Serious Eats: Chicago
Damn Good Frozen Custard from Scooter's in Chicago
All right, you Chicagoans past and present, admit it: Chicago is a great food city, one of my top three in the world, but it's a lousy ice cream and frozen custard 'burg. Yeah, you got Margie's Candies, which is cool and soulful, but it's more nostalgic and emotionally resonant than seriously delicious, and other than that you don't have much in the way of ice cream. You don't have the hometown equivalent of a Brigham's (Boston) or Graeter's (Cincinnati).
And as far as frozen custard is concerned, until fairly recently you had to go to a neighboring standout frozen custard state, Wisconsin, to get your frozen custard fix—pretty interesting considering Wisconsin is a little more of an hour from many parts of Chicago.
All of which brings me to Scooter's, a six-year-old, seasonally open (it stays open until the second Friday after Thanksgiving and then reopens the first Friday in March), self-described mom-and-pop frozen custard shop in Chicago that this serious eater was turned on to by our own Michael Nagrant.
Operating blind (we didn't get it together to reach out to Nagrant, who was out of town), Robyn and I, accompanied by Robyn's friends Rose and James, ordered five things. I have to say I ordered brilliantly because everything I ordered was killer.
The Boston Shake ($5.45) is regular 16-ounce milkshake or malt topped with one scoop of vanilla custard, chocolate syrup and whipped cream. It's available in chocolate, vanilla, Irish mint, and coffee. I ordered the vanilla, which was just about perfect. Scooter's basic vanilla custard is creamy, smooth, and plenty vanilla-y. It's not fancypants artisanal frozen custard—it's just good. I have no idea why it's called a Boston Shake, and a phone conversation with Scooter's co-owner Denny Moore didn't really shed any light on the subject.
The "Coconut Cream Pie" Concrete ($4.19) consists of sweet, flaky toasted coconut and graham cracker pie crust chunks mixed with vanilla frozen custard and topped with—what else—a shot of whipped cream.
The menu description for the strawberry concrete ($4.24) says: "Our fabulous strawberries gently hand mixed with vanilla frozen custard so as to not damage the precious fruit." Again, the fresh strawberries probably aren't local, but they sure tasted intensely strawberry-ish.
The Peanut Butter Fudge Sundae ($4.99) is made with "all natural liquid peanut butter" (what does that mean—is it like a peanut butter extract?), hot fudge, whipped cream, crunchy peanuts, and a cherry. Again, nothing bought from the farmers' market, but it didn't matter. It was just so damn creamy and delicious. We didn't leave a bite, even though we weren't that hungry after eating at Honey1 BBQ and Hot Doug's before we set foot in Scooter's.
Coffee Toffee frozen custard was the flavor of the day, and it was blessedly not too sweet.
If you find yourself in Chicago in need of a frozen custard fix, head to Scooter's. They do custard right, so you can save yourself a trip to Milwaukee.
Scooter's Frozen Custard
1658 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657 (map)