The packing-on-the-pounds part of the year is upon us, so what better time than to visit Fred’s Downtown Philly?
Sandwiches come smothered in Cheez Whiz, fries are doused in Old Bay seasoning. Excess is the stuff of good intentions at this new-to-Fort Worth cheesesteak emporium, which began 22 years ago in Plano, the brainchild of Philadelphia native Fred Walker. (There are eight other DFW locations, including ones in Hurst, Euless and Bedford.)
Known for its authentic cheesesteaks and hoagies, Fred’s harks back to a simpler time when meat and cheese were bywords for sandwiches. No frou-frou stuff here, just fr-fried.
Like the hockey “pucs” ($2.65), jalapeños, sliced into disks. From the name alone, you conjure palm-sized fritters of goodness. These are actually on the smaller side — think quarter-size — but they taste great, all the same. Crispy, spicy, and ideal dipping conduits for the river of ranch dressing that ran next to my cheesesteak.
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Fries ($1.79 for regular; $1.99 for spicy crab fries), too, are fab — crispy and well-seasoned. Whoever is responsible for them must have a Ph.D. in frying.
Yes, the cheesesteaks are terrific.
There are 25 options on the menu, like the relatively innocuous No. 2, which I ordered (steak, sauteed onions and cheese; $4.89 for 6-inch, $7.99 for 10-inch) to the souped-up No. 22, the “Spectrum “(sliced chicken, onions, mushrooms, banana peppers, jalapeños, Italian sausage and cheese; $6.19 or $10.69).
Sandwiches, to borrow tired but accurate parlance, are “made to order,” which resulted, on our visit, in a 20-minute wait. Made with bread from Philadelphia’s cult-favorite bakery Amoroso’s, they have a squishy, soft foundation and are actually rather manageable to eat — yet another plus in my book.
The wings were another story. Inexplicably, it took nearly an hour before they were ready. What I took from this experience — other than the wings, in a to-go container — was that 1) few people are ordering the wings at Fred’s Downtown Philly and 2) for good reason. Our Buffalo- sauce-bathed eight-piece order ($6.35) was skimpy on the meat and we were “meh” on the crust —flash-fried and forgettable.
Stick to what Fred’s is known for — cheesesteaks. Because by the end of both sandwiches, we were calling them our collective heroes, if you will, these grinders that had tastily solved our perpetual “What’s for dinner?” weekday-night conundrum.