1431 Saint Clair Ave NE
Cleveland, OH 44114
UPDATE: FREDDIE'S HAS MOVED TO THE SUBURBS.
Bite: Get here before the health department shuts it down.
by Beau Cadiyo
Cleveland’s most recent and important culinary award was inclusion in Esquire’s list of top sandwiches in America. We'd already reviewed Slyman's, but the other entry was foreign to our tongues: Freddie’s Rib House.
Freddie’s is dark – ominously dark. Besides the window outside, it seemed like the only light behind the grease-stained order windows was a small television. Three dim bulbs floated overhead. It was like walking into a cave.
A soul-food cave without fried chicken.
The server didn’t seem ashamed of this shortcoming, nor did she seem worried about the conspicuously absent Department of Health rating sign. I’m reasonably sure that Freddie’s would fail. The men’s bathroom was in shambles – at least, I took it to be the men’s bathroom, as there wasn’t a sign on the door. There were two soap dispensers, both caked in dried liquid soap and unidentifiable grime. There were no paper towels or any way to dry one’s hands, but plenty of unused industrial cleaning supplies. Walking back into the seating area, I was struck by how everything was soiled, caked in grease and dust and dirt, from the grill against one wall to the floor to the booths and tables to the kitsch pictures on the walls. D. said it was filth from lacking a proper grease trap. Things looked grim.
I said, “This is depressing.” Ed laughed and said, “you think?”
My appetizer, the “large” potato salad, was speckled with cayenne pepper and came in a styrofoam cup barely larger than a shot glass. I poked the spork out of its plastic wrapping; it was not bad. Then my large Polish Boy floated before me, a boat in its tin-foil wrapper. Next to it on the Styrofoam plate were two servings of Macaroni and Cheese, which, on first taste, proved to be gritty, the sign of being made with real cheese.
The Polish Boy was in a real bun, covered in fries and soaking with sauce. The sausage was black, which initially made me skeptical – I was sure it was burned. A layer of fries on top packed it in, and everything was covered in a bright sauce.
And what a sauce: sweet, tangy, like a thick broth. The bread yielded stubbornly to my spork, chewy and delicious. And the sausage – the sausage! The black was a trick; immediately underneath was a succulent bright red delicious mass. As soon as it poked out, D. cut off a piece. Then another. Each bite was new and interesting. The fries were unsalted and tasty, the coleslaw fresh and crunchy.
Was Esquire right in including Freddie’s for its Polish Boy? Thirty one hours later, the thought of it still made me salivate. Four days later I found that my jeans were still caked in a thin layer of grease. Yes, Esquire was right, and I recommend that you go – go quickly, before the Health Department shuts this place down.