Friday, October 21, 2011

Fun Playing With Freddie's Polish Boy

As many of you know, one of Cleveland's favorite culinary sons has "made good" with a starring role on daily national television - Michael Symon, who appears on ABC's The Chew. The Chew debuted about a month ago, replacing the long running soap opera All My Children. The DVR has allowed me to see many of Michael's exploits (and you can watch complete episodes via The Chew's website). On Wednesday October 19, 2011, Michael demonstrated a Cleveland classic: the Polish Boy. The Polish Boy consists of grilled sausage or kielbasa on a hotdog bun and topped with coleslaw, french fries and BBQ sauce. Symon said that sometimes pulled pork is added - I've been told that such an addition turns the sandwich into a Polish Girl.

Who would tell me such a thing? The fine folks at Freddie's Rib House, which opened in April 2011 at  5361 Mayfield Road, Lydhurst OH, that's who. You can reach Freddie's at (440) 449-9400 (no website). Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday, noon to 1 a.m. Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday.

I've eaten there a number of times, but held off posting about them. The people are really nice, but they had some early kinks to work out. Things seem well in hand now. Except for the fries, which I'll get to shortly. Owner Andre Wheeler is the son of the restaurant's late namesake Freddie Wheeler, and he was working the order counter my first two visits. The original incarnations of Freddie's served for years downtown, but the urban location closed shortly after the Lyndhurst spot opened. Take out or eat in at one of four four-tops.

After watching The Chew Crew devour Symon's Polish Boys Wednesday night, I had a hankering to eat one myself yesterday. And I knew where I could satisfy that craving - Freddie's! Here it is - a "deal" for lunch at $4, including a can of pop (regular price is $5 just for the sandwich). A larger size is available for a dollar more.

Usually, I would eat something this messy with a fork - but inspired by Chef Symon, I tucked the foil back into the bottom end of the package, picked it up, and just dove in. Crunchy from the grill, the sausage skin gave way to tender, juicy saltiness that was complimented by the slightly sweet, yet tart (and obviously housemade) cole slaw. The fries, which are cut in-house from whole potatoes, were a bit limp, but full of potato flavor. The BBQ sauce was reasonably well balanced between heat and sweet, but applied perhaps a bit too robustly. My hands and face were a mess after eating this, but oh was my tummy happy!

Here's a Polish Girl I sampled on April 15; it was also messily delicious:

 Other items I've enjoyed at Freddie's since April are below:

Fried Perch Lunch, April 13, 2011

My first meal from Freddie's consisted of a generous portion of frozen perch that was hand-breaded to order and perfectly deep-fried, accompanied by the house made french fries. Everything Freddie's serves is prepared to order - either call ahead, or expect to wait at least ten minutes.

This bag, one of several in the restaurant, could be seen from the ordering counter - a sign of the authenticity of the fries. I believe that they store the raw, cut fries in water to prevent oxidation, then fry them to order. As Chef Symon explained on the The Chew, the better technique is to blanch the fries in 300 degree oil (which would also solve the oxidation problem) and THEN fry to order at 360 degrees. The single-fry method explains why the fries don't get very crisp. But they do taste delicious, and contain no artificial ingredients or processing.

Andre told me that I had to try the wings, and so went my third meal:

Meaty wings, fried to exquisite crispness. The Wing Dinner contains a generous portion for $6.25.

Plus house-made cole slaw.

Plus fries, and two slices of bread (which you can sort of see in the upper left corner), together with a cup of Andre's BBQ sauce.

A friend joined me on my next visit, and we started by sharing an order of onion rings:

Though clearly not made from scratch, the rings were fried to hot crispiness and were most enjoyable.

My friend had a fried tilapia sandwich (all of the sandwiches come with fries):

I opted for the Rib Tips:

Both lunches satisfied and offered good value for the price. The rib tips were melt-in-your-mouth tender and not overly sauced.

One of the kinks I was hoping they'd work out, though, concerns the sides - priced at $3 each. When last I ordered any, in May 2011, the portions were very small for the price point. For example, the cole slaw:

That cup didn't hold more than 2 ounces of product. Yes it is house made and delicious, but for $3, I wish they'd move up to the next cup size. Same issue with the mac and cheese side order:

This cup didn't hold more than 3 ounces, I'd guess. It tasted nice, but wasn't anything special and didn't go very far. I do not know whether anything has changed in regard to this issue in the intervening months.

At first, the baked stuffed potato seems pricey ($8-10). But the portion is huge (chicken, steak or shrimp, plus chopped broccoli, onion, cheese, mushrooms and green pepper), especially for lunch. More important - it was one of the best tasting items I've had at Freddie's (hold the mushrooms on mine, please):

You can see bits of seasoning atop the cheese; I have no doubt that this sprinkle added to my enjoyment of the dish. 

Freddie's seems to have solved it's early issues with utensilry, nakpins and beverages. So - if you are in the Lyndhurst area and are in the mood for a Polish Boy or Girl, or ribs, or fried chicken or fish (and yes, they offer grilled chicken also) - Freddie's can be a fun choice to play with Southern-inspired comfort food. It certainly slaked my Symon-induced Polish Boy craving!

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