Freddy's Is the Best Burger Chain You've Never Heard Of

Coastal giants have nothing on this Kansas-based classic

With its red-and-chrome interior and ambient soundtrack of oldies, it might seem like Freddy's Frozen Custard & Steakburgers has been around since the golden age of sock hops and soda fountains.

Remarkably though, this chain of more than 200 retro-style burger joints opened its first location outside of Wichita, Kansas, just over 15 years ago. And since 2002, Freddy's has quietly popped up in more than 31 states—and in some seriously competitive burger markets.

The idyllic inspiration for this Midwestern venture stems from Freddy Simon, a World War II veteran and father of two of the franchises' owners. Postwar era photos of Simon decorate the walls of the restaurants, and it was his all-American everyman tastes that helped shape the menu and spirited vibes of the chain.

Wholesome inspiration aside, the burgers speak for themselves. Whereas most fast-food-style burgers are thin-patty affairs, Freddy's takes it one step further by smashing down its patties onto the griddle so that they're even slimmer and crispier with lacy crags around the edges.

The signature Steakburger is a minimalist masterpiece. It starts with a pair of patties layered with two slices of American cheese and is finished with white onion rounds, crinkle-cut pickle chips (or pickle planks, in Freddy's parlance) and a heavy squirt of yellow mustard. Part of this simple burger's success comes from Freddy's strict "everything cooked to order" policy, but more likely, from the sprinkle of Freddy's Famous Seasoning that graces each creation just beneath the cheese. 

Like most proprietary seasonings and sauces, the recipe is most likely locked in a vault or hard drive somewhere in corporate, but it's a solid bet that salt, pepper, paprika and onion powder are somewhere in the mix.

The seasoning also makes its way onto Freddy's ultra-thin shoestring fries, designed for dipping into tangy, neon-orange fry sauce—which, luckily, is available to buy in-store along with the spice mix. 

While the savory side of Freddy's menu is home to all sorts of Midwestern fare including Chicago dogs, chili cheese fries and fried pickles, an array of custard-based sweets steals the dessert show.

Vanilla and chocolate custards are piled high into red-and-white cups for sundaes or spun into concretes. Freddy's Signature Turtle is an ode to the classic candy, complete with hot fudge, caramel sauce, toasted pecans and whipped cream. There's also the island-ready Hawaiian Delight, with pineapple, coconut, macadamias and strawberries. But nothing epitomizes the delight this chain brings better than the Dirt n' Worms Sundae, an elementary school staple of Oreo crumbles infested with squiggly Gummi Worms that rarely see the light of adult life beyond this one-of-a-kind burger chain.

Caroline Coral is a food and travel writer who splits her time between Philadelphia and the Caribbean. Follow her on Instagram at @caroline.f.coral.