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Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
30860 AL-181 • Spanish Fort, AL 36527
For years I have complained about the popularity of giant, over-the-top hamburgers. I find zero sense in the balance of meat to bun and toppings. I’m that kind of fool who loves a thin patty with a good tomato, raw onion, lettuce, mayonnaise and pickle. Throw in some American or cheddar if you’ve got it available. Chili and jalapenos will really make my day, in which case I’d need a little mustard.
We may not be in the heyday of soda jerks and greasy cooks in paper hats shoveling out floats and malts with burgers and fries, but we are getting back to that scene. Slowly and somewhat surely, the trend for manageable burgers and milkshakes is gaining in popularity. We’ve spent almost two decades paying for twice the meat of a Quarter Pounder on burgers stacked higher than a Big Mac. Remember when those things seemed huge? They may as well be kids’ meals these days.
I’m certain I don’t need to push through a half-pound of red meat smothered in bacon and cheese at noon on a Tuesday. That should be reserved for a gluttonous special occasion. I need to be able to accomplish something after my lunch hour, preferably without moans and groans.
More fitting toward this lifestyle would be Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers. Relatively new to the Malbis exit (a Whataburger freshly opened on the other side of the interstate and a Foosackly’s is soon to come), this chain, foreign to me, has had lines wrapped around the building every time I’ve passed by. I’ve waited for a chance to check it out and finally found an opening this week.
I was lunching with Warren Hopper, a barbecue and burger aficionado, for a recent safety meeting and currency exchange. He is a fan of Freddy’s, looking to win me over. It wasn’t hard to do. The opening of the aforementioned Whataburger took some of the strain off of the Freddy’s queue, so in we went with very little wait time.
We started with a Freddy’s Original Double Combo ($7.29) for Warren. Without any alteration, the two thin patties come with cheese, onion, pickle and mustard. This is the real deal, made to order but still quick. Doubling up on the patty did not make this a monster of a burger. It was still a sizable sandwich, perhaps something more than a single person should eat, but Warren had no trouble taking it down.
The fries are shoestring and wonderful. I have my favorites, but these thin and crispy spuds are a delight, ranking higher among the best, depending on my mood. If you want to take them to the next level, nab some of Freddy’s Famous Fry Sauce. It’s a dressed-up, ketchup-based sauce, but I was into it.
My burger was the Freddy’s Double Steakburger, California-Style ($7.77). I basically had what Warren was eating, but with lettuce and tomato. This is the baseline for me to judge a hamburger joint. Normally I would add mayonnaise, but I had to see what the Freddy’s sauce was all about. As far as fast-food chains go, this burger is not to be ignored. It was juicy, flavorful and not too greasy. I would say it is much closer to the roadside one-offs of my childhood than it is to big, corporate American chains.
For this combo, fried cheese curds helped pave the road to happiness. For our area, cheese curds seem to be a new trend. You’ll see them in a scant amount of fast-food places around town. Travel enough and you’ll find them on menus of sturdier establishments. Like fries, they are always at least edible, but some are fantastic. These lean toward the latter. A little larger without too much of a batter, the Freddy’s version goes down easy.
Back at the shop, Jef was waiting for my return. I couldn’t leave him hanging. The Original Double Patty Melt ($5.65) was a nice departure from the burger. A really good medium/strong rye was the initial pizzaz, and the Swiss cheese and grilled onions sealed in the juices of the two patties. It did not disappoint.
The side of chili cheese fries ($3.93) was a messy-but-good choice. Go big or go home, right? With the fries being so thin, it’s best to eat these quickly lest they turn to mush, but what a joy to have that problem. If ordering to-go and you have a long way home, ask if they can separate the chili.
I wanted a milkshake so badly, but I’d already crossed that uncomfortable line. I knew I had to try their frozen custard. Luckily for me, they had a carryout carton of vanilla ($6.71 per quart). It was great that evening after a light dinner. Yes, it’s ice cream-ish, a little smoother than you’re used to, and perhaps not as sweet. As the vanilla treat began to thaw ever so slightly, the sweetness jumped out at us. The super coldness kept the sugar at bay. It’s different but very good.
A warning to those sensitive to non-Coca-Cola products: You’ll not have a Cherry Vanilla Coke with this burger. We settled on Diet Dr. Peppers. Maybe they aren’t as close to the old-fashioned, soda-jerk level as I’d hoped, but I had a good experience.
Started in Wichita, Kansas, roughly 18 years ago, what took you so long, Freddy? Fast food isn’t on my weekly itinerary, but I’ll pencil these guys in should the need arise. Dine in if you can. It’s made to order, so the drive-thru may take a while.
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