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Ready for Freddy's 

Smashing burgers, shoestring fries.

click to enlarge SMASHING: The steakburger at Freddy's is flattened on the griddle for a good crust; the frozen custard comes with a variety of accompaniments, like hot fudge, Snickers bits, gummy bears and more.
  • SMASHING: The steakburger at Freddy's is flattened on the griddle for a good crust; the frozen custard comes with a variety of accompaniments, like hot fudge, Snickers bits, gummy bears and more.

Once in a while, if you've been raised in America, you must down a greasy hamburger. For some people, it's once a week; for us, once a month.

Then there are french fries. We like them, and we like them fat (if they're cooked right, a la The Faded Rose), made of sweet potatoes (a la The Root) or skinny. Let's talk about the skinny.

The shoestring fries at Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers are the best chain restaurant french fries — or maybe anyone's french fries — we've had (especially since McDonald's cut out the lard). You get a nice pile of them with the combo meals or you can buy them on the side. Happily, we did not happen to have the to-go menu on hand when we ordered; otherwise we would have seen that the small order is 440 calories, and the big, which comes with the combo, is 520 calories.

But let's put talk of calories aside. You don't go to Freddy's looking for kale or Omega-3 fatty-acid-laden mackerel. Nutrition is not at the top of your list. You go to Freddy's for the smashed steakburgers, their lace-like slips showing on the sides of your bun. You go to Freddy's for the frozen custard concretes and shakes and malts and the hot fudge toppings, and the Snickers pieces and, if you are still in short pants, Gummi worms, et cetera. And the fries. Think of Freddy's as an addition to the spectrum of candy-apple red nostalgia joints like Steak 'n' Shake or the In' n' Out Burger, with a wholesome Colwich, Kan., origin story.

Four of us went for an early lunch — 11:15 a.m. — last week, and had to stand in a line about 10 deep to order. From a kitchen packed with no fewer than 15 employees in constant motion, the food arrived quickly and as ordered, though the place seemed to emanate more of a chaotic "opening week, still working out the kinks" vibe than the well-oiled machines it's akin to. We blame some bad design — the huge menu sprawls overhead as you order at the counter, and the visual organization of the items isn't exactly intuitive. 

One of us went light on the steakburger, ordering only one patty, and heavy on the concrete, ordering the regular size, which, believe us, is as much ice cream as should be legal in the middle of a steamy, drowsy summer day in Arkansas. Let it be said that the steakburgers are delicious. According to the Arkansas Times' Office of Food Research, the smashed burger offers that umami of hamburgerdom, the griddled crust, and Freddy's smashes the bejeezus out of its burgers, which accounts for the meat lace around the edge. (If you've ever eaten a Florentine cookie — with its frilly, caramelized edges — you've got a pretty good idea of the Freddy's Steakburger approach to beef patties.) How the hell the burgers — which they say are made from "premium, lean, American, 100% pure ground beef" — stay together is anyone's guess, but as long as we're guessing, we suspect they're manning some seriously wide spatulas back there on the flat grill to keep the delicate steakburger patties intact. The fact that they are so thin is why most folks we saw ordering last week were going for Freddy's Original Double or the Freddy's Double California Style, which comes doused in what appeared to be a take on Thousand Island. You can get a triple, too.

click to enlarge dining_review1-2-a51330beb83faeed.jpg

One of our team ordered the Freddy's Hatch Green Chile Double, a burger topped with chilies grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico (you can get the chilies on a hot dog, too). The Hatch must be new: The cashier was momentarily confused by the order — who wouldn't be, since the burger appears only briefly on the ever-changing electronic menu board? — but was straightened out by an older head behind the counter, who also explained that it's best to put your ice cream on hold — pay for it and ask for it later — so it doesn't melt before you power your way through meat, bread, pickles, mustard and french fries.

Back to that nutrition thing: In a sop to those among us who try to eat healthy even in a den of deep-fried fat, you can order apple sauce or baked potato chips instead of the french fries. You can even order your Freddy's steakburger in a lettuce wrap. This writer would wager that the North Little Rock Freddy's will get perhaps, at the most, two orders a year of a lettuce-wrapped burger with a side of apple sauce. If that. (This writer says that because we know someone who would do it, and that someone probably has a friend.)

And that's not all! There are hot dogs on the menu, a combo hot dog and hamburger meal, a grilled chicken breast sandwich and, yes, a veggie burger. (May we suggest Big Orange if a veggie burger is what you're looking for at lunch?) You can also add bacon to your sandwiches, chili to your dogs, chili to your fries.

Freddy's accommodated our desire to have malt stirred into our vanilla concrete, which was nice of the folks in the kitchen to do. The Freddy's regular among us goes for the turtle concrete, which, be still my heart, includes hot fudge, hot caramel and toasted pecans. Another of the team went for the vanilla custard with bits of chopped up Snickers inside; had this writer not been so thrilled to find malt on the menu (why are malts getting so hard to find?), we would have opted for the vanilla custard with bits of Heath bar, which alone adds 240 calories to the 900-calorie regular-sized concrete, but, like we said, you don't go to Freddy's seeking a grass smoothie.

Four of us ate about as well as we could and the tab came to $42, which isn't bad. A second Freddy's opens soon at The Promenade at Chenal shopping center.

Freddy's Frozen Custard and Steakburgers
4305 E. McCain Blvd. (next to The Home Depot)
955-5577

Quick bite

The custard cookie sandwich, made with Oreo or Nutter Butter wafers, looked mighty tempting. Also, you can buy the frozen custard by the pint for $3.50 or quart for $5.99. Freddy's also sells custard cakes for $19.99.

Hours

10:30 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday through Friday, 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Other info

There's a drive-through window, or you can order take-out inside. No alcohol, credit cards accepted.


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