A place dubbed “Brew City” is obviously known for its beer. But, frozen custard is also a Milwaukee staple. Just like everyone has his or her favorite watering hole, everyone also has their primo spot to get some cold, creamy comfort in a cone.
So, what makes custard so extraordinary?
While it may look similar to ice cream, custard is made from egg yolks and cream and has significantly less air added than ice cream, which makes it thicker and richer. And because it’s lapped up before being refrozen, unlike ice cream, custard is infinitely creamier and softer. In short, ice cream may be better for you – I’ll let you register that for a second – but those of us who know frozen custard would happily swap ice cream for a bowl brimming with custard any day
Of course, not all custard is created equal. So naturally, picking your favorite place to go custard lickin’ can be tricky. To narrow down the selection, here are five of Milwaukee’s best-loved custard shops that are sure to satisfy even the most discerning custard fan.
Gilles Frozen Custard
7515 W. Bluemound Road
Not much about Gilles has changed since Paul Gilles opened his custard stand in 1938, except that since then, Gilles has grown into one of Milwaukee’s most successful and favorite spots. In fact, according to some local sources, Gilles is a regular stop for now Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig. While recognized custard varieties like Mint Chocolate Chip, Butterfinger and Caramel Cashew are what draws locals and visitor alike to this retro shop, exclusive Gilles treats called "Those Things,” vanilla custard loaded on top of a homemade peanut cookie and dipped in chocolate, are also quite craveable.
Kitt’s Frozen Custard Drive-In
7000 W. Capitol Drive
The classic neon lights, vintage signs, old school custard machines and the assortment of kitschy collectibles that garnish the walls of this drive-in provide a nostalgic ambiance that’s missing from Kitt’s modern-day counterparts. Kitt’s has been a popular custard hub since 1950 when Jon Kittridge originally opened the stand. Still family owned, this classic destination supplies custard-hungry patrons with a sweeter-than-usual custard that pairs seamlessly with the assortment of burgers and aorta-clogging fried fare on the menu. It’s almost guaranteed that following a head freeze, you’ll slip right into a satisfying food coma.
Kopp’s Frozen Custard Stand
5373 N Port Washington Road
(414) 961-3288 Flavor hotline: (414) 961-2006
7631 W. Layton Avenue
(414) 282-4312 Flavor hotline: (414) 282-4080
18880 W. Bluemound Road
(262) 789-9490 Flavor hotline: (262) 789-1393
Choosing Kopp’s as your favorite custard stand will be much easier than deciding on which one of the two Flavors of the Day to lick up. If you’re like most Milwaukeean, however, you’ll try both. That may go a long way toward explaining our waistlines, but that doesn’t deter throngs of folks from satisfying their custard craving with typical vanilla and chocolate custard or more obscure flavors such as Pretzels and Beer, Rum & Coca-Cola, and Maple Syrup And Pancakes. Pair that with one of their legendary mammoth hamburgers and it’s no surprise that Kopp’s is king around here.
Leon’s Frozen Custard Drive-In
3131 S. 27TH Street
As one of the inspirations behind Arnold's, the popular hangout for The Fonz and the rest of the Happy Days crew, Leon's is THE Milwaukee custard stand; some even consider it the “original.” Here it’s pretty easy to imagine a teenage girl on roller skates, zipping through the parking lot to deliver orders on window-mounted trays. Though, there's no service at your car anymore, for more than half a century, Leon's has continued serving their loyal customers firm yet creamy mixtures that run the gamut from chocolate and vanilla to flavors like Mint, Strawberry and Butter Pecan. Some other faves include their extra thick malts – it’s like eating wet concrete, only yummy – and Spanish hamburgers (AKA Sloppy Joes).
Robert’s Frozen Custard: Flavor of the Day
6005 W. Appleton Avenue
This small north side Milwaukee landmark gets so packed that there’s usually a considerable wait. But, with fresh varieties of custard, including favorites like Rocky Road and Cookies & Cream alongside more adventurous flavors like Chocolate Cream Puff Delight and Raspberry Custard Torte, the wait is definitely worth it. Plus, if all of this talk has already made you feel like you’ve gained 10 pounds, well, you’re in luck because Robert’s is one of the only places to also feature low fat and no sugar options. Yes, low fat custard really DOES exist.
Of course, there are chains like Culver's that serve up rich and thick brain freezes, but with so many hometown alternatives, you'll only need to know about those when you aren’t in Milwaukee.
Can’t get enough custard? Keep up to date on the flavors of the day at many Milwaukee-area custard stands by visiting www.custardlist.com.
Image comes from wikimedia.org.