Freedom Beat aims to bring American pride to your plate

Freedom Beat’s BBQ Burger makes for a rich, hefty handful.
Photo: Mikayla Whitmore
Debbie Lee

Whether you’re still rejoicing or licking your wounds from the election results, I suppose now is as good a time as ever to discuss a new American-themed restaurant. Freedom Beat, which debuted in September at the Downtown Grand, focuses on regional classics from across the country. The menu was created by chef Scott Commings, winner of Gordon Ramsay’s reality TV cooking competition Hell’s Kitchen, and aims to take guests on a “culinary road trip.”

Most dishes suggest a glutton’s day at the state fair: chicken-fried bacon ($11), grilled sandwiches stuffed with mac and cheese ($9) and deep-fried Twinkies ($6). Hoppy ale and cheese soup ($6) is over the top with pork-belly croutons; fries are available loaded ($9) with smoked meat and cheese sauce; and chicken-fried chicken ($12) drowns in country gravy. There are options for health conscious eaters, too. A brown rice bowl with peas, greens, avocado and a fried egg ($13) is very of-the-moment, and grilled salmon with brown rice ($18) is a serviceable choice for those looking to avoid an emergency triple bypass.

I took the middle road on a recent visit, sampling the few dishes that were lighter than fried pickles ($7) and funnel cakes ($6) but not quite as virtuous as a grain bowl. East Coast steamers ($16), a nod to a New England summer, were cooked in American ale and served with sliced sausage. The clams were tiny, but medallions of corn on the cob and a side of toasted garlic bread for sopping up the broth kept it filling. The “Freedom Beet” ($12)—roasted beets with candied pecans and crumbled chevre—had a cute name but was little more than an ordinary salad bar lunch. A bushel of leaves certainly made it substantial but came in the form of spinach rather than arugula as advertised.

Having never been to Louisiana, I feel unfit to judge the authenticity of the restaurant’s oyster po’ boy ($12). But the oysters were as large as golf balls, and a serving of pickled vegetables strewn across the top was a welcome foil for the deep-fried filling and heavy layer of remoulade. The BBQ burger ($12), topped with onion rings, smoked pork, a fried egg and gobs of sweet barbecue sauce, was an undeniably hefty hand-held meal, and perhaps a bit too messy for some people’s tastes.

Freedom Beat replaces Stewart + Ogden, the hotel and casino’s former coffee shop. Renovations included space for a stage, and the restaurant now hosts live-music performances in the evenings. It’s not for everyone—on my visit, some guests applauded ’90s cover tunes while others begged for respite and a table change. Between this and the down-home, gut-busting fare, the restaurant is an accurate reflection of our current political climate: a seemingly patriotic place best reserved for a particular kind of palate.

Freedom Beat Downtown Grand, 702-953-4343. 24/7.

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