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Dining review: Fred’s TCU

Fred’s Texas Cafe

3505 Bluebonnet Circle, Fort Worth

817-916-4650

Facebook: Fred’s Texas TCU

Hours: 10:30 a.m.-2 a.m. daily (kitchen closes at midnight)


Posted 7:27am on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013

It wasn’t that long ago when Fred’s just meant Fred’s, 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 Fred’s means a lot of different things: the original restaurant, now in an area, West 7th, with its own name and logo; a Fred’s food truck; Fred’s Bait Shop, a beer stand at the Clearfork Food Park; a second restaurant location, Fred’s “North,” in north Fort Worth; and, finally and most recently, a third restaurant, nicknamed Fred’s 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.com’s 2009 Burger Battle, Fred’s 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 Love’s Love Shack (and before that, the long-standing Oui Lounge and Caro’s Mexican Food). Maybe Love Shack’s dimly lit bar atmosphere was off-putting to those accustomed to the bright and breezy feel of Love’s beloved So7 location, or maybe his burgers were just too cheffy for the area.

If that’s the case, if down-home and straightforward is how this pocket of Fort Worth prefers its burgers, Fred’s TCU has its work cut out for itself.

The menu at Fred’s TCU is nearly identical to the menu at Fred’s North; it features a handful of things you can’t get at the original. That includes the most adventurous thing on the menu, an enchilada burger ($13.95), topped with one of Fred’s 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 Fred’s burgers with your hands, but this not only required a fork, it required a knife; a washcloth would have come in handy, too.

We weren’t 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 haven’t been to the original Fred’s in some time, so I can’t 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 I’ve 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 Fred’s, with antlers dangling everywhere you look, rustic signs and burgers and beer lovers from all walks of Fort Worth life. Reign on, Fred’s.

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