican rolls and fajitas, favorites include:

• Cheesy chicken chimichanga — diced chicken breast, cheddar cheese and cream cheese, deep fried and resting on a bed of lettuce, cheese and tomato.

• Chicken, bacon, ranch chimichanga — diced chicken breast, cheddar cheese, deep fried and resting on a bed of lettuce.

• Seafood enchiladas — crab and shrimp with red peppers inside a tortilla in a lobster cream sauce topped with Monterey Jack cheese.

Everything is made to order so, for instance, customers could have red peppers withheld.

A new customer favorite is a cheesy burrito. This is a cheese enchilada inside a beef and bean burrito covered with two sauces — the restaurant’s signature yellow, cheddar cheese and white queso.

Customers come to San Ann’as from many places.

The business formerly had franchises in Madison, Fullerton and West Point. These businesses were sold years ago, but Cale can tell when former customers from these places stop at the Fremont location on their way to Omaha.

He can identify people from Madison or Fullerton, because they order a party pizza and a large San Ann’as snack — the restaurant’s version of nachos with ground beef, corn chips, homemade snack sauce and melted cheddar cheese.

Guests wonder how Cale knows where they’re from, until he explains. The customers then share how the San Ann’as franchises are among their childhood memories.

Cale talks about the passion that goes into making San Ann’as dishes.

“You’re not going to find us getting our pizza sauce out of a can,” he said. “We’re going to cook our vegetables with olive oil, garlic and seasoning and then we’ll place the tomatoes and steep it for two hours.”

Enchilada sauce is made from a rue with seasonings and tomato sauce incorporated. San Ann’as shreds its own cheddar and mozzarella cheeses.

“We actually use ground beef and not the beef pellets,” he said.

Quesadillas come with seasoned sour cream, which is only a little garlic salt and pepper.

“It’s not too far off the beaten path, but it’s something unique and original to Fremont,” he said.

Cale said the restaurant won’t stop creating new items.

“But we will never try to jump on a trend and we will never try to copy something that someone else in Fremont is doing successfully,” he said.

Besides food, the restaurant serves margaritas and beer.

Now celebrating its 45th anniversary, the restaurant is offering specials and an artist from Meow Wolf has even created an anniversary logo.

“We’re rolling out a yearly special,” Cale said. “We’ll be having a lunch and dinner special every day that will be comprised of a pizza and Mexican special along with adult beverage specials all day, too.”

Cale said the specials are the restaurant’s way of thanking customers for their support.

While the restaurant has a drive-thru window, the specials will apply to dine-in-only customers with plans to expand this to-go option in the future.

Customers can still use the drive-thru window for other items.

Cale, who said he grew up in the San Ann’a kitchen and gained his work ethic there, talks about the importance of community.

“One thing that I definitely have seen, for instance, during the flood and during COVID is how important community is and how you have to really say ‘thanks’ and you have to understand that they’re supporting you,” he said. “We’re always pleased when we receive return business.”

Cale also noted that San Ann’as gets all its beef from Fremont Meat Market.

“If we can source locally, we definitely try to,” he said.

Cale appreciates the community and his customers.

“I see people come in all the time that I’ve grown up with so my customers are an extension of my family,” he said.

And that includes folks who met and married after a cheese dip run.

San Ann’as hours are: 4-8:30 p.m. Mondays; 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-8:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays; 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Fridays; and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. Saturdays. The business is closed Sundays.











* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy. Tammy Real-McKeighan

News Editor

Tammy Real-McKeighan is news editor of the Fremont Tribune. She covers news, features, religion stories and writes the weekly faith-based, Spiritual Spinach column.

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