It wasnt that long ago when Freds just meant Freds, the Currie Street burger joint where lawmakers and breakers, preppie college kids and rock-and-rollers, hipsters and old-timers all came together, under the same ramshackle roof, for Diablo burgers, skin-on fries and a smile and handshake from ringleader/chef/owner Terry Chandler.
Flash forward to 13 and Freds means a lot of different things: the original restaurant, now in an area, West 7th, with its own name and logo; a Freds food truck; Freds Bait Shop, a beer stand at the Clearfork Food Park; a second restaurant location, Freds North, in north Fort Worth; and, finally and most recently, a third restaurant, nicknamed Freds TCU, on Bluebonnet Circle.
After gaining exposure on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, as well as toppling every other burger joint in town in DFW.coms 2009 Burger Battle, Freds has expanded into a small empire, all the while maintaining its lovably scruffy character and, more important, consistency with its food.
Ditto for the new place, which opened in November in the space briefly occupied by Tim Loves Love Shack (and before that, the long-standing Oui Lounge and Caros Mexican Food). Maybe Love Shacks dimly lit bar atmosphere was off-putting to those accustomed to the bright and breezy feel of Loves beloved So7 location, or maybe his burgers were just too cheffy for the area.
If thats the case, if down-home and straightforward is how this pocket of Fort Worth prefers its burgers, Freds TCU has its work cut out for itself.
The menu at Freds TCU is nearly identical to the menu at Freds North; it features a handful of things you cant get at the original. That includes the most adventurous thing on the menu, an enchilada burger ($13.95), topped with one of Freds green chile cheese enchiladas, along with sliced avocados, sour cream, American and Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato slices and strands of grilled onions. You can eat most of Freds burgers with your hands, but this not only required a fork, it required a knife; a washcloth would have come in handy, too.
We werent floored by it not because of the mess, but because the flavors of the burger and enchilada wrangled with one another like an arguing couple, and they never found common ground.
But the Diablo ($11.95) was dead-on. I havent been to the original Freds in some time, so I cant attest to the hearsay that the place has lost a step or two in the past year or so. But this burger was as good as the Diablo I had a few years ago at the original and the Diablo I had last year at the North location.
It was big yet clean and easy to eat, emphasizing not the number of ingredients but the quality of them. Chipotle peppers had a wonderful little snap to them, and the beef was well cooked lots of pink inside, char and juice on the outside. Lettuce and tomatoes had a nice, healthy crunch.
Fries were as good as any skin-on fries Ive had long and lanky, seasoned with the perfect pinch of salt.
A few appetizers and sides have also been imported from the North location, including BBQ riblets and chicken wings. Also from up North comes the must-have onion rings, brandishing a thick, crunchy, crinkled batter; and they pour on the pepper.
As with the original restaurant, there are nightly specials, along with chicken fried steak as big as the plate, tacos stuffed with chipotle ground beef and salads doused in housemade blue cheese dressing.
The atmosphere is pure Freds, with antlers dangling everywhere you look, rustic signs and burgers and beer lovers from all walks of Fort Worth life. Reign on, Freds.