Review No. 123: Freddy’s Frozen Custard and Steakburgers
820 East Oak Street
57.2 percent finished reviewing Conway restaurants
He Said:Here’s another new restaurant in Conway, having opened just over a month ago. It’s always pretty busy when we drive by, so we were kind of waiting for the newness to wear off, but after a while figured that we knew shouldn’t put it off any longer.
We were not familiar with Freddy’s before seeing it go up here on Oak Street, but now have begun to notice their restaurants around the country, mostly near freeway exits. The first Freddy’s opened in Wichita, Kansas, where the company is still based, in 2002. They had grown to 100 stores by 2013, and in the past five years have grown much faster, to some 300 stores in 32 states at this point, with plans to expand internationally into the Middle East. In Central Arkansas, there are locations in Benton, Little Rock and North Little Rock as well as the recently opened store in Conway.
She Said: After a dehydrating road-trip, I was eating down a cold (lots of calories/no exercise works every time), and I gave He Said the choice of the new Freddy’s or a healthier establishment for lunch on a Thursday afternoon after my Mom arrived for her annual six-week visit. He thought piling on the calories couldn’t possibly hurt my health, so he chose Freddy’s and I was glad to hear it. We scooted right on over around 1 p.m. because we thought the lunch rush would be over.
He Said: As She Said wrote, we planned to arrive after 1 p.m., figuring the lunch rush might be dwindling by then. We were quite wrong. Nearly every table was occupied when we arrived, and the noise was frightful. The interior is bright with a red-and-white color scheme, but the space is not particularly large and tables are relatively close together.
There are old pictures of the actual “Freddy” on the wall next to the tables, telling you about how he was born in 1925 and was the ninth of nine children, with the clear intent of giving the place a kind of nostalgic old-timey Americana feeling—though how exactly the franchise, established in 2002, is actually connected with this Freddy is hard to say. Doesn’t matter. It’s just marketing.
She Said: He Said mentioned in his last review how Rick Steves and a French guide on Steves’ travel podcast were discussing faux pas that Americans inadvertently make in Paris, and something they agreed on is that American are loud in Parisian restaurants and it’s rude to other diners. The French guide defended Americans, however, because he said Americans don’t know how to be quiet in restaurants because our restaurants are loud, the tables are big, so we’re far apart from each other and have to yell to be heard, etc. And Freddy’s proves this Frenchman’s point. This place is LOUD AS BLAZES, especially when it’s busy. The industrial hum of the open kitchen permeates the dining area, the music plays underthat and the order announcements over the loudspeaker punctuate it all. I found that pretty unpleasant. (I’m a delicate flower; if you’re not, you may be energized by the hullaballoo and the noise.)
The décor seems to be from the David’s/Burge’s Americana book of red and white diner/soda counter nostalgia looks, with red booths and stools and white walls and red trim, as well as old photos of Kansas founder Freddy and his family (he and I are both the youngest of nine children). It’s bright and cheery. And Loud. As Blazes.
He Said:They have fountain drinks here that you pour yourself, as in most fast food places. Here, they have Pepsi products, so they have, for instance, Mountain Dew as well as Mugs Root Beer. I figured it was a good day for root beer. One good thing about Mugs is that it has no caffeine. This meant, among other things, that a post-lunch nap was probably in my future. That’s what being retired is all about.
She Said:I chose unsweetened iced tea, as usual, and it was strong, but tasty. I didn’t finish it, because a little went a long way.
He Said: I knew from the start that this was a place where it was going to be a little difficult for me to find a low-fat option. There is an online nutritional guide for Freddy’s, as there is for many larger chains, and I did some recon before heading for lunch. There are a lot of pretty high-calorie options here. The single steakburger without cheese is not a bad option, having only 410 calories and 19 grams of fat. A Chicago-style hot dog has 430 calories and 21 grams of fat. Things can go up precipitously from there, though: a triple steakburger with cheese, for instance, has 1000 calories and 62 grams of fat—more than I am allowed for an entire day. One interesting side dish available is the large cheese curds, which clock in at 1220 calories and 91—yes, I said 91—grams of fat.
I opted for the grilled chicken sandwich, with lettuce, tomatoes and mustard. As in most fast food places, this was the lowest-fat option at just 350 calories and a mere 8 grams of fat. But then they threw me a question I wasn’t ready for: Did I want that by itself or did I want the meal? I panicked and said the meal, which meant I had to pick between fries or onion rings (or something else I forget) and I blurted out “onion rings.” Turns out that the onion rings had 600 calories and 35 grams of fat, whereas the fries would have been 440 calories and 23 fat grams. I should have looked thatup.
To be fair, Freddy’s specialty, as their name says, is the steakburger and the frozen custard. It is not grilled chicken breast. Mine was dry, bland and kind of stringy. Of course, that’s usually what fast food grilled chicken sandwiches are like. But there really wasn’t much done here to liven it up at all. It was basic nourishment without any frills (or thrills). Like the kind of stuff my Mom used to make me sit at the table and finish if I wanted to get any dessert.
The onion rings were a lot more enjoyable, but of course I was eating 35 grams of fat there. They were crispy and tasty, as onion rings tend to be. I can’t say there was anything special about them that made them better than onion rings elsewhere, but they were probably just as good.
The highlight of the meal was the one spoonful of frozen custard She Said allowed me from her own order. But I’ll let her tell you all about that.
She Said:As our readers know, I love a good burger, and I don’t need to dress it up or smother it in lots of other stuff to enjoy its fundamental tastiness. So, I chose the single steakburger, no cheese, for my sandwich, and, because He Said and I could not hear each other in the thunderous environment, I too chose onion rings. Another thing I have trouble resisting is a brownie sundae, and when I saw that on the dessert list, my fate was sealed.
The meat of the burger was tasty, a satisfying, non-factory produced grilled beef food product. I thought it was pretty thin, as the bun was almost as flat as the patty. I’m glad to read it’s not too caloric or fatty, but the slightness of it might be why other Freddy’s diners choose some of the more dressed up options. It’s not the best burger in Conway, but it’s not the worst, and it’s available at a drive-through, so maybe a good option for a small, not too junky meal. The onion rings were very good, with a firm, tasty coating and onions that are not too strong, but are still onions. The sundae was very good, with a thick, chocolatey brownie and custard that could stand up to it in flavor and richness. It’s also a good—not humongous—size, and it took a lot of will to share that spoonful with He Said.
He Said:You order at the counter here and then somebody announces that your order is ready over a microphone This was sometimes hard to hear because of the crowd noise in the restaurant. The woman who took our order was friendly and helpful, and we had a kind of wandering employee who came around to our table and asked if we needed anything. Service was pretty friendly and efficient, as helpful as it could be in this sort of establishment.
She Said:Everyone was friendly and helpful and had been trained well in new-restaurant etiquette: “Is this your first time at Freddy’s?”—it’s nice to be helped through the routines when you’re not familiar with the brand’s schtick. I particularly liked the option to hold my frozen custard order until I was ready for it. I asked the “floating server” if I went up to the ice cream counter when I was ready for my sundae, and she said I could do that, but she’d take care of it for me, asked for our order number and shortly afterwards, we heard our number called. That’s a nice touch, which means the custard doesn’t melt and you don’t have to go back to the counter to place a second order.
What My Mom Thought: “It was a very good hamburger, but it was a very loud restaurant!”
What We Got and What We Paid: One steakburger combo with onion rings and a mini-brownie sundae, one single steakburger, and one grilled chicken combo with onion rings. All for $25.64.
Elapsed Time from Our Arrival to Food Arrival: 12 minutes.
He Said: You can get food to go here or go through the drive through, and it may be that this would be a more comfortable option than dining in, at least until things settle down and the lunch crowd thins. And I’d order something they are known for if I were you.
She Said (Or Was It Worth the Weight I Gained): This place is good at what it’s good for, if loud in its delivery. I gained 1.2 pounds ordering one of the smaller items on the menu and a sugar-free drink, and I wouldn’t be willing to gain more to eat more here.
So… He Said and She Said: Go here for steakburgers, diner sides and frozen custard, but if you don’t like loud dining experiences, drive on through.
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When Sir Galahad arrives in Camelot to fulfill his destiny, the presence of Lancelot’s illegitimate son disturbs Queen Guinevere. But the young knight’s vision of the Holy Grail at Pentecost inspires the entire fellowship of the Round Table to rush off in quest of Christendom’s most holy relic. But as the quest gets under way, Sir Gawain and Sir Ywain are both seriously wounded, and Sir Safer and Sir Ironside are killed by a mysterious White Knight, who claims to impose rules upon the quest. And this is just the beginning. When knight after knight turns up dead or gravely wounded, sometimes at the hands of their fellow knights, Gildas and Merlin begin to suspect some sinister force behind the Grail madness, bent on nothing less than the destruction of Arthur and his table. They begin their own quest: to find the conspirator or conspirators behind the deaths of Arthur’s good knights. Is it the king’s enigmatic sister Morgan la Fay? Could it be Arthur’s own bastard Sir Mordred, hoping to seize the throne for himself? Or is it some darker, older grievance against the king that cries out for vengeance? Before Merlin and Gildas are through, they are destined to lose a number of close comrades, and Gildas finds himself finally forced to prove his worth as a potential knight, facing down an armed and mounted enemy with nothing less than the lives of Merlin and his master Sir Gareth at stake.
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