Legendary restaurant still being discovered

Frostop deals with move to Destrehan

January 02, 2008 at 9:46 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

The famous 2,000 pound root beer mug lies on its side, relegated to an unnoticeable location on the far side of an Ormond Blvd. shopping center.

But the restaurant that made the mug famous is still churning along after moving from its historic location on Jefferson Highway to Destrehan. The rotating mug is out of commission for the time being, but area residents can't eat or drink the mug, and Frostop still serves those tasty burgers and that homemade root beer, just as it has for over 50 years.

However, without the mug, people have a hard time noticing the new location, Destrehan Frostop owner and operator Buddy Verrette said.

"We opened here on the 16th of February, and because of all the people who were in town for Mardi Gras and all the media attention we had at the time, we opened up with some really good sales for the first two months," Verrette said. "Then the novelty wore off and I still have people come in and tell me that they have been waiting on the mug."

So goes life in our new fast-paced society where golden arches and scary-looking king mascots fight for domination over smaller food restaurants. Verrette himself got his start in the industry with a management background in McDonalds and Wendy’s. In addition, he also had a seafood business in Metairie before his childhood memories pushed him onto his current life path.

"When I was growing up, there were 17 Frostops in the city, and that was before there was Burger King or McDonalds," Verrette said. "I've been here all my life, so I remember the history of the Lot-O-Burger and the mug."

Verrette took over the Jefferson Highway Frostop seven years ago, but was forced to move from that location when his landlord sold the 11-acre shopping center to a developer whose grand idea was to level everything on the property to make way for two 30-story condominiums. The developer gave Verrette six months to vacate the property. Though Verrette soon settled on his current Destrehan location, which is in the old Bud's Broiler spot, the decision to keep the restaurant alive wasn't an easy one.

"I really had to weigh my options, because after the hurricane so many businesses in Orleans Parish relocated to Jefferson Parish because everything flooded there," Verrette said. "I felt an obligation to the employees that we had, and we had done so well the first year after the hurricane, so I decided to look for a new location."

Verrette says that search was difficult at first due to astronomical rental rates across the area. But because he had done so well at the Jefferson Highway location, he stuck with it and soon found a spot in Destrehan.

Because the Frostops are all individually owned, Verrette knew that if he continued his winning formula, the location shouldn't matter. Today, almost everything that could be bought at the Jefferson Highway location can still be ordered in Destrehan. They still have the Lot-O-Burger, with its unique dressing of mayonnaise, yellow mustard and onions, and they still have their famous root beer, which is made from a concentrate using real sugar instead of fructose that gives the drink a very distinctive sweetness. And of course, the mugs are still frozen.

That alone should be enough to have customers beating down the door.

However, with two other burger joints packed into the shopping center, it can be difficult to keep up a large customer base. Especially for a new restaurant moving into the area. But Verrette isn’t scared of the competition because he knows his restaurant has plenty to offer.

"Everything is cooked to order and it's a system set up fast enough to where you can get your food in 10 minutes," he said. "None of it is pre-cooked and sitting around waiting. We also have a little bit more variety than you are going to get at most places because we have po-boy sandwiches and things like that.

"Plus, a lot of it is just the history."

Not only that, but for the nostalgia-minded citizens, the store has a functioning jukebox, a classic arcade game and video poker machines. Plus, food for similar prices that can be found at any fast food franchise, which is a plus considering the costs a lot of residents are forced to pay for everything else.

"People now are dealing with high gas prices and rising insurance and it's hard to find the money to go out to eat," Verrette said. "But we're doing fine. We're still being discovered."

View other articles written Jonathan Menard

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