Music Festivals

SXSW Eats: Freddie's on 1st

Last year, I wrote an entire series of posts on places to get great grub while you're slumming in Austin at SXSW. Those were:

I still stand by those choices (especially Polvos). And while I'm not at SXSW this year, I still feel the need to warn festival-goers about where not to eat while they're in town: Freddie's (1703 S. 1st Street).

Freddie's is, like Polvos and Torchy's, on a relatively calm strip of road heading out of town. Since South Congress will be closed to traffic this year, you can expect the madness on 1st -- which runs parallel -- to increase, however. And I expect that many people will be stopping into Freddie's, like I did this past Sunday, because they like the look of the broad deck and plentiful outdoor seating that abuts Bouldin Creek.

And if all you're going for is that, go forth and conquer some beers. Just don't eat the food.

It's not that it's terrible; it's just a very poor example of the food that Austin has to offer. Go to Foreign & Domestic, go to Uchi, go to Olivia if you're really in the mood for experiencing Austin's depth and wide variety of great upscale dining. Go to any of the places I previously mentioned for more low-key dining. Freddie's is a poor representative of Austin's rich food scene, despite a menu that cloyingly claims to be "more Austin than any other place" or some such nonsense.

Of the menu that seems designed solely to inflict a myocardial infarction on some poor soul (there's even an item called "Freddie's Heart Attack," in case you think I'm exaggerating), my friends and I ordered chicken and waffles, a Frito pie and a grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, it's Texas comfort food, but it's poorly executed stuff.

My Frito pie was the worst I've ever had, and how hard is it to mess that up? Little Leagues the state over have been getting that dish right since the 1970s. Very little chili, cheese that was tough and stringy, Fritos that tasted nuked: I shuddered to think that anyone tasting their first Frito pie would take this as an example of our finest junk food cuisine.

Chicken and waffles were passable, but small. The grilled cheese was, at least, made with Velveeta. (Yes, that's actually a plus.)

In an attempt to end the meal on a high note, I ordered the fried PB&J sandwich off Freddie's extensive and somewhat creative dessert menu. And although the raspberry jam and crunchy peanut butter were good together, the dessert fell achingly apart under the weight of too much batter. Batter that tasted exactly like fried chicken.

The meal was salvaged by some cold $2 beers (but not the weak, sugary frozen lemonade and whiskey concoctions) and a nice view onto Bouldin Creek, but I left Freddie's feeling like it was the in-town version of the Oasis: a pretty picture spoiled by sub-bar food, which -- in spite of itself -- people will flock to purely for its purported "Austinness."

Those people deserve Freddie's and the Oasis, though. Let them flock there, and grab a plate of belly-warming Huevos Motuleños for yourself just down the street at Polvos.

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Katharine Shilcutt