Friday, March 2, 2012

It’s Always a Good Idea…

to keep an open mind. Our day’s plans were taking us to Crowley, LA which is two exits down the interstate from our campground. I thought that we had exhausted all of the non-chain restaurant options with the exception of one located at a truck stop/casino complex. Since that place did receive good on-line reviews, we had decided to make it our lunch destination.

But first we needed to stop at the post office. And there across the street stood a small white building with a giant ice cream cone on top bearing the name of “Frosto’s.” What did I know about Frosto’s? Nothing. So during a later stop I asked a local merchant. While explaining that the menu was pretty basic, she did say that if one was looking for an old fashioned, never frozen, hand-pattied hamburger, this was the place. That’s all we needed to know. So we had a late entry to the “Real People Making Real Food” Tour with Frosto’s as Stop Seven.

“Originally opened by Ralph Roseland in 1950 as part of the national chain Zesto*, the business served hotdogs, ice cream and soft drinks. After a few years as Zesto, the business encountered financial hardship. In 1955, Roseland suggested…that Zesto's manager, Helen Larive Lafosse, take over Zesto and assume the debt for the one year of back rent. Lafosse was an eighth-grade educated seamstress who had worked her way to manager at Zesto. Knowing that Roseland was unable to pay rent, Lafosse negotiated a reduced rent with the Lawrences (Ed Note: owners of the land and building) The deal was made on a handshake. She severed ties with the Zesto chain to save the franchise fees. In renaming the business, Lafosse tried to save as much of the neon sign as possible to save costs. She kept the S T O and renamed the business Frosto....

“In the 1960s, Lafosse's daughter, Lola Lafosse Trahan, became a partner in Frosto. Trahan worked in the business from the time she was ten years old.... (In) 1996, Trahan purchased the land and building where her mother began Frosto in 1955. Shortly thereafter, Trahan did a major renovation of the 46-year-old building, including a minor expansion. The sign atop Frosto was restored to the beautiful neon that was the early years” (from a entry that is not sourced).

Today, the day-to-day operations are under the supervision of Miss Lola’s son Brannon Trahan, although she often comes in between 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to help by taking phone take-out orders.

A recent renovation turned this small restaurant into a shrine to the ‘50’s (The Golden Days of My Youth) with many of the artifacts coming from the senior Trahan’s collection. As Brannon explained to us, his dad “is all about the ‘50’s.”

Just inside the front doors is this enlargement of an old Polaroid photo of the ‘50s era Frosto’s,

and along the back wall is this montage depicting the Frosto’s building during different incarna-tions. And no, the photo is not upside down. Instead of having black and white tiles on the floor, the ceiling’s acoustical tiles are black and white.

Embedded in poly-urethane on the table tops are photos from an old yearbook, bottle caps,

‘50s LP’s and 45s (remember these?),

and 50’s era TV and

movie memorabi-lia.

Frosto’s was hopping while we were there. There is a take-out drive-thru window along one side of the building, a small front window for those ordering ice cream, and an indoor glass block order counter. The parking lot contained all manner of vehicles. At one point, there was our Big White Truck, a Caddy, and an expensive-looking sports car.

The menu is posted on a chalkboard over the front counter and burgers, poor boys, salads, wraps, hot dogs,
“snacks” or appetizers, and dinners. Note the interesting pricing. The Club is $8.04 which includes—as do all of the sandwiches and poor boys—your choice of fries or tots and a beverage.

We both went for burgers—for Chuck the giant double burger with fries. The counter person was amazed when Chuck asked that it be dressed with just raw onion. “You don’t mayo or ketchup or anything?” she asked. Don’t you just want to reach in and grab that baby off the screen? While Frosto’s burgers don’t have the intense char flavor as does Cajan’s, the patties are thicker and juicier. Using never-frozen and hand-formed meat makes all the difference.

My choice was the Cajun Burger—the regular sized hamburger lightly coated with spicy Cajun seasoning and grilled onions substituting for raw. In addition to the onions, the burger was dressed with lettuce, tomato, and mayo. I’m not the purist that Chuck is. But I loved the extra flavor provided by the Cajun seasoning.

The fries were of the thin shoestring variety, and I loved them. I don’t care if they came frozen in a bag or were cut in Frosto’s kitchen, they were great. They reminded me of McDonald’s fries, and when in Pennsylvania we might order take-out chicken from KFC, but would make a stop up the road for McDonald’s fries. (Don’t shudder. Even food icons like James Beard and Julia Child were known to praise McDonald’s fries.)

The onion rings were different from, while still being similar to, the best in Southern Louisiana. They had the same ultra-thin beer batter coating, but were thinner, smaller than most and tasted of sweet onions. (We both remarked how they looked like the French's French Fried Onions that come in a can and serve no earthly purpose other than being used in your Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole. There was no similarity in flavor.)

Our thanks to Brannon Trahan for taking the time during the lunch rush to talk with us about his 4.5 Addie restaurant. In these days of the “franchise-ization” of America, we love to know that there are still small family-owned places like Frosto’s which is now being operated by the third generation. And so, Brannon, as Elvis would say: “Thank you, thank you very much.”

*The Zesto frozen custard drive-in chain got its start in 1945. That's when L.A.M. Phelan developed the Zest-O-Mat freezer and founded Zesto Dairy Products. The earliest known location still in existence is located in Jefferson City, MO. It was built in 1945. By the early 1950s, there were already dozens of locations with three in Evansville, IN, and others as far south as Louisiana. The franchise spread throughout the Midwest, South, and Northwest. At its peak, the company had at least fifty locations. One source says that by 1950, there were Zestos operating in 46 states. There is one known former location in California. By the mid-1950s or early 1960s, the chain had folded. The remaining locations are all independently operated. Originally, these stands only sold ice cream. Over the years, most of them have added other fast food items (

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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