Dallas Engram loves french fries. Although he serves as manager for the national sneaker and apparel retailer Snipes USA in the Hamilton Mall location, the Pleasantville native and Galloway Township resident has been dreaming of debuting a french fry concept for about two years.
So earlier this year, in the middle of a pandemic and during a time when malls are certainly losing ground to online retail – to say the least – Engram decided to take a shot and make his dream a reality.
He opened Freedom Fries, a cool concept for those who love french fries served in just about every style with just about every topping you can think of in the corner of the Hamilton Mall food court.
“This was a gyro place and then it was Caribbean, and then that closed when the pandemic hit,” says Engram, pointing to a closed longtime pizzeria and another longtime chicken concept that also closed. “I decided to give it a shot. I saw people spending money with their stimulus checks. And I thought even though foot traffic in the mall is certainly down big time, I wanted to introduce a product and a business, and with me being downstairs at Snipes, I could easily give it word of mouth.”
Despite an amazing product, Engram learned nothing is easy in the food business, especially in a mall during a pandemic.
“It’s been a rough ride, I am not going to lie,” Engram says. “With foot traffic down and product prices just going through the roof, it has been a challenge to say the least. But we are getting there. I knew there were some bumps and bruises to take in the first year. I am optimistic about the future. The whole idea is to use this as a proof of concept and then expand to other locations. This is my baby. This is the test zone.”
More on that later. Let’s talk about the food
Fun, yummy conceptIf you like fries, run — don’t walk — to Freedom Fries.
The concept is not only delicious, but it’s fun.
“They are your fries, and you have the freedom to do whatever you want with them,” Engram says. “I am a foodie and was trying to think about some niche, and I thought, ‘Hey, everyone loves fries. And people do weird, crazy stuff with nachos, so why not do something similar with fries?’”
The menu breaks it down:
Step 1: Pick your fries ($3.50 small, $5 medium, $7.50 large) with a choice of curly, waffle, smileys, straight cut, sweet potato waffle and crinkle cut.
Step 2: Pick you free seasonings, which include sea salt, lemon pepper, Cajun, garlic salt, Old Bay, basil, jerk, crushed red pepper, oregano, chipotle, black pepper, cinnamon, brown sugar
Step 3: Pick a protein for an additional market-price fee: grilled or breaded chicken, shrimp and crab, ground beef, eggs and bacon
Step 4: Pick your topping (75 cents each) including green, red or banana peppers, diced tomatoes, sautéed or raw onions, sautéed mushrooms and chives
Step 5: Pick your sauce (75 cents each) including honey mustard, horseradish sauce, maple BBQ, yum yum, sweet and sour, buffalo, marinara, spicy BBQ, blue cheese, ranch, Jack Daniels sauce, hot honey, chicken sauce, zesty, Nutella, maple syrup, cocktail, alfredo, relish and garlic hot
Step 6: Pick your cheese ($1 each) including cheddar fondue, nacho cheese fondue, shredded pepper Jack, shredded parmesan and shredded mozzarella
It’s that simple.
Crazy combos and moreIf you are feeling like you aren’t in the most creative mood, Freedom Fries already put together some combinations that do the work for you. Ranging in price from $5 for a small to $15 for a large, popular combinations include The Liberty Bell with cheesesteak or chicken cheesesteak; Hot Blue Chicken Ranch with your choice of chicken, hot sauce, blue cheese and ranch; Chicken Parm with chicken cutlet, marinara and parmesan; Cheeseburger with ground beef, onions, diced tomatoes, ketchup, mayo and cheddar cheese fondue; taco fries; The Early Bird with scrambled eggs, bacon and cheese fondue; Home of the Brave with grilled chicken, maple BBQ sauce, sautéed onions and cheddar cheese fondue; and The Revolution with grilled chicken, bacon, ranch and diced tomatoes
Engram and his brother Timothy, who serves as Freedom Fries’ manager, are particularly proud of The Reva, named after their late mother featuring some of her favorite things: shrimp, crab, Old Bay, cocktail or alfredo sauce.
“She passed away in August 2020,” Engram says. “Before she passed, we talked to her about a lot of ideas, and she was so supportive. Now, The Reva is our biggest seller. She was a seafood lover, just like me. I was pitching some ideas to her while she was going through treatment for pancreatic cancer. And this is what we came up with.”
Freedom Fries also serves sliders. The Freedom Sliders ($5.50) are six waffle fry sliders with roasted turkey, bacon and cheddar cheese, while the Uncle Sam Sliders ($4.50) feature six waffle fry sliders with ham, American cheese and sauteed onions.
Dessert, tooPerhaps the best Freedom Fries concoction Engram has come up with can be found under the Sweet Freedom part of the menu.
Mount Sugar Rushmore features sweet potato fries, bacon, brown sugar and maple syrup. They are simply outstanding and now rival Auntie Anne’s as a must-stop when you go to the mall — and even worth a special trip.
There’s also The Boardwalk, funnel cake fries with Nutella dipping sauce; and The Sweet Tooth, sweet potato fries with maple syrup dipping sauce.
“You can also get the funnel cake fries with apple pie or cherry pie filling now,” Engram says. “It’s something we added.”
Freestyle FridaysFreedom Fries encourages its customers to get in on the action and encourages them to create their own combinations and share them on Instagram every Friday for Freestyle Fridays.
“People have been super creative,” Engram says. “It’s been a lot of fun. They have used everything from Fruity Pebbles to Apple Jacks, and some of the ideas have ended up on our white board menu.”
Those fan creations include The Hibachi, an Asian-influenced fry concoction; chicken alfredo fries; and Supreme Pizza Fries.
Freedom’s FutureEngram says he will be in the Hamilton Mall for at least a year, but despite the low foot traffic, the mall is not being cooperative in possibly working with Freedom Fries to stay longer, Engram says.
“We have to see what happens,” Engram says. “I would like to stay. I approached them, but let’s just say I haven’t been in tune with mall management.”
But Freedom Fries are here to stay.
“Whether we are here or not, we will definitely bring this concept elsewhere,” Engram says. “I think it’s perfect at the shore to be on the boardwalk and in airports and things like that. When people come here, they love it. If you look at our reviews, they are all 5 Stars, and that is the proof I need that I have something special here.”