Sunday, July 14, 2019

Frostop Revisited

Well, Zap Actionsdower looked for a spinning mug.
Midwestern Frostops wouldn’t give him anything to chug.
He asked the Google, "Where can I go?"
Google said, "There's only two places, ya know."
Zap said, "I've seen the one down in Huntington."
Well, Google's list was down to just one.
And Zap took off down Highway 61.



The Huntington, West Virginia area is a broken chain hot spot. In addition to a Frostop and a G.D. Ritzy’s that are a block apart, there’s a Rax half an hour northwest in Ironton, Ohio, and Suzi’s, a Burger Chef holdout, an hour in east in South Charleston, West Virginia. There’s also a Jolly Pirate Donuts in town, that I really should write about at some point, but I’m not here to talk about Jolly Pirate Donuts today.

Those that read my first Frostop post last year, will remember my regret in failing to create a perfectly looping .gif of the giant spinning root beer mug on the roof of the Huntington Frostop. That failure led to more disappointment at the next two Frostops I visited in Indiana and Illinois, as neither location had a spinning mug of its own. I kept meaning to get back to Huntington to have another Frostop experience, but higher priority trips, and life in general have prevented me from making it there since I wrote my previous Frostop post.

Fortunately my recent trip to New Orleans with Esmeralda Fitzmonster took me to the heart of Frostop country. While there were once 350 Frostop locations across the US, only 13 survive today, six of which are in Louisiana. Some Google Street View research led me to deduce that the Frostop locations in New Orleans and nearby Metairie did not have spinning mug signs, and Houston Historic Retail pointed out that the Baton Rouge Frostop’s mug was also stationary. That left the LaPlace, Louisiana Frostop, located 33 miles west of New Orleans on Highway 61 as the nearest spinning mug location.

Ever since writing about Frostop last summer and discovering the blog run by the owners of the LaPlace location, as well as their Facebook page which regularly features pictures and videos of their spinning mug, I’ve wanted to visit the LaPlace Frostop. The owners of that location show an appreciation for the brand’s history in their social media presence that was missing from the Frostop locations I visited in Indiana and Illinois. After a few days of exploring several gulf coast broken chain locations and generally being insufferable tourists, Esmeralda and I found our way up US 61 to LaPlace.

The building stands, as it has for the past 61 years, on the east side of town, next to the highway. It initially looked very much like its counterpart in Huntington, West Virginia with a sloping roof extending past the walls of the building to form a canopy, but a some point, an interior dining room was added. The mug was moved from the roof to a pole next to the building at some point as well. Esmeralda and I walked past the original exterior order windows and inside to order and eat in the building, something that it was not possible to do at any of the three other Frostops I had been to previously.



We studied the printed menu on the order counter and placed our orders, ensuring we both ordered large root beers which came with reusable souvenir cups. I was so happy to be there, I didn’t even mind when the cashier inadvertently short changed me by two dollars. We took a seat at the back corner of the dining room, and chatted while I observed our surroundings and took some discreet pictures. Based on the decor in the dining room, it appears that the dining room has not had any significant updates since in the early ‘90s, though RoadArch.com indicates the addition itself was built in the 1960s.


The view from our table

Most of the artwork on the wall had this general aesthetic.

It was the mid afternoon lull on a weekday, and our order came up quickly. My chili dogs tasted as if they were right off the grill. The chili sauce appeared to have been made from scratch, and while they weren't my favorite chili dogs, (Mr. Quick's dogs have that honor.) they were well above average. Esmeralda ordered a Lot-O-Burger, an item that dates back to a time when Frostop was supported by a corporate entity. Thanks to 30 or so years of the remaining Frostop locations operating independently, there is wild variation in menus between locations, and this was my first time encountering a Lot-O-Burger. It turned out to be a fairly standard quarter pound burger with all the normal toppings. Esmeralda let me have a bite, and while it wasn't terribly distinctive, it was at least a decent burger, a notch or two above its analogs from one of the big fast food chains. While there wasn't anything terribly exciting about her burger, a taste of the hand-breaded onion rings Esmeralda had ordered made me regret ordering fries. It's tough to find good made from scratch onion rings, and that's exactly what these were. I'm happy to report the root beer appeared to be the authentic Frostop formula, further reinforcing my theory that the Chrisman, Illinois Frostop that serves Barq's Root Beer is the outlier.


My meal, decent dogs, forgettable fries, collectible cup

Esmeralda's meal, and the onion rings I regret not ordering for myself. 

On my way out, I ordered a specialty that seemed to be unique to the LaPlace Frostop, the wedding Cake Shake. I expected a flavor akin to the various birthday cake flavored products that have become trendy in the past few years that taste of cake batter, buttercream, and food dye, but the Wedding Cake Shake was distinctive in flavor and appearance. Topped with whipped cream and silver sprinkles, the shake nailed the appearance of a wedding cake as much as a milkshake can, and its flavor with strong hints of amaretto and vanilla is evocative of a cake one might find at an upscale bakery that churns out cakes to support the Wedding Industrial Complex.

Wedding cake shake (top view)


The best part of the entire experience at the LaPlace Frostop, however, was finally getting enough video footage of the spinning mug sign to make a .gif that loops decently. It's far from perfect, but it's as good as I can hope for it to be for a .gif that was captured and edited on my phone. Of course, I noticed too late that the mug had neon lettering on it, unlike it's Huntington counterpart. I guess that means I'll have to come back at night in order to make a .gif of it spinning with the neon lit up in order to feel truly fulfilled as a human being.

I wouldn't mind taking a trip back to the LaPlace Frostop, though. The midwestern Frostops I visited have let their brand identities languish over the years. Thanks to their isolation from other Frostop locations, I suspect that the majority of their customers don't realize that their local Frostop is part of a broken chain. That's not the case with the Frostop in LaPlace, however. Thanks to their online presence, loving restoration and maintenance of their Frostop mug, and the presence of original items on the menu, the LaPlace Frostop stands as a monument to the Frostop brand. With its indoor dining room and thoughtful menu additions it also shines as an example of what the Frostop chain might look like today had it not been abandoned by its corporate parent. As Frostops go, it's a good one. May its mug spin forever.






11 comments:

  1. 😍 the spinning mug! 🔄🍺🔄

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  2. Congrats on finally completing the .gif! The Frostop nearest me (which I hope to visit sooner rather than later) doesn't have a spinning mug, but it does serve Lot-O-Burgers. Good to know those are original to the chain.

    In fact, that location shares its space with a second broken chain. I'm really looking forward to visiting it!

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  3. BTW what is the tune to your opening ditty...Devil Went Down to GA?

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  4. So what would this be? A Spinning Mug of Truth? (as opposed to a Stationary Mug of LIES) :P

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  5. I dig the spin. Frostop for life!

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  6. Excellent post and congrats on getting the gif. Next time you make it down to Florida, make time for a visit to St. Petersburg. There's a very nice freestanding PoFolks and the last extant Biff Burger, as well as some other gems I'm forgetting.

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  7. MMMM Bif Burgers! A favority childhood memory when visiting my Tampa cousins in the 60s. Icy shakes. Salty skinny fries. Thin charred burgers with tart mustard and soggy pickles.

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  8. ...oh and the Bif burgers tables were concrete with pastel brocken ceramic tile bits embedded...

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