by Ian McNulty
People who might have spotted the giant mug sign from Ted’s Frostop (3100 Calhoun St., 861-3615) being loaded onto a flatbed and trucked away one day last fall could be excused for thinking they’d witnessed the end of an era. In fact, it was part of a new chapter for a long-running legacy.
That mug is a 14-foot-tall, sheet metal relic from the glory days of the American burger stand, and it’s been a kitschy landmark along South Claiborne Avenue since it was first installed in the 1950s. More recently, it became a defiant symbol of Hurricane Katrina recovery.
Originally mounted on a high pedestal over the restaurant, the mug was knocked down by Katrina’s storm winds, landing upside down in the parking lot. Rather than right it, the Ted’s crew had it repaired as it stood, with frosted top to the pavement. When Ted’s reopened in 2006, the logo on its menus and T-shirts was even changed to show the mug upside down.
But the departure of the mug in September signaled a new start for Ted’s Frostop, which now has a new owner, a revamped menu and, as of last week, a newly restored mug sign returned to its original, frosted-side-up stature. Finishing touches coming this week include the addition of neon lettering, similar to the separate Frostop location in LaPlace, and a motor to make the sign spin on its base.
“I’m sure a lot of people will be upset that we don’t have it upside down anymore, but we want to signal there’s a renaissance going on,” says Peter Moss, who bought Ted’s earlier this year.
He’s out to revitalize Ted’s, and repairing the mug was only one step. He’s replaced the pre-formed patties Ted’s has long used with fresh-ground chuck and the restaurant’s namesake root beer is once again the original Frostop recipe served in frosted mugs. Ted’s also upgraded its beer service, adding Abita drafts to the standard house pour of Budweiser.
“There are lot of regulars at Ted’s and we don’t want to scare them off, we just want to make the place better and return it to its glory,” he says. “The world has moved on to Burger King and Wendy’s, but there’s still a lot of iconic places in New Orleans and Ted’s is one of them.”
Ted’s has been spiffied up significantly inside and out since Moss took over, though it still looks and feels like the old place. Oldies tunes play through speakers in the parking lot, and its easy to envision the nostalgic drive-ins of the 1950s when munching through a paper-wrapped burger here.
The Frostop brand dates to 1926, when its first root beer stand opened in Springfield, Ohio. Eventually, hundreds of locations would spread across the country, a precursor to the multinational burger chains to follow. Ted’s Frostop opened in New Orleans in 1955, and more emerged around southeast Louisiana, from Baton Rouge to Thibodaux. By the 1980s these became independent operators using the Frostop name.
Moss says he’s getting his root beer from the original Frostop supplier in Ohio.
“When people taste this it will be just like they remember,” he says.
3100 Calhoun St., 861-3615