Eat This

Between the Rich Folks and Downtown: Fred’s Texas Cafe Has Kept Its Cool Since 1978

Surrounded by a real estate boom of pricey condos and apartments, the original Fred’s Texas Cafe on Currie does its best to retain the craziness of when it was a greasy spoon in an industrial spot near downtown Fort Worth. Fred’s is a casual, friendly environment where wealthy people eat with poor people, always has been. The building itself has had a few incarnations, even surviving the flood of 1949.

Opened in 1978, Fred’s is now known as a heavenly hole in the wall with some of the best burgers in North Texas. The patties are hand-formed half-pound monsters, like something you would make to grill in your backyard. There are options for those who like their burgers elaborate or spicy, like the Nawlins burger with fried shrimp, fried green tomato, remoulade sauce and hot sauce on the table. The fries can be loaded in a number of ways, but they do just fine on their own.

You can also eat your food outside and catch some live music. But for years, Fred’s opened for breakfast at 6 a.m., quit serving food after 3 p.m. and became a beer joint until 9.

“We were never really that far out,” says Quincy Wallace, a current partner and operations manager. “But it was an industrial area between the rich folks and downtown. It’s always been right smack in the middle of town. It was just kind of a forgotten, underdeveloped area.”

When Fred’s first opened, people would show off new guns or prepare for hunting season by firing at dumpsters and trees. “I couldn’t tell you how many times we’ve shot a gun back here,” Wallace says. “It was nothing malicious, but there are lots of stories.” And there was apparently no fear of tornadoes.

“The year [2000] the tornado came through, they closed down Main Street Arts Fair so we had a Fred’s Fest,” Wallace says. It was an annual music and arts festival for nearly a decade to help foster local scenes. “It was a weekend-long party.” And it was BYOB. For most of its history, Fred’s just had a package license for beer to go.

Now Fred’s is sitting in prime real estate.

“We’ve worked real hard to keep Fred’s Fred’s,” Wallace says. “Even with what I’d like to call Dallas growing up around us. It was always this little haven of nothing right in the middle of everything.”

Fred’s was originally a home, but it was Vera’s Pie La Mode before the flood of 1949. This was a ranchette area, but Currie has been there as long as anyone can remember. “Vera lived across the street and one day opened the cafe,” he says. Vera’s survived the flood and the business was sold in the mid-'50s. “It became the G and L Cafe because the new owners were Gene and Lottie,” Wallace says.

In the '60s, ownership changed again and it became Ken’s Cafe. Wallace has some early memories of eating there in the '70s. “My dad had a cabinet shop across the street,” he says. “Every Saturday I came in for pancakes and hung out with my dad while he drank beer.”

In 1978, it became Fred’s. Wallace became an employee in the late ’90s. He remembers Wednesday night pizzas and Friday night spicy night. Fred’s was just starting to serve food at night for the TCU crowd.

During a weekend visit, we heard rumblings of a person who used to visit because the building was once their home. “I imagine that’s a mash-up of a couple stories,” Wallace says. “Vera’s niece lived across the street way back when and would come in and tell me about how this came to be.” At one time a homeless man lived in the attic in exchange for being a security guard, but the place got robbed while he slept.

But the story of one Fred's regular, Gus, has paranormal implications. “He was a regular through all of the restaurants going from the G and L to the early 2000s,” he says. “When he died, the clocks ran backwards. If you believe in ghosts, this is a place worth checking out.”

In its current setting, Fred’s is what it has always been: A friendly place where people of different classes eat together. “We’re surrounded by a different world,” Wallace says. “But we’ve stayed Fred’s. The food is still the same and the beer is still cold. We still have regulars who have been coming in here every day since I was a little kid.”

Fred's Texas Cafe, 915 Currie St., Fort Worth
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Jeremy Hallock