The surf's always up at Fast Freddie's, even when the waves one block to the West are as flat as a glass of tap water.
This dual-purpose cafe, aimed half at kids and half at big folks, has surfboards as a unifying theme. Freddie's presumably got them wholesale, because boards are everywhere--they delineate the parking lot, serve as menu signboards, and a pair of them even are parked whimsically on a rack over the wings of the World War I Fokker aircraft set up near the entrance as an amusing "surf's up" sculpture.
The idea seems to be that this is a surfer's Paradise from the golden days of the sport, and indeed, all that stands between Freddie's and the beach are Highway 101 and the CardiffChart House.
There's a great, sweeping view of the Pacific from the upstairs deck, a fine place to munch a burger and slurp a fruit smoothie at noon. At the indoor tables, guests can watch the surfing films played on television monitors around the room. The informality extends to disposable dishes, which, frequently, you dispose of yourself.
As the name suggests, Freddie's is fast, but it isn't quite a fast-food joint, since there are both a degree of service and a bar (still awaiting a liquor license as of this writing). Guests place orders at a window downstairs, which is also kiddie land and is well stocked with video games, but servers bring the food to you.
The menu and prices are loosely in the fast-food tradition, however, tempered by the strong emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables. In other words, you can dine on a hamburger, fries and a cola--but you also have the option of washing down the spinach and bay shrimp salad with a glass of fresh, raw carrot or apple juice. This balance is more than welcome, and for all the simplicity of the menu and style, Freddie's does a laudable job with the cooking. It's nothing fancy but it is good, and gives value for the price.
There are four basic food categories--salads, sandwiches, pizzas and hamburgers--and among them they cover a surprising amount of territory. The basic Freddie's salad offers a rather exotic mix of greens, and compares favorably to the salads served at much more formal establishments.
On the more substantial side, there is a papaya-avocado-chicken number with lemon-yogurt dressing and a toss of spinach and bay shrimp. This last was sampled and found, despite the "citrus" dressing, to be rather bland. Like most bay shrimp these days, those used by Freddie's have little or no flavor.
The pizzas, baked in square pans and roughly on the order of deep-dish pies, have an airy, puffy crust that is appealing, but no better than traditional pizza dough. The toppings range from the traditional--pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and so forth--to the trendy, such as the "Hawaiian chicken" pie with chutney, teriyaki chicken and pineapple, and the "Western chicken" pizza, an agreeable item topped with smoked chicken, cilantro, cheese and a tangy sauce.
In keeping with Freddie's emphasis on "healthy" foods, there is also a cheeseless vegetarian pizza topped simply with tomato sauce, fresh vegetables and olive oil.
Despite the healthy influences, Freddie's plays by the rules when it comes to hamburgers, greasy and good and garnished, unless you specify otherwise when ordering, with plenty of mayonnaise. The ne plus ultra in this department is, not surprisingly, the burger dressed with cheese and strips of freshly cooked, crisp bacon.
The sandwiches also seem well done, including the calamari steak, tender and fresh-tasting (and certainly not typical of fast-food menus) and the Hawaiian chicken, which places the toppings from the pizza of the same name between a bun rather than on a crust. A la carte side orders run to exactly two choices, French-fried potatoes and onion rings, served in baskets and available in a half-and-half combo. Both are quite good.
The smoothies can be drunk as beverage or dessert. Choices extend to versions made with apple, orange, pineapple and strawberry, and those sampled were excellent. A richer kind of smoothie includes ice cream.
2591 S. Highway 101, Cardiff
Hours: Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily
Cost: Main items $2.95 to $6.75; a meal for two, with a beverage each, tax and tip, about $10 to $25.